Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Miners recall strike 25 years on

The hardship and bitterness resulting from the strike affected a generation

Former colliers have been recalling the bitter events of the 1984 miners' strike - 25 years since it began.

The anniversary marks the start of what became one of the longest disputes since the 1926 General Strike.

The resulting hardship, violence and bitterness affected a generation and many miners still resent the police, and those who carried on working.

Ex-miner Roy Sargesson said if he saw a non-striker now he would ignore them. "Once a scab, always a scab," he said.

The year-long dispute pitted the National Union of Mineworkers, led by Arthur Scargill, against Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government.

Clashes between miners and police over pit closures began in Yorkshire but quickly spread around the country.

Former union official Mike Appleyard said the police were "dreadful" and had "a lot to be forgiven for".

'Wrongly handled'

Anybody would think this was... some fascist state
Mike Appleyard

He told the BBC: "There were riot shields and batons against men in trainers and plimsolls. Young men, the salt of the earth.

"I was arrested and thrown in jail with shackles on me... the police officer just stood me up, give me a number, photographed me.

"His first words were, 'do you know any trade union leaders? Do you know any communists?' Straight up.

"This was Britain, anybody would think this was South Africa or some fascist state, this was Britain."

Lord Tebbit, who was employment secretary at the time of the strike, said if the National Union of Mineworkers had had a sensible leader the government could have negotiated a better way of reducing the size of the industry.

The dispute began in March 1984, with news that Cortonwood pit near Barnsley was to close - within days, half the country's mineworkers had walked out.


But the strike also caused divisions among miners themselves. Some were unhappy that Arthur Scargill had not called a ballot, and Nottinghamshire colliers led moves to set up a breakaway body, the Union of Democratic Miners. Bitterness still exists; in extreme cases, NUM fathers refused to speak to UDM sons.

By the end of the stoppage, 20,000 people - miners and police officers - had been injured. A book, published to mark the anniversary, claims news of the Barnsley closure was a "mistake".

Marching To The Fault Line says the National Coal Board (NCB) never intended to include Cortonwood in the list of pits to be closed at that time.

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It went on to say no proper closure procedure had begun at the very pit which started the strike and that it had all been "wrongly handled".

A series of events has been planned in the coming weeks and months to mark the anniversary, including concerts, books and a play.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) will meet in Yorkshire on 28 March to discuss the stoppage.

Print Sponsor

Memories of the miners' strike
04 Mar 09 |  England


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