normanstrike

Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

51. Wednesday May 30th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2009 at 11:13 am

Woodside again and no action at all. There was a major confrontation at Orgreave where thousands of police have been battling with pickets. There were dozens of arrests, including Scargill, and loads of pickets have been injured. No matter what people say about Scargill he is without doubt the best trade union leader going. I can’t think of any other leader who would even stand on a picket line let alone get arrested alongside his men.

Why the hell aren’t we down there? What the bloody hell are our local leaders doing leaving the Yorkshire lads to fight alone whilst we waste our bloody time at drift mines? One thing is certain and that is we can’t win this strike if we can’t support each other!

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50. Monday May 28th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2009 at 9:14 am

Back at Woodside and the usual boring picket, nothing happening. The lads are all talking about what is happening down at Orgreave in Yorkshire where mass pickets are taking place. Why aren’t we down there instead of wasting our time here? Problem is that all I can do is agitate amongst the pickets. I can’t confront the officials directly because of what happened last week.Bastards! The good thing is that the pickets seem to believe my explanations so hopefully nothing further will happen.

49.Friday May 25th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I went picketing this morning and had the chance to explain myself, telling them exactly what I’d done and when I’d done it. I also asked the question why it had taken the officials so long to accuse me if what I’d done was so serious. Most of the lads gave me a sympathetic hearing but Tommy Wilson came over and threatened to kick my commie head in and told the lads not to believe a word I said because I’m a ‘fuckin’ lying bastard’. He is one scary man and I just want to keep out of his way to avoid giving him the chance to carry out his threats.

Woodside was boring as usual and I couldn’t sell a single paper.Oh well, it’ll take time but one thing is certain I will NOT let those incompetent bastards make me quit.

48. Wednesday May 23rd, 1984.

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2009 at 12:23 pm

I am absolutely shattered, depressed and disillusioned, though not as much as I was after this morning’s union meeting, thanks to comrades rallying around me at our SWP branch meeting this evening.

I had arrived at the Armstrong Hall full of confidence after doing the early morning picket at Woodside Drift Mine. I was determined that the men were going to show their disgust at the way our officials are running the strike. The hall was full and I sat in the middle with Gary and Keith, preparing myself for a blistering attack against the platform.

The minutes of the previous meeting were read out and passed then Walter Slater, the Lodge Secretary, stood up to read the correspondence. The first thing he said was how disgusted he was about a letter he’d received from Parsons which revealed they’d had a letter from him appealing for funds. He said he’d never written a letter to Parsons yet this letter was written by him so it was obviously a forgery! The letter went on to complain about the behaviour of Norman Strike who had insulted the union Secretary at Parsons and taken an unofficial collection. Slater said he had always trusted me and asked if I was in the meeting. The bastard knew I was because he was looking right at me. I stood up and my legs were shaking and everyone turned to stare at me. He stuck the knife firmly in by saying that in all his years of union activity he had never been so shocked and disgusted by one of his members doing such a wicked thing! He asked me if I had committed the forgery or was it someone else?

I tried to defend myself against the implication that I had tried to get money for myself but I wasn’t allowed to say anything other than admit I had written his name on the letter. Tommy Wilson then stood up and launched a personal attack against my character, calling the SWP a bunch of ‘tin pot communists’ and openly accused me of forging the letter to raise funds for them. I was shocked and stunned as more people stood up to join in the attack, calling for me to be punished harshly to deter anyone else who might ‘wish to profit from the strike’. I was given the chance to defend myself but I was so upset and shocked I couldn’t express myself clearly, and even my mates didn’t look convinced. John Chapman, the Chairman, then asked that the Lodge committee be allowed to deal with me as they saw fit and this was agreed by a unanimous show of hands.

I felt awful and just wanted the floor to open up and swallow me as men looked at me with utter contempt! Gary and Keith tried to console me but even they didn’t sound convinced so I left the hall to hisses and went home on my own, thoroughly depressed.

At home my shame turned to anger and I vowed to pack it all in and just stay at home. Ungrateful bastards! Every penny I’ve collected has always been witnessed and accounted for, and the supposed ‘forgery’ wasn’t even an attempt at forgery because it bore no resemblance to Slater’s real signature, and the letter itself was the one I had gotten from Wearmouth which I’d photocopied with our Lodge heading instead of Wearmouth’s, and I’d put Slater’s name at the bottom instead of Dave Hopper’s. The only address was the Lodge’s, not mine, so how could I possibly profit from it? I have other questions now. Why has it taken over 5 weeks for the ‘forgery’ to come to light? How long has Slater had the letter from Parsons? Why wait until now if what I’m alleged to have done is so serious? I will have to ask these questions when I appear in front of the committee, whenever that is. My only crime has been stupidity, nothing else.

