Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

15. Thursday March 29th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2009 at 10:51 am

We did a picket at Grimethorpe this morning before heading home but last night’s events had us all feeling a bit downhearted.

On the way back up the M1 we passed a long convoy of lorries heading into the Ferrybridge power station which brought home the full enormity of the task facing us if we are to win this strike. One thing that is certain is that the only way we are going to get the scabs in Notts to join the strike is mass picketing, and by mass I mean thousands because that’s the only way we can beat the police. Those scabs are helping Thatcher to smash the NUM, and if that is allowed to happen it will be a total betrayal of everything our forefathers fought for and the union movement itself will be under threat. Why can’t people see that?

Back at Westoe we cleaned out the van before returning it to Newcastle. The GMBW were NOT pleased to hear that their van will be impounded if its seen in Notts and this may cause us problems if we want to use it again.

Back at the pit the Chairman and Secretary showed their appreciation of our initiative by completely ignoring us, totally disinterested in hearing about the situation in Notts. This sums up their attitude and if we are forced to rely on them then the strike will be lost!

Finally  back home I had a bath and then made dinner for Kath and the girls in an attempt to soften her up because I had left for Notts without seeing her, just a quick phonecall that gave her no chance to object. She has forgiven me but I’ve had to promise her to slow down a bit and take the weekend off so we can spend some time together. Anyway, I feel knackered and could do with a break myself.

14. Wednesday March 28th,1984.

In Uncategorized on March 27, 2009 at 4:49 pm

I was finally persuaded to get out of my comfortable bed at 6.30am, just in time to grab a cup of tepid black sugarless tea before heading out into the frosty morning air. The ground was white with a heavy frost and we had a bit of trouble getting the van started. After taking a couple of wrong turnings we arrived at the strike centre just after seven. The official on duty asked us if we would be prepared to do some local picketing before trying to get into Notts and we all eagerly agreed, keen to do something useful, and to repay the excellent hospitality we had received.

Our target was the well named town of Grimethorpe where we were to picket the NCB area offices. A lot of white collar workers from the APEX union were scabbing, and we got there by following a car full of Yorkshire pickets.

The picket was unsuccessful in terms of persuading the scabs to join the strike but it did provide us with our first experience of the humour of a Yorkshire picket line. I have always had a grudging respect for the police so the way the lads took the piss out of them came as a bit of a surprise at first.

The main picket was at the top of a fairly steep bank and there were about 50 lads present. As we stood jeering at the scabs going through our line, a lot of the lads began making their way down the bank. I asked a lad what was happening and he said;’Follow me and tha’ll see for thee sen’. We dutifully followed, speculating on what would happen next. At the bottom everyone seemed to be looking back up the slope at the police. We soon found out why as the police formed into ranks and began marching smartly down the bank. Just before they reached us the pickets formed into ranks and began goosestepping back up the hill, laughing and jeering at the police as we passed them. The police about turned and followed us, and again down we marched and repeated the process. I was sure the police would get angry and attack, but they didn’t, they just followed us. They must have been knackered in their heavy uniforms.It was funny, and the experience put us in high spirits.

Back at strike HQ we were introduced to another car load of pickets who assured us they would get us into Notts, saying they’d never failed yet. Before we left I was given another£30 for petrol. Somehow I was looked upon as our leader so it was to me that a reporter and a photographer from the ‘Morning Star’ came and asked if we could give them a lift. No one had any objections so we set off, stopping at a local petrol station to fill up before heading for the M1. This did not strike us as the most subtle route to take but the Yorkshire lads were so confident that we weren’t too worried. Our confidence began to wilt a bit as we headed south because every flyover we passed was jammed full with police vehicles. Geordie kept repeating,’You aint seen nothing yet!’ As we got closer I had to agree because I have never seen so many police vehicles in my life! It was very intimidating and not a little scary.

We pulled off the M1 at junction 29 and at the top of the slip road we were forced to take a diversion by police signs. We were now certain that we were about to be stopped, especially as geordie reminded us that this is what had happened the other day. Sure enough, as we approached a roundabout we were forced to go down a road that led to a police checkpoint. A policeman flagged us down and we could see about a dozen cars in front of us, their occupants lounging about on the grass verge.

