Posts Tagged ‘Bilston Glen’

146. Thursday February 7th, 1985.

In Uncategorized on February 6, 2010 at 8:58 pm

I travelled up to Scotland yesterday with Fred Taylor and spent the night at Willie and Marlene Forsyth’s house in Penicuik. It was great to see them again but very sad to hear that Willie has been sacked.He is very worried because he’s certain the strike is going to be sold out. I agree with him but still feel confident that no deal will be signed without all the sacked miners being reinstated. We can’t betray these men who have fought so hard to win the strike, or the lads who gave their lives and the lads in jail. It’s unthinkable.

   I spent the whole of today in the Sheriff’s court waiting to be dealt with for my arrest at Bilston Glen on July 25th!! It never happened because the bastards have adjourned it yet again until March 7th! Justice my arse! The three lads who did get dealt with were all found guilty, one of them getting a £150 fine and the other two got £75 fines, with only 8 weeks to pay! One of the lads was John Scott from Westoe, and unfortunately for him his witness gave evidence that contradicted his. Another wasted journey for me.


87. Wednesday September 5th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2009 at 5:07 pm

I’m actually writing this diary on Saturday September 8th after having spent the last 3 days in Durham prison.

The day began at 7am when I left the Armstrong Hall in Neil Tate’s car to go picketing at Wearmouth as usual. I told the lads I was with that we shouldn’t just stand around being passive but needed to take some positive action.They all agreed.

We arrived at Wearmouth at 7.30 and joined the fifty or so men already in the car park. I had a chat with Dave Hopper, the Lodge Secretary of Wearmouth, and asked him why the fence hadn’t been removed because it was a real hindrance to us having a proper push against the pigs. Dave agreed with me but said there was nothing he could do because the pigs were at the pit 24 hours a day. He also told me that Sunderland Magistrates were taking a really hard line with arrested pickets. Two of his lads had been remanded in custody to Durham prison. I know one of them really well, Alan Margham, and I asked Dave to pass him my regards when he saw him. Little did I know that I would see him before he did!

By 7.45 there were at least 250 of us in the car park facing a line of about 200 pigs directly in front of the main pit entrance, only seperated by the bloody metal fence. a group of us began moving around the pickets because we were really pissed off with the passivity. After having had men lifted on a daily basis the hard core activists were also being reduced, and the picket had become really stale. We couldn’t allow it to continue because a passive picket would just encourage more scabbing. We started telling the lads we were going out onto the road on our right to form a push and asked everyone to join us. Accordingly about twenty of us moved onto the road and began shouting for everyone to join us. We soon had about a hundred men but the majority refused to move, even when we yelled at them and called them ‘plastic pickets’ and worse. I have a very big gob and my throat hurt with the effort of shouting but it did no good.

The scab bus was due so we formed up into a solid mass and started to move towards the pigs, who had rushed  to form a reinforced line in front of us. We chanted our battle cry of, ‘Zulu,Zulu,Zulu’ and then crashed into the pigs. Initially we made progress, forcing the pigs back a little until more reinforcements joined their lines. We could have broken through easily if the ‘plastics’ watching from the sidelines had joined us. As it was the push was broken by a group of pigs attacking us from the side and splitting off the front two lines from the rest of the lads. I was roughly grabbed around the throat by a pig and struggled to fight back and keep my feet. The bastard was choking me and he dragged me through the police lines. He threw me to the ground, and as I struggled to get my breath he leapt on me with his knee across my chest. I could see he was an inspector by his flat hat and he said”Got you at last, you big mouthed bastard. That’s your picketing days over’.I wondered if I’d been singled out as I was roughly  dragged backwards and thrown into the back of a police van. Within minutes the van was full, with 8 pickets and six pigs and we were driven the short distance over the bridge to the same police station we had stoned the week before.

Inside Monkwearmouth police station, which was so small it didn’t have any cells, with my ‘arresting officer’, a young PC, we were told to stand against the wall to have our photograph taken by an obese sergeant(is there any other kind?) with a polaroid camera. He told me the photo was for ‘official’ records,ie the photo albums they used to identify activists. The sergeant pressed the button and all four flash cubes went off and unexposed film shot out the front. I laughed out loud and so did the young PC but the segeant wasn’t amused. Cursing, he fitted new flashes and loaded new film. We composed ourselves, with me trying to look defiant and the PC smiling broadly. The same thing happened, flashes and film spewing out the front. I was laughing madly when an angry inspector burst into the room and demanded to know what the hell was going on! The fat sergeant said he couldn’t understand it because it had never happened before. He tried one more time with exactly the same results. The inspector grabbed the camera and threw it in a bin and ordered the sergeant to go and get a replacement.