I had a lot of phonecalls from comrades urging me to attend tonights meeting so I went. I’m pleased I did because it put everything into perspective. Comrades convinced me that staying at home would be a bad idea because it would only serve to prove my ‘guilt’ in the eyes of the pickets. They’re right. They also think this was a deliberate ploy by the officials because I am a thorn in their sides and they want to get rid of me. It makes sense to me so I’ve decided to continue, albeit with a very bitter taste in my mouth.

Kath has been excellent and is also very angry at what’s been done to me. She has also urged me to continue, which is brilliant!

The NUM met McGregor today but talks broke down after just an hour. What a surprise!

 

47. Monday May 21st, 1984.

In Uncategorized on May 21, 2009 at 8:30 am

I decided to try picketing at Woodside Drift mine near Consett, out in the wilds of County Durham in the hope it would be more inspiring than Lumley. It wasn’t, but it did give me the opportunity to agitate amongst the Westoe men present to attend the union meeting to be held on Wednesday. I also spoke to a lot of the pickets before they left for Tow Law and it looks as if the resolutions I am going to propose will be passed because they’re what the men want. They are;

1.Weekly union meetings.

2.Setting up a soup kitchen in the Armstrong Hall.

3.A cooker to be bought for the Women’s Support Group.

4.More pickets to travel away.

5.The Women’s Support Group to be helped financially by the Lodge.

6.A strike committee to be elected.

7.Pickets to be sent to the steelworks on Teeside.

The Women’s Support Group is doing very well, despite the animosity and unhelpful attitude of our own Lodge officials, hence the resolutions. The women have set up an office in the National Union of Seamen’s premises in Coronation Street, South Shields, and its from there that they’re distributing food parcels.Gary Marshall and me went down to visit them and gave them £300 we’d collected in Manchester, keeping the rest in reserve in case we need it. We offered to help out but the women refused, saying they want to stay independant. Fair enough.

Kath has been promoted to Warden of the Women’s Aid Refuge because her boss is taking six months leave of absence.It means a slight pay rise, more responsibility, and the chance of a permanant job if her boss doesn’t come back. It takes the pressure off me a bit because she is a lot happier.

46. Friday May 18th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2009 at 9:06 am

The days since Mansfield have been totally boring because my ban from Tow Law has meant I’ve had to picket at Lumley No6 Pit, which, despite its name is no longer a working colliery but a site where coal form open cast sites is stored and cleaned.

Each day there have been about 70 pickets present, mostly lads like myself who have been banned from Tow Law. The lorries arrive around 9.30 each day but no attempt is made to stop them. We just shout ‘scab’ because we are greatly outnumbered by the pigs, and I suppose lads don’t want to risk getting arrested again. It’s so disheartening and even when the pigs provoke us no one has the confidence to fight back. Like on Wednesday when one pig took offence at the ‘Stop the Police State’ placards we had lined up along a fence and ripped them up! Some of the older men actually told the pig he was right whilst the rest of us just glared at him. It’s so frustrating I’m beginning to wonder if it’s worth my trouble but I guess the answer is it is worth it because I can agitate amongst the younger lads for switching the picket to the steelworks on Teeside.

Tonight the Lodge Secretary, Walter Slater, reimbursed me for the Mansfield trip and told me not to organise any more trips because the Lodge can’t afford it! What a load of bollocks!

After talking with a lot of the pickets I’ve started a petition which demands that we have a union meeting. We haven’t had one for weeks and the Lodge officials give the pathetic excuse that they have nothing to say. Well, we’ve  got plenty to fuckin’ say, especially about picketing. The majority of lads I’ve spoken to have signed it and I’ve handed it in to a committee man. I also managed to sell 37 copies of Socialist Worker which shows that lots of lads are open to new ideas and keen to know what is really happening in this strike.

Unfortunately Ian Wilburn hasn’t been spotted since Mansfield and if the threats made against him have put him off then it’s a bloody shame!

45.Monday May 14th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2009 at 10:33 am

Today has been the most frustrating and disappointing day of the strike so far, and also the most violent!