The policeman spoke to Brian and said;’Can I ask you where you are going sir?’ Brian was at a loss what to say so he told them we were going into Notts to hand out leaflets asking for support. With a huge grin on his face the copper said;’ I must warn you that if you proceed any further you will be arrested because I believe that if you proceed a breach of the peace may ensue.’We all started shouting saying we had no intention of breaching the peace and that they had no grounds for stopping us.It was a bloody police state! A senior police officer came over and asked what the problem was, and when he heard our protests he said;’Where have you lot come from then? When Brian told him he said;’You cheeky bastards! You’ve got some bloody nerve trying to get in, in broad daylight, in a bloody van!’ He then ordered everyone out except Brian, who had to give his details.

We stood on the grass verge chatting to some lads from Cortonwood, one of the 5 pits that sparked off the strike. They were delighted that Durham miners had joined the strike and one of them admitted he never thought Durham would join the strike, having a reputation as a moderate coalfield. We told him that we were surprised as well! We all posed for a photo in front of a sign that said ‘Pleasely’. This upset Brian who was still being questioned and couldn’t join us. he likes having his photo took does Brian.

After a while the police ordered us all to get back into our vehicles, which we did but in as slow a way as possible to show some defiance. According to the Yorkshire lads we were to be escorted back onto the M1, and some of them said they were going to block the M1 by driving slowly, as had happened yesterday. Brian refused to join in because he had been warned by the police that he would be arrested if he was caught driving in Notts again during the current dispute. we were escorted in convoy back onto the M1, with motorcycle outriders to make sure no one tried to escape. The blockade never materialised and we had a straightforward journey back to Barnsley. Back at strike HQ we were asked to return at 5pm, and we had a bit of discussion as to whether it was worth it or not. We decided it was, and Jeff Mackins was appointed our new driver. We had some dinner and then I grabbed a couple of hours kip.

The staff at the college were fantastic, providing us with a huge parcel of sandwiches and fruit and an early tea. Well fed we set off back to Barnsley.

At Strike HQ we were given another £30 which we decided to share out for a little pocket money. I felt guilty about this but was outnumbered so reluctantly agreed. we were given a new guide, Malc, who worked at Grimethorpe and travelled in the van with us. he was a brilliant guide, not only taking us through three counties but also giving us a running commentary about places of interest along the way, including the birthplace of Arthur Scargill and the home of Jackie Charlton. we seemed to use every back road, track and minor road, and went in so many different directions none of us had a clue where we were, including Geordie. Incredibly we never saw the police until a car flew past us near our destination. We entered a housing estate and looked for a safe place to park, settling on a piece of waste land next to some garages. Thanks to Dekka we were sticky and uncomfortable because he’d opened a bottle of coke and soaked everyone and the inside of the van. Ian Wilburn looked like ‘the creature from the black lagoon’ because he bore the brunt of the ‘explosion’.

After eating sandwiches we set off in pairs to follow Malc’s instructions on how to reach the pit we were to picket. I went with Joe Humphries, and despite our slow pace we soon caught up with Keith Smoult. I was as nervous as hell, feeling like an escaped POW in wartime Germany. Keith felt the same but Joe was so cool he even went into a local Miners Welfare to ask for directions! We tried to act as normal as we could but I felt that everyone could see we were pickets. Keith’s nerve broke first when a police car went past and he dashed off the road into some nearby trees. I was very tempted to follow but Joe said we were safer on the road, and anyway, we weren’t breaking any laws.

After 15 minutes walking we caught our first sight of the pit outlined against the darkening sky. As we approached the pit we stopped dead. The whole of the entrance was crowded with police, the driveway was full of police, and as we got closer we saw the pit canteen was also full of police! It was an unbelievable sight! I’ve never seen so many police in one place before. My immediate thought was there must be a mass picket in place, or one was expected. We headed towards the flat caps visible between the ranks of police. As we arrived we saw there was no mass picket, and after a quick chat with one of the half dozen men present told me there was unlikely to be one. The colliery was called Annerseley and is in the South Notts area. I spotted Brian and asked him where the others were and he told me they’d gone down the road to a connected colliery called Newstead. Keith turned up and we chatted with a few lads from Grimethorpe who we’d met this morning. There was no sign of humour or piss taking at Annersley. The police seemed to have been hand picked for their height and build, brick shithouses in every sense of the word!

