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1984: 'A year with no pay'

In March 1984, one of the longest and possibly most damaging industrial disputes in British history began.

Tens of thousands of miners went on strike following an announcement by Coal Board Chairman Ian McGregor that 20 uneconomic pits would have to close, putting 20,000 miners out of work.

The year-long action was marred by violent confrontations at the picket lines and caused great hardship in mining communities.

Your stories

Go and drive from Selby to Leeds, or Leeds to Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield, Nottingham. The effects are still there plain as day - maybe worse.

People did not just lose their jobs, they lost their communities, their way of life. These communities lost their soul - tight-knit communities torn apart for privatisation.

" Was your community hit by the strike? No, it was hit by Thatcher "

Martyn Bradshaw, UK

Were the miners right to fight? Of course they were, they had no choice. They just wanted to work, that's all, to have a decent life, to provide for their kids.

Frankly, I've had enough of the name-calling of Arthur Scargill and the NUM. How can people blame him for what happened?

He was fighting for people's right to work, their communities, he could see what Thatcher wanted.

He was defending his members - it was Thatcher who wanted to fight, she wanted to break the most powerful union in the country. If was her, not Arthur who created this misery!

History tells us what the Tory motive was, and she succeeded - but at what cost? We now import the most toxic coal and coke from the US - when there are mines with years of coal five miles from the power houses of the UK.

It's cheaper to burn coal from America than it is to mine it here. Where is the sense, the logic? There is none, and that is reality!

So, was your community hit by the strike? No, it was hit by Thatcher, and it still is. And that is why we despise her so much, and for me that wound will never heal.
Martyn Bradshaw, UK

My dad is Tom Evans, I was 11 years old at the time of the strike. The strike is one of the few things in my life which stirs my soul, and that sounds really soppy but never have I felt such togetherness.

" I remember my dad crying because he had to go back to work in the end "

Kerry Adele Evans, Wales

Not many miners came out on strike at Point of Ayr - only about 90 out of a workforce of 400 plus. It was hard, unlike most pits we were in the minority. Our lack of support from the men who continued to work meant that we lost out on a lot of things.

Our plight as being the minority really did mean that our share of food parcels, etc. was minimal. I'm not saying we had it harder than everyone else but I am saying that we had to shout louder. My brother and myself were bullied at school and called "gippos". In communities where everyone was on strike that didn't happen.

I remember my dad crying because he had to go back to work in the end - it all seemed so hopeless. The strike taught me a lot and I just want to say that whatever we lost, our home, nice new clothes, all the things we took for granted, it was worth every second. Every step in every march, every song that made me hoarse, every time I sat on the picket line with my dad and the police would taunt us.

It was all worth it because I learnt pride. My dad is not a scab, I am proud of that, and if I had to live on bread and water, corned beef or cheesy peas again I would do it. We were not scabs and dad I am so proud of you.
Kerry Adele Evans, Wales

Last week a reunion happened to celebrate 20 years since the strike at Nottinghamshire's Cotgrave Colliery. It was wonderful to see everyone again, some of whom I've not seen since 1985, but the one thing that will always stay with me is that the bond we had formed 20 years ago is still there today.

It's as if we have been in a time warp as we don't seem to have changed in appearance - eerie!! My love and respect for all these guys will never diminish.
Russell Johnson, England

I was three years old at the time of the strike, and it is one of my earliest memories. My dad worked at Cortonwood (South Yorkshire) and my brother was born just before the strike started.

Whilst I cannot remember the hardship and the poverty, I vividly remember my dad and my friends' dads having clean faces. They no longer had black eyes from all the coal dust.
L Haynes, UK

" Most of Britain had no idea of the real hardship the miners were going through "

Mike, UK

I just remember it as a hugely eventful time. I was 15-16 at the time, and it was my political wakeup call. Every night on TV there'd be news footage of it. Most of Britain had no idea of the real hardship the miners were going through, some of which has only become clear since.

For many of us it became the pivotal moment in our dislike of Mrs Thatcher.
Mike, UK

I always remember seeing a policeman whack a teenage girl on the head truncheon because her father was on the picket line.

Those sat watching "sickening" pictures of miners attacking policemen on television were only fed news from the most unbalanced news coverage ever broadcast.

BBC and ITV (and national newspapers) did everything in their power to whip up public hatred against the miners.
Bob B, England

" They were fighting to save their livelihoods, communities and their children's futures "

Mike, UK

Chris Street [below] said he resolved never to support organised labour because he saw footage of a policeman being kicked.

What about the intimidation and repression heaped on the miners? They were fighting to save their livelihoods, communities and their children's futures. They had the government, the media (who grossly misrepresented the miners), and police against them. The miners fight was our fight too.
Mike, UK

I was a rep for an insurance company and had called on a broker in Aberfan. I heard a huge noise and looked out of the window of his office and saw two Land Rovers passing by the window at speed.

I asked the broker, "What the hell was that?" He said, "Oh, that's the first two miners trying to go back."

In south Wales, the strike had been solid. My next door neighbour had lost his free coal and was burning wood, and although others had gone back in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, south Wales had been solid.

These two guys in tried to go back and there thousands standing there to prevent them.
Barry, UK

I was a miner. At 28 years old with a wife and very young family it was to prove a daunting experience. We survived a year with no benefits, strike pay or any financial assistance other than the limited grocery and picket allowance available at local level.

