normanstrike

Posts Tagged ‘John Chapman’

107. Sunday October 21st, 1984.

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2009 at 5:49 pm

There was a union meeting this morning, called at short notice. I only found out because Gary called me early. We should have been prepared for a move like this because it was obvious they weren’t going to let us build on the anger of the men at the last meeting. The Chairman proudly announced that two committee men have volunteered to attend picket lines, and he also announced that men banned from picket lines would be paid £2 a day if they help the Women’s Support Group. Unfortunately there weren’t enough men present to mount an attack on the Chairman for his behaviour at the last meeting so he got away with it, this time. we should have campaigned more amongst the pickets. Still, we didn’t so thats that.

Gary and me spent all afternoon and most of this evening cleaning out the Welfare, especially the kitchen, which is now spotless and ready to go, as is the ‘Baby Burco’ boiler which has been thoroughly scrubbed. We peeled the potatoes and carrots ready for tomorrow and left them in water overnight, as we did with the lentils and peas. Gary is a real fusspot and has us scrubbing every inch of the walls and floor, but the end result was worth all the sweat. The Welfare has never looked so clean for months. All we need now is for a lot of people to use it.

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103. Wednesday October 10th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on October 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm

We had a union meeting this morning which showed the extent of the members disatisfaction with the Lodge officials. We had to elect a member to sit on the Durham Area Executive Committee, a post traditionally filled by one of the senior officials. Accordingly both the Chairman, John Chapman, and the Treasurer, Bill Jerry, were nominated by the members of the committee. A rank and file member, Ed Malcolm, was nominated from the floor, and even though he is a soft left careerist, I voted for him along with the majority in the hall. The result was absolutely brilliant; Chapman got 15 votes, Jerry 6, and Ed got 54 votes! The lads were elated by this success and we all enjoyed the looks of utter shock on the stage. It was excellent, and a picket stood up to explain to the platform exactly why they’d been given this vote of no confidence. The fact that they never appear on picket lines, Tommy Wilson excepted, was given as the main reason, with the picket saying that you can’t lead from a comfortable office! Man after man stood up to attack them, ending with a motion proposing that every picket of Westoe men must be attended by two committee men, and their places in the office filled by men banned from picketing. The Chairman, John Chapman, got up and made a personal attack on me that was full of vitriol, probably because I was the only man he knew who was banned from all picket lines, and because he thought, wrongly, that I was behind the attacks. He refused to accept the motion, saying he would have to ask his fellow committee men if they wanted to go on picket lines!! At this all hell broke loose and without hesitation the useless bastard closed the meeting, and they all walked off the stage in a huff. We all complained loudly and bitterly, shouting for them to return, but they didn’t. The lads were furious but also jubilant at getting Ed elected.

The whole meeting was a perfect example of bureaucracy at work but at least the men now know, again, where the real power lies. Brilliant, and we must build on it at the next meeting and censure the Chairman for his undemocratic conduct.

The NUM have been fined £200,000 for refusing to comply with the Tory courts, and Scargill has been fined £1,000 for contempt.He has said that neither fine will be paid. Good for him!

89. Friday September 7th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on September 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I slept badly and was woken at 5am by those bloody church bells ringing like some giant alarm clock! A curse on religion.

We went through the same routine as yesterday but the breakfast was worse, one hot dog sausage,tea and bread, no margarine after yesterdays first and last taste.

At 10 we were given a choice of activity. We could either spend an hour walking around the exercise yard,(Bob chose that), or an hour and a half of sport, which I chose, hoping I could exhaust myself enough to get some sleep.

About 15 of us were taken across to a gym where we were given another choice, do weights or play football. I chose football so we had to carry two sets of goals onto a tarmac covered area surrounded by high fencing, and split into two teams of four a side.

We started to play and it was very competitive. After about 15 minutes I was knackered.There was this big bloke covered in tattoos and I stuck out my foot to tackle him. Unfortunately I mistimed it and tripped the bloke up, causing him to go scudding across the tarmac on his knees,skinning them badly. Despite that he leapt to his feet and came at me, calling me,’a fat fuckin’ cunt’ and threatening to kill me. Screws came running from all directions and held him back and tried to calm him down. The screw who was refereeing came up to me and said,’Better steer clear of himson!He’s murdered two already so one more won’t make any difference’. To be honest I was terrified, and spent the remainder of the game running in the opposite direction whenever he came near me. I was relieved when we were taken back to our cells and vowed that in future I would walk around in circles with Bob!

I had dinner at 12 and as expected it was totally disgusting, but I still cleared my plate. No doubt you could get used to it but I’m certain no one could ever say they enjoyed it. After all, we were there to be punished and eating certainly rammed that point home!

