Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

35. Tuesday May 1st, 1984.

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2009 at 7:34 pm

This morning at Tow Law one of the younger lads, Mickey Hoy, stood solid as a rock for three hours holding a ‘Stop the Police State’ placard face to face with a policeman. He was only prevented from continuing by the appearance of the lorries, giving the pig an excuse to punch Mickey in the face! This cowardly act was seen by lots of pickets who responded by surging forward in an attempt to get revenge. Yet a – bloody -gain it was the passivity of our own men that prevented us gaining the upper hand. The idle bastards just stood by and watched, even when a few of the lads were snatched from the front line and arrested! They just watched as we tried to rescue them but were defeated by lack of numbers. We have to overcome this passivity if we are to have any chance of achieving anything here.

Once again the most positive response of the morning was the arrival of the pies. I hoped some of the bastard would choke on them so we could stand and watch!


34. Monday April 30th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2009 at 8:16 am

I went picketing at Tow Law and again there were about 200 men present. Unfortunately a lot of them seemed content to warm their arses against the heat coming off the blazing tyres. Even when we had a push against the police to try and close off the gates to the site most of the buggers just stood and watched. Why do they come if they don’t want to fight? A policeman had his arm broken in the push but it was the scab lorry speeding through the gate to blame, not us.

That was the only bit of excitement in a dull morning, apart from the arrival of Ian and Tonto with the pies, which caused a stampede. I sold all 20 badges and got orders for dozens more. At this rate we’ll be able to finance the pies just from the sale of badges!!

33. Saturday April 28th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2009 at 10:10 am

For some strange reason today was designated May Day in Newcastle and a march and rally had been organised to mark the event. The SWP were out in force selling Socialist Worker and handing out hundreds of ‘Victory to the Miners’ placards, especially to the miners present though a lot of them ripped off the SWP logo at the top which I found petty and ungrateful. I had brought along a plastic bucket covered in ‘Coal Not Dole’ stickers to collect for the Westoe Miners Wives Support Group. Ian Wilburn had brought up a van full of women to collect as well, and to attend the rally.

As we stood talking we were approached by a Northumberland NUM official who asked me what I intended doing with the bucket. His tone gave me a few ideas but I contented myself with telling him the truth. To my amazement he said I was not allowed to collect on behalf of the miners. Here we go again I thought. I told him I was a striking miner and he demanded to know where I was from. I could have shown him my letter of authorisation from the Lodge but his belligerent tone really got my back up so I told him to mind his own business, and anyway, how did I know HE was a miner? This plainly shocked him because like a lot of union officials they have an inflated sense of their own importance. He told me who he was in an offended tone whilst a group of tough looking Northumberland miners gathered around him. A very angry exchange of words took place, culminating in him threatening to have me arrested if I made any attempt to collect. That did shock me and I asked him why he was so against me collecting. He said, ‘The Northumberland miners do not go begging or accept charity’. I pointed out that I was not one of his men and that it wasn’t begging but asking fellow workers to support us in our fight. I added that he’d better get used to it because it could be a long strike and we would need all the help we could get if we were to beat Thatcher and her boot boys. He just repeated his threat and said he had been fighting for his members since before I was born and there was nothing I could tell him about strikes. With that him and his henchmen stormed off to take their places at the front of the march. Anne Kendrick said he might be able to have me arrested but he wouldn’t dare do it to them so they decided to do the collecting.

We marched proudly through the streets of Newcastle cheered on by the shoppers. The rally was held in Leazes Park and we arrived there in brilliant sunshine and found a place to sit and listen to the speeches and to count the money the lasses had collected.

The speeches were full of the usual rhetoric from a poor selection of speakers, and it was only when Denis Murphy, the President of the Northumberland miners, got up to speak did I pay any attention. First of all he claimed that Thomas Hepburn was a Northumberland miner when in fact he was a Durham miner and founded one of the first ever unions in 1832. Then he claimed his men were the best in the coalfields and had been solidly behind the strike since day one. Wrong again because we had to picket the buggers out at Ellington. I don’t mean to sound petty but facts are facts.

The biggest shock came when Tom Sawyer of NUPE came onto the platform and presented Murphy with a cheque for £20,000! For a union who ‘doesn’t accept charity’ this struck me as the height of hypocrisy and I couldn’t restrain myself any longer. I rushed to the front of the platform and shouted, ‘I thought the Northumberland miners didn’t accept charity?’ Anne Kendrick joined in the attack, much to the concern of some officials who came running over to us and begged us to stop in the name of solidarity. We shut up and returned to our group because we’d made our point. However, I was still furious at the hypocrisy of that bloody official threatening to have me arrested for collecting coins whilst they eagerly accepted a cheque for twenty grand! bastards!

