normanstrike

Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

67. Saturday June 30th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2009 at 8:44 am

This morning saw the ‘Coal Not Dole’ march and rally organised by our Lodge officials. It was a very disappointing turn out, only a few thousand people, but it could have been so much better if they’d told us about it and allowed us, the rank and file, to have some part in the organisation. All the Durham lodges were represented, plus a couple from Yorkshire and Kent, but when you consider the coal mining traditions of South Shields, which once boasted 3 pits, with even more in the close vicinity, then it was disappointing. I suppose that because the town has lost most of its industries and has a high level of unemployment, apathy is part of life. It’ll be a hell of a lot worse if Westoe ever closes!

We marched from the Armstrong Hall to the Bents Park on the seafront, and if anything, the rally was more of a disappointment than the march. The speakers were abysmal. Our Lodge Secretary introduced Jack Taylor of Yorkshire Area NUM as; ‘A future legend of the trade union movement’. Leg end is more like it! It was him who signed the deal to allow coal into Scunthorpe steelworks allowing them to break productivity records! He was full of empty rhetoric and received only lukewarm applause. Jim Slater was applauded only because of the seaman’s support, and because he’s from Shields, as his speech was boring, and only Jack Collins of Kent NUM came out with any credibility.

It’s typical of the total lack of organisation at Westoe that we couldn’t even hold a decent rally. Pathetic!

 

66. Friday June 29th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2009 at 8:13 am

It was back to reality this morning with the usual picket at Woodside. It really is a waste of time going there because we never ever see anyone going in or out. Its only value is to talk with the other pickets and try to agitate for our Lodge officials to up the activity and send more men to places like Bilston Glen.

I got a phonecall from Maureen Watson at Socialist Worker and she has asked me if I would write a review of ‘Germinal’ by Emile Zola for the paper. I said I’d love to because it’s one of my favourite novels and I must be one of the few people who actually read it down a coal mine when I was studying for an Open University course last year.

I spent the rest of today going back over it and I’m amazed by the similarities between the main character, Etienne, and Scargill. At least it will provide a bit of diversion from the boredom of Woodside.

 

65. Thursday June 28th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2009 at 11:07 am

After the early morning picket at Bilston Glen, which was without incident, or any pushes, we set off for the journey home. Our visit was not an entire waste of time because at least the number of scabs hasn’t gone up as the NCB were hoping for, and we’ve all gained some valuable experience. We need real mass pickets to really make a difference to this strike and that means trying to get to the majority of men who are sitting on their arses at home out onto the picket lines. More importantly we need to make sure we aim our pickets at the right targets and just now that means steelworks.

  Anyway, its nice to be back home with the family.

64.Wednesday June 27th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2009 at 11:36 am

I was roused from my sleep at 4.30am by the first of the lads arriving for picket duty.Gary took me to Kenny’s house and I quickly changed into more suitable clothes before rushing back to the coach. One of the Scots lads told us we were to be used as decoys to divert police, whilst the main body of pickets made a concerted push at the main entrance.

Accordingly we were forced to stand at a windy junction for two hours and achieved absolutely nothing except frustrating ourselves. We should have been with the main body of pickets trying to build on yesterdays success, but the best I could do was to voice this opinion loudly and criticise the Scots leaders for poor organisation. Most of our lads agreed with me so at least that’s something.

The afternoon was spent at an open cast site called Bonnyrigg and at least here we had some small success in turning back two lorries purely by putting our case to the drivers. This proves that peaceful picketing does work if the pigs are not there to provoke confrontation. The lads all noticed this and are full of confidence.

63. Tuesday June 26th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2009 at 11:54 am

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.

62. Monday June 25th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2009 at 8:06 am

Since the disaster at Orgreave I’ve spent my time at Woodside Drift Mine. The best thing that can be said about it is that at least we kept a van load of pigs away from Tow Law. It’s given me the chance to build a good relationship with the pickets and sell Socialist Worker plus discussing the strike. We also played football but I ruined my shoes and have had to buy another pair for £4.99. No more football!

After picketing we had a dinner of fishcake and chips in the soup kitchen and it was there I learned I am one of 16 men pulled out of a hat to go on flying picket duty. The fact that over a 100 men wanted to go has caused a lot of resentment amongst the lads not chosen, especially those who’ve been active since day one. I still can’t see why the lodge can’t send all the men who want to go because they’re risking men just giving up and staying at home.

