Today should have been the 101st Durham Miners Gala but because of the strike it’s been called a rally instead. I fail to see the logic behind the name change but there you go.
The Westoe contingent, two bus loads, left the Armstrong Hall at 8.45, half an hour late due to another cock up by our Lodge officials. It was pissing down with rain, and on a normal Gala day this wouldn’t have dampened our spirits but 18 weeks into a strike it did. Everyone seemed quiet, though a few of the pickets were in a very optimistic mood due to the dockers having come out on strike earlier this week and they talked enthusiastically about Thatcher not being able to fight on two fronts. Admittedly the dockers have the power to really damage the Tories but the bastards are clever and I can’t see them letting it happen. They’ve come too far and will find any way to compromise, just as they did with the railway workers. I hope I’m wrong, but the TV and the papers are doing all they can to stop a dual front.
The rain was still pouring down when we arrived in Durham and we tramped onto a wet field to get ready for the march. I had brought Jennifer and Sasha along with me and they were just enjoying the whole experience. Kath had refused to come, choosing to go shopping instead. I wasn’t too surprised when it was discovered that the poles for our lodge banner had gone missing, and when they were finally found and fitted, we were almost last in the procession.
There were banners from every coalfield, including Scotland and Wales, and it was a really colourful spectacle. We lined up behind the Cortonwood banner and there were ‘Victory to the Miners’ and ‘Unite to Fight’ placards everywhere. Some people had even turned them into rain hats. The brass bands were playing and we set off to march through the city, down towards the racecourse by the river where the rally was to be held. Jennifer and Sasha’s faces were glowing with pride as crowds of people lined the streets and cheered us on, and I was proud as well, proud to be fighting back against Thatcher and the Tories.
Scargill gave his usual defiant speech, full of passion and anger at those unions not supporting us. Dennis Skinner was excellent, equally full of passion and fire, and one of the few true Socialists in the Labour Party. A low point for me was Betty Heathfield, wife of Peter, General Secretary of the NUM, who was appealing for Women’s Support Groups to come down to London so they could hand a petition to that champion of the working classes, the Queen! I hope no one turns up!
The real moment of magic came when Kneel Kinnock stepped up to the microphone and made most of the crowd disappear, but not before they’d booed him loudly for his traitorous lack of support for miners and their families. The bastard is more concerned about getting Labour elected than he is about his core supporters, and he even had the nerve to criticise violence on the picket lines. I was glad to see people turn their backs on him and walk away, especially as this was the same man who only a year ago had got a standing ovation. Miners at least now see him for the soft reformist he is.
Anyway, despite the rain it was a good day out and the girls enjoyed playing with other kids whose dads were also on strike. I’m glad I took them.