As the speeches ended we began to leave but a furious woman started shouting at me, accusing me of trying to use the women for my own political ends! When I learned she was Geoff Price’s wife the attack made more sense but was still laughable. Militant indeed.

Before I left the park I saw a stand run by the Newcastle Gay and Lesbian Group that made tin badges to order with a little machine they had. They offered to make me badges for a cut price 10p each if I would sign a petition supporting them. I would have signed it anyway but had 20 badges made that said,’Westoe Miners – Zulu Pickets’. I intend selling them for 20p each, with the profit going into the ‘pie fund’. They told me they’ll make more at the same price but I’ll see how these go first.

I made my way down to Jarrow where Neil Kinnock was unveiling a plaque on the Metro station to commemorate the famous Jarrow Marchers. When I arrived I met up with comrades from the SWP and we watched Kinnock pose for pictures with three old men who were amongst the last survivors of the march before making a short speech and unveiling the plaque. He then set off with his entourage to march through Jarrow to a community centre where he was due to speak. We were disgusted to see one of the old men was left standing on the platform, alone, with no one taking any notice of him, poor sod, so a couple of comrades went to get him a taxi whilst we ran to carch up with the march. The old man had served his purpose and then been abandoned. So much for socialism eh?

We caught up and positioned ourselves right behind Kinnock and the other so called dignitaries, proudly carrying our ‘Victory to the Miners’ placards. I have quite a loud voice, some would call it a big mouth, and I used it to good effect, shouting at Kinnock to get off the fence and support the miners, repeating it until he disappeared inside the sanctuary of the community centre. Our Lodge banner and officials were directly behind and the look on their faces told me exactly what they felt about my performance. Still, I expect they got their chance to suck up to Kinnock inside whilst I went home to sleep soundly in my bed.

32. Friday April 27th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on April 26, 2009 at 11:01 am

We did the ‘pie run’ to Tow Law this morning but the whole thing is a bit dispiriting because of the passivity of the picket.

This evening I was invited by the Gateshead Trades Council to attend a May Day dance at the Guildhall in Newcastle.

It’s now 2.30am and I’ve just finished counting the collection that was taken. There is £156 altogether, including a cheque for £50 from a man who would only say his family had all been miners and that he could easily afford it. I asked him to make the cheque out to the Lodge, not wanting it made out to myself for obvious reasons. The rest of the money will go into the ‘pie fund’, which is exactly what I’d appealed for when I made a short speech in the interval. The audience was great and it gave me a personal boost to speak again in public.

  I had a great night out, getting on particularly well with an SWP member called Mick Armstrong. He drove me home through fog so thick you could cut it with a knife. I hope he got home OK.

31. Wednesday April 25th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2009 at 11:17 am

Our first lot of pies cost £13 and we delivered them to the pickets at Tow Law using ‘Tonto’ Jackson’s  car. The lads really appreciated it, though they still didn’t do anything more than shout a bit when the scab lorries went in and out.

A meeting was held in the Armstrong Hall to discuss the idea of forming a Women’s Support Group, and to my great surprise about 200 women turned up. The meeting was organised by Margaret Reavey, a Militant supporter and one of the few who have spoken to me since I joined the SWP. She invited me to speak about fundraising, which I did.

The outcome of this first meeting is the formation of the Westoe Miners Wives Support Group, with Anne Kendrick elected as Secretary, and Ann Hall as Treasurer. Unfortunately their first task is to find somewhere to work from because the Lodge officials have refused to let them use the Armstrong Hall because, ‘it will be too noisy with a load of kids running around’. Honestly, they are a fuckin’ joke and totally out of touch with reality! Thank god we don’t have to rely on them to win this strike!

30. Tuesday April 24th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2009 at 8:41 am

I dragged myself out of my nice warm bed at 4.30 am to go picketing at Tow Law. I’m fed up with just collecting and want to be more active, and besides, a lot more men have been arrested since Bob Clay got lifted.

It was bloody freezing out there and the only way for us to keep warm was by burning some old tractor tires one of the lads had found. They kept us warm but the oily muck blowing about made us all look like we’d done a shift down the pit!

There were about 200 men present but we didn’t manage to stop a single lorry going in or out, didn’t even try. There were no union officials present and the police who were there had no problems at all. It was obvious to me that we had to block the road somehow, but when I suggested dragging the burning tyres into the middle of the road no one took any notice. If we are not careful men will stop coming because of boredom and inactivity.

When we got back to the pit I asked the Treasurer if we could have some funds to provide hot food for the pickets at Tow Law because that’s what other lodges are doing for their pickets. He claimed our funds are ‘all tied up’. I argued that we have 70 pickets going each day, and the Lodge gives them £5 a car for petrol money to do the 70 mile round trip. Surely they could afford an extra £20 to get hot food and drink to the lads? Same reply about funds being ‘tied up’. Bloody pathetic!

