John Harris (Report Digital) took this photo of Lesley at Orgreave, June 1984
By Grace Shaw
BBC Sheffield & South Yorkshire
Lesley Boulton is the subject of a famous photograph by John Harris who spent a year on the picket lines photographing key moments of the Miners Strike.
Lesley is the woman about to be hit on the head by a mounted police officer at Orgreave in June 1984.
She was a member of Women Against Pit Closures and she went along to Orgreave on 18th June 1984, the day that became known as the Battle of Orgreave, a bloody battle between pickets and police.
In John Harris' iconic photograph, Lesley is holding a camera and cowering from a mounted policeman with a baton raised - about to crack her on the head.
Despite the photo's arresting qualities and the fact it now has iconic status, a report by the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom said it was only published in one of 17 national newspapers at the time - which they say suggests reporting bias.
But what happened next to Lesley? You can read the moments below, or click on the link to hear her recalling the events of that day.
Lesley Boulton at her home in Pittsmoor, 2009
At the time of the strike Lesley had teenage children. She now lives in Pitsmoor, Sheffield and has grandchildren.
In Lesley's own words
"The photograph shows a mounted police officer with baton raised about to hit me on the head.
"It was a long time ago now but never forgotten. It was at Orgreave on the outskirts of Sheffield. There was a coking plant there.
"We knew there was going to be a picket that morning - 18th June 1984. Some people I knew from the PoliceWatch organisation were going along and a friend of mine from Women Against Pit Closures and I decided that we'd go down. So I thought I'd go and take some photographs of what was going on and just monitor the situation.
"It was an absolutely beautiful June day. My friend Audrey and I arrived at about 9.30am. It was really very quiet at the time, there was a big field in front of the coking plant with a huge line of police across the bottom. Up a little rise on the right was a squadron of police horses.
Police and miners gather outside the coking plant at Orgreave, 18th June 1984
"There was a road going down the side of the field on the left. Just on the road bit was a cluster of miners who were, shall we say, "exchanging remarks" with the police.
"But basically people - men - were sitting or standing around in small groups, there was really not a lot going on.
"A lot of the men had taken their t-shirts off and stuffed them in their back pockets.
"It certainly wasn't the sort of thing you'd do if you were planning to attack a seriously armed police force - they had their long shields, all their protective gear on, batons, helmets on. You don't confront police like that in nothing but a pair of jeans and trainers.
"So I say quite categorically that there was no intention of the miners to attack the police. I myself, with a lot of other miners, was forced to run away and take refuge."
If you can't hear the audio, follow the link on this page:
Grace Shaw: So it's Orgreave on a sunny day in June, didn't look like it was all about to kick off. What happened next?
Lesley Boulton: "There had been some stuff going off before I arrived but I don't know exactly what happened. A few stones going over - nothing major at all. There was a standoff for a while - a few stones went over, and then there was a massive cavalry charge up into the village.
"The ranks of the police were several deep. They opened up and the police did a series of cavalry charges and pushed us back into the village and then blockades were set up - a police blockade at one side of the bridge and a miners' blockade at the other side of the bridge.
Mounted police lined up at Orgreave
"There's a T-junction there and a bus stop. I was attending to a man who was on the ground and seemed to have some chest injuries.
"I was standing trying to attract the attention of a police officer in the road to get him an ambulance. I didn't know how serious it was but I thought it warranted some medical attention.
"The skin of my teeth"
"As I stood up to attract this policeman's attention, this officer on a police horse just bore down on me."
This was the very moment that John Harris took the picture of Lesley.
"Fortunately for me there was someone standing behind me who was also with the injured miner, who just yanked me out of the way.
Lesley Boulton at Orgreave © John Harris (Report Digital)
"The photographer John Harris was using a motor drive and I've seen not just the famous photograph but the subsequent picture which shows the baton going down very close to me.
"I felt it go past me. I was just missed by the skin of my teeth really.
"That part was very, very disturbing. The police were actually having a very good time, they were enjoying this huge exercise of brutal authority, so I found that very disturbing.
"You got the sense that they were just out of control and quite a few miners were injured on the day. One young lad that I took a photo of had his leg broken. There were quite a lot of injuries."
GS: If the policeman's baton had hit you, would it probably have knocked you out?
LB: "Oh absolutely, without equivocation."
GS: Do you think the policeman thought you were a miner?
LB: "I don't know, I was holding a camera as I was trying to attract attention and I don't know what he thought really. The police were completely carried away. Some of them were laughing and obviously enjoying this exercise of their power.
GS: Did it put you off?
Picket arrest at Orgreave
LB: "No, it didn't put me off, it made me more determined to go. We were sort of getting used to the fact that Sheffield and South Yorkshire were a police state, in so far as if you wanted to go down the M1 to Nottinghamshire from Sheffield there would be constant convoys of police.
"At every slip road between here and Nottingham there were police roadblocks at the end of the slip roads and the police would decide whether you were allowed to go on or not."
If you can't hear the audio, follow the link on this page:
What do you think of the photo and Lesley's experience? Let us know via the form below.
