normanstrike

Posts Tagged ‘Tommy Wilson’

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!

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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.

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.

55. Tuesday June 12th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2009 at 10:27 am

Today has been the most humiliating experience of my life! I had been summonsed to appear in front of the whole Lodge Committee to explain my ‘forgery’ of the Lodge Secretary’s signature. I was forced to wait outside the committee room for twenty minutes with my stomach churning and my nerves on edge wondering what was going to happen. When I was eventually called in I had to face them all whilst the Secretary again explained the seriousness of my action and how it couldn’t be allowed to go unpunished. It was like a kangaroo court and in my opinion they had decided I was guilty before I went in. I explained exactly what I’d done and why I did it, pointing out that nowhere on the letter was either my name or address so there was no way I could possibly profit from it. I had only been trying to raise funds for the union.

My explanation fell on deaf ears and I was totally shocked when Tommy Wilson launched a personal attack of such a vicious nature I felt quite scared. He accused me of trying to overthrow the Lodge Committee and subvert the minds of the membership with my ‘lunatic propaganda’. He attacked the SWP and said I was their puppet, their ‘agent of destruction’. It would have been laughable if it wasn’t so serious. I was ordered to wait outside whilst they made their decision. The bastards made me wait another twenty minutes as I wondered what they were going to do. It was terrible!

I was called back in and had to stand in front of them whilst the sentence was pronounced. I am to appear in front of the whole Durham Executive on a charge of ‘Fraudulent Conversion’ which could result in my expulsion from the NUM! If Tommy Wilson has his way that is exactly what will happen.In addition I had to hand back my letter of authorisation to collect funds for the union and have been banned from ever collecting funds for the union again. I was, and still am, stunned! Before I left I gave them a cheque for £120 I had received from Colin Barker in Manchester, and made out to the Lodge, and added sarcastically that perhaps they didn’t want any money I had collected. Tommy Wilson snarled that I should ‘stuff it up my arse’, but Slater was more diplomatic and thanked me, adding that it was a shame I’d spoilt myself.

I’ve made my decision to stuff the lot of them, union and SWP! Why should I stick my neck out? I’m going to stay at home and spend more time with Kath and the girls. I’ve done my bit and the reward has not been worth the fuckin’ effort! I feel totally isolated and betrayed and it’s not going to happen again. A couple of comrades have phoned and urged me to attend the union meeting tomorrow but it’s not going to happen. I can’t face giving those bastards the satisfaction of seeing my face as their decision is read out. To be honest I feel too ashamed!

49.Friday May 25th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I went picketing this morning and had the chance to explain myself, telling them exactly what I’d done and when I’d done it. I also asked the question why it had taken the officials so long to accuse me if what I’d done was so serious. Most of the lads gave me a sympathetic hearing but Tommy Wilson came over and threatened to kick my commie head in and told the lads not to believe a word I said because I’m a ‘fuckin’ lying bastard’. He is one scary man and I just want to keep out of his way to avoid giving him the chance to carry out his threats.

Woodside was boring as usual and I couldn’t sell a single paper.Oh well, it’ll take time but one thing is certain I will NOT let those incompetent bastards make me quit.

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!

 

45.Monday May 14th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2009 at 10:33 am

Today has been the most frustrating and disappointing day of the strike so far, and also the most violent!

Scargill had called for a mass demonstration in Mansfield to show the strength of the strike, and to show support for the 11,000 Notts men out on strike with us. Our Lodge officials responded by providing ONE coach, leaving a lot of the regular pickets disappointed. Fortunately Ian Wilburn had helped to organise an extra coach through Newcastle SWP to show our officials they aren’t the only ones who can organise, and that the SWP isn’t just interested in selling papers.

There were only 15 of us and the bus turned up late so we didn’t have time to round up more people, which was disappointing. The men on the union coach were each given £5 subsistence allowance so we decided to do the same out of the money we’d collected in Manchester. We’ll try and claim it back off the Lodge later.

We caught up with the Newcastle Poly coach at a service station and that was full. The guy who had organised the coaches, Simon, told us he was having trouble getting the Labour Party and Militant members on board to contribute towards the cost of our coach. I offered to pay for it from our funds but Simon refused and said he’d sort it.

We arrived in Mansfield at 11am and asked the driver to return at 4pm. The rally was to start from a community centre and return there after we’d marched through the streets of Mansfield. The car park of the centre was jam packed with dozens of colourful banners  and we pushed our way through to our Lodge banner. There were lots of surprised faces amongst the Westoe men when we showed up. I was shocked when Tommy Wilson and his henchmen gathered around Ian Wilburn and Keith Smoult and threatened to beat them up! They said nothing to me but there was a very hostile atmosphere and I warned Ian and Keith to stay well clear of Tommy and his thugs. The only reason I can think of for Tommy’s reaction is that he’s a union official and perhaps felt his authority had been challenged. Whatever, it was totally out of order and completely over the top.

The march set off and was a wonderful sight, with ‘Victory to the Miners’ placards everywhere. Ian, Keith and myself kept to the edge of the march so we could sell Socialist Worker, and keep out of Tommy’s way. I quickly sold all my papers and so did Ian and Keith. One thing that was very noticeable was the low profile of the pigs, though there were helicopters buzzing constantly overhead. I felt tremendously proud as we marched through the crowded streets of Mansfield and felt that such a huge display of solidarity couldn’t be ignored by the Notts scabs. My pride soon turned to embarrassment as a large group of lads began chanting,’Get your tits out for the lads,tits out for the lads’ at some young shopgirls leaning out of a window. To make it worse there were lots of Women’s Support Groups present. I tried to shout at the lads to stop but only got verbal abuse in response, except for one lad who said it was ‘only a bit of fun, a laugh, and anyway the lasses love it’. They just couldn’t see anything wrong with their behaviour but how can we expect women to support us if we treat them with such disrespect? I was relieved when the chant changed to, ‘Piggy,piggy,piggy,oink,oink,oink’, a variation on the ‘Maggie’ chant. At least it was aimed at an enemy.