The camaraderie and fellowship generated was fantastic. Despite the result and taking into account all the hardships suffered I wouldn't have missed it for the world. God bless all miners and ex-miners and may their spirit never be broken.
Les Morgan, UK

Living in Bolsover in the heart of the Derbyshire coalfields I grew up surrounded by deep coal mines. I saw firsthand the results of the strikes. Although my father worked for the National Coal Board in telecoms and electrics he was not an NUM member, and hence he did not strike.

Consequently our family had it reasonably well off, as we had a wage and my father was not scabbing for the government, so we did not suffer intimidation like so many others did. I remember watching the news reports of the Orgreave rioting, and always remember the sheer bile and hatred that the miners expressed against the police.

" The sheer brutality of that year has always remained etched in my mind "

Chris Street, UK

One image, from I believe the Six O'Clock News, showed a policeman, on the floor being kicked repeatedly in the back by a miner. Powerful images for a 12 year old to watch. I always wondered what happened to that policeman, and who he was.

The sheer brutality of that year has always remained etched in my mind. My grandparents' neighbours had windows smashed - every one, every time they dared to work and earn money.

Friends at school could only come in on alternate days, as they only had one pair of shoes between the two children.

I remember the hatred expressed to any who would dare cross the lines at the colliery gates. I grew up resolving never to support organised labour, and I never have, as a direct result of what I saw of the strike.
Chris Street, UK

When the strike started I was a "relief" signalman on the Burton-on-Trent to Leicester freight rail line, which serviced the Leicestershire and South Derbyshire coalfield.

Only a very small minority of local miners participated in the strike and coal was dug as usual. I had the strong opinion that Arthur Scargill was playing directly into Margaret Thatcher's hands by refusing to ballot the NUM membership on strike action.

Local railwaymen, however, were sick of the Tory government and spoiling for a fight and a union meeting was arranged in Coalville to discuss a motion to "black coal". The organisers were aware of my feelings and took a vote which barred me from the meeting.

I willingly left the meeting - without being allowed to express my point of view - but refused to accept any decisions made. Present at the meeting were some NUM strikers and non-mining political activists (I don't know if they were allowed a vote on the main motion).

" I saved the local countryside from thousands of heavy vehicle journeys to local power stations "

Maurice Green, England

As a relief signalman I was qualified to work any signal box, level crossing or set of points in the area and did so in spite of some minor intimidation.

I am proud to say I saved the local countryside from thousands of heavy vehicle journeys to local power stations.
Maurice Green, England

I lived in East Kilbride during the strike and I remember the long convoys of coal lorries which came through the town on their way to keep the furnaces of Ravenscraig burning.

The railwaymen would not drive coal trains as Ravenscraig was heavily picketed. As you would expect these convoys were subjected to a bit of abuse. They certainly played a big part in defeating the miners. How they could sleep at night, I don't know.
A. Harker, Scotland

Being the daughter of an ex-miner I remember how hard times were for my mum and dad whilst my dad was out on strike for the 12 months.

" We had to endure no hot water or heating through the winter "

Lianne Roberts, South Wales

I remember during the strike we had to endure no hot water or heating through the winter as we had no coal. We were provided with special school dinner tickets for free meals and received food parcels for the miners' families. I didn't feel the odd one out as so many of my friends' fathers, uncles and grandfathers were in exactly the same position as my own.
Lianne Roberts, South Wales

My husband was a police officer at the time of the miners' strike. He would travel up on a Sunday morning about 1200 and return on Friday or Saturday. We hadn't been married that long then. We'd spend the rest of the weekend arguing!
Judith Burroughes, England

I'm originally from a small pit village in County Durham, but at the time was at polytechnic in Wolverhampton. At the beginning of the strike I went down to the picket line with my father, who was a miner - as were my two brothers. There was one miner sitting in a hut on picket duty, accompanied by one policeman. We all drank tea and swapped jokes.

By the time the strike really got underway I was having major brain surgery, but I still 'phoned home almost every night for a report on what was happening in my village.

My sense of humour almost caused problems in the neurosurgical hospital, as one of the standard questions they ask you post-surgery is, "Who is the leader of the Opposition?" I replied, "Arthur Scargill", and then had to explain to a startled nurse that I came from a mining family.

I survived - sadly, the mining industry did not.
Min Surtees, England

" We raised over 500 for the miners' families, despite a good deal of local opposition "

Steve Catchpole, UK

In 1984/5 I was living in South Norfolk, about as far from any pit as it could be. I was teaching in a Thetford school and met a couple of miners, collecting money to support the families of striking miners in Harworth, north Nottinghamshire.

The majority of their colleagues were still working and the striking miners in the area were under massive pressure to return to work. Having got to know them, the few supporters of the strike that there were in the area, organised a benefit event in the village hall.

We raised over 500 for the miners' families, despite a good deal of local opposition largely orchestrated by local Tories.

Long term friendships were established and return visits were made by local people to north Nottinghamshire after the strike. It's a time which is recalled with pride and sadness, particularly as the warnings about pit closures, made by the miners' leaders proved to be only too true.
Steve Catchpole, UK

We had half-days off school in the winter because there was not enough coal to fire the boilers!
Jenny McCarthy, UK

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