Ian Wilburn and me have decided to spend the £150 we’ve already collected to get hot pies each day plus flasks of tea and coffee, and we can continue to raise funds to keep it going. Hopefully we will shame the Lodge into taking over. We met a baker on Boldon Lane and he has agreed to have 70 hot pies ready for 7am every morning, and Ian and myself will take them up to Tow Law and still be in time for any action.

29. Monday April 23rd, 1984.

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Tony Ciff gave an excellent summing up of the strike so far and urged us miners to go back to our pits and continue to argue for mass picketing of power stations and steelworks, and to argue for support amongst rank and file trade unionists to lobby their unions for support. We ended by singing the ‘Internationale’, but I didn’t because I hate communal singing and felt embarassed, though I liked the words.

  The girls couldn’t stop talking about the great time they’d had and the friends they’d made. They were sad to leave, and so were Kath and me. We agreed it was the best holiday we’ve ever had, and I feel ready to continue the strike reinvigorated.

28. Sunday April 22nd, 1984.

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2009 at 8:18 am

This morning we went to see Paul Foot give a talk about George Orwell and it was excellent. He recommended ‘Homage to Catalonia’ as Orwell’s best book and I look forward to reading it when this is all over. Strangely enough Kath came along as well and really enjoyed the talk. I say strangely because Kath openly admits to never having enjoyed reading a book. Whatever, I’m glad she enjoyed something political.

We had a great night out with Dave and Jean, Anne and Paul in the Drifter bar. It was nice to just relax and chat with friends. We also had a useful chat with Ian Mitchell’s wife, Mandy, who gave me loads of good advice about fundraising, and she also urged us to set up a Wives Support Group so that wives and girlfriends can get actively involved in the strike because it affects their future just as much as ours. Kath agreed with her but said her job at the Women’s Aid Refuge would mean she couldn’t  get involved. She’s right, but it’s still a good idea.

We checked on the girls then came back to our bungalow. Kath’s just having a quick bath then we’ll turn in.

27. Saturday April 21st, 1984.

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2009 at 8:24 am

Kath and I had a long lie in this morning then got up and had a late breakfast. The girls were up early playing with their new friends and it’s great to see them enjoying themselves.

  Kath spent the afternoon with some other wives and enjoyed herself. I went to a few meetings but spent most of my time talking with other miners about how things were in their areas. One thing I learnt is that they’re all a lot more organised than we are and do pickets almost every day. I’ve had enough of collecting and have decided it’s time I did some proper picketing.

 Tonight we were having a good time in the Drifter Bar when Yunus came over and told me there were some striking miners from Notts who wanted to talk to some miners. Dave Farham and me went outside onto the balcony and saw 4 lads talking to a couple of the Yorkshire lads so we just listened. I was amazed to hear that three of them claimed to be on strike at Ollerton Colliery, but the other one openly admitted to being a scab! It didn’t ring true to me because no striker worth his salt would even talk to a scab, let alone socialise with one. The scab openly boasted he was a ‘working miner’ and I moved towards him, ready to throw the scabby bastard off the balcony. I was stopped by Steve Hamill, whom I recognised as the miner who had spoken at the Tony Cliff meeting in Sheffield, so I went for a piss to calm down. When I got back Ian Mitchell was having to hold Steve back! The scabs took the hint and beat a hasty retreat but they had spoilt my night and all I could do was whinge about them. Kath was relieved when we left.

26. Friday April 20th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2009 at 8:32 am

Well,here we are in Skegness, at the Derbyshire Miners Holiday Camp. Kath and I have been given a lovely bungalow close to the children’s dormitory.

The journey down was a bit uncomfortable because the minibus was a bit overcrowded, but our driver, Anne, was excellent and the journey only took five hours so it wasn’t too bad.

After registering we went to explore the camp and I was relieved to find that there is plenty to keep Kath and the girls occupied. Jennifer and Sasha are thoroughly enjoying themselves and have already made loads of new friends.I doubt they will sleep much because the dormitory was full of noisy kids when I looked in at 10.30pm. As long as they are happy, that’s the only thing that matters, and  it will allow Kath and me to have some time to ourselves and that is very important just now because the strike is beginning to cause us problems. Hopefully this weekend will help us to sort things out.

We spent the evening having a drink with Dave and Jean Farham, and meeting people. This is the big weekend for the SWP and it was great to see so many friendly people.I was pleased to meet Jim Tierney again because I met him up in Scotland the other week and we have a mutual friend in Stuart Hepburn.

The programme for the weekend looks excellent and I am really looking forward to seeing Paul Foot of the Daily Mirror speak.

We’re having an early – ish night and Kath is having a bath so roll on tomorrow.