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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 17:39 GMT
Striking tales: 1984-5 remembered
Collecting coal at Cwmcynon tip (Photo: RCT Photographic Archive)
We had asked if anyone could identify the boy in this picture
The miners' strike of 1984-5 turned whole communities lives' upside down, setting miners against the government, the police and sometimes each other.

Here, News Online prints some memories of the period from people who were affected by it in Wales.

The boy in the picture is me. I just used to go over the tip with my mates to get coal for my mum and dad. The times were hard, but it was a better time. People rallied together.
Craig Williams, now 28, still living in the Penrhiwceiber area

This [boy in the picture] is Craig Williams from Penrhiwceiber. I think he is in Cwmcynon pit as it's just down the hill from his house. I was in school with him. His parents still live in Penrhiwceiber. [He's] sieving coal in a shopping basket - he was about eight in this picture.
Jeff Juliff, Penrhiwceiber

I was still living at home in Penrhiwceiber with all my family involved in the mining industry. It was a sad time as we were having to survive on hand outs of food parcels. The behaviour of the government of the day was disgraceful, undignified and scandalous. No modern, civil society should ever have to endure that again. My house used to look over the old Cwm Cynon pit (pictured above) that had been closed for many years, and this is where the photograph was taken. Everyday you would see people both young and old sifting through the coal on the tips and then walking back across the bridge to the village.
Ian, Wales

During the strike I was living in London and so had a slightly different perspective on the day - to - day developments of events. For the most part the strike was just another news story that didn't really affect the routine of Londoners who were largely ignorant of and disinterested in the plight of mining communities. However, as I came from the south Wales coalfield, I remember the shock of seeing striking miners walking through the City of London carrying buckets and asking passers - by for money in order to boost the strike fund. I thought I had stepped back into the 1920s.
Ian Price, Treorchy

The sight of soup kitchens in Wrexham to support the striking miners brought home how little progress had been made to help working people in the twentieth century. My other main memory (I was only twelve) was of Thatcher visiting a factory next to my house a couple of years later. The whole area had to be closed down as the miners and other unions made a last protest to her at how she had destroyed their livelihoods.
Richard Bettley, Wrexham, Wales

I was at school in Llandovery, hitch-hiking back to Cardiff for the weekend after missing the last train out, along with my brother and two friends. We had a short distance left and were thumbing for a lift when we got bored, as boys do, and starting throwing stones at a small sign! Within minutes, four police cars came roaring up the slip road. Jokingly we ran up the embankment not thinking they were after us. Once we realised they were we 'gave ourselves up' and were each taken away in separate cars. We had a slap on the hand and 20 fines, which of course we deserved. They then gave us a lift home. They thought we had been strikers, throwing bricks from the over-pass at the coal trucks breaking the pickets. It was a very sensitive time.
Mark, Dubai, UAE

I remember the strike quite well since I worked for the Japanese Sony electronics company in south Wales at the time and knowing what the government of the day was like, the evil Thatcher I called her and such, wanted to help them as much as I could. At first the company allowed them to do collections so we all contributed, after all we believe it the right of everybody to protect his own livelihood. Then they forced the organisers to stop this. I remember the atrocious behaviour of the media and you lot, feeding the public with misinformation, lies and inaccuracies. I will never forget you lot for this. I also believe things have still not changed much and I know you know this also. You and your police should be ashamed of yourselves.
Dave, Bridgend

Response from Sony to Dave's comments about the collections: This was a long time ago, but we cannot believe that the company's policy then was any different to what it is today. We adopt a very politically neutral position, and would not allow any collection to be made in work time which would not reflect the company's (neutral) position.
Sony, Pencoed

Memories: miners' wives collecting for the strike in cold and sleet outside the (centrally heated) Port Talbot shopping centre because the Labour council refused them access. A letter from Emlyn Williams, then president of the south Wales area of the NUM, thanking me for a modest contribution to the strike, and asking me to "convey to friends in Nicaragua the feelings of the miners in this terrible struggle against a neo-fascist government". The feeling of sadness and defeat, walking down to the pit at Blaengarw at the strike's end, the feeling of bitterness and impotence at the triumph of the plutocracy that rules us and the compliant middle class that serves it
Gwyn Williams, Nicaragua (Pontypool, Wales)

I grew in a village where a lot of people worked at the Point of Ayr mine. Life was tough for a lot of people and it tore the village I lived in apart. My biggest memory is going to the beach in Talacre. We had to walk through property owned by Point of Ayr. I recall at the age of 14 walking past the picket line with a group of similar aged friends, where the striking miners joked that the "scabs" were looking younger. Then walking through the police lines where they would joke that they needed to keep an eye on this lot.
Kevin B, Phoenix AZ, Ex-north Wales