Finally I was photographed and then taken into another room where the angry inspector was waiting impatiently. He said to the young PC,’What kind of abusive language did this scum use?’ The young lad was either very naive, very stupid, or a mixture of the two because he replied,’Sorry sir, but I didn’t actually hear him saying anything’. I thought the Inspector was going to explode. He yelled for the fat sergeant to take me away. As I was being taken out I heard the Inspector say,’Now what did you hear the bastard say?’ No doubt that cleared the young lads memory.

I was taken outside and locked into a tiny cell on one of them pig buses you usually see parked at football grounds. An uncomfortable hour later there were 12 of us in the cells and we were driven to Gill Bridge police station in Sunderland and locked into two cells, six to a cell. I was with three Westoe lads, one of whom had only been doing picket duty for a fortnight! I grew up in the same street, Chaucer Avenue, as one of the lads,Davy Larsen, and we spent the time chatting about our experiences over the past six months.

During the morning we were taken out to be photographed, again, fingerprinted and questioned, and finally charged. I was charged with,’Foul,insulting and abusive behaviour liable to cause a breach of the peace’. The officer charging me asked if I had any outstanding charges against me and he grinned when I told him about Bilston Glen last month.

We were allowed to see a solicitor provided by the NUM and he told me we would probably be bailed and banned from going within two miles of Wearmouth, which is what I was expecting.

We had dinner of soya pie, potato and turnip which was bloody horrible but I ate it anyway. We were then let out of the cells and told to wait at the foot of the stairs that led up into the courtroom. We whispered amongst ourselves. I recognised one of the lads, Bob Robson, who had been one of the most voiciferous supporters of of going to jail in Bishop Auckland but had bottled out and phoned the TV instead. He got me worried when he told me the solicitor who had seen him had warned him he might be refused bail and be remanded in custody because of his previous arrest. This had happened to men who appeared before the bench previously. It wasn’t looking good. I was feeling a bit pissed off because he had seen a woman solicitor, as had most of the other lads, with only a few of us seeing the man. I suspected he must be a trainee or something because he told me I would probably be bailed.

It was 3pm when the first six lads were led up into the courtroom, and when they came back they told us they’d been bailed and weren’t to go within 2 miles of Wearmouth, as they’d expected. We were called up and I was a bit  surprised when the magistrate called the first four lads to the bench and left Bob and me to one side. The four lads were all released on the same bail conditions as the other six.

We were ordered to face the magistrate and he glared at us as if we were two lumps of shit. Bob was dealt with first, and despite the pleas of the female solicitor, was remanded in custody to Durham Prison until September 14th. Bob was led down looking totally shocked. I faced the magistrate and received the same sentence, with the magistrate saying I was being remanded because of my disgraceful past record and that he believed I would ignore any bail conditions imposed upon me. He also said something about me being a danger to public order but I was too gobsmacked to take it all in. What evidence did the bastard have that I would ignore bail conditions? He ordered me to be taken down and the guy who led me away said the time would soon pass. Easy for him to say. He wasn’t on his way to Durham Prison!

After being held in a cell for half an hour we were taken up to a yard and handcuffed together before being put into a van. It was an uncomfortable journey, made worse by the gobshite sergeant who accompanied us. He was one of those ‘ some of my best friends are miners’ types and was constantly trying to be friendly. I ignored the bastard but Bob chatted happily with him. The pig was condemning Scargill and picket line violence, and Bob was agreeing with him! I couldn’t believe it and wondered why he’d been on the picket line in the first place. Bob said he couldn’t wait to get back to work and that it would happen soon because there was no way we could defeat Thatcher. It made an already depressing journey worse and I worried about what Kath would say when she found out, and how Jen and Sasha would react. I was also angry that none of our lodge officials had been in court so how would Kath find out? I hoped Keith or Gary would call round to tell her. I felt as if I was about to start a life sentence instead of a few days on remand and resolved that in future I would content myself with being an ‘indian’ and leave being a ‘chief’ to others.

