I should have been getting up at 2.30am to get ready for the 4am shift. Instead I got a lie in until 5.30 and when I looked at the rain lashing down outside my warm bedroom I was really tempted to get back into bed. I didn’t and instead got dressed warmly, had a mug of coffee, picked up my home made placard that bore the legend;’Fight for Coal, keep miners off the dole’. Totally unoriginal but the best I could come up with late last night. I was off to nearby Boldon Colliery where a whale shaped mound of coal was being stockpiled. A year ago it had been a working pit, now it was a store for the mountain of coal. I was going there to try and persuade lorry drivers not to move the coal. I was meant to meet up with a mate of mine at 6am, but he wasn’t there when I arrived soaked at 5.50, and he wasn’t there an hour later and I cursed him because he had a nice warm VW I was looking forward to sitting in. I was ready to pack it in when a bloody huge lorry roared up to the short entrance I was picketing. It snapped me out of my apathy.
I approached the drivers window and bent my neck backwards to speak up to him. I told him I was an official NUM picket and that in the interests of solidarity he should go no further. The drivers response was to open his door and jump down, giving me a bit of a fright but I was on my guard, ready for anything. He said; “Ya bloody jokin’ aren’t yu son. Are you all there is? Not much of a picket line is it? He was a big bloke with hamshank forearms and he sounded aggressive so I was mindful of this when I said; “It only takes one man to form a picket and I’m it. Others will be getting here soon”. The last bit was a lie but I didn’t worry about that. I just wanted to win. He mumbled something about the bloody miners not supporting him when he was on strike but I was immensely proud when he climbed back up into his cab and turned his lorry around, stopping on the way out to tell his fellow drivers what was happening, and they also turned around and followed him out. I couldn’t believe it! I had turned around 7 lorries on my own and if everyone treats our picket lines with the same respect this strike will be over in weeks.
At a quarter to nine my wife Kath turned up in her first ever car, an L reg Hillman Imp. She was on her way to work and had stopped by to give me a dry coat and a flask of coffee.The fact that she has a job will make life a lot easier for us than it will for the majority of men, even though she only gets £50 a week. Kath is not too impressed about the strike because for the first time in our 12 year marriage we are managing to get a few of lifes luxuries like the car and a new washing machine.She is hoping the strike will finish soon but I’m a lot more realistic. Thatcher hasn’t provoked this strike to give in quickly, and I suspect their plans will mean at least a month or two. I’m just happy to be in the fresh air and not being stuck down the pit in the dust and dirt. Give me lungs a chance to clean up.
I got Kath to give me a lift to Westoe because I was keen to let everyone Know what had happened. I was happy to find the strike was solid. Only a few Deputies had been allowed to cross for safety reasons, and the office workers so they could sort out our wages and retired miners coal deliveries. I spoke to a union official and asked him to sort out a picket rota for Boldon and he introduced me to a female reporter from Newcastle Evening Chronicle. She was very interested in my account and even more so when she found out my surname. Like Scargill, my ego took over and I chatted to her and had my photo taken. I got my just desserts when the paper carried the story on its front page, under the headline; ‘Strike by Name’ and gave the impression I was an experienced striker. I shall have to be more careful with the media in future.
News of the strike is not too good, with Northumberland still working, as well as a few pits in Durham. If they won’t fall into line we’ll have to picket them out! One notable thing about the picket line is that it’s the same lads who were involved in September. We need more than us if we are to win this strike.