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After reading the novel written by the ex-police officer (and being extremely bored) it is typical how he talks about "civil liberties" etc.... I always thought it was a civil liberty to have the right to work. Thatcher in all her glory took this away in 1984. Lets never forget that's what the miners were doing, fighting a Government, its police force, the Judiciary and the media for the right to have a job and a community. John (ex-miner, who did not go back to work...)
Rob Nicholson (Dr)
About right. As an ex-resident of Handsworth, pupil of City Grammar School (1966 to 1973) I escaped by good fortune the fate of many of my friends and long term mates from infant school on who have been victims of the class warfare that rages through this country. I've been lucky and can pass on my good fortune to my children, money and learning. This country is class biased I went to school with people a lot cleverer than people I have worked and studied with it is just they are not given the opportunity and are talked down. The police like all institutions in this country are instruments of this repression. My father (now dead) was in dispute with a leading firm of Sheffield solicitors - we got the dispute settled and ground the money out of them. During that period my father, an honest man, hard-working and of good character was subject to much police harassment which I witnessed and fortunately was able to fend off. This is the country that we live in, next time when Orgreave 2 happens it won't be so friendly. There are a lot of people in this country with a lot a grievances. Strangely enough I haven't joined the masons of the golf club I have a BM7. The spirit of Orgreave will never die, we Sheffield people are unique. Keep up the spirit Regards to all Rob (Nick) Nicholson
As an ex Met Police Officer that went to Orgreave on that day and many other pits around that time, it beggars belief the rubbish that some people spout on about. Firstly, the lady in question was a member of Police Watch, she obviously had a camera to try and catch a copper acting badly. She was obviously looking for a good story and got one from a like-minded photographer. No-one at the time mentioned that no contact was actually made and no injury occurred. Those picket lines were evil places. I have been verbally abused, spat on, peed on and kicked and punched on loads of occasions whilst on a picket line. It needs credible restraint not to over-react and I am pleased to say that I seldom witnessed it. The reality, on that day, was that the trouble was initiated by activists. Missiles were thrown from the back of the picket lines and the problems flared up at the interface. Do you really think that the police would have arranged such a large presence if they did not have intelligence that there was going to be trouble. They had pit deputy's and other staff to protect as well as anyone that wanted to work. Why were we there (and other picket lines)in the first place? To protect law abiding workers the right to earn a living. They may have disagreed with the majority, but they weren't given a proper vote and had every right to work if they wished. The working miners needed protection as they were physically attacked by the pickets, not just being called "scab". It was the NUM and Arthur's Army that were creating a "police state" by preventing law abiding workers from working. Their behaviour was in many cases despicable. If the pickets were not there, or were peaceful, then I and my colleagues would not have been needed. I attended Shirebrook Colliery where hundreds of pickets hurled vitriol, abuse and stones and bricks al at ONE strike breaker. It went on for weeks. Every window in his house had been smashed and his family lived in fear. He didn't actually do any work as there was no-one else turning up at the pit, yet hundreds saw fit to make his life a misery - each and every day. Why did those pickets bother? It can only be that they were bullies. I was also on duty on the motorway junctions where we were trying to stop hundreds of pickets converging on and intimidating the Notts miners whose unions had decided that they should work after a vote. I came across "fishermen" with no tackle, "cricket fans" from Sheffield apparently going to watch Notts versus Glamorgan and a minibus full of men who were going to visit a friend at the Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham - all rubbish of course! Yes we tried to get them to turn round, but it was an attempt to prevent trouble elsewhere. We didn't do it for fun. We were earning decent money and on occasions we donated to the collections being made at the picket lines. We often received abuse back in the form of "we don't want your filthy money" so we used to pay a £1 for tea and coffee at the "soup kitchens" that were run by the pickets wives's and walk away before the change could be returned in order to help out in that small way. You may think that that is patronising but we felt that it could help. We also played in good humoured football contests etc with some of the pickets and I am still friends with a couple of them. Contrast this with some of the grudges that are still held within the old mining communities. Grown men are still having conflict with fathers and brothers etc. Times don't change. When the recent G20 problems occurred in London, most of the people around the "flashpoints" seemed to camera carrying. These people know that in a democracy, potential troublemakers can easily tell lies to try and get round the necessary security and are constantly "trying it on". Personally, I find it incredible that with all those cameras and video cameras about there wasn't far more evidence of police overstepping the mark.
I am a coal miner's daughter and a coal miners grand-daughter (both my grandfathers were coalminers). When the days of the strike happened I was a young, politicised (or so I thought) undergraduate at the University of Nottingham. I met my partner there. He is a man of Kent. They were always solid. Today we celebrate our unofficial silver anniversary. The other week we went to the Denaby Main Miners Gala. We heard Ann Scargill and others. I found it very emotional. It was also a lovely family day out. Tonight I watched the programmes on Channel 4 about the strike. That was also very emotional. I have some things I need to say, some things I need to think about. Oh and by the way, Leslie was at the gala in Denaby, Didn't get a chance to talk to her but she looked amazing.
