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1984: 'We lived on potatoes'

Easington Colliery pit in County Durham was not on National Coal Board Chairman's hit list of uneconomic mines.

But most of the men working there still came out on strike in support of their colleagues who would lose their jobs if Ian MacGregor's proposals were implemented.

Stuart Taylorson was the nine-year-old son of one of these miners and can clearly remember the hardship of the strike year.

There were about 3,500 people in our village who worked down the pit. Easington wasn't one of the pits that was going to be hit, and as a kid I didn't really understand why my dad was going on strike.

Financially it was horrendous. We didn't know where the next loaf of bread or pint of milk was coming from, nor did we know when we'd have hot water.

" We lived on potatoes mainly, and potatoes as a staple diet isn't really good "

Me and my little brother used to go down to the beach and scoop up the sea coal because the coal supply in the house was going down slowly and we had to keep topping it up.

My dad never thought about going back to work because he believed in his job so much. My parents had a really rocky time as well with financial stress and trying to find food to feed us.

We lived on potatoes mainly, and potatoes as a staple diet isn't really good. My dad had an allotment so we could grow some of our own produce. But it was all vegetables - we were unable to afford meat and bread.

Christmas was an immense strain. Because we were below the bread-line my mum and dad couldn't afford to go out and buy presents as we would now.

I think it was a charity in Sweden or Norway that organised presents to be sent over and they were distributed to the miners' kids.

I received a pair of shoes, a couple of games, a bar of chocolate and a jumper.

Play scheme

I remember seeing this little brown box with, "Have a good Christmas through the miners' strike" written on it.

It was quite amazing. I remember thinking, " We haven't got any money - how have my parents got these?"

There was a big social club for miners' in Easington Colliery at the time. They started producing meals for the miners and we could go along as long as we had our dad's tally number.

All the children and some adults would go along.


There was the play scheme as well, which was absolutely fantastic. There was a massive field by the colliery club where games were held which kept us busy through the summer holidays.

My dad had friends who ran it and all the miners' kids were invited.

Before the strike we used to go down to Torquay for a holiday every year and the play scheme took us out of the despair of not being able to see grandparents that year.

When my dad went back to work it started to get easier but it wasn't the area we knew an more - people had moved on and the community spirit started to fall.

The community had been shattered. You didn't have the feeling you had before the strike. There was a lot of support. Everybody knew everyone's business which was good in some ways and bad in others - but after the strike nobody cared any more.

These villages never recovered from that.

My dad stayed a miner until 1993 when they closed Easington pit. He was one of the last out because he had to shut down the pumps and ventilation so they could flood it.

In Context
Stuart Taylorson works in healthcare and lives in Devon with his wife and three daughters.

His father died of pneumonia in 1997.

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