Our school bus route passed a heavily-policed picket line at the Cwm colliery. I can recall one of the boys on the bus singing "spot the miner, win 20 thousand" as we passed by.
Stuart Jones, Houston, Texas, USA

I remember when all the men from the Maerdy coalmine were going back to work after the strike. The look of defeat on their faces was really too much for all our community to bare. I was only 10 at the time but vividly remember my uncle telling us that our communities would be dead within two years and so he was right. The pit closed in 1989 and the whole community was ruined when the shops and other services closed down soon after. Myself and seven other members of my family had to emigrate to Australia to carve out new lives for ourselves. Out of all the miners who lost their jobs when Maerdy closed eight went to Australia and 20 to America. I haven't been back to Wales for 10 years but I'm sure the place is bad as when we left there in 1989. I feel sorry for the people of Wales. They have been destroyed by the legacy of Thatcher. I am so lucky that we managed to escape to a better life in Sydney.
Dave, Sydney (Aus), ex-Wales

I remember having coal delivered at night in a Volvo. We lived in a village near the opencast site. Jones the Rat delivered it, I don't know how we would have managed without that coal. It was very cold that winter.
Sara Price, Rhigos during the strike

I was a child when the miners' strike happened. My dad was a local vicar in one of the south Wales' mining towns. There were regularly riots outside our house and the poverty that people experienced hit the town hard. My parents were often approached in the middle of the night by people asking for help with clothing and shoes for their children. Such pleas always took place in the night because they were afraid of the repercussions from others on strike. It was all about sticking through the difficulties together - through thick and thin.
Anon, Athens, Greece (ex UK)

One memory is the police waving their payslips saying "come on boys just another couple of weeks and the villa in Spain will be paid for".
Gary Evans, Ynysybwl, Mid Glamorgan

My family and I were in Wales during the strike. Since the ancestor I'm named after was a coal miner before he came to America in the mid 1850s, we were (and always will be) behind the strikers. If we had had more time, we would have walked the picket line with them.

Today, in California, our supermarket workers are striking for health care. We stand behind them as well and have not crossed the picket lines. We can no longer have two groups of people, those who work for a living and those who enjoy the fruit of others who work on their behalf. Our family will never cross a picket line.
Rhysa Davis, Santa Monica, CA USA

I lived in Machynlleth at the time of the miner's strike and I can remember thinking to myself in October when the strike was already seven months and was getting worried about how my grandparents (who I lived with at the time) were going to heat our house with three downstairs rooms and eight upstairs rooms.
Harry Hayfield, Ffos-y-ffin, Wales

I was in primary school in the valleys at the time. Although my late father wasn't a miner at that time, I can remember the schools being open one day a week because of the coal shortage, real suffering among those families which had fathers on strike, yet a real community spirit and people pulling together. I also remember the images of the violent struggles on the picket lines which seemed so far away from the rivers which had ceased to run black.
Jason Tynan, Cardiff

As a lad I can still remember the miners' wives asking people for food when they left the Asda. I hope that the modern society has changed ???
Philip Smith , Cwmbran South Wales

I was only 10 yrs old at the time. My father and three of my uncles were involved in the miners' strike. They were based in the Betws colliery in Ammanford. One distinct memory I have of the miners' strike is on every Sunday my father used to go down to the local pub to collect a food parcel. This was funded by local women collecting money and then all the families which were involved with the strike would get a bag of food. This would include tins of beans, soup breakfast cereal and so on. I also remember that the local people organised a day out on a double-decker bus to Pembrey country park for all the families.
Andrew Griffiths, Brynamman, south Wales

Time goes by and names change. I attended the Polytechnic of Wales, now called the University of Glamorgan during the miner' strike. I come from the valleys and knew the passions that went with coal mining but I thought little about the strike. The students union had its share of left-wing activists who wanted us to strike in support of the miners but many of us could not see what it had to do with us. Once the strike was under way, the old name of the Polytechnic of Wales came back to haunt us. We were the College of the Mines and there were still a number of miners attending the polytechnic. Soon we had to face picket lines at the polytechnic. To be fair, they were peaceful and directed mainly at mining students but it was very intimidating to see fellow students, many of whom we had begun to form friendships with, on the picket line. The feelings of guilt and resentment that were generated as we crossed the line to continue our studies tarnished relationships that were in their infancy. We were only playing a student game but for the miners this was akin to civil war, brothers and friends on opposite sides of a battle to save a way of life. I have often wondered how I would have felt if it had been more than a name that caused me to become involved. Would I have been able to cross a picket line where lifelong friends and relatives stood or would I have been on those lines alienating and despising my friends and family who dared to defy the union?
K Brown, Fleet, UK