Once inside the prison gates the handcuffs were taken off and we were taken into the Search Tank, which is a room beside the main gate where incoming prisoners are taken to be searched. They searched everywhere, even the soles of my feet, and it was a humiliating experience. After the usual jokes about my surname we were taken into the reception area, and after another lengthy wait we were taken into another room full of men waiting to be admitted into the prison. One of these men was a long term prisoner waiting to be transferred to a prison in Scotland. He told me he’s been in Wakefiels Prison for seven years and this was the first time in all those years he’d been outside. He told me he was doing life for murder yet despite this I felt sorry for him. The other men were burglars and con men who passed the time by bragging about all the crimes they’d gotten away with before being caught for something trivial. When they heard what Bob and me were in for they were very sympathetic and gave us loads of advice on what to expect and what we could get away with. Bob said he’d done some time as a younger man and started talking and telling tales of his exploits as a criminal, trying to be the equal of the other men, daft bastard. He’s a bit of a know all is Bob. Anyway, I was glad for the advice and felt a bit easier in my mind.

We were examined by the prison doctor before being forced to have a bath in cold water full of disinfectant. The towel I dried on was like sandpaper! We were then issued with our uniform; one pair of underpants, one vest,a pair of socks with holes in the heels, a blue striped shirt, a pair of brown trousers that were too big, and a brown jacket stamped with ‘HMP Durham’ in case anyone tried to steal it. The whole outfit was completed by a pair of battered black slip on shoes, with mine having holes gouged in the heels, making it uncomfortable to walk, not that I expected to be doing a lot of that!

Washed, dressed and given a number, all we had to look forward to was prison food. I was bloody starving but when I saw what was on offer I almost lost my appetite. I was handed a plate with a blob of mashed potato, shrivelled up peas and a solitary hot dog sausage. A plastic mug of unsweetened tea was provided, presumably to wash away the horrible taste of the food which I gulped down with a minimum of chewing in the hope that my taste buds wouldn’t be irreparably damaged.

After our meal we had another long wait. I passed the time chatting with a con man who was on a three year sentence, and if he was to be believed, had £30,000 stashed for his release. He entertained me with stories of his many criminal exploits and the time passed quickly. He also gave me some cigarettes, which was great because I’d finished the few I’d been arrested with. I am grateful to the ‘screw’ who gave me the fags because prison rules stated that only sealed packets were to be given to prisoners. He told me he supported the miners, which came as a pleasant surprise because I had expected the screws to be bastards like the pigs are. In fact, all the screws we had contact with were great, with one in particular, being an ex – miner himself, doing all he could to make our stay less uncomfortable.

Bob and I were to be kept together, which came as a relief because I’d heard all the tales of homosexuality in prisons. Not that I’ve anything against homosexuals. I just didn’t want to experience it myself at first hand! At 9pm we were given a sheet, a pillowcase and a blanket. We carried theseinto B Wing because the remand wing was full. We climbed the metal staircase and I thought of the prison in ‘Porridge’. There was thick wire mesh strung beneath the landings to stop men throwing themselves off to escape the food! We were on the second floor, in cell B2 – 30, and it was really depressing when we went in and the door was locked behind us.

Our cell was bloody horrible. It was filthy, with fag ends on the cracked concrete floor. The arch window had thick glass panes that were filthy, and six of them were missing, causing a chill breeze to waft around the cell and circulate the stink from the plastic bucket full of piss and shit that stood in the middle of the floor. The decor was post – holocaust,damp grey walls and cobwebbed ceiling. We each had a metal frame bed with a thin ‘white’ matress that was full of stains, and mine was decorated with a schoolboy – ish drawing of a naked woman. We also had a blue plastic mug each, an orange plastic washing bowl and jug, and a plastic razor with no blade. Two wooden tables completed the furniture, all crammed into a cell no more than six foot wide and twelve long.

The screw, who Bob kept calling ‘Boss’, told us to make a final trip to the bog. The first thing I saw on entering was a contorted face behind a half door, complete with sound effects as he strained to shit. He put me right off and I was determined to hold my bowels as long as I could.

Back in the cell Bob was the first to spot two books and immediately grabbed the cowboy story. I was relieved until I saw the other book was a biography of Martin Luther. I skimmed it and quickly decided it wasn’t for me. I would happily have swapped it for the cowboy book.

At 10pm the light went out and we settled down to sleep. I was knackered but it took me a long time to drop off. I worried about Kath and the girls, and for me that is the worst thing about being locked up,not being able to communicate with your loved ones, and not knowing what is happening to them.