Scargill had called for a mass demonstration in Mansfield to show the strength of the strike, and to show support for the 11,000 Notts men out on strike with us. Our Lodge officials responded by providing ONE coach, leaving a lot of the regular pickets disappointed. Fortunately Ian Wilburn had helped to organise an extra coach through Newcastle SWP to show our officials they aren’t the only ones who can organise, and that the SWP isn’t just interested in selling papers.

There were only 15 of us and the bus turned up late so we didn’t have time to round up more people, which was disappointing. The men on the union coach were each given £5 subsistence allowance so we decided to do the same out of the money we’d collected in Manchester. We’ll try and claim it back off the Lodge later.

We caught up with the Newcastle Poly coach at a service station and that was full. The guy who had organised the coaches, Simon, told us he was having trouble getting the Labour Party and Militant members on board to contribute towards the cost of our coach. I offered to pay for it from our funds but Simon refused and said he’d sort it.

We arrived in Mansfield at 11am and asked the driver to return at 4pm. The rally was to start from a community centre and return there after we’d marched through the streets of Mansfield. The car park of the centre was jam packed with dozens of colourful banners  and we pushed our way through to our Lodge banner. There were lots of surprised faces amongst the Westoe men when we showed up. I was shocked when Tommy Wilson and his henchmen gathered around Ian Wilburn and Keith Smoult and threatened to beat them up! They said nothing to me but there was a very hostile atmosphere and I warned Ian and Keith to stay well clear of Tommy and his thugs. The only reason I can think of for Tommy’s reaction is that he’s a union official and perhaps felt his authority had been challenged. Whatever, it was totally out of order and completely over the top.

The march set off and was a wonderful sight, with ‘Victory to the Miners’ placards everywhere. Ian, Keith and myself kept to the edge of the march so we could sell Socialist Worker, and keep out of Tommy’s way. I quickly sold all my papers and so did Ian and Keith. One thing that was very noticeable was the low profile of the pigs, though there were helicopters buzzing constantly overhead. I felt tremendously proud as we marched through the crowded streets of Mansfield and felt that such a huge display of solidarity couldn’t be ignored by the Notts scabs. My pride soon turned to embarrassment as a large group of lads began chanting,’Get your tits out for the lads,tits out for the lads’ at some young shopgirls leaning out of a window. To make it worse there were lots of Women’s Support Groups present. I tried to shout at the lads to stop but only got verbal abuse in response, except for one lad who said it was ‘only a bit of fun, a laugh, and anyway the lasses love it’. They just couldn’t see anything wrong with their behaviour but how can we expect women to support us if we treat them with such disrespect? I was relieved when the chant changed to, ‘Piggy,piggy,piggy,oink,oink,oink’, a variation on the ‘Maggie’ chant. At least it was aimed at an enemy.

As we marched back into the car park I decided to stay at the entrance to see if I could spot any familiar faces. It was wonderful to see all the different support groups and banners and I felt very encouraged. A young woman approached me and tried to sell me a copy of, ‘The Next Step’, the paper of the Workers Revolutionary Party. When I looked at the front cover I was shocked to see the headline was calling for a national ballot to unite the miners! I advised her to join Militant, or the Tory party but she continued to argue that a ballot was the only way to unite the miners. About as revolutionary as Neil Kinnock! I think RCP stands for the Ray Chadburn Party. The woman was very persistant until I was forced to swear to get rid of her.

I was relieved to meet up with Phil Ramsall and Irene Davis and we stood discussing which pits would be mass picketed because we felt this was the real reason for the rally. As the speeches began I was totally gobsmacked to hear Scargill introducing Tony Benn as,’The greatest Energy Minister we have ever had’. I couldn’t believe my ears because it was Benn who introduced the divisive Incentive Scheme, despite a national ballot rejecting it two to one. That’s ballots for you! In my opinion it is the Incentive Scheme which has caused the Notts miners to scab because they earn huge bonuses in their nice thick seams. At Westoe we earn next to nothing for working 7 miles out under the North Sea in wet conditions and relatively thin seams. Benn is a misguided fool who believes all we have to do is vote in a few hundred left wing MP’s like him and we’ll have some kind of Socialist Utopia. Bollocks! Scargill gave out his usual fighting rhetoric but made no call for a mass picket. Very disappointing.