After dinner Bob and me discussed our chances of release. Three miners had been released yesterday and Bob’s hopes were pinned on him going today.He said he couldn’t stand another day inside, let alone a weekend. I was a lot more pessimistic about my own chances and was resigned to spending the weekend inside. If I was released then that would be a bonus.

My pessimism seemed justified when the screw let Bob out at 2.15 for another visit, and I felt deserted and alone as I sat in the cell and cursed my lodge officials. I jumped when I heard the door being opened at three, thinking it was Bob returning but the screw informed me I had a visitor, Mrs Callan. As we made our way downstairs I guessed that Mrs Callan was the wife of the Durham Area Secretary and wondered why she’d been sent to visit me. At least it would be contact with the outside world.

I was taken to the reception area and told to wait until I was called. My name was called and I went into a room with a long line of tables running the entire length. I was taken to the middle and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Kath sitting there and all we could do was just stare lovingly at each other. We both tried to talk at once but were interrupted by the arrival of Tommy Callan, his wife, and John Chapman, Westoe Lodge Chairman, who was full of lame excuses for not coming earlier. I listened to them impatiently until they took the hint and left us alone. Kath told me that I would almost certainly be released today because my solicitor was appearing before the Judge in Chambers at 2.30. She was shocked at seeing me in a  prison uniform, and by the whole degrading process of visiting someone in prison. A screw came up and told us our 15 minutes were up and asked Kath to leave. She told me she’d left some cigarettes and two cans of lager, and said she hoped to see me later. I hoped so too!

After I was given my goods, which included a box of chocolates from Mrs Callan, I was locked back up in the cell. I ate all the soft centres from the chocolates whilst Bob paced up and down the cell, driving me nuts with his patter, saying he was getting out for certain but that I would probably have to remain on remand because of my previous record. He said that this was Tommy Callan’s view as well and I began to get really depressed. Suddenly the cell door was opened and the screw said;’Come on lads, you’re out on bail’. I could’ve kissed him I was so relieved. We grabbed our stuff and headed down the stairs. The warden kindly allowed us to give our chocolate and cigarettes to two lads from Blyth whom Bob had befriended somehow and they were overjoyed to get them. In prison terms they were rich.

We were given our clothes back to change into and had to sign for our things kept in a big envelope. When I opened mine to check it I found £17.70p which puzzled me because I’d been lifted with only the 70p! Bob also had £17 extra and we wondered whether we should say something because maybe they were trying to trick us so they could keep us in. We agreed to sign and then waited for the arrival of the Chief Warder with our bail forms. He solved the puzzle by saying,’As a Yorkshireman I support your fight but disagree with the violence. We had a collection amongst the warders and the extra money is to take your wives out for a nice meal’. I was genuinely touched by this show of support and thanked him. He said he hoped he’d never see either of us again and then got us to sign the bail forms. Mine said,’The defendant is not to go within 200 yards of any NCB premises where picketing is taking place except to go to work in the normal course, and to attend the DHSS office at Monkwearmouth between the hours of 10am – 4pm’. I would have signed anyting, even though I was effectively banned from picketing. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as we walked out of the main gate at 6pm. You’d think I’d just done 3 years, not 3 days!

Bob’s sister dropped him off at home and then was kind enough to drop me off at home. Kath and me were overjoyed to see each other and the girls were embarrassed as we kissed and hugged.Later, after we’d eaten a delicious meal and I’d put the girls to bed, Kath told me of the struggle she’d had to get the Lodge to visit me. She even had to find out the visiting times herself! The only help she’d got from the lodge was a lift to and from Durham, and she said that in her opinion none of the bastards seemed bothered I was in prison. That didn’t particularly surprise me given other events, but what did have me fuming was the pressure Kath had been put under by those bastards. She has enough shit to cope with without men who are supposed to be on my side adding to it. I intend raising the issue at the next union meeting, if only so other lads don’t suffer in the same way. Bastards!!

Catching up on the news I find that Kneel Kinnock spoke at the TUC Conference on September 5th, the day we were jailed. He said,’Violence creates a climate of brutality. It is alien to the temprament and the intelligence of the British union movement’.What a load of bollocks! How the hell does he think we got unions in the first place? By asking our lords and masters for permission? NO! Through the blood of thousands of workers in the past who fought to get them. Even bloody Thatcher has the Suffragettes to thank for using violence at times to win the vote. If we have to rely on shits like Kinnock then we will lose everything our ancestors fought for with their blood. Fuck Kinnock, and his softy lefty mates. I for one will fight to keep those rights, and build on them, and so will millions of others.

A journalist from the New Musical Express rang and has asked if he can stay with us for a few days to write an article about the strike. Kath has agreed and he’ll arrive tomorrow night.

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.

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!