After a few minutes a senior police officer crossed the road and began shouting at us. He said;’Right you scum! Stand there, keep still, and don’t you dare shout anything at the decent working men coming out. As a matter of fact, don’t even breath too loudly or I’ll have you in the back of a van so quickly you won’t believe it!!’ His tone was highly aggressive and I had no doubt he would carry out his threat at the slightest provocation. It was extremely frustrating to have to stand there whilst the scabs coming out hurled abuse at us!

After a while the rest of our lads turned up from the other pit but before they could tell us anything about it the senior officer returned and said there were too many of us and if some of us didn’t move on he would arrest the lot of us for obstruction. What a bloody joke, if anyone was causing an obstruction it was the hundreds of police. There were only about 15 of us, but to stop the pig carrying out his threat Keith, Joe, Ian and myself decided to try out the pit down the road whilst Brian and Jeff went to get the van so lads could shelter from the rain that had started to come down.

The road to Newstead ran alongside the colliery buildings and we could see scabs working beneath the orange lights. We were tempted to shout at them but daren’t because the road ahead was pitch black and we didn’t know what lay ahead.

We finally arrived at Newstead after getting lost for a while.It lay at the bottom of a road lined with a mixture of condemned and inhabited pit houses. It was a depressing sight and did nothing to calm my jumpy nerves. There were about half a dozen lads present, including our guide Malc.They were as cocky as the picket had been at Grimethorpe that morning, taking the piss out of the police. One lad told me this lot were ‘green’ and were from Devon and Somerset and as such were easy targets. He also warned that the next lot who would be taking over shortly were real wicked bastards and were from the local police force.

Sure enough at 9.30pm the green police marched off to be replaced by some of the biggest bastards it has ever been my misfortune to come across. Within minutes four of the Yorkshire lads were roughly arrested, including our guide, Malc, all of them unceremoniously thrown into the back of a van and driven off. I admit to being terrified, certain we were to be next. Joe wasn’t frightened and asked a sergeant if he could hand out some leaflets to the scabs who were beginning to arrive. To our great surprise he was allowed to do so on the condition he didn’t speak or try to force them to accept a leaflet. Whilst he tried to do this I learned from one of the lads that Malc and the others had been arrested because they’d been there the night before. I said that wasn’t a crime but the lad said being a striking miner and being there was enough. As we chatted one of the police facing us deliberately stood on my toes, causing me a lot of pain as I tried to get them from beneath his heavy boots. The bastard had a sadistic grin on his face, and only let me get away when the lads started to move off. He called me,’Fucking scum’ as I limped off, cursing under my breath. I know who the scum are!

As we walked back to Annersley in the pitch black talking about what we’d seen I almost had a heart attack when two policemen jumped at us, shining torches in our faces and demanding to know where we were going. Joe did the talking until we were asked for our names and addresses. When I told him mine he told me not to take the piss and cuffed my ear. He was finally convinced when I showed him my NUM diary which had my name and address inside. We continued on our way now completely soaked by the rain, which seemed to be getting heavier by the minute.

When we reached the van we found it full of police taking everyone’s details. Joe and Ian managed to squeeze inside but Keith and I were forced to stay outside in the torrential rain. I again gave my name with almost the same result minus the cuff round the ear. To my astonishment Keith not only gave a false name and address but he also used the name of one of our lodge officials as his own. I couldn’t help but admire his cheek but also felt certain he would be discovered and arrested.The police finally left, warning us that if we were caught in Notts again we would be arrested, and if the van returned it would be impounded! So much for our ‘free country’. It is frightening that we, as legitimate trade unionists, should be prevented from exercising our democratic right to picket. Welcome to Thatchers Britain 1984! Orwell wasn’t far off.

The journey back to Barnsley was very subdued. Brian was very relieved that he hadn’t been arrested as he had been threatened with this morning. We were all totally shocked by our experience, apart from Geordie, and are looking forward to going home later today. I had to stay up and write this whilst it is still fresh in my memory. I’ll end by using a quote from a book I found in this room;

‘A man may perhaps say the public peace may be hereby disturbed, but he ought to know there can be no peace where there is no justice, nor any justice if the government instituted for the good of a nation be turned to its ruin’. Algernon Sidney,1680.

