I got no sleep at all last night, and after picketing at Bilston Glen this morning I managed to grab an hour in the TV room of the club before being turfed out by the cleaning woman.
Scotland’s showpiece pit didn’t impress by its outward appearance, looking tiny in comparison with Westoe and Wearmouth. We all assembled at a social club just down the road from the pub and a man who the Scots lads called ‘Gadaffi’ made it perfectly clear he was in charge and would organise tactics. We followed him up the road until we were forced to halt by a double line of police across the road. Gadaffi urged us to follow him, about 200 of us, and we made our way through a housing estate and ended up on a road that ran at right angles to the pit. Apparently scabs drove up this road and we were going to block it off. We lined up across the road and initially caught the police napping but not enough men were prepared to attack the pit entrance and the police arrived in numbers and lined up so we were facing each other. Within minutes a push had started and we began to force them back a few yards before police started rushing in behind us and a lot of men scattered. We fell back and regrouped, linked arms and clashed heavily with the pigs, forcing them slowly backwards until the cry of, ‘man down’ went up and forced us to ease off, only to find no one was down and we’d been conned by the pigs. The pigs took full advantage of our confusion and began forcing us backwards, with some of the bastards lashing out viciously with feet and fists. Some of us retaliated and a few lads were dragged away through police lines.
There was a building site to our right and some of the lads grabbed bricks from here and began lobbing them at the advancing pigs. We beat a hasty retreat and I was one of the fortunate ones to escape unscathed. I cautiously made my way back to the main entrance where the rest of the picket was spent without any further incident.
As we were about to leave at 8.30 I spotted the Scottish NUM leaders, Mick McGahey and Eric Clarke coming through police lines. They joined the ‘official’ six man picket. I asked them if it was possible to co-ordinate the pickets more effectively so we could concentrate our forces at the best points. McGahey’s reply is classic, ‘Picketing has nothing to do with me son’. I should have known better than to ask such a question of such a leading figure in the class war!
We had breakfast in Dalkeith before being told to gather our things before being moved to better accomodation. Gary and I were to stay with a lad called Kenny McCormack, whom we’d met at the SWP miners meeting in Doncaster. We were going to stay at his uncles house in Arniston, a small mining village about seven miles from Edinburgh. We put our stuff in the house then had dinner in the local miners welfare, soup followed by mince and ‘tatties’. I just had the soup and ‘tatties’ because I’m a vegetarian, much to the amusement of my fellow pickets. We’d barely time to breathe before setting off for the afternoon picket at Bilston Glen.
The sun was burning hot and I was dressed for it in white jacket,shirt,trousers and white shoes. The lads all took the piss and voted me best dressed picket but I was going to the theatre after the picket and wanted to look as smart as I could.
There was an excellent turnout of about 400 men and at least 50 women and we were all confident of a breakthrough. We all linked arms and formed up into a solid block in the road, marching towards the police lines chanting,’Here we go.here we go etc.
The pigs didn’t know what hit them as we forced them back strongly. Unfortunately double decker buses full of pigs soon arrived to reinforce their lines and stopped our progress. The crush was terrible and I lost my shoe,having difficulty hopping on one foot to avoid my foot being trampled. The push broke down as pigs started hitting lads again and we scattered. I went back to find my shoe and was lucky to get it. One of my Westoe mates wasn’t so lucky doing the same thing and got arrested, along with Bede and Gordon trying to help him. It was a bad day for arrests with over 30 lads lifted but that has just made us more determined to return in the morning for another go.
I made my way into Edinburgh to watch my mate, Stuart Hepburn, perform in Chekhov’s,’Three Sisters’. I did feel a bit out of place amongst the posh perfumes and people but I really enjoyed the play. It was excellent, and nice to catch up with Stuart afterwards and have a few pints. He kindly paid for a taxi back to Arniston but I couldn’t remember Kenny’s address and so was forced to find our parked coach, and I’ll have to kip here tonight.