As we marched back into the car park I decided to stay at the entrance to see if I could spot any familiar faces. It was wonderful to see all the different support groups and banners and I felt very encouraged. A young woman approached me and tried to sell me a copy of, ‘The Next Step’, the paper of the Workers Revolutionary Party. When I looked at the front cover I was shocked to see the headline was calling for a national ballot to unite the miners! I advised her to join Militant, or the Tory party but she continued to argue that a ballot was the only way to unite the miners. About as revolutionary as Neil Kinnock! I think RCP stands for the Ray Chadburn Party. The woman was very persistant until I was forced to swear to get rid of her.

I was relieved to meet up with Phil Ramsall and Irene Davis and we stood discussing which pits would be mass picketed because we felt this was the real reason for the rally. As the speeches began I was totally gobsmacked to hear Scargill introducing Tony Benn as,’The greatest Energy Minister we have ever had’. I couldn’t believe my ears because it was Benn who introduced the divisive Incentive Scheme, despite a national ballot rejecting it two to one. That’s ballots for you! In my opinion it is the Incentive Scheme which has caused the Notts miners to scab because they earn huge bonuses in their nice thick seams. At Westoe we earn next to nothing for working 7 miles out under the North Sea in wet conditions and relatively thin seams. Benn is a misguided fool who believes all we have to do is vote in a few hundred left wing MP’s like him and we’ll have some kind of Socialist Utopia. Bollocks! Scargill gave out his usual fighting rhetoric but made no call for a mass picket. Very disappointing.

Speeches over we headed to a nearby pub for some dinner. We had fish and chips and a pint before Phil and Irene had to leave. I joined some of the students from Newcastle Poly who were sitting with some Westoe lads. Two of the students, Brenda and Joan turned the discussion to the sexist chants on the march, and said they were,’Fucking disgusting and fucking demeaning’. One of the lads responded by saying,’If you were my wife I’d give you a good hiding for using foul language like that’! I could see Brenda was really angry and I tried to diffuse the situation by chipping in with,’How would you feel if I asked your wife or daughter to get their tits out?’ One of the lads jumped up, really offended, and Brenda jumped up, even more offended. Thankfully the landlord called ‘time’ and ordered us all out. In the bogs we heard some lads saying that Scargill had done a deal with the pigs that had allowed the rally to go ahead in exchange for no picketing. I didn’t want to believe that one but it did explain the low police presence and the absence of a call for mass picketing. The news had reported that there were over 40,000 people present, and if they’d gone to picket we could have shut down Notts completely. To me it was a missed opportunity.

We left the pub and were strolling towards the car park, enjoying the sunshine. Suddenly we heard glass braking and saw a mob of riot police in full gear appearing from behind the community centre and started beating up two lads, kicking and punching them. We all started shouting and running towards the lads intending to help them but were stopped in our tracks by the sight of mounted police on huge horses galloping out of the community centre, clubbing anyone who got in their way. I was momentarily frozen but the sight of a man falling to the ground with blood pouring from his head shook me into life and I started to run across the road to a church doorway. I remember thinking they couldn’t touch me there because it as sanctuary. Daft! People were shouting and screaming and scattering in all directions as they tried to avoid the horses. I watched in shock from the church doorway as a woman with a pushchair was hit and fell to the ground, the pushchair falling over and her child screaming! Not one of the pigs following the horses stopped to help her. They were too busy hitting anyone they could catch! They were dressed all in black with crash helmets, plastic shields and truncheons. I ran out and helped the woman and her child into the doorway, then ran out again to help a man covered in blood back to safety. It was a massacre, and as far as I could see, totally unprovoked. It looked like a battlefield.

Eventually we felt safe enough to make our way back to the car park where coaches were constantly moving out. I spotted some Westoe lads and ran to join them. The lads told me that everyone had been told to leave by 3.30 and anyone left would be arrested and charged with rioting! Someone had gone to find our coach whilst our party grew by the minute as people returned, each with their own horror story to tell. There were pigs everywhere, pushing people about and shouting at people to leave, arresting people for no reason.

We were very relieved when our coach arrived and the pigs started to roughly push us on board. We did a head count and were relieved to find no one was missing. We let on a load of lads from Doncaster whose coach had gone. One lad was hiding under the back seat because pigs were after him. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief when we hit the M1 and left Mansfield behind.

One of the Yorkshire lads told me that a lad had been wearing a toy cops tit helmet and some pigs started laying into him. His mates retalliated by throwing bottles at them. That’s when the riot police appeared, a real life Trojan Horse.

A cynic might say that because this all happened as the pubs were closing the pigs could justify their actions by blaming ‘drunken hooligans’ who left them no option but to respond as they had, and then make an example of those arrested to discourage others from coming to Notts.

Another cynic might ask what all those pigs and horses were doing in a community centre in the first place? Marx said,’Political power is the organised power of one class for oppressing another’. It’s about time we started oppressing them for a change!!!