74. Thursday July 26th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2009 at 12:42 pm

The early picket at Bilston Glen was the most militant so far but there was no attempt to form a push. Instead everyone seemed content to throw stones and bottles at the police lines to get revenge for yesterday. News came through that a coachload of Durham miners had been arrested in Tranent for allegedly harassing a scab and everyone seemed to go mental. Lads began tearing down the fence outside the pit yard which the NCB had spent thousands having strengthened. Huge tyres were rolled over from a nearby garage and then set on fire, and within minutes thick black smoke was belching out from the flames and two trees had also caught alight. Missiles kept raining down onto the police lines.

A fire engine roared up, siren howling, but we formed a line across the road and Keith Smoult asked the firemen not to cross our ‘official picket line’. They agreed and turned their engine around and drove off to massive cheers from the pickets and looks of disgust from the pigs. The stoning continued until bus loads of pigs began to arrive and we beat a tactical retreat.

Back on our coach we were told we were off to Dalkeith police station to protest about the arrest of our lads in Tranenet. As soon as we arrived we piled off the coach to join the large crowd gathering at the top of the bank that ran up to the station. No sooner had we got there when we were scattered by pigs coming straight for us with truncheons drawn. It was a mad stampede for safety with the pigs tripping anyone who got too close to them. I managed to reach our coach and jumped on, gasping for breath. About a dozen lads had got there before me and they lined the windows watching the chaotic scenes outside. I could see a group our lads hemmed in by the pigs so I ran a few yards and shouted to let them know where we were. A pig yelled at me to,’Get back on the fuckin’ bus or you’re nicked’. He pushed me forward and I had no choice. He told the driver to leave immediately, even though most of our lads were missing. Fortunately none of them was arrested and they managed to get back in time for the afternoon picket.

It was a very subdued picket, with the highpoint being the Tranent Lodge Banner being marched right up in front of the police as an act of defiance. Unfortunately that won’t stop the scabs. Only mass pickets will.

We all went for a final drink in the Miners Welfare and there was a strong rumour going around that the Scottish officials have signed a deal with the pigs to reduce picketing. More resentment has been caused by a Scottish picket being overheard saying this morning, ‘Let the Durham lads go in front. They’re getting paid for it’.Yeah, 170 Durham men arrested at Bilston Glen, that’s what we got paid!’ Let’s hope the rumours are untrue, and let’s hope if they are, the Scots lads can organise the pickets over the heads of their weak officials., otherwise it will all have been for nothing.

At about eleven we were told the final picket will be at 2.30am and it’s all top secret. Most of the lads are too pissed to notice.

73. Wednesday July 25th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2009 at 3:20 pm

The mood of the men this morning was very militant, especially amongst the Durham lads, and I saw all the lads I’ve come to respect, Tommy Ashurst from Easington, ‘Cosh’ from Herrington, and lads from Wearmouth and Sacriston, all of them up for a fight.

This morning’s picket began with a push that was quickly broken up by cowardly bastards throwing stones from the back, one of them hitting a lad just in front of me and splitting the back of his head open. Some of us ran to the back of the picket and told the lads either to join the push or fuck off! We formed up again and linked arms, but this time I was on the outside of the front line. i was trying to avoid the crush for once but there wasn’t much difference. We crashed into the police lines and began a strong push. The ‘man down’ shout went up but this time most of us ignored it and continued pushing. as I was out on the edge I could move more and to my shock I spotted a man getting trampled on the floor. I shouted for help and grabbed his arm and began pulling him out. Other lads helped and we got him to the side of the road. he looked in his fifties and his face was white and he was unconcious. Another lad took over who said he was a first aider and I rejoined the push. It broke up angrily, and the pickets were furious because there’d been loads of arrests and at least a dozen lads injured. The man I helped pull out had had a heart attack but was still alive as they took him away. the lads were saying that the pigs had been vicious and had deliberately tripped lads up and then gave them a kicking when they were down!. Punches were aimed at stomachs and faces and the violence had really gone up from the pigs.

Our response was a hail of missiles raining down on the pigs, with loud cheers when one of them went down. In my opinion that was just stupid because it’ll just make them worse next time we clash. anyway the situation was diffused by one of the Scottish union officials telling everyone to assemble at the Dalkeith Strike Centre for a special meeting to discuss tactics. a real novelty.