12. Sunday March 25th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on March 25, 2009 at 9:56 am

The Wearmouth Lodge committee visited the Armstrong Hall this morning in an attempt to get some kind of co – ordination between our two pits on picketing. Typically our officials gave them the cold shoulder and the Wearmouth lads stormed off muttering something about wankers. Before they left one of them told me to be careful what I was doing because I was not very well thought of in the committee room. This comes as no surprise to me.

Surprisingly one of the same lodge officials, Tommy, paid me a visit at home tonight to ask if I could give them any money so they could take an extra car down to Notts! I gave him £35 for petrol and got him to sign for it. I asked if I could go but he said I was doing an important job raising money and should continue doing that. In other words, piss off, you’re not wanted. Very depressing but not unexpected.

11. Saturday March 24th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2009 at 8:57 pm

I left the house at 6.30am and the rain was lashing down. It’s still lashing down as I write this at 11.30pm!Anyway I made my way up to Newcastle and arrived soaking wet at roughly 7.30. I grabbed a coffee at the Haymarket and met up with Margaret from Militant and a couple of other members. The coach arrived shortly afterwards and we piled on, the inside resembling a sauna as we all steamed away in the warm. The passengers were mainly Militant supporters, as they like to be known, with a few SWP members as well. They got straight on with the job of selling their paper,’Socialist Worker’, and I bought one to see what news they had about the strike.

I sat next to a lass called Pat who was in the SWP and who worked at Newcastle Poly. We chatted about the strike and she told me she’s been down to Westoe a few times. She gave me £10 she had collected on the bus. She spoke a lot about the SWP but was equally talkative about the shortcomings of the Labour Party, especially Tony Benn and his role in pushing through the hated Incentive Scheme when he was the Energy Secretary in the last government.I agreed with a lot of what she said but was still suspicious of her motives.

The rain was still pissing down when we arrived in Sheffield so we sprinted across the road and into the university where a long queue was waiting to register for the conference. I was pleased to see Keith Smoult there because it would be good to have a Westoe lad to chat to, and as Keith was a member of the Young Socialists he knew quite a lot of people there, including Geoff, the ‘head; Militant man who took us into the canteen whilst he went to sort out tickets for us. It seemed like the miners were the stars of the moment because when we got into the main conference hall all the front rows were occupied by NUM members. I got a load of badges from them for my flat cap.

The hall was full to capacity with people from every union, some of whom I have never even heard of! All of the speakers in the morning session made comforting noises about supporting us miners but seemed to me more concerned with electing left wing union leaders and politicians into various obscure roles. A collection was taken which raised over £2,000, half of it to go to the NUM the other half to Broad Left. A group of people, whom I later discovered were all SWP members, complained and said all of the money should go to the miners and a lively debate followed. However, the SWP motion was rejected, much to my disgust because I felt they had very valid reasons.

At lunchtime I was persuaded to attend a fringe meeting to be addressed by someone called Tony Cliff and to be about our strike. It was a small room but was packed, and to be honest, when I first saw and heard the guy I thought to myself,’who the bloody hell is this!’ He was an old guy, short and stocky with wiry grey hair sticking out from either side of his head, and wearing glasses.He had a strong foreign accent which I found hard to understand at first.However, once I was tuned in I found myself agreeing with almost everything he said. He wasn’t like the other speakers I had heard because he openly criticised Scargill and the NUM leadership saying they were tactically naive!He drew comparisons between the ’72 and ’74 strikes and now, saying we couldn’t win this one just by closing down power stations, mainly because of the time of year but also because we would not get support from other trade unionists unless we began campaigning for support now amongst the rank and file. He warned that the other trade union leaders would do to us what they had done to the NGA at Warrington, and the people at GCHQ. They would stab us in the back and leave us to fight on our own.He said our only hope was to appeal to workers directly by going to their meetings and explain exactly what the strike was about. He got a tremendous round of applause and I for one thought what he had to say made sense, even if it did depress me a bit.

A Yorkshire miner spoke next and made and appealed for money to send pickets into Notts. He also spoke with passion and got great applause, and he got £644, a sum that surprised me because we had never ever got into three figures. One thing I will say is that the SWP are certainly a party of action!

As I headed back to the main hall I met a lad called Yunus from Newcastle who I had seen down at Westoe a few times. He said I should collect money outside the hall instead of listening to hot air inside. I was a bit dubious but he got me a bucket covered in ‘support the miners’ stickers. He assured me it was ok but a steward disagreed. After Yunis had a word with some official I was given permission to stay, so I did.