Speeches over we headed to a nearby pub for some dinner. We had fish and chips and a pint before Phil and Irene had to leave. I joined some of the students from Newcastle Poly who were sitting with some Westoe lads. Two of the students, Brenda and Joan turned the discussion to the sexist chants on the march, and said they were,’Fucking disgusting and fucking demeaning’. One of the lads responded by saying,’If you were my wife I’d give you a good hiding for using foul language like that’! I could see Brenda was really angry and I tried to diffuse the situation by chipping in with,’How would you feel if I asked your wife or daughter to get their tits out?’ One of the lads jumped up, really offended, and Brenda jumped up, even more offended. Thankfully the landlord called ‘time’ and ordered us all out. In the bogs we heard some lads saying that Scargill had done a deal with the pigs that had allowed the rally to go ahead in exchange for no picketing. I didn’t want to believe that one but it did explain the low police presence and the absence of a call for mass picketing. The news had reported that there were over 40,000 people present, and if they’d gone to picket we could have shut down Notts completely. To me it was a missed opportunity.

We left the pub and were strolling towards the car park, enjoying the sunshine. Suddenly we heard glass braking and saw a mob of riot police in full gear appearing from behind the community centre and started beating up two lads, kicking and punching them. We all started shouting and running towards the lads intending to help them but were stopped in our tracks by the sight of mounted police on huge horses galloping out of the community centre, clubbing anyone who got in their way. I was momentarily frozen but the sight of a man falling to the ground with blood pouring from his head shook me into life and I started to run across the road to a church doorway. I remember thinking they couldn’t touch me there because it as sanctuary. Daft! People were shouting and screaming and scattering in all directions as they tried to avoid the horses. I watched in shock from the church doorway as a woman with a pushchair was hit and fell to the ground, the pushchair falling over and her child screaming! Not one of the pigs following the horses stopped to help her. They were too busy hitting anyone they could catch! They were dressed all in black with crash helmets, plastic shields and truncheons. I ran out and helped the woman and her child into the doorway, then ran out again to help a man covered in blood back to safety. It was a massacre, and as far as I could see, totally unprovoked. It looked like a battlefield.

Eventually we felt safe enough to make our way back to the car park where coaches were constantly moving out. I spotted some Westoe lads and ran to join them. The lads told me that everyone had been told to leave by 3.30 and anyone left would be arrested and charged with rioting! Someone had gone to find our coach whilst our party grew by the minute as people returned, each with their own horror story to tell. There were pigs everywhere, pushing people about and shouting at people to leave, arresting people for no reason.

We were very relieved when our coach arrived and the pigs started to roughly push us on board. We did a head count and were relieved to find no one was missing. We let on a load of lads from Doncaster whose coach had gone. One lad was hiding under the back seat because pigs were after him. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief when we hit the M1 and left Mansfield behind.

One of the Yorkshire lads told me that a lad had been wearing a toy cops tit helmet and some pigs started laying into him. His mates retalliated by throwing bottles at them. That’s when the riot police appeared, a real life Trojan Horse.

A cynic might say that because this all happened as the pubs were closing the pigs could justify their actions by blaming ‘drunken hooligans’ who left them no option but to respond as they had, and then make an example of those arrested to discourage others from coming to Notts.

Another cynic might ask what all those pigs and horses were doing in a community centre in the first place? Marx said,’Political power is the organised power of one class for oppressing another’. It’s about time we started oppressing them for a change!!!

44. Saturday May 12th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on May 12, 2009 at 8:25 am

Geoff drove us to the Greenbank Labour club where we’d been told to report for 9am. We said our grateful thanks to Geoff and Julie for their fantastic hospitality and went into the club.Nine ‘o’ clock came and went and it wasn’t until 9.40 that the coach finally arrived. I had another furious row with our union man for making us wait, especially as he’d told the driver to turn up at 9.30.

The rally in St.Helen’s was massive, with well over 10,000 people attending. All the Durham Lodge banners had been brought through on the Executive coach, along with most of the Executive led by Tommy Callan and Harold Mitchell. Every pit in Durham and Northumberland was represented and it was a great turn out.

We set off at 11.30 and it took  us ages to march along the route, cheered on by huge crowds of Saturday shoppers. Just as we reached the place where the rally was to be held and the speeches made our committee men ordered us all to get back on the coach to leave, and that anyone who didn’t would be left behind. I tried to argue that we’d each been given £8 to attend and the least we could do was listen to the speeches. They totally ignored me and at least a couple of lads were left behind when our coach left. Nobody else seemed bothered.