I was told to report to the hall for 6pm so I went home and flung some clothes into a bag, slung a sleeping bag over my shoulder then caught a bus down to Kath’s workplace. We had a coffee together whilst I buttered her up before telling her I was off again for a few days on a flying picket. She accepted this with a resigned look on her face and wasn’t as upset as I’d expected her to be. She must be getting used to it. We walked into town at 5pm and parted at the bus stop with a kiss.

At the hall I signed for my £32 and was told we’ll probably be home on Thursday. The only thing that Slater would tell us is we’re heading for Scotland so it was likely we’d be going to Bilston Glen where they have a lot of scabs, and also where a lot of Durham lads have already been arrested.

Typically we had to wait 2 hours for the coach to arrive and because we’d been paid a lot of the lads took the opportunity to have a pint or five, which made for a boisterous journey. As for the Manchester trip last month there were 4 pits represented; Westoe, Wearmouth, Herrington and Sacriston. The driver took a discrete route over the border because we didn’t want to be stopped by the pigs, and we had to make quite a few piss stops so we didn’t get to Dalkeith Miners Welfare until after midnight.

So here we are, lying on seats in the concert room after being fed a supper of soup and bread. The possibility of sleep is looking remote seeing as a pool competition is taking place (its 2.24am!)We’ve been told picketing starts at 5am and have been promised better accomodation later today.I bloody hope so because I am shattered!

61. Monday June 18th,1984.

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2009 at 5:39 pm

I can honestly say I’ve never experienced anything like I did today and I hope I never do so again! It was terrifying and exciting at the same time and I’ve got the bruises and aching bones to prove it! Incredible.

I left the house at 1.30am to walk the five miles to the Armstrong Hall. It was quite pleasant for a change, warm and sultry, and I felt excited. I met up with Joe Humphries and Lol Calvert at the top of Stanhope Road and we talked on our way down. Lol said we were definitely going to Orgreave because he’d overheard two committee men talking last night. The Chairman, John Chapman, picked us up in his car and confirmed it was to be Orgreave and said he thought it was a waste of time and union funds. He also said Scargill should be negotiating with the NCB instead of calling for mass pickets because they only led to violence. I did mention Saltley Gate but it just flew over his head.

We all collected our £8 picket money and piled aboard the two coaches.There were a few empty seats but I put that down to the early start because we left at exactly 3am. Most of the lads tried to catch a few hours kip but I was too excited and chatted to Gary and Keith about what might happen. We thought it would be good to see some action after almost 14 weeks of no action and it could be the kick up the arse the strike needed.

We arrived in Sheffield just after 6 after having been held up briefly by a convoy of coaches we thought were pickets but saw they were actually pigs as we passed, hundreds of them who turned off towards Orgreave. We had been told to meet outside NUM HQ but when we got there we found the whole place in darkness and locked up. We were soon joined by 5 coaches of Scottish pickets, and more coaches from Durham Lodges. No one seemed to know what to do until someone shouted through a megaphone and we all started to line up to march to Orgreave because our coaches had already left to park up.

It must have been an amazing sight as hundreds of us headed for the motorway with Scottish flags and banners at the head. The police had closed off the road and we marched along it chanting defiantly. It was a great feeling because there were surprisingly few pigs but we seemed to march for bloody miles. As we approached a slip road we saw it was lined with coaches. More pickets we thought until pigs started to pour out of them and came to march either side of our columns, trying to herd us into an organised mob. We responded by stopping, then setting off at different paces, the more energetic lads actually running and forcing the pigs to set off after them. Pretty soon we had strung ourselves out so much there were long sections totally unpoliced. This ended when we came to another slip road totally blocked off by pigs. I was glad because I was knackered and needed a rest. They kept us there for a good twenty minutes until even the slowest lads had caught up and then we found ourselves totally blocked in by pigs and prevented from leaving the march. We set off again and workers came out from factories to cheer us on, and people caught in the traffic jam we’d probably caused honked their horns noisily in support. We were eventually filtered off to the left and found ourselves on a small country lane that petered out into a footpath, wide enough for only three abreast. There was a footbridge over a railway line and it was from the top of this that we caught our first sight of Orgreave.

