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.