On the journey back the Wearmouth union man again had a go at me and told the lads that I was more interested in selling ‘Commie’ papers than being a picket! He demanded that i share out the money we had collected between the 4 Lodges on the coach. There was no way I was going to do that after all the hard work Gary and me had put in whilst most of them were content to get pissed. I lied and said we’d given all the money back rather than share it with useless twats like him! I couldn’t be arsed to argue with the bastard. If he wasn’t against me before then he is now so I’ll have to watch my back. It’s bad enough having the full force of the state against us without my own side joining in as well. They make me sick!

Kath was furious when I got back and is refusing to talk to me, especially as Mick Armstrong from Newcastle SWP has just phoned to tell me a coach is leaving the Armstrong Hall at 8am on Monday to attend a rally in Mansfield.. I told Kath I’m going so she’s gone to bed in a foul mood and caleed me a selfish bastard. I can see her point but what can I do? The sooner we win this strike the sooner we can get back to normal.

43. Friday May 11th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2009 at 10:07 am

Julie drove us to the picket line this morning because Geoff was knackered. Julie is a teacher but still managed to stay for an hour before going to work. Again we arrived before the majority of pickets so I grabbed the chance to join the six ‘official’ pickets at the entrance. Gary stood across the road with Julie. As the scabs began to arrive we tried to flag them down but not one of the bastards would stop, or even slow down. Two of the lads are from Agecroft and have been out since day one. If it’s hard for us then how much tougher must it be for them? One lad was forced to go back across the road for the unforgivable crime of shouting ‘scab’. I wasn’t far behind him after posing with a limp wrist and pouting. Julie said I was being sexist and I couldn’t argue. I was just trying to wind up the scabs but her point was taken.

Stanley outdid himself today. He had constructed a shrine on the pavement consisting of a picture of a policeman surrounded by triangular pieces of silver paper, with a wooden cross and a dead sparrow completing the thing. Stan danced around the shrine chanting curses against the police, stopping every now and again to talk into his coat collar, saying things like, ‘3000 pickets arriving in ten minutes, over’, shouting in a loud voice for yhe benefit of the bemused pigs nearby. After a while the pigs came over and destroyed Stan’s subversive shrine and caused the livliest reaction of the morning from the pickets, but it was only boos and jeers, no push. The picket ended, and after we had thrown Keith’s bag at him we headed off to Manchester Poly.

Gary and me did a paper sale and managed to sell half a dozen copies. We felt ashamed and disgusted when we were talking to a young lass from Sunderland and some of our pickets started shouting at her, asking her to ,’Get her tits out for the lads’. Bloody pathetic and we shouted back at the lads and told them not to be so bloody rude and offensive. All this achieved was yet more accusations of us being ‘snobby bastards’. How can we expect support and solidarity if we behave like this?

One of the lads told us a meeting was being held to discuss whether we should stay an extra day to attend a rally in St Helens tomorrow. The meeting didn’t last long and the main issue seemed to be whether we would get an extra £8. We will, so we’ll attend the rally.

Gary and me phoned our wives to tell them the news and got a right ear bashing. Kath was really pissed off and suggested I should just stay away if I’m enjoying myself so much. I tried to explain but she isn’t happy and she wouldn’t listen. Gary got much the same from his wife so we retreated to a nearby cafe for a coffee and a chance for our ears to recover. The cafe was owned by a Greek Cypriot man who supports the strike and we had a fascinating half hour in his company as we listened to his tales of the struggles he’s had back home in Cyprus. He also said that Reagan is an imbecile and the USA are the biggest threat to world peace. We very reluctantly left because Phil was waiting outside to take us to another meeting.

The meeting was held in the Armstrong Hall in Salford, and like its namesake in South Shields, sells Vaux beer, which Gary calls ‘gnats piss’. Phil had told us we were to speak to Probation Officers so neither of us was expecting much of a reception. How wrong we were. There were about thirty people present and we spoke about how the law was being deliberately misused to break the strike, how the violence mainly came from the police, and how the bail conditions took men away from the action for trivial ‘offences’, such as Obstruction of the Highway. We were very surprised to get a standing ovation and received £80 from the collection which had been made. It was brilliant, and for the two of us, the highlight of our visit.

Back at Geoff’s we counted up all the money we have collected and were amazed to find we have £411.23p, which will really help the Women’s Support Group. We’re off for a night out with the Manchester comrades but this time we’ll leave the money at home!