There was the coke works in the distance,squatting on the land and belching out smoke from Yorkshire coal. A black line of police spread across the yellow field in front, with horses to the rear and sides. The pickets were to one side facing them and the whole scene was like a science fiction film, or a scene from the English Civil War! As I reached the bottom of the footbridge I heard lots of noise and shouting in the distance and guessed it was a clash between police and pickets so I and everyone else began to run up the lane. After a few hundred yards we could see hundreds of pickets running up the field with pigs on horses in hot pursuit. It was an awesome sight and I remember thinking that there were more pickets than horses and they could easily beat them. It was only later when I was in the mass picket that I found out for myself the panic that spreads instantly when the horses charge and makes you react without thinking!

We joined the pickets at the top of the field as the horses were returning behind police lines and I spotted a lad I’d met at Skegness called Dermot and he filled me in about what had happened. The cavalry charge had been in response to a few nutters throwing bricks from the back of the picket. Dermot had been hit twice by a baton and had two very painful lumps, one on his side and one on his shoulder. It hadn’t stopped him from trying to sell Socialist Worker, which is how he’d ended up in the frontline in the first place because some pickets had given him the usual abuse about being more interested in selling the paper than fighting the pigs, so he’d gone to the front to show them that they were wrong. We talked for a while and tried to guess the size of the picket, coming to the conclusion that there were more of us than them, but we felt there still weren’t enough to really make a difference. The police stretched across the field in full riot gear, standing behind huge plastic shields, with mounted police, also in riot gear, behind them. It was a chilling sight, especially as we were dressed only in t shirts and jeans. How could we beat them? The answer was, of course, mass pushes, but we reckoned there were only about 5,000 of us whilst at the famous victory at Saltley Gate in 1972 there had been 15,000, and the miners then had been reinforced by other workers. The SWP had produced placards reading,’Turn Orgreave into Saltley’ but it didn’t look like we had enough to turn it into reality. Scargill was with us, but where were McGahey, Heathfield, Taylor and the rest?

Dermot and me made our way down to the front and I scanned the crowd looking for familiar faces. I saw Tommy Wilson and his sons just in front of me, and when Tommy spotted me he came over and said,’We’ve had our differences in the past Strike but at least you’ve got the guts to be where the action is and I respect you for that. Not like those jelly backed bastards back there’ he snarled, pointing at the vast majority of pickets who were as far back up the road as they could get, with hundreds more standing on walls that lined the road. Suddenly a hail of missiles began to fly over our heads and land amongst the police lines. We all shouted at them to stop and come down the front with us if they wanted to throw stuff. A lad near me fell down screaming, felled by a lump of stone.Blood was oozing from the back of his head. As lads went to help him and get him to his feet the police line parted, and without any warning the horses charged out, closely followed by pigs in riot gear and round shields. I just ran to the side of the road and jumped down the embankment thinking it would be safer there. Dozens of others did the same but to our shock the pigs came after us, and not only that, hidden to our right were police with dogs which they began to unleash. That was all I needed for the andrenalin to kick in and I began sprinting up the field, trying to avoid the slower lads. I made it to safety but was horrified at what I saw as I looked back down the field. Dogs were biting lads whilst others were being truncheoned by pigs and either led away or dragged away! It was a disgusting sight and one I never thought I’d see in this country. I’ll never forget it but worse was to follow.

Back on the road Arthur Scargill was standing, wearing a baseball hat and shouting through a megaphone,’Come on lads! Don’t run from a few mounted police! I’ve seen bigger horses at York races. Get down the front for a push, there’s enough of us to break them’. Some of the lads started off down the road but the majority just stayed where they were taking no notice. Scargill then shouted,’I’m ashamed to see miners standing by while their comrades are fighting for their jobs!’ Even this didn’t shift the cowardly bastards and as I made my way back down to the front I could still hear him pleading for more men to join us. I lit up a cigarette, which was a big mistake because I didn’t even have time to take a drag before the push started and my hand was trapped by the crush. We managed to force them back a few yards before their lines were reinforced and they pushed us back. An angry picket shouted at me to get rid of the cigarette and I managed to drop it, burning a hole in my t – shirt as I did so. I struggled to keep my feet in the crush as we were forced backwards. The shout went up of ‘man down’ and this ended the push as it always did. The pigs seized the chance to grab anyone they could and I saw a few bodies disappear behind police lines. This angered some of the pickets and I saw one lad launch himself feet first at the pigs whilst another group managed to wrestle free a riot shield which they waved defiantly at the pigs. I also saw one of our ‘Turn Orgreave into Saltley’ placards being held aloft by a picket standing right in front of the police. he was a lot braver than me.

