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Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
More on strikes and blackouts
The Magazine is compiling a people's history of modern Britain - featuring your written memories and photos. We started with the 1950s and the 1960s and now focus on the 70s.

It was the decade of strikes, electricity shortages and piles of rotting rubbish on the street.

There was more to the 1970s, such as music, fashion and long, hot summers.

But the industrial unrest had a huge impact. Here is more of your comments.


I grew up in various parts of the UK on naval stations married quarters and I remember my father being in the Royal Navy at the time having to go over a Christmas period I think two years in a row having to go and do jobs strikers were not doing, like prison guards and garbage disposal. When in the Army myself several years later we were called out to do Fire Brigade cover because of the striking fire brigade, and two of the lads from my battalion died in Manchester when a green goddess overturned, I was not part of the fire cover but later did prison guard down near Salisbury.
Patrick O'Reilly, New York, USA

I remember coming home from junior school to light a SMALL coal fire during the miners/power workers strike, and candles, in readiness for Mum coming in from work to cook canned stew on a meths burning stove. The local paper had details of when the rolling blackouts would be. I found it exciting and different, but I was 10 years old.
Sara, Canada

I started University in 1971. One of my most vivid memories is our 1972 Rag Ball. Because of the miners' strike power was limited, so instead of it starting at 7:30pm, it didn't start until midnight because that was when the Student Union was allocated power. Initially we didn't have tickets, so went off to a pub and had a few pints of local cider. When the pub closed, we were walking past the Union building and noticed a fire escape door open. We climbed up to it and got in for free. Great show with Stone the Crows and Osibisa. Walking back to my Hall of Residence across the Downs just as dawn was breaking. Magical
Chippy, Bristol

I remember inflation becoming a common word in the English language. I remember food shortages. Shortages of anything after the halcyon days of plenty in the 60's was unheard of! Sugar was the first, then bread, until even toilet rolls were rationed by shops. The reason? People had begun to hoard in fear of rising inflation. Car owners built fuel tanks in their gardens to store fuel. I remember the strikes everywhere. Union leaders demanding evermore from a shrinking pot. Hugely inept, weak management from central govt and a failure by manufacturing firms to invest in order to increase productivity meant an ever downward spiral of decay.
Ray Borge, Leominster, England

I started at uni in October '73, in the days well before the advent of student loans. The full grant for that academic year was to have been 465 but, owing to pressure from the NUS, was hurriedly increased to 485. The full-grant figure jumped appreciably in succeeding years - a sign of the inflationary times in which we lived, with inflation peaking at close to 25% in the mid-seventies. I recall some of the strike action taken during that decade, particularly the lights going out. This meant drinking in pubs by candlelight, and later crawling home. Crawling, not because one was under the affluence of alcohol - it was the pitch black conditions which necessitated the cautiousness. I also recall a loo-paper shortage, sugar-rationing, and the price of a pint of milk shooting up. Not to mention Punk rearing its ugly head at the Saturday night disco in the Student Union. Pogo-ing, and something called the Dead Fly - what the ...! And then came Maggie in 1979.
Paul Sharp, Wellington, New Zealand

My memories of the best decade was in 1973 when the power cuts were in force. My dad and I were playing cards and then darkness. My mum had forgot to get more candles and the torch had no batteries. But it was fun all the same. And the best year for me was 1978. Went into the palace picture house in Conwy to see "Saturday Night Fever" was only 16 as was everyone else and it was an x rated film. Good old days they were. Then I grew up...
Susan Harris, Aberdeenshire (formerly of Deganwy, North Wales)

I was born in the late 1960s and most of memories of the 70s are around school. I can recall being given a spoonful of malt extract in the mornings before being walked to village school. There were so few cars on the road then and we walked everywhere. I also remember using candles when the electricity went off due to the strikes, which I used to think was great, and mum having to cook dinner on the camping stove. There were few "luxuries" then & I used to collect 1/2p pieces that I found on the ground. Back then you could get several sweets for 1/2p. Mum used to make most of our clothes or sometimes we went to jumble sales. Village fetes and the Tufty club. Watching Princess Anne's to Cpt Mark Phillips wedding on TV and we kept switching between the channels to watch it. The long hot summer of 76. The music of the Osmonds, the Carpenters, the Bay City Rollers, disco music and punk.
Sanchia Baker, Sussex

The 1970s were a grim time. I entertain my children with tales of how primitive life was back then, and just how many strikes ruined our lives. It's hard today to recall that the government spent millions propping up lame industry whilst failing to invest in new infrastructure - a mistake for which we are still paying the price. A look at old TV shows reveals the shabby production values that continued through the 1980s. TV was still dominated by the "old guard" and whilst we remember fondly some shows, much of the content was poor quality "variety" and quiz shows.
Ginger Green, York England