I was soon joined by some Yorkshire lads who were a bit cool towards me at first but after 20 minutes or so we were getting along like a house on fire. One of the lads was called Ian and works at Silverwood Colliery. We got along particularly well, joining forces to verbally abuse a little runt of a man who more or less accused us of collecting the money for ourselves. Ian told me later he was a union official from Barnsley who didn’t like the idea of anyone organising but elected officials. I told Ian about the officials at my pit and he said we should organise ourselves.

We spent the whole afternoon collecting, and such was our success that I was forced to put half of the bucket into a box at my feet because the bucket was so heavy!One big Scotsman tossed a quid into the bucket every time he came out to use the bog, which he did on a regular basis.He either had a weak bladder or too much to drink but whatever I was impressed by his generosity.

Geoff, the Militant guy came to ask me why I wasn’t listening to Tony Benn, and when I told him he was not happy and stormed off. He came back with some even bigger official from Militant who told me the SWP were a bunch of small time losers. I told him to piss off,so he did. Tosser!

When Keith and I counted up what I’d collected we were staggered to find the sum of £102.77p. We were over the moon but when we met some of the Wearmouth lads we decided to give them half, knowing they’d put it to good use.

The journey home was spent talking politics, and one thing I am sure of and that is I have totally lost faith in the Labour Party because its long overdue for them to get off the fence and support us instead of trying to pander to the middle classes. They are a disgrace to all those who have gone before and founded the trade unions with their blood.

Before we went home we bought fish and chips for the few lads on the Westoe picket line. After all, they are giving up their Saturday night and deserve a little treat. The bloody lodge won’t give them one!

10.Friday March 23rd, 1984.

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2009 at 6:57 pm

David Jones, the picket killed in Notts was buried this morning. His funeral was attended by over 4,ooo people from every coalfield in the country. I had to watch it on tv because even though a coach went down from Westoe, no one bothered to tell me about it.

Instead I attended a meeting in Newcastle at which Ken Livingstone was speaking. He spoke well and voiced his support for the NUM. It’s only a pity he couldn’t have put his money where his big mouth is because he only put £3 in the bucket I stuck in front of him. A trivial amount when you think about what he must earn in a year! Anyway we still collected £33,09p, not bad seeing as it was collected outside Newcastle Poly and it was mostly students who put in. As usual we counted in front of witnesses and had them sign the cash book.

I’ve just spoken to one of the lads on the phone and he told me how the Westoe coach had been stopped by the police on the A1 just outside of Durham. The police said they had reason to believe that the men were about to commit a breach of the peace by engaging in unlawful picketing.This was patently a load of bollocks because the lads were dressed in suits and ties, hardly picketing gear for a cold March morning! The police made the lads get off the coach while they searched it. One constable of normal police intelligence asked what the black case lying in the aisle was. A lad shouted,’Its a bloody bazooka!’ The PC responded by ordering that the case be removed from the coach so it could be searched! Incredible! It was yet another example of the misuse of police power, just like the other week when the Kent miners were stopped from going through the Dartford tunnel. Our lads were plainly on their way to a funeral which the police must have known about so the only conclusion is that they are trying to harrass and provoke us!

An official complaint has been made but I doubt anything will come of it. I’ve also heard that the union had a lot of trouble even getting a coach because local bus companies have been warned by police not to hire vehicles to the NUM. This is another outrageous abuse of police power and a threat to our ability to travel to picket lines. They won’t stop us because we can use cars, if the lodge will supply money for petrol. Its about time they started to use some of the funds they must have built up since 1974!!

9. Thursday March 22nd, 1984.

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2009 at 12:27 pm

My friend John picked me up at 6.30am to go to Whitburn workshops because we heard that C.O.S.A staff were still working. Whitburn is halfway between South Shields and Sunderland on the coast and was the site of one of the most militant pits in the North East before its closure in the sixties. A lot of the men who used to work at Whitburn Colliery now work at Westoe, and are very proud of their militant past. They believe the pit was shut down because of its militancy because there was plenty of coal left there. All that remains now is a few rows of colliery houses and a waste heap. The N.C.B now use part of the site for offices and workshops.