So the camera doesn't lie? I've been convinced for years that woman was seriously injured. Miners and WAPC were used by Mr Scargill to advance his political ends. He never worked for understanding, he worked for confrontation and his own now failed political agenda. It's time for communities to move on. These are brilliant people being held back by ancient history.
I'm not old enough to remember the riots but i can say that i went to the G20 protests in London last April and the police had no numbers and i can say I've read up on my history of the battle of Orgreave and it's scary to say the police still haven't changed and i never thought going to a peaceful protest would end with and innocent person dying because of a policeman and a bat.
roy bradbury/Couldn't you tell from their accents whether those police were local or not? And perhaps they asked you about the river Trent to find out if you really were fisherman and had the local knowledge to back up your story. Just a thought. However, I don't like the idea of police not displaying their numbers or of some of the thing they did all those years ago.
I was a 22 year old miner at Yorkshire Main Colliery along with my Father and Grandfather. The family found it tough throughout the strike but we held our heads high and backed the cause. I was at Orgreave on that day, and it was plain from the start that the Police intended to hurt as many pickets as possible. I also had a similar experience at Cresswell Colliery where the Met and Essex Constabularies ran amok. I can remember another iconic photograph of two pickets from Markham main being handcuffed to a lamp post using plastic tie raps and being left to burn in the hot sun.
I was a 21 year old sociology student at Sheffield University at the time of the strike. The sociology course was left wing: we read Marx and Engels and Lenin. I remember reading Engels when he talks about the "bodies of armed men" who would defend the capitalist state (and economy) using armed force. I regarded myself as a socialist and therefore supported the miners. But Engels' assertion that the state would use whatever violence necessary to defend itself seemed a little far-fetched in 1980s Britain. What I saw at Orgreave convinced me that Engels was right over 100 years before. There seemed to be nothing that the police wouldn't do to the pickets on the second big day of picketing at Orgreave. That day, the police were hardly arresting anyone. They'd obviously been given instructions (and overtime pay) to put as many pickets out of action as possible. I saw a miner in t-shirt and jeans being pinned to a car bonnet by 2 riot police while another repeatedly hit him with a truncheon from above. Miners were dragged through police lines so that they could be beaten, then dumped on the ground, bleeding. There was even a surreal incident where riot police chased miners around the supermarket at the top of Orgreave Road, swinging out at people who were desperately trying to pretend that they were just "normal" shoppers. The picket ended up with miners trying to build a roadblock across Orgreave Road to try to stop the mounted police charging them. Many miners were deliberately and seriously hurt by these "armed bodies of men" that day. What I learned that day was that there is no end to the violence that the state will use to defend itself and the market economy that was - and still is - responsible for poverty and class inequality.
Ken Moody, Sheffield
there was another example of Lesley's experience, a mounted cop riding down edge of road, just of road a nurse? bent down giving aid to someone. the officer swings his baton at her head and just in time she leans forward over her patient and the baton misses. the lady never knew what had just happened, the pic was fab, I saw it on the telly news.
Just goes to show the extent the police went to in assisting the government to overthrow the strike. Just one small item compared to the brutal dictatorial attitude the Police adopted throughout those traumatic times
Why wasn't the police officer brought to bear for his conduct and behaviour? It seems that if you wear a black uniform it still means you can get away with anything!
At the time of the strike I lived in Edinburgh and worked offshore on the Piper Alpha so I was ok and I did not give it too much thought. However 25 years on and now living in Brasil, I understand the devastation this brought to many people. It saddens me, I wish I understood and cared more at the time.
The outcome of the strike would have been VERY different if Scargill had allowed a national ballot. There would have been more solidarity and the Notts Miners would not have broken away. Instead Scargill caused a massive divide and the rest is history. He was a misguided, arrogant man and must take the blame for the complete demise of the coal industry.
No doubt my comment will be subjected to your right to edit it out. On the 6 o'clock evening news on BBC One, film from that day was broadcast which led the viewers to believe miners attacked police when it was the other way round. It took a book by Seamus Milne "The Enemy Within" to expose the BBC's bias and dishonest account. It is now all very safe to report the bravery of Lesley and others, whom the BBC deliberately portrayed as violent, extremist fanatics prepared to attack police.
She says that they weren't out to attack police officers and standing around, but then says they were throwing stones at the police! which one is it?! like most stories out of the strikers mouths, a load of rubbish.
Roy Bradbury, Sheffield: Ex-Orgreave colliery miner
I was a safety worker at the time, but did not go to work as would mean crossing the picket line My son Steve was on strike and picketed everyday. During the strike I went fishing regularly into Nottingham, and was stopped every time, the only questions asked were, "where are you going, what union are you in?" When we told them we were going to fish the river Trent, we were asked where is that?, these so called Police were supposedly from Nottingham, and not one of them had numbers on to identify them.
Ken (Nobby) Norbury
I remember that day like it was yesterday, we stood no chance against the police but we stood our ground the best we could. We were fighting for our lives, families, and friends. We were about to lose everything, I lived with my parents, there was three of us at the mines, two at school and my mum working as a cleaner at the local school we struggled, but held our heads high.