I left school mid way through the 6th form in June 1979. I remember a walking out of a 6th form social studies group and saying stuff the system and stuff everyone. I really felt that the Labour Government would come good, please they must come good. I did not want nuclear war. I wanted things to become good. I lost faith in democracy and had an overwhelming feeling of bleakness and that the Labour party had betrayed and let me down. Because of this I did not vote until the late 1980s.
Mark , Christchurch, New Zealand

I was a teenager in the 70s and on returning home after my first term at University visited an old haunt, a night club probably of dubious legality. When we were all herded onto the street at 2am due to a fire alarm it was the green goddesses who came to save the day. It was like something out of an old war movie. With the crews wearing heavy protective gear and great sloping helmets. Their canvas hoses looked impossibly heavy and cumbersome. Need less to say we were not allowed in to the building to collect our outdoor clothes and having stood and froze to see the action was rewarded with a cold long wait for a taxi which I remember. This cost four of us 2 and we considered it a luxury to take one since it was also the cost of several pints!! More seriously I have been left with a incapacity to save money since I grew up with all my parents' generation bemoaning the "loss" of their life-savings. I still see no benefit in leaving money in the bank.
Lindsey Moore, Bergen, Norway

The strikes didn't bother me. The power-cuts were so exciting, sitting in the dark with battery powered lights, telling each other stories to pass the time. And the wheat shortage meant that my mum made her own bread, which was the best bread I've ever tasted. I know the grown-ups were having a miserable time, but as a child, the 70s were idyllic. And to top it all, seeing Star Wars at the cinema for the very first time!
Michelle, London

Regularly driving into London each day and passing the Grunwick Pickets spilling onto the road in Willesden - and nearly running one down - by accident of course!
Peter, Marlborough Wiltshire

I was born in Scarborough in 1971. I doubt it was the three-day week, but I remember several power cuts in winter during the seventies. Fortunately we had a gas fire: next door's was electric. Their house got cold and they had to go to bed very early in winter, until they went back to an open fire. We did miss the TV, but we sat around talking in candle light. I remember, as a small child, asking if you could get gas TVs. The miners stored up plenty of trouble for themselves before they reaped the whirlwind in 1985. The country had learned the hard way to stockpile coal quite a few times. Not that that made it right to destroy the entire industry, but there you have it.
Liam White, London UK

I was about 10 years old when the power strikes were going on. My dad was an electrician so he strung up car headlight bulbs in our living room and kitchen so we were the only house in the street with lights still on. I was proud of him for that. I remember the queues at the petrol pumps and also remember people using a mix of paraffin and petrol to run their cars... illegal but who cared, desperate times. You could always tell who it was from the billowing white smoke coming out of the exhaust. John Lock
John Lock, Phuket Thailand

I was born in the very early 70s and so I remember growing up during the troubles. As a kid the biggest impact I felt were the power cuts. We had a big gas lamp that we used when we went camping and we would have that in the living room ready for the power cuts. I would sit in a chair near the lamp and read The Beano Book or the Whoopee Annual. My first political memory was seeing Thatcher on TV waving as she entered Downing Street. I remember free school milk, a dingy doctors office and a dentist who hated kids.
Ian Gillman, Rockford, IL (Originally from Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire)

I grew up in the West Midlands but by the time I was in my teens my parents moved to central Birmingham. I was working for the Co-op grocery store on a busy intersection in Selly Oak. There was some kind of strike/embargo going on at the time and it was impossible to get sugar. My boss and I had a secret stockpile in the back of the store, which was only supposed to be for regular customers or big spenders. For a while sugar became as valuable as gold for some of our customers, who were desperate for sugar in their cuppa. One day an old-timer came in we had never seen before, he approached me and said in broad Birmingham dialect, "Go on son, giz a bag 'o shug?" I looked at my boss who rolled his eyes and said, "Go on get him a bag." The funny thing about the 70's was; we seemed to take strikes, shortages and other issues for granted, it was a way of life then. Times change don't they?
Nick Gardner, Phoenix, Arizona USA