I decided to move into the field to my right, determined not to get caught in the middle of another push.The feeling of claustrophobia always frightens me in a push, the feeling you’re about to faint because of the pressure crushing your ribs and making breating difficult. I hate it yet always seem to forget and find myself in the middle of another push, despite my avowals of ‘never again’. I spotted Dave Hayes who used to live in Newcastle but now lives in Sheffield and who I’d met at Skegness. He was talking to a woman who he introduced as Sheila McGregor(a worse surname than mine!) It was a glorious hot day with heatwaves shimmering in front of the police lines, making them look even more unreal than they were. The three of us stood talking about what needed to be done, and I took off my shirt and tied it round my waist, enjoying the heat of the sun on my back. Some lads had set fire to the captured riot shield and the stubble in the field had caught fire. We were trying to stamp it out when Sheila told me my trousers were on fire. They laughed as I jumped about trying to put the smouldering jeans out. The pigs must have been wound up because I just had time to see the police lines part and the horses move forward before turning tail and starting to sprint up the field to avoid being caught. Believe me, sprinting up a field in steel toe capped boots in scorching heat is not to be recommended, but the sound of galloping hooves and the occasional ‘whooosh’ of a baton being aimed at your head is a wonderful incentive to break the pain barrier, and probably the world record for the 400m! I sped past other lads running and reached a wall at the top of the field and dived over it, heedless of what might lie beyond. I went tumbling down a steep railway embankment and landed painfully at the bottom by the side of a railway line. I dusted myself off and gingerly began to climb back up, watching out for pigs as I climbed. as I watched I saw the horses returning behind police lines, whilst all over the field pigs were beating pickets whilst others were being dragged away. I could see one pig repeatedly clubbing a lad as he lay helpless on the floor. Any respect I may have had for the police disappeared today. I’ve seen riots on TV, Brixton, Toxteth etc but this was different because it was my fellow miners being clubbed for nothing more than fighting for the right to work! If this is how Thatcher intends defeating us then I for one will never give in!

We eventually made our way back down the field but I met Gary Marshall and he told me our coaches were going and we had to leave. I couldn’t believe it! We couldn’t leave now and desert the battle. We made our way back up the field and met Tommy Wilson. He had been badly clubbed while he was trying to help an injured picket and was in a lot of pain. I advised him to get to hospital and have his injuries looked at. We reached the bridge and found most of our lads talking to Scargill. They had told him about us being ordered to leave and Arthur was furious and told us to stay to fight back. He complained bitterly about the waste of union funds to send us down for the day instead of for a whole week. He also said that if necessary he would pay for our transport himself. We all voted to stay because none of us wanted to go anyway, not without having another go at the pigs. We wanted revenge!

We were all starving so when we saw lads passing with bags of food we decided to go in search of the shop which must be nearby. A few hundred yards up the road we found hundreds of lads sitting and lying outside a supermarket, a lot of them drinking beer and cider, and getting pissed by the looks of it. One criticism I would make of the union is probably not shared by most miners but I’ll say it anyway. £8 a day ‘subsistence’ money is too much, and £4 would be enough, especially for a one day visit. A lot of lads take most of it back for their families but a lot also abuse it and get pissed, which does nothing to enhance a mass picket and leaves us open to criticism from the media.

Anyway, Gary, Keith and me went into the supermarket where I bought some bread rolls, cheese and a carton of milk. Keith spent ages deciding what to get and ended up with crisps. We went back outside and found a seat on a wall and settled down to eat hungrily. I noticed a couple of lads looking at us hungrily and I offered them some bread and cheese. It turned out they were striking miners from Nottingham and had only been given petrol money because their funds were frozen. I gave them £2 and Gary and Keith did the same. They were embarassingly grateful but we told them we were grateful to them for striking against the majority and we discussed how hard it was for them to be in the minority. One of them have me his union badge and I was really touched. We rejoined the picket feeling really humble.

