Long memories in pit villages affected by the miners' strike

Long memories in pit villages affected by the miners' strike

Alan Cummings, 66-year-old former NUM lodge secretary, stands at the old pit head in the ex-pit village of Easington Colliery, County Durham.

Alan Cummings, 66-year-old former NUM lodge secretary, looks at photographs from the miners' strike as at Easington Colliery, County Durham.

First published in News

MINERS who broke the strike and scabbed can still expect to be blanked in the street, 30 years on.

Alan Cummings, 66-year-old former NUM lodge secretary in the ex-pit village of Easington Colliery, County Durham, explained: "People have long memories.

"There's very few people talk to them and it split families. But we didn't have a lot in this part."

The strike held firm from March 1984 and the village pit which had 2,700 workers was lightly picketed. Then in August things changed.

A power loader named Paul Wilkinson from Bowburn, ten miles away, was bussed in and hundreds of riot police made sure he got to work.

Mr Cummings, who still lives in a terraced house a stone's throw from the former pit gates, said: "I have never seen as many police before in Easington.

"There's only two ways into the village and it was completely blocked off. People couldn't get in or out.

"After 6am there was vans and vans coming in. Pickets were called back from elsewhere and had to come across fields to get here.

"The atmosphere was really bad."

Police and pickets fought through the day and serious disorder broke out when Coal Board property was smashed and cars wrecked.

Mr Cummings said the self-contained, isolated village had been law-abiding and needed little policing prior to the strike. The treatment by officers - particularly those drafted in from South Wales and Lincolnshire - disgusted many locals, he said.

One striker received an out-of-court settlement of £5,000 for injuries he sustained in the protest, the ex-NUM official said. But it was a hollow victory.

"Miners wives and families in the street could not believe what went on - there was a sea-change in their attitude," he said. "It's been called a village under siege."

The strike ended a little under a year after it began and the pit closed forever in 1993 - just short of 100 years since work began.

And Easington Colliery's reliance on coal meant it was a disaster, Mr Cummings said.

"It's been total devastation," he said. "It's my worst nightmare and I knew it was going to happen.

"Whereas the Germans planned pit closures in their coalfields, here, they just wiped us out."

The village had the second highest percentage of colliery houses in the country and they were sold off to private landlords in the 1990s, bringing in an influx of problem tenants and class A drugs followed.

Seemingly half the shops on Seaside Lane were shuttered and the working man's club life, once so vibrant, was dying out.

Mr Cummings retained a passionate hate for Margaret Thatcher and did not care that the village's celebration of her death last year upset some.

"What an epitaph she has in these mining communities: death, a lot of people have committed suicide, and no hope.

"All down to her, and some of her spawn that's about now."

But he also laid blame at the door of New Labour, which he said failed to make enough impact during its time in power.

Now those who have jobs work in call-centres, for Railtrack, the Nissan plant at Sunderland or the Caterpillar plant in nearby Peterlee.

"But 99 per cent of them would come back to the pit if it was open," he said.

Comments (20)

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5:56am Mon 3 Mar 14

jd6620 says...

Strike breakers, heros I call them.
Strike breakers, heros I call them. jd6620
  • Score: 5

8:51am Mon 3 Mar 14

Duke of Aycliffe says...

Ancient history, move on now look to the future.
Ancient history, move on now look to the future. Duke of Aycliffe
  • Score: 19

9:18am Mon 3 Mar 14

johnny_p says...

Are we still doing the miner's strike?

It's ancient history now. Time to move on...
Are we still doing the miner's strike? It's ancient history now. Time to move on... johnny_p
  • Score: 17

9:34am Mon 3 Mar 14

sineater says...

The Iraq war is history, time to move on ?
The Iraq war is history, time to move on ? sineater
  • Score: -1

10:10am Mon 3 Mar 14

David Lacey says...

What is to be gained by raking over the coals (bad pun)? Nothing. Why are some people determined to revisit a bad time in our history? There must be something in it for them even if it's just a pint in the local club.
What is to be gained by raking over the coals (bad pun)? Nothing. Why are some people determined to revisit a bad time in our history? There must be something in it for them even if it's just a pint in the local club. David Lacey
  • Score: 11

10:22am Mon 3 Mar 14

laboursfoe says...

David Lacey wrote:
What is to be gained by raking over the coals (bad pun)? Nothing. Why are some people determined to revisit a bad time in our history? There must be something in it for them even if it's just a pint in the local club.
Probably because it is now 14 months to the next election David, expect this 'we were victims' tripe to be spewed across this site over and over again in the interim.

