Page last updated at 08:34 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Your stories: The miners' strike

Twenty-five years ago, Britain's miners embarked on a strike over pit closures, starting one of the most bitter industrial disputes of recent times.

Some BBC News website readers have been sending in their memories of 1984-85.

Send us your comments

ANDREW CULLEN, SON OF A MINER IN TYNE AND WEAR

Charles Cullen, his son Andrew and their adopted dog Lassie
Charles Cullen, his son Andrew and their adopted dog Lassie
I was 12 years old at the time of the strike.

My father, Charles, worked at Westoe Colliery in South Shields. Even back then I was proud of what my father did for a living.

I remember the strike vividly - my father was on strike for the whole year. I remember eagerly awaiting news from the Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) arbitration going on, this became a family thing on a Sunday evening.

As a family we had to really cut back on everything with so little income.

My dad gave up smoking - he had no choice. We got a puppy from the local cat and dog shelter and went for walks as a family.

We also had a free pass for the local swimming pool during the summer and used that a lot. We made the best of what we had.

Christmas was tough for my parents. They "cashed in" a few endowment policies to get some money to do the best they could.

We also got gifts sent over from miners from around the world. I remember a bat and ball set and some sweets from Russia.

Times were hard, but it wasn't exactly bleak. I never saw that kind of solidarity again, it was like going back to wartime.

They were all proud men willing to fight for, not just their own jobs, but the jobs of their colleagues now and in the future

I also remember there being two very distinct sides, with myself very much on the side of the miners. But I went to school with the sons of policemen and we never had a fight about it.

I will always be proud of my father and the other striking miners for standing up for what they firmly believed in, despite all the negative press they received.

They were all proud men willing to fight for, not just their own jobs, but the jobs of their colleagues now and in the future.

JONATHAN HEPPELL, KENT POLICE TRAFFIC OFFICER

(Now living in Siofok, Hungary)

Jonathan Heppell as a police traffic officer
Jonathan Heppell as a police traffic officer in Kent
I was a Kent Police traffic officer at the time, and initially we were sent north to support police forces up there.

The hours were long and the time from the family was debilitating.

There was sympathy for the miners. However, that changed when the Kent mines and miners became part of the strike.

We became the targets of life-threatening action - ball bearings fired at our cars. Wire was placed at neck height to try and bring down the police motorcycle escorts, as well as oil poured on the road.

The miners lost all sympathy from that moment, even if it wasn't miners who did it.

It was bad days for all families concerned.

AIDAN JONES, SON OF A MINER IN THE RHONDA VALLEY, WALES

(Now living in Lydney, Gloucestershire)

Women walking past Cortonwood Pit with banners flying as the pit strike draws to a close, 1985
Women marching against pit closures in Cortonwood Pit

My dad was out on strike for the year. He was a miner at Maerdy Colliery in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.

I still remember that year vividly - I was 16 at the time.

We didn't have two pence to rub together. My parents used their life savings to keep a roof over our heads.

The Miners' Wives formed the hub of a big support organisation that saw us all through. They kept the strike together by raising funds, running communal kitchens and looking after each other's children.

The most abiding memory was the way that the country had polarised. You were either for or against the miners, and it seemed that much of the country, including the media, was against us.

Twenty-five years on, I still firmly believe that we were right to call the strike, and if I were at the top, I'd not have done it any other way. Arthur Scargill has been vindicated by the passage of time.

RICHARD HARDING, EX-POLICEMAN IN STAFFORDSHIRE

As an ex-policeman who was on the picket lines of the strike in Staffordshire for the whole year, I have vivid memories of the strike - not only because of that, but I was also married in 1984.

I was kicked to the ground and was kicked all over my body, towards the lorry wheels, hearing calls of, 'kill him, kill him,' in my ears

The undemocratic strike took thousands of police off the streets to protect the miners who refused to take part in the undemocratic strike for fear of violence against them.

At one time several hundred miners turned up at a coal loading depot at Tillery Lane at the Hem Heath pit with the intention of stopping any coal being loaded onto private lorry firms that had contracts to take coal to power stations, hospitals and other places that were dependant on coal as fuel.

As the number of secondary pickets increased, my unit of 10 to 15 men was called to keep the miners away from the depot exit gates.

As the first lorry began to move, a loud cry went through the miners' ranks and the many hundreds of miners began to move forward.

We came under a barrage of pieces of concrete, some with the metal bars sticking out, iron bars and bricks.

Trying to keep back the miners at our point was difficult as the lorry was by our side with miners kicking and punching us. As we were forced back, they began to try and throw policemen under the wheels of the slow moving lorry.

I was kicked to the ground and was kicked all over my body, towards the lorry wheels, hearing calls of 'Kill him, kill him' in my ears. At that time all we had as protection was a traditional police helmet, but with a thicker cork layer, a cricket box to protect our genitals, and footballers' shin pads.

More riot gear was issued a few months later after the miners escalated the violence. Reinforcements were sent in and another bobby, a pal of mine, hauled me up from the ground.