42. Thursday May 10th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Gary eventually managed to wake me at 5.15 after I’d slept through an alarm clock and a radio switched on next to my bed. Gary had taken a shower before I managed to drag myself off to the bathroom, skipping the shower in favour of a wash with ice cold water to wake me up.

Downstairs we found Geoff had got up before us and made a breakfast of eggs on toast and hot strong coffee. Lovely. He drove the four of us to the picket line at Agecroft, with John and Keith staying silent the whole way. I put this down to the events of last night.

There was only Stan the local nutter and a few others when we arrived but the rest soon showed up. Thery told us that we weren’t going home today as planned but are going tomorrow instead. We are all to be given an extra £8 but anyone who still wanted to return home as planned could go because a coach was leaving straight after the picket. I was glad to see only a few of the older men took up the offer with the rest of us looking forward to spending the extra money.

Geoff left at seven to get ready for work. He’s a lecturer in Trade Union Studies at Manchester Poly and he asked if gary and me could call in to see him at eleven because he wanted us to speak to his class of shop stewards. Just after he left a taxi sped past us and into the pit. I said to Gary that the scabs must be earning good money to be able to afford taxis into work. Gary said the scabs weren’t paying for it, Thatcher is, and I had to agree. One of the pickets then told us it wasn’t scabs in the taxi but two lads from Wearmouth who were planning to storm the canteen and get the scabs! I admired their guts but feared for their safety.

Ten minutes later the lads were marched out through the gates by an escort of pigs, and to loud cheers from us were allowed to rejoin the picket. They told us that everything had gone to plan until they ran into the canteen and found it full of pigs who stared at them in amazement before they were nicked. The lads said they couldn’t understand why they hadn’t been arrested but weren’t complaining. I think the pigs admired their cheek and besides, they hadn’t actually committed any crime.

After all the scabs had gone in Gary and me decided to go to a local shop to get some sweets and fags. When we got back there were only about a dozen lads. They told us the coach was coming back to pick us up so we stood about chatting, ‘guarded’ by two bored looking pigs who had probably drawn the short straw. As we talked a really flash car approached the pit and I shouted ‘Scab’ at the top of my voice, stretching the word out. To my great surprise the car screeched to a halt and a huge pig got out, ramming a swagger stick beneath his arm and striding across the road towards us with a look on his face that said he wasn’t amused. He was a huge bastard, brick shithouse like with a bright red face. I thought I was in for it but instead he marched up to a Westoe picket known as ‘Vic the Brick’ and began accusing him of doing the shouting. Vic rightfully denied being responsible but the pig called him a liar and began poking him in the chest with his stick saying, ‘Why don’t you take these other vermin with you back to Durham where you crawled from!’ Vic is not the sort of lad to take that from anyone, not even a senior police officer and replied, ‘If you touch with that fuckin’ stick once more I’ll wrap it round your fat fuckin’ neck!!’ The pig wisely stopped poking Vic but shouted for the area to be cleared immediately. He looked like he was about to explode, like one of those cartoon characters who’ve eaten something too hot. Pigs came running from the canteen and began to force us away by roughly pushing us down the road, with us putting up enough resistance to make their job difficult but not enough to get arrested. One pig warned us to be careful because that was James Anderton, Chief Constable of Manchester. Vic still wasn’t impressed.

Back on our coach I got another shock when a union official from Wearmouth came storming up to me and demanded that I give John £30 to compensate for his stolen bag. I was totally gobsmacked and said I didn’t have £30. The only money I had was the money collected for our Women’s Support Group who badly needed funds. He replied that the SWP had given me money, and if they could give me money, they could give John money as well. I told him that they had only given us £20, and John had refused half. He then said we should put it to a vote, telling everyone I was trying to undermine the union. I gave in and handed the Judas his thirty pieces of silver. The bastard couldn’t even look me in the eye, and even had the cheek to ask if I could bring his and Keith’s bags to the picket tomorrow because they’d found somewhere else to stay. Gary wanted to punch him but I said it wouldn’t help. The whole incident left me feeling like shit and yet again I’m accused of things I never did by petty bloody officials. Bastards.

At the Poly we were met by Phil Ramsall who had a full day planned for us. I was glad because it would keep us occupied in a positive way. We agreed to meet up at Piccadilly train station at twelve then we headed off to find Geoff’s office.