Given the timing of the 30th anniversary of the strike ending I'm half expecting a spectacular akin to the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony!!!
[quote][p][bold]David Lacey[/bold] wrote: What is to be gained by raking over the coals (bad pun)? Nothing. Why are some people determined to revisit a bad time in our history? There must be something in it for them even if it's just a pint in the local club.[/p][/quote]Probably because it is now 14 months to the next election David, expect this 'we were victims' tripe to be spewed across this site over and over again in the interim. Given the timing of the 30th anniversary of the strike ending I'm half expecting a spectacular akin to the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony!!! laboursfoe
  • Score: 2

12:22pm Mon 3 Mar 14

David Lacey says...

Aye - you are right. Again. But after last year's disgraceful celebration of Saint Maggie's death anything is possible. Neanderthals, all of them.
Aye - you are right. Again. But after last year's disgraceful celebration of Saint Maggie's death anything is possible. Neanderthals, all of them. David Lacey
  • Score: 6

12:34pm Mon 3 Mar 14

loan_star says...

I doubt 99% would leave a good job at nissan to work a few miles underground out to sea. Reality check needed for the union dinosaur.
I doubt 99% would leave a good job at nissan to work a few miles underground out to sea. Reality check needed for the union dinosaur. loan_star
  • Score: 18

12:56pm Mon 3 Mar 14

johnny_p says...

Look forward to when Labour's next reign (of terror) they magically reopen all the pits and cozy on up to those lovely, benevolent Unions....

But they won't of course- they had sixteen years to send our young down to the coalface again, but mysteriously forgot to do anything about it.
Look forward to when Labour's next reign (of terror) they magically reopen all the pits and cozy on up to those lovely, benevolent Unions.... But they won't of course- they had sixteen years to send our young down to the coalface again, but mysteriously forgot to do anything about it. johnny_p
  • Score: 16

1:01pm Mon 3 Mar 14

johnny_p says...

David Lacey wrote:
Aye - you are right. Again. But after last year's disgraceful celebration of Saint Maggie's death anything is possible. Neanderthals, all of them.
No. Not all of them David. Most miners wanted to carry on working as usual but as is to be expected they were downtrodden by troublemakers.

Still, I expect those same miners have moved on and found other worthwhile and progressive jobs instead of moping about carrying banners displaying pictures of Soviet era Communist bully boy leaders.

The Echo needs to move on too. But it won't.
[quote][p][bold]David Lacey[/bold] wrote: Aye - you are right. Again. But after last year's disgraceful celebration of Saint Maggie's death anything is possible. Neanderthals, all of them.[/p][/quote]No. Not all of them David. Most miners wanted to carry on working as usual but as is to be expected they were downtrodden by troublemakers. Still, I expect those same miners have moved on and found other worthwhile and progressive jobs instead of moping about carrying banners displaying pictures of Soviet era Communist bully boy leaders. The Echo needs to move on too. But it won't. johnny_p
  • Score: 11

1:06pm Mon 3 Mar 14

DarloXman says...

loan_star wrote:
I doubt 99% would leave a good job at nissan to work a few miles underground out to sea. Reality check needed for the union dinosaur.
Exactly.

The quote "But 99 per cent of them would come back to the pit if it was open," shows how much these people are living in the past and are unable to move on - blaming everyone else other than themselves. They should ask what could they could have done to have prolonged the life of the mines and learn from that experience!

When I was a boy growing up in Sunderland most kid's parents worked in the shipyards, the mines or other associated heavy industries - nowadays hardly anyone works in heavy industry - the world has changed and it will continue to change - we all must learn to adapt - or we will go the way of the miners. If you cannot adapt - you die - both the dinosaurs and the miners proved that!
[quote][p][bold]loan_star[/bold] wrote: I doubt 99% would leave a good job at nissan to work a few miles underground out to sea. Reality check needed for the union dinosaur.[/p][/quote]Exactly. The quote "But 99 per cent of them would come back to the pit if it was open," shows how much these people are living in the past and are unable to move on - blaming everyone else other than themselves. They should ask what could they could have done to have prolonged the life of the mines and learn from that experience! When I was a boy growing up in Sunderland most kid's parents worked in the shipyards, the mines or other associated heavy industries - nowadays hardly anyone works in heavy industry - the world has changed and it will continue to change - we all must learn to adapt - or we will go the way of the miners. If you cannot adapt - you die - both the dinosaurs and the miners proved that! DarloXman
  • Score: 12

1:42pm Mon 3 Mar 14

David Lacey says...

You make an excellent point DarloXman. Adapt or die. The industries you mentioned all