We were surprised by the size of the picket when we arrived, about 70 men, mostly from Wearmouth colliery. We parked the car in a nearby housing estate and then joined the 6 men present from Westoe. The first thing they said was to ask where the rest of the pickets were. I told them they were standing outside of Westoe doing nothing. A Wearmouth lad asked us the same question, only he used more colourful language. All we could do was agree with them that the Westoe lads should be here but we have nothing to do with organising things and had just come off our own initiative.

Talking to the Wearmouth lads made us realise just how bad our own union officials were. Not only do the Wearmouth lads have their own bus to transport pickets, they also have a strike H.Q where pickets can get a hot meal when they return from picketing. This is not that much of a surprise because their officials are predominantly left wing and were prepared for the strike well before it happened. That was why they had invited Scargill to come and speak the other week.

This mornings picket was a partial success with the mechanics from the workshops agreeing to join the strike. The mostly female COSA members refused to join us and after a bit of pushing they were escorted in by the police. John and I returned to Westoe where the last payslips were being dished out and I was determined to confront our lodge officials and ask them to arrange for men to be sent to Whitburn in the morning to support the Wearmouth men.

In the pit yard a long snaking queue had formed to await the opening of the pay office at 9. I spotted the lodge secretary and chairman talking to some of the lads so I approached them to tell them about Whitburn. When I finished telling them what was happening their attitude really riled me. They said Whitburn had nothing to do with them, and if Wearmouth chose to send pickets then that was their business. I said that scabbing was every miners business and that if we didn’t nip it in the bud it would spread. The Secretary got angry at this and asked me what experience I had of being on strike, giving the answer himself and calling me a ‘red troublemaker’. He added that the Westoe men had shown what they thought of my abilities at the last lodge elections by not voting for me. This was true but it doesn’t mean that what I said was any less true. Anger then got the better of me and I shouted that it was a disgrace that we weren’t supporting the Wearmouth lads, and how could they be so organised whilst we weren’t. He replied that when I was doing his job I could do what I liked, but as I wasn’t and he was, then he would  not be responsible for ‘wasting Lodge money’. I exploded at this and called him a ‘stupid bastard’, and said he wouldn’t have a lodge to be secretary of if we lost the strike! I stormed off and suffered more ‘red’ taunts from the men in the queue who agreed with the secretary. I was even more angry because there were members of the ‘unofficial’ strike committee present who did nothing to support me. Very disappointing.

Outside the pit gates I met Margaret, a Militant member, and she took me to a nearby pub and let me vent my anger. She also introduced me to some lads from the APEX union who gave me a cheque for £25 made out to the lodge. We had a good discussion about the strike and she invited me to go to Sheffield on Saturday for the Broad Left Organising Committee conference. I’ve been to Broad Left miners meetings in Easington so I agreed to go, especially as they are paying. John is going as well so at least I’ll have someone to talk to if it gets boring.

Kath is NOT pleased about me going to Sheffield because Saturday is the one day we get to spend some time together. I told her she’d better get used to it because winning this strike is my top priority, and because I’ve been a very vocal supporter of Scargill since before he was elected national President I can’t now take a back seat and watch others do the fighting. She went to bed in a huff.

8. Tuesday March 20th,1984.

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2009 at 9:22 am

This morning a couple of us went over to Swan Hunters at Wallsend to try and collect some money with some SWP members. I was a bit surprised at the generally negative attitude of the men going into the shipyard. One man said he was going to lose his job anyway so why should he support us? Despite this we still managed to collect £46 which will help finance pickets to go down to Notts. We made sure that everyone contributing knew what the money would be used for, and that we were working independantly of our Lodge. We did this so that no one could accuse us of collecting for our own pockets. We bought a cash book and entered every penny we had collected and had it signed by witnesses to the collection.

The SWP members we collected with made no attempt to recruit us, unlike Militant, and when I asked why they said I should make up my own mind. They also said I should attend one of their meetings, and perhaps I will because they seem genuine people, mostly students.

The police presence in Notts has been stepped up dramatically and the Yorkshire pickets are being stopped from even entering the county! The scabs in Notts have made it clear they have no intention of entering the strike unless a national ballot is held. Their union leaders have even told them that it is alright to cross picket lines because the strike is unofficial. This is a disgusting betrayal of basic trade union principles. If the picket line isn’t respected they will play straight into the hands of Thatcher!