After a few wrong turnings we managed to find it in an annexe at the back of the Poly. We were asked to wait whilst Geoff went to ask his class if they wanted to let us speak. We chatted with Geoff’s secretary and she asked if we were working miners or striking miners, and were we Geordies. I said yes but ones with brains and taste who support Sunderland. She supports Manchester City and we chatted nicely for ten minutes about football, especially Bobby Charlton and the merits of individual skills.

Geoff returned to tell us his class had voted to let us speak and asked the secretary if she’d like to come along. She agreed but said she could only spare a few minutes because she was very busy. Gary confided he was as nervous as hell but I told him I was as well and not to worry because we’d manage fine.

There were about twenty students present, plus another lecturer, Geoff and the secretary. Geoff introduced us and I began by outlining the reasons why the strike had started, with Gary elaborating on what I’d said before we both settled to answer questions. The questions were the usual ones,ballot, scabs, violence, policing and flying pickets, and Gary and I took turns in answering, backing each other up when needed. I felt we did well because they had a collection which raised £40, including a quid from the secretary who had stayed till the end. Geoff later told us she was a Tory supporter and had initially refused to even meet us so it just goes to show how ideas can be changed through argument.

We had a coffee with some of the students afterwards and discovered one of them was a bus driver and shop steward at a local depot. We told him about the buses going into Agecroft and he went straight to a phone to have it stopped so that was a bonus. We told Geoff we’d see him about five and also told him that John and Keith wouldn’t be returning, and what had happened on the coach.This surprised him as well but he told us not to be bitter because they were only doing what most people do, look after number one.

Gary was elated at our success, and for the first time he said he was seriously considering joining the SWP. At the Railway Club we spoke to about 30 men at an unofficial meeting because the stewards had refused to call a special meeting. I let Gary do most of the talking and he urged the railway workers to come out on strike in support of the NUM, and that overtime bans and one day strikes achieve nothing. United action would give the Tories a real fight. He got a great reception and we were handed £120 which they’d collected! Gary was full of confidence as we left the meeting.

We had a bit of time to spare before we met Phil so we went to a nearby market where I bought a cheap bag, three pairs of underpants for a quid and five pairs of socks for the same price. Two sweatshirts for £2 completed my spending spree, all out of my £8 picket money.

Phil drove us to his flat for a quick coffee and introduced us to two lads from Davey Hulme Waterworks. They were going to take us to a meeting outside the works gates. The lads were brilliant, like a comedy duo, cracking jokes all the way and giving us a good laugh. One of them bore a strong resemblance to Mike Harding the folk singer.

The ‘waterworks’ was really a sewage plant and the smell was bloody awful but we soon had a small crowd outside waiting to hear us. Again all the usual questions were asked and answered, with one man standing out and asking most of the questions. He had a copy of the ‘Sun’ sticking out of his pocket and seemed amazed when we told him the average striking miner and his family were living on £12 a week from Social Insecurity plus Family Allowance, whilst single miners receive nothing at all! A union official told us he was surprised we were here to picket at Agecroft Colliery because when they had a strike the Agecroft men had given them financial support and stood on their picket line! I told him about the union men washing dishes for the pigs and he’s promised to have a word with them to see what the hell is going on. He’s also agreed to try and join our picket in the morning.

As we were leaving the union man gave us £20 which had been collected, but more impressively the ‘Sun’ reader shook my hand and as he quickly walked off I found a £10 note in my hand! That really made our day!

Before we went back to Geoff’s we addressed a meeting of the Socialist Worker Students Society and yet again went through all the familiar questions and answers. At least we are becoming rock solid in our arguments.

Back at Geoff’s we took a much needed shower and then ate a lovely meal which Geoff had cooked. The best I can manage is egg and chips! We had a really interesting conversation about the SWP and Geoff told us he had spent some time in Germany and was active in their equivalent of the SWP. I bet he’s an excellent lecturer!

Phil picked us up at 7.30 to go to Gorton Branch meeting that was also held in the upstairs room of a pub. This was the best meeting I’ve been to so far and the main speaker was excellent, John Taylor from Bradford. He spoke on, ‘The History of the Labour Party’ and he made it very interesting by adding a lot of humour. Gary and me did our bit but this time stressed the role the SWP have played for us as striking miners and how we worked in the strike. Wer had a good time, and for once allowed ourselves to get pissed. Again we received lots of envelopes containing money collected by  comrades. All in all a brilliant day full of incident.