This got really violent then and it was like a battle from the times of Rome or the Normans. With more police arriving, we pushed the miners back and allowed the lorries to leave.

There are many tales I could tell about the strike as there were so many incidents of violence on the part of the strikers, but there is not enough time to recount all the events.

But as I say, it is many years ago and we have all moved on.

DIANE HIPKIN, DAUGHTER OF A MINER, ASHINGTON

As a miner's daughter who lived through the strike, I can state that this era taught me a few things: standing by your principles, pulling together as one, family values, making a little go a long way.

My dad was one of the first ones out and the last ones in.

Children I went to school with were ashamed of those dads that didn't stand by their principles and their colleagues.

The strike broke up a few marriages and turned brother against brother.

All Thatcher wanted to do was break the unions and working class pride and strength with it. Unfortunately she succeeded.

Since the mine closed, the community has changed forever and is now in a waiting game, a hiatus.

I was a teenager and refused to go to soup kitchens and accept charity. I lost weight, but those were the kind of principles my father put into me.

TONY ROBINSON, EX-PRINCIPAL, EAST DURHAM

(Now living in Radcliffe, Manchester)

Tony Robinson
Tony Robinson (recent picture) was worried about the students from pit villages

I had just been appointed principal of Peterlee College when the miners' strike began. It was the post-16 college for east Durham, so all the students came from the pit villages.

I was worried that some of them would not be able to afford to stay on in post-compulsory education, but the numbers were good.

Our drama students did a Christmas pantomime and we gave free tickets to miners' children.

I remember the BBC commissioned a radio play called Not by Bread Alone, which was written and performed by miners' wives with the guidance of playwright Margaret Pine on the radio and live at the college.

Initially my family were living in Devon and I remember seeing pickets being stopped by police on the junction of the A38 and M1 as I drove south.

The pit closures were a hammer blow to many in east Durham. There was a graffiti outside a house in Horden which said "Horden pit stayed solid 1984-85"... yes, but at what price?

MORE COMMENTS

As a Staffordshire miner it became apparent that the coal industry was literally a bottomless pit in which previous Labour governments had been all too happy to fund because of the financial union support. The unions under the likes of Red Robbo had run amok and bought the country to its knees. Scargill could have saved the industry had he used his brains instead of being pig-headed and wanting to bring down Thatcher. I can remember sitting outside the Working Men's Club not even having enough money to buy a bag of crisps. Looking back, I don't blame Thatcher, I blame Scargill for his ego trip playing with peoples' lives because he wanted to bring down Thatcher.
Mark, Cannock

At the time when the police were called to picket lines from all over the country, I remember a policeman friend of mine having some T-shirts made for him and his colleagues with the letters ASPOM on the front. When a superior officer asked him what it meant, he replied "Avon and Somerset Police On Manoeuvres". What it actually stood for was "Arthur Scargill Pays Our Mortgages".
Glenn Willis, Lyme Regis

I was in the Army at the time, and when it was being considered using troops to "aid the civil power" as the police were becoming over stretched there was a lot of heated debate among the troops. This was very evident with soldiers who came from mining communities. Some had family who were miners and some even were ex-miners prior to joining up. To use a country's army against its own people was plain wrong, bordering on a Thatcher version of the SS Leibstandarte of Hitler. Some troops would have refused and even gone to jail rather than take part, whilst others couldn't wait to "get into them". All very divisive, it destroyed some friendships and took a long time to heal. Thank god it never came to being implemented.
Campbell, Inverness

I can remember seeing 20 - 30 flying pickets sitting in our local pub drinking vast quantities of beer. They were paying for these beers with money from a bucket that had been filled by well-wishers only a few minutes earlier in the high street. These flying pickets were from Yorkshire and were picketing the Point of Ayr colliery in Wales. That is my main recollection of the strike as most of my friends at the pit were still working and wanted to carry on working.
G Bethell, Nottingham

I was secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Manchester and we were also on strike in defence of our conditions. We supported many demonstrations, with our banner. I am the proud owner of a cup commemorating that occasion. I think that it is important that the memory should not forget the miners were not alone, although outstanding.
John Watters, Manchester

One family pitted against another and walking past houses with "SCAB" painted all over the walls. Hard men crying at having to break the picket lines and go back to work to feed their families. Local young policemen having to fight members of their own communities. Arthur Scargill for putting them through this knowing they couldn't win. Relief when it was all over and miners were given proper compensation and all trace of the industry was obliterated from the scene ready for a new era.
Sheila, Newcastle upon Tyne

I remember walking into Hyde Park behind Arthur and hearing all the wonderful speeches. This was something I will never forget. We were supporting the Nottinghamshire Miners' Wives at the time... so then imagine the disappointment when the Nottingham miners mostly joined the UDM. Just before his death, Sir Ian McGregor also said how much he admired Arthur, but had been hired by Margaret Thatcher to destroy the unions, using the miners as an example - heady days....
Mike, Northants

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