I was teaching in Burry Port at the time of the strike and I remember the terrible feeling of doom amongst the children. The staff used to buy breakfast for the miners' children because they looked so pale and cold. We used to give money to the miners holding plastic buckets in Llanelli. I can still cry bitterly about what happened to the miners and their families - decent people who were treated abominably by the Thatcher government.
Helen Grady, Alforja, Spain

What a time! When I think back I don't think we realised what a historical event we were involved with. There are so many events and stories to tell it is difficult to select just a few. I remember as the strike started and I was 10 and my dad had come home and was outside cutting coal for the fire. He cut bucket loads of coal and once finished came into the house and said - if all that coal goes before the strike ends - we will be in trouble. Needless to say the coal was long gone before the end!

Both my parents were really active and we would be at Onllwyn Welfare sorting out clothes, awaiting deliveries and then sorting out food parcels for the entire Dulais Valley.

Then there were the diverse people we met throughout the time of the strike - as supporters who came to spend the weekend and find out about the struggle. The strike and its effects on the family came home to roost watching the news. We could see my dad being arrested, in his grey jumper with two red hoops on each arm followed by a couple of truncheon hits to the head. That was so scary and it seemed endless till he came back home. Despite not having much money, the solidarity and support from so many others being in a similar situation, the friendships developed were strong and it is this that gives me my strongest memories of the strike. It had a huge impact on the way our lives went from here, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world!
Nicola James, Swansea

I was at the Pavilion in Porthcawl on the day the south Wales NUM voted to go out on strike. I was 24 at the time and newly married. A year later and 7000.loss of earnings I returned back to work. A year later my marriage was over maybe not directly resulting from the strike but it sure did not help. Was it worth it,? well it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Adrian Griffin, Penarth, Country

I was living on the Colliery site, my parents had a house behind Coedely Cokeovens, my father worked as an electrician on the site. We had to cross the picket lines every day. Watching the men shouting and turning the coal trucks away.
Amanda Williams, Coedely, Mid Glamorgan

Now that things have calmed down I'm sure that the future will bring new details and controversies. Especially the source of all those 'extra' policemen with no numbers on their shoulders. Did Thatcher use the British Army and Royal Marines on the streets of mainland UK? Not beyond the bitter and mad personality that still haunts the Welsh communities. History I hope will record her like Edward Longshanks, with the call centres and McDonalds as her castles by proxy.
Michael Rees, Llanelli, Wales

I vividly remember the coal convoys heading along the M4 in south Wales, escorted by the police. They were usually more than 20 lorries long and moved as a black snake through the country side. They were quite forbidding and looked as though nothing would stop them.
Mark Etchells, Abu Dhabi UAE

I'm originally from Knebworth, Hertfordshire and I was a 21-year old University of Portsmouth student when the strike started. Another student and I volunteered to hire a car and drive to South Wales to deliver food and money. The Portsmouth Trades council had been collecting and filled the boot and back seat of the car. We were immediately welcomed into the South Wales community, taken to the Union Hall, given a tour of Brecon Beacon and taken to the bottom of a mine as the lift operators were not on strike. I was shocked to see such poverty and observed men(no women) sitting in a cafe with one pot of tea to last all day. I continued supporting the miners, picketing in Yorkshire, letters to the paper, and donating money. As I passed through King's Cross on my way home each term, I would stop and chat with the miners collecting money to ask how the strike was going.
Charlotte Edwards, Lakeside, California, USA

Despite unions being the foundation of socialism, the miners' strike was a fine example of abuse of position (by the Union and its officials) where some were intimidated by others against their own determination (forced to strike). The tail wagged the dog!!
William Hawkins, Caerphilly Wales

The boy in the photograph is Craig Williams, formerly of Penrhiwceiber Road, Penrhiwceiber, Mountain Ash
Jason Penney, Penrhiwceiber, Mountain Ash

I remember getting married and moving into our new house in October 1983 and then being on strike in March 1984, however the little things are what stick in my mind now. Firstly, there's an ITV news reporter still on TV today who makes my skin crawl. His name's Mark Webster and he seemed to be on TV every week saying negotiations for a return to work looked promising only to leave me despondent when they fell through. Also tins of Goblin hamburgers handed out in our food parcel!! It seems almost absurd to think this happened during my lifetime let alone fairly recently. It's just so surreal now.
Kevin Roberts, Nelson Mid Glamorgan


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