When we got back to the bridge we found the pigs had taken advantage of the pickets absence and had moved their lines right up and refused to let anyone pass. This caused a lot of anger and as more pickets returned the anger turned into action and we all started to throw anything we could find at the pigs, forcing them to retreat under a hail of missiles. I spotted Ian Mitchell from Silverwood Colliery and we both criticised the police for preventing us returning to picket and causing the violent response.It wasn’t helping our cause but nothing could be done to stop it.

The pigs regrouped andcharged forward weilding their batons and everyone just turned tail and ran. I cursed the slower men in front of me as I stumbled forward and was relieved when we came to a halt a few hundred yards up the road because the pigs had retreated again. The word buzzed around that Scargill had been injured and arrested in the charge and this only infuriated the pickets further and gave them a fresh incentive to attack the pigs. At the bridge a group of pickets were dragging a car across the road from a repair yard to the right of the bridge. I joined in, by now so mad that I was prepared to do anything to stop the pigs charging again. The car burst into flames, set alight by an unknown hand, and everyone cheered and taunted the pigs who were unable to get at us because of the burning car and the hail of missiles raining down on them. Local residents started to put bottles of water out on their walls which we drank gratefully in the scorching heat. It was encouraging to see they seemed to be on our side.

Something had to happen because the pigs couldn’t afford to be beaten, and sure enough the horses reappeared through the black smoke causing wild panic with pickets running in all directions to get away. I’ll never forget the fear I felt as a horse just missed trampling me and fortunately for me the following pigs were too busy clubbing other pickets so I got away. I saw a man run up a metal staircase and the bloody horse was trying to follow him! It was incredible. I ran to where I thought safety lay with the majority of lads in front of the supermarket but the pigs had scented blood and were hell bent on getting at us, charging forward into the crowd. I was off and running again and I ran into the car park and hid behind a car.The noise of shouting and pain was everywhere. I crept over to join some other pickets hiding nearby. They were Welsh and older men, unlike the majority of us.One of them looked like he was having a heart attack, his face contorted with pain. His two mates didn’t look much better but after a while they seemed to get better. One of them told me they were at the back when the pigs charged and were caught unawares and had to run into the supermarket.Security guards chased them out to where they were now.

After about ten minutes I decided to venture back onto the main road, leaving the Welsh lads behind because they didn’t want to take risks. There was no sign of the pigs and a large crowd was forming on the road. A group of drunk Scots chanted,’We’re mental, we’re crazy, we’re off wor fuckin’ heeds’ and aimed kicks at any car that tried to pass. I went into the supermarket to ring Kath and tell her I was OK. She told me Orgreave was all over the news and that miners had been violent. That made me laugh but I told her I’d explain when I got home around nine.

The Westoe lads were called together because our coaches had arrived. Some lads had gone into Sheffield to get them and it now seemed pointless to stay because everything had gone crazy and it didn’t make sense to risk more lads being arrested for nothing.A head count was taken and men sent out to round up stragglers. There was a rumour going round that the pigs were going to arrest anyone left, just like at Mansfield. We boarded our coach for safety and when the lads sent out returned we headed for Sheffield to pick up the lads who had been taken to hospital. One of them, Fred Taylor, told us how he’d been clubbed in the first push. He’s a big lad and has a plastic hip so he couldn’t run like the rest of us. He just stood still but a pig attacked him, clubbing him to the ground then hitting him in the ribs! He was lucky not to have been arrested. None of our lads were but a few were injured. A lot of others today weren’t so fortunate and it’s a bloody miracle nobody was murdered.!

The journey home was very quiet and subdued, with most of us catching up on sleep. We weren’t depressed, more angry at what we had seen and been through and would have stayed the week if someone could have arranged it. One thing we are all determined about is not to give in and the more the state throws against us the more we will fight back.

Kath and me watched it on the news tonight but the slant they put on it made us seem like the aggressors! They showed none of the bad stuff done to us so it looks like we are on our own.