I grew up in the 70s. I remember the blackouts and the dock strikes (I lived near Liverpool). Banana boats from the West Indies dumping their rotting cargo overboard and sailing away. Our school was solar heated and so didn't always close when there was no power. I remember one school assembly in the morning by candlelight. To us it was different and exciting. We had gas heating and cooking at home so at least we could function but I missed the TV. The binmen strike with garbage dumps set up by the council which became famous for rats. I left school in 1978 facing few job prospects in Merseyside and rising inflation. Prices went up two or three times a week. It must have been hard for my mother to feed us all on a limited budget. My father was let go at least four times in that decade but he was lucky and always found another position. I remember he was under great stress and suffered blackouts. In the early 70s I noticed that we had more disposable income and Dad bought us our first record player in 74. We went abroad for vacation for the first time in 1970. After the oil crisis all that changed again and we spent the 70s just hanging on. In 1979, my first General Election, I voted for Thatcher; something I lived to regret. I left the UK first in 1987 and finally in 1994.
Stephen Campbell, Maple Ridge, BC, CANADA

I can remember when bread was not available as all the major bakeries were on strike. A small local bakery near to my school was selling bread and uncooked dough and I queued through my dinner hour to get two loaves and two lumps of dough to take home. When I went back into school the teacher of my first lesson saw the bread and immediately sent me out to buy some for him. I returned a few minutes short of the end of the lesson and was stopped by the headmaster who asked why I was out of school. When I explained why I was sent back to the bakery again.
Phil , Liverpool

My vivid memories of the 70s were the dark nights due to the three-day week sitting in a candle lit room listening to stories told to us by my mom, and how the entire housing estate all came together and worked together to look after every one. That spirit just would not happen now. And how could any one over the age of 40 forget the 76 heat wave 13 weeks of unbroken sunshine it just has to bet the best...
Stuart Owen, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire

As a young child I can remember my father wiring a series of old car headlamps to a car battery in our living room to provide light during the "blackouts". The "Heath Robinson" system would provide light and power for our black and white portable TV well into the night and then be recharged during the day. Although our central heating was coal fired it required electricity to pump the water around the system. My parents would run the system to almost "meltdown" in the afternoon and early evening to ensure the house would stay warm when the power went off. I can remember having to wear shorts and t-shirts because of the heat one minute then be forced to "wrap up warm" the next!
Julian Davies, Cwmllynfell nr Swansea, Wales

The three-day week, power cuts, listening to Radio Caroline by candle light, whilst toasting buns on the open fire. My year (1975) was the first school year to compulsory stay in education until 16. We felt cheated. Hairdressers wore Dr Scholls and nylon overalls. I was having a hard job getting over David Cassidy and settling for a 'normal' boy. I felt uncomfortable walking into a pub to meet colleagues, it was still very male dominated. The only drink I knew to order was port and lemon.
Jean Errington, Edgware, Middlesex

I was born in London in 1959 so I was in my teens in the 70s. I remember power cuts although my home was not affected because we lived very near to the hospitals. I lived near Kings Road in Chelsea and witnessed a lot of the punk movement. I wasn't a punk but a lot of my college friends were. I remember a shop in New Kings Road which sold a lot of punk stuff. I used to go on demonstration such as the Anti-Nazi League/Rock Against Racism one on May Day 1978 which ended at Victoria Park in Hackney. The Clash, Xray Specs and a lot of other bands played. I also remember in 1976 it was very hot and we suffered a drought which seemed to go on for ages.
Amelie, Okehampton, Devon

A lot of people today still refer to the bad old days of Thatcher and how she "ruined" the country. They forget or do not remember the time before Thatcher when a Labour government presided over a country that was descending into anarchy. I had just started work on the shop floor in the industrial sector and remember being shocked at how militant and powerful the shop stewards were. People who had never run a market stall were dictating to managers how big corporations should be managed with the blatant and real threat of instant industrial action if every petty request was not instantly agreed to. There was no realisation that companies needed to competitive to survive and self interest was the order of the day. Whilst British Leyland unions and managers were arguing about how many men it took to screw the wheel nuts on an Allegro their customers were quietly switching to imported cars. I remember our neighbour, a Ford man, lambasting my father for buying a Honda, only to appear 12 months later with his own brand new Datsun. Can you imagine it today, pickets outside cemeteries preventing people from burying their dead relatives, or union members stopping lorries on the outskirts of towns and deciding if their cargo could be delivered to the local shops - it seemed normal at the time and that's a measure of how bad the country was in the late seventies so please lets not get misty eyed over the pre-Thatcher period.
Mark, Liverpool

I was seven years old when Heath was elected. I remember the three-day week, the strikes and the power cuts meaning that my brother and I could not watch Blue Peter. I remember my mother receiving petrol rationing coupons, although they were never needed in the end. I remember the union militants preventing bodies from being buried, the rubbish pilling up in Leicester Square and the constant threat of industrial action by one left-wing demagogue after another. I remember thinking that unless things changed radically I did not want to live in a country that seemed to be heading downhill fast. As soon as I was old enough I rushed out to join the Conservative Party and have voted Tory ever since.
Guy Roberts, London





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