When our coach got there we were given a standing ovation from the Scots pickets for our support, and the 100 Durham lads arrested and in hospital. There must have been about 700 men in the hall and I was wondering how we could never get more than 200 on the picket line.

The Delegate from Monktonhall gave a rip roaring speech that spoke of defying the police and ended by urging us all to go to Bilston Glen ‘the noo’, and take the pigs by surprise and take control of the main entrance to the pit. this was greeted with loud roars of approval and we all started to pile out of the hall and into cars and coaches to take the ‘Glen’. There was a real positive buzz on our coach because we felt there was a real chance of us achieving something solid. We were wrong!

Our coach was the first to arrive and we filed out and stood defiantly in front of the gate, which was ‘guarded’ by a few security men. More lads started to arrive in dribs and drabs but not the hundreds we were expecting. At most we were 200 but at least our hosts from Arniston and Penicuik stood alongside us. Some of us wanted to invade the pit and occupy it because our numbers were too small to hold the gate. Lads started to talk about riot police with dogs being inside the pit so we just stood in front of the entrance with the sun beating down on us. the only event of any note was the arrival of a car full of pensioners come to see about their fuel allowance so we let them through. The guards turned them back and I guessed that meant we were in for trouble.

I had just taken off my shirt and given it to Marlene, who was across the road, for safe keeping when double decker buses full of pigs started to arrive. I ran back and joined the back row of pickets right in front of the barrier and gasped. there were bloody hundreds of them, lining up in ranks and marching to stand in front of us. There were ambulances and police vans rolling up, and they started to rush into the pit yard behind us, coming from the sides. We linked arms and steeled ourselves.

We didn’t stand a chance! We were bloody massacred! Without any warning they crashed into our front ranks and forced us back. I was terrified I was going to break my back as we were forced hard up against the barrier so i pushed forward with all my might to get away. Suddenly an arm snaked around my neck and I was choking and forced to leave go of the lads either side of me as I struggled to free the arm. I kicked backwards and the arm went and I pushed forward again. My luck ran out when my arm was grabbed and in an instant I found myself up against the barrier facing two pigs. One of them grabbed me by my ears and pulled me over the barrier and I landed on my head. I felt blood on my face but before I could do anything boots started to fly into me and I tried to curl up to protect myself, arms covering my face. I’ll never forget one of the pigs saying as he kicked,’ Ah’ll teach you to interrupt ma fuckin’ dinner’. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so bloody painful. They dragged me over to a van and literally threw me into the back of it, where I was badly trampled by some pigs getting out. One bastard deliberately kicked me in the head as he got out! A picket helped me onto the bench that lined the van and I was suffering from double vision and pain everywhere. Another man was thrown into the van and even with my blurred vision I could see he was in trouble with his breathing and was in a lot of pain. a lad shouted for an ambulance but they just ignored us. The man was also helped onto the bench.

After a hazy ten minutes or so in the van I was roughly grabbed and told to get out, then I was frogmarched to another van with my arm up my back and shoved in. The first thing I saw was Butch grinning at me and I sat next to him. We swapped tales of how we’d been lifted whilst a poor lad lay on the floor with a broken ankle moaning loudly. he was in agony and his face was contorted with pain. The whole thing was made worse because it was sweltering hot inside the van because we had no ventilation. We shouted for an ambulance and the door opened and a pig told us one had been sent for. We could plainly see an ambulance just outside and when we pointed this out the pig told us it was for police use only! I couldn’t believe it and said to Butch that they wouldn’t be putting that on the telly or in the papers. That lad was forced to wait for 35 minutes in sauna like heat whilst an ambulance stood empty outside. Outrageous! Thatcher’s Britain 1984. We know who the ‘enemy within’ really is after today.

We were kept waiting in that bloody van for over an hour and there was a puddle of sweat at our feet. The only thing that kept us amused was the fact that one of our fellow prisoners was the toilet cleaner from Dalkeith who had got carried along with the enthusiasm and found himself arrested. He kept saying,’They can’t arrest me. Ahm no a miner. I’m in NUPE’! He amused Butch and me anyway.