60. Sunday June 17th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2009 at 8:23 am

Got a phone call this afternoon telling me two coaches are leaving the Armstrong Hall at 3am tomorrow morning. My guess is they’ll be going to Orgreave but no one knows for sure. Kath is really pissed off and has warned me to pay more attention to her and the girls. She’s right of course but what can I do, I’m committed?

59.Saturday June 16th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2009 at 8:19 am

I did a paper sale in King Street, South Shields and sold 37 papers. This has really given my confidence a boost and shows that there are people willing to listen to our ideas.

58. Friday June 15th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Today we attended a march and rally in Newcastle but it was very disappointing because Paul Foot missed a golden oppertunity to support us.

We left the Armstrong Hall in two double decker buses provided by the TGWU and they were both full, not only with pickets but also the Womens Support Group and children. We assembled at Newcastle Civic Centre and the weather was gorgeous, hot and sunny, and a large crowd was expected. There were Lodge banners from every pit in the North East plus lots of other banners from unions and political organisations. There were also hundreds of new SWP placards with the slogan,’Turn Orgreave into Saltley’ on one side, and ‘Victory to the Miners’ on the other. I was angry to see people ripping off the ‘Socialist Worker’ bit off the top of the placards. Why do these people have to be so childish?

The march was headed by the usual bunch of union bureaucrats and Labour MP’s, followed by the Lodges then the rest behind us. The march was important because it showed the strength of our support to the ordinary people of Newcastle but I was disappointed that at least a one day strike in support hadn’t been called. As we waited for the march to set off I talked to a Northumberland miner about the need to picket Orgreave and steelworks. He surprised me by saying that we shouldn’t picket steelworks because we have no right to put the steelworkers jobs at risk. I explained that the steelworkers had more chance of saving their jobs by supporting us because if we lost it is more than likely that the Tories will close at least one of the steelworks. I also pointed out that we should picket Orgreave because British Steel had reneged on a deal to support the NUM, and if we allowed them to get away with it the Tories would start to move coal stocks from pit yards because they’d be confident. The lad seemed to agree with me and bought a copy of Socialist Worker and promised to argue the same with his mates on the picket line on Monday. This proves that arguments can be won if we take the trouble to have them.

The march set off and we got a great reception from the crowds as the lasses from the Womens Support Group collected with buckets. I was a bit disappointed with the turn out, which was about 10 – 15,000, because we should have attracted at least double that. Gary suggested we should help out with the collecting because the lasses were struggling in the heat.

We entered Leazes Park on the Town Moor and looked for a place to sit. We were knackered and sat down gratefully. One of the pickets came over and told us he’d heard Tommy Wilson and his group were going to beat up anyone selling Socialist Worker. Just then Tommy turned up with one of his lads and asked to have a word with Gary. Gary stood up warily and they moved away a few feet. I heard Wilson threaten to break Gary’s legs for,’Getting that commie bastard gonk Strike off the hook’. Wilson stormed off and Gary returned looking shaken, and who could blame him because Tommy is a real hardcase.We immediately gathered some pickets together and told them what had happened, prepared for a fight if we had to but dreading the prospect. Fortunately nothing happened and we were very relieved when Paul Foot was announced from the stage.

He received a fantastic reception from the crowd, especially the miners because of his revelations about Thatcher and the railworkers. He spoke very well, calling for mass picketing at Orgreave and steelworks. He attacked Kinnock for sitting on the fence and the NUM for having no centralised organisation of picketing. The only thing he didn’t say was that he himself was a member of the SWP and that would have helped pickets like Gary and myself from being abused for selling the paper and being in the party. Like I said, he let us down but he still got a deserved tremendous ovation for his speech.

Mick McGahey followed but was piss poor in comparison and seemed content to mouth slogans like,’No surrender’. Is that why he did a deal with Ravenscraig? he’s living on his past record as a militant but he’s now about as militant as Len Murray!

I did have the opportunity to voice my criticism to Paul Foot himself in the pub afterwards but I didn’t. I wish I had!

Tragically another picket was killed outside Ferrybridge power station and that puts all the other events of today firmly into second place. We can’t give in now because two lads have lost their lives. Nothing is more important in comparison to a life lost.