I was on picket duty at Westoe this morning when Tommy and his Merrie Men returned from their trip to Notts. The stories they had to tell were not designed to encourage anyone to follow in their wake. They told of a massive police presence and the subterfuge they had to use to cross the border into Notts. The police were turning back anyone who attempted to get in by road, so Tommy and his lads had to trek across fields to reach a pit, with helicopters flying overhead shining spotlights. When they did finally arrive at a pit, the police so outnumbered the pickets that they were totally powerless to do anything, and couldn’t even shout ‘scab’ because the police arrested anyone who did so! The only positive thing they had to report was that the treatment they had received from the Barnsley strike centre had been excellent, with the Yorkshire lads doing all they could to make them feel welcome. Tommy gave the impression that it would be useless for anyone to get into Notts, though he did add that everyone should go and see for themselves what was going on. I’ve seen the daily reports on TV but none of it has shown anything like Tommy has described. Anyway, I’ll soon see for myself later today because I am writing this in the Northern Labour college near Barnsley.
I travelled down here with 9 other lads from Westoe in a van borrowed from the GMBU. Keith Smoult arranged it through his contacts in the Young Socialists. We picked the van from Newcastle this evening then went to Westoe to get lads to join us. Brian Tate volunteered to drive, though after his driving on the way down I have strong reservations about his ability to get us anywhere safely. At one point he drove us over the top of a roundabout!
The journey down was exciting, with everyone looking forward to seeing if what Tommy had said was true. We had along with us one of the lads who had just returned that morning with Tommy. Geordie Kane, who had volunteered so he could show us where to go because none of us had a clue. Geordie was like a father figure, laughing at our speculations about what was in store, saying,’You’ll see!’ He also had a good laugh when we sang an old hippie song Brian and I remembered,’Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die’. We altered the words slightly to fit the circumstances;
And its 1,2,3 what are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn
Next stop is Nottingham
And its 5,6,7 open up the pearly gates
Well there aint no time to wonder why
Whoopee we’re all gonna die!
The way Brian drove straight across that island that could well have been true! Geordie said we were all mad, but if anyone was mad it had to be Geordie because only a madman would risk the wrath of his wife by making a second jourmey without even telling her where he was going!
We arrived at Barnsley strike centre in the Junction Inn at midnight and were very surprised to find the place buzzing with activity, and even more surprised to have arrived there in one piece! We entered a smoke filled room upstairs which was full of lads, with a telephone on a desk in constant use. The men had either just returned from, or were going into, Notts. I heard one lad tell of how his mate had been arrested for refusing to turn around at a police roadblock. He was the driver and his passengers had been left to find their own way back but had been fortunate to hitch lifts.
After hanging around for ten minutes we were dealt with by a man I recognised straight away. It was the little runt from the BLOC conference who I’d had the row with. Fortunately he didn’t recognise me so we were allocated accomodation here at the college. We were given a guide because Geordie couldn’t remember the way. The ‘guide’ provided us with a very funny journey. He was a young lad of about 19, not very tall, and extremely pissed! He was riding a motor scooter and we were supposed to follow him in our van.
He wobbled off up the road, weaving from side to side and almost falling off on several occassions. We laughed at his comical progress and took bets on how long it would be before he fell off. We didn’t have long to wait. He attempted to turn a bend after having gone past it and skidded across the road on his arse! We stopped quickly and got out to see if he was alright. He didn’t feel a thing and staggered to his feet and picked up his bike. He assured us he was fine, but just to make sure we didn’t run him over, we made him follow us because Geordie now knew where to go.
So, here we are, two men to a room, with my roomate Dave still wandering around somewhere. The Wearmouth lads are also here but are going back in the morning. Unlike Tommy they have encouraged us to get into Notts, and have given us a pile of leaflets to give out to the scabs. They are an appeal from Durham miners asking them to join the strike, and saying that no pit is safe from McGregor’s axe. It’s now almost 3am so I’m going to grab some kip because we have been asked to return to the strike centre at 7am. to hopefully make an attempt to get into Notts. I can’t wait.