7. Sunday March 18th.

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2009 at 9:44 am

Tragically a young Yorkshire miner, David Jones, was killed at Ollerton Colliery in Notts the other day and the Tories are calling for an end to all picketing. Fuck them! We need to step up the picketing so the lads death won’t be totally in vain and get those scabby bastards out!

A group of us at Westoe are growing increasingly disillusioned with our union officials because they seem totally disinterested in organising picketing. So, we have set up an unofficial strike committee to raise our own funds so we can get away from the pit and into the places that are scabbing.The lodge officials have totally refused to send pickets down to Notts even though Westoe is 100% solid. How can they be so short sighted?

Militant have promised to help us raise funds in the shipyards, and to put us in touch with other miners in our area who want to fight. Hopefully we can show our stupid officials that we are more than capable of organising ourselves. If we wait for them to take the lead the strike will be lost!

Keeping regular daily entries in this diary is getting more difficult, especially as Kath is whingeing about the time I spend out of the house, so I will just have to do it when I can find the time.

6. Thursday March 15th.

In Uncategorized on March 16, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Did picket duty at the pit for a few hours but nothing happened, we all just chatted about the strike. I went round to visit a mate of mine and fellow miner, Dave Farham. He is an inspirational man who, despite suffering from MS, does as much as he can to support the strike. It was nice to sit in front of his coal fire and have a hot cup of coffee. I told him about yesterdays events but he already knew because he only lives a few hundred yards from the pit. Anyway, when I took a pause for breath he told me that he had been invited to speak to a student meeting at Newcastle Poly and he wanted me to go with him for moral support. I agreed because my daughters were in school and Kath was at work so I had the day to myself. We were going with one of his mates, Phil Turner, who is a student at the Poly, and he soon arrived and we caught a bus to Newcastle.

On the way Phil told me he was a member of the Socialist Workers Party and that immediately put me on my guard because since Monday all kinds of political activists had begun to show up,SWP,WRP, Communist Party, and Militant. As a member of the Labour Party I tended to veer towards the latter and they had warned me that the SWP were extremists. I liked Phil straightaway and he made no secret of his beliefs as we talked. He told us that a General meeting of the Students Union had been called to discuss a motion that would give full support to the NUM and allow us to use their facilities. Phil asked if Dave and I would speak in support of the motion and we agreed, though he was worried that not enough people would turn up to constitute a quorem. Dave and me weren’t worried about that because at least we would get the chance to raise awareness of the strike.

The crowded room we saw when we arrived gave us both a panic attack and we were all for going straight back home but when we were led to a table of students we calmed down a bit. I stupidly thought that these were the students we were to talk to but that was soon corrected when Phil led us up onto the stage in front of about 500 noisy students and we sat down.My legs were shaking and so were Dave’s. I drew the short straw and had to speak first. I had nothing prepared so I told the meeting that they would have a better future if we could win the strike, and I also told them that we had been forced into taking a stand now and I explained exactly what we were on strike for, and why it was so important. I got a good round of applause. Dave came forward to speak but had to wait while a Tory student spoke against the motion, making lots of provocative remarks about the miners, and Scargill in particular.

Dave was brilliant! Not only did he answer the tory criticisms but he also attacked the Thatcher governments stated goal of smashing the unions. He warned the students that the Tories would force the students to pay for their own education if they beat us. He got a deserved standing ovation and everyone felt confident that we would carry the motion.

The last speaker was a fat posh Tory who was so right wing he made Thatcher seem like a communist! He tried to convince the meeting that miners were a highly paid group of workers and that it was only a small group of left wing agitators led by Scargill  who were against the closure of uneconomic pits. At the mention of wages Dave leapt to his feet and offered to show his last payslip for the princely sum of £67 for a 42 hour week! Predictably the tory refused to look at it, despite a noisy majority of students calling for him to read it out, and the rest of his speech went unheard under a chant of,’Read it out.Read it out!’

A vote was called for and the Tories made constant interruptions to try and prevent the vote being taken. The bastards even set off the fire alarm, but to the students great credit the vote was taken and the motion was passed. Phil gave us £23 from a collection and we both felt very humble that students, not the richest members of society, could be so generous. It was a very memorable day.

The media are generally speaking against the strike and are supporting the Notts miners who are refusing to come out, despite heavy picketing from Yorkshire. We need to go down there and join them.