We were eventually taken up the road to Dalkeith Police Station, photographed and charged, then put into cells. I had one to myself which was clean, with a toilet bowl in the corner and a thin mattress along one wall, opposite the grey door. The only light came weakly through thick glass tiles and I regretted having taken off my shirt because it was quite chilly. I lay on the thin mattress and tried to get some sleep, though my head and ribs were aching badly. I had a cut on my head and a black eye. I was roused from my attempt by Butch calling my name. I went to the hatch in the door, which had been left open, and looked out. At another hatch opposite and to my right I could see Butch grinning like a loony, proudly displaying a pig’s silver button. I couldn’t believe his nerve and had to laugh when i tried to imagine where he’d hidden it when we got searched. Butch is a good laugh, and a good picket and he cheered me up a bit.

I was lying down again when I heard voices and a key turn in the lock. I jumped to my feet as two westoe lads were shoved into the cell, Geordie Allen and John Scott. They told me there were 12 Westoe lads in the cells and we spent ages talking about what we’d seen and heard. Geordie Pape’s son had been taken to hospital and his dad was really worried about him until he was brought into the cells a couple of hours later, bruised and battered, but fine. I got bored and started to write my name on the cell wall. Geordie and John were laughing at my gyrations and asked what the hell I was writing with. They laughed when I showed them my fly zipper!

We were finally fed by a policewoman at 6.30 who shoved three paper plates of fishcake, chips and peas through the hatch, and some lemonade supplied by the NUM and 3 cigarettes. I was so hungry I almost ate the plate as well. As John and me smoked our fag, and shared Geordies cos he doesn’t smoke, Geordie shouted for seconds through the hatch, and we were gobsmacked when three more plates of food were passed through. Geordie started on his but John and me held back feeling sure they’d made a mistake. However, hunger got the better of us and we gobbled up the warm food, giggling like loonies between gobfulls of food. I heard a gruff Scots voice calling to us so I went to the hatch. An angry looking Scotsman shouted,’Yous Geordie bastards have eaten wor dinner’! I ducked down to tell the others and we couldn’t help laughing whilst the Scotsmans protests got louder. We heard him arguing with the policewoman that the men in his cell had not been fed, with her shouting back that 33 meals had been served so they must’ve been fed.. It was only after the pigs had searched their cell for empty plates and found none that the lads finally got their food.

We were released at 8.30 and told that although we were free to picket we would be banned from every picket line in Britain if we got lifted again. He also told us we would hear by post when we were due to appear in court.

We had a few pints and then headed for an early night to be ready for the morning picket.

72. Tuesday July 24th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2009 at 8:45 am

We didn’t get much sleep but Butch is so likeable that you can’t get mad at him. We had a breakfast of hot egg rolls and coffee which set us up nicely for the morning, and we waited outside for the bus to Bilston Glen.

The first person I met when we arrived was John Sturrock, who is a photographer, an excellent one, nut we barely had time to talk before the first push began and I joined in the front rank, linking arms with the pickets either side of me. The initial clash was a violent one, with the front rank of the pigs kicking the hell out of us whilst the rank behind tried to punch us. At one point the lines seemed to reverse, with us pushing the opposite way, but it was bloody chaotic, and very painful. My shins were actually bleeding and the whole experience was intensely claustrophobic and the push eventually broke down. We could see lads being arrested and being dragged away, whilst two men were being carried into ambulances on stretchers. We angrily regrouped and charged into the pigs, but their lines had been reinforced by busloads of pigs. The push was broken up by some idiot throwing a rotten goose egg, and the resulting stench actually saw a few lads throwing up. We made a half hearted third attempt but were too weak and it soon broke up with a few more arrests. We had to content ourselves with shouting abuse at the handful of scabs who went in.

The afternoon was a huge disappointment after the excitement of the morning because we didn’t have enough pickets and there was no attempt to organise, with the majority enjoying the hot sunshine.

We went to the local Miners Welfare this evening and most of the lads got pissed, including Butch, so hopefully that means we can sleep tonight.

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.

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 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!

17. Tuesday April 3rd, 1984.

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2009 at 8:33 am

I went up to Scotland this afternoon after a quiet morning on the Westoe picket line. Lads just chatted and speculated on where the strike is going.

I was invited to go to a miners benefit for Polmaise Colliery by an old friend of mine, Stuart Hepburn. He’s an actor and his theatre company,’Badinage’ were performing at Fallin Miners Welfare to raise funds for pickets. Apparently Scotland isn’t solid and they’re having a lot of problems at Bilston Glen. It was interesting chatting to the pickets and the play itself was very entertaining. Mind you, I did feel a bit guilty coming on my own but Kath was working so I didn’t have much choice. At least it was a change from the usual.