Ex-pitmen mark 30th anniversary of Miners’ Strike ending

Westoe Collliery miners march behind their lodge banner duing the strike.
Westoe Collliery miners march behind their lodge banner duing the strike.

“WE have not forgotten” - that was the message from miners’ leaders 30 years on from the day the 1984/5 strike came to a close.

Today marks the anniversary of when NUM conference delegates decided to end the industrial action first sparked by the announcement of pit closures by Margaret Thatcher’s Government.

Pitmen and police officers at the colliery gates at Westoe during the strike.

Pitmen and police officers at the colliery gates at Westoe during the strike.

National Coal Board chairman Ian MacGregor had said four million tonnes of capacity was to be taken out of the industry, leading to a loss of 20,000 jobs.

But while union bosses thought memories of the strike would have begun to fade, they say economic difficulties and today’s political landscape have revived feelings about the dispute.

Dave Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, said: “It tends to be getting bigger and bigger and the opposite to what we thought would happen.

“I think the stuff that has come out Thatcher’s deceit has really created a second front as far as this anniversary is concerned.

Dave Hopper, general secretary of Durham Miners Association.

Dave Hopper, general secretary of Durham Miners Association.

“With a general election coming up, I think it drives home just how much devastation there was during that time.

“I think most people realise if things had been different 30 years ago, and the closures hadn’t gone ahead, it would be a much better society.

“We are in a society now where our young people don’t have a future, a society where we didn’t have zero hours, have these austerity measures, and all around Europe at the moment there are countries who are under pressure caused by capitalism. The DMA pays tribute to their members who fought so bravely and to all of the other trade unionists and working class people who supported us.”

Members of the DMA will attend the With Banners Held High event in Wakefield, where the Durham Area banner will be displayed. The day will also feature music, drama, debates and films to remember the 30th anniversary and talks by guest speakers Dennis Skinner MP and author and broadcaster Ian Clayton. More than 32,000 people have become fans of the Facebook page 30th Anniversary of the Miners’ Strike.

This year’s Durham Miners’ Gala will be held on Saturday, July 11.

A year of confrontation like never before

THE miners’ strike started in Yorkshire in early March 1984 and within days half the country’s mineworkers had walked out in protest at pit closures.

The dispute rapidly escalated, with 8,000 police officers drafted into Nottinghamshire, the county which became one of the fiercest battlegrounds as some miners continued to work, arguing there should have been a ballot.

Most of the UK’s 190,000 miners were soon embroiled in a daily routine of picketing outside collieries, most of which had ground to a halt. During the strike, about 20,000 people were injured or admitted to hospital, including NUM leader Arthur Scargill, while around 200 served time in prison or custody.

Two men were killed on picket lines, one amid violent scenes and the other crushed by a lorry on the picket line.

The closure of Cortonwood Colliery in South Yorkshire, which the NUM complained was made without reference to established procedures, was the spark that led to the historic showdown.

The miners returned to work after a year of confrontation to an industry that would never be the same again.

A total of 24 pits closed in 1985, 16 the following year and a further 35 before 1990.

Closures continued in the early 1990s and after the industry was privatised at the end of 1994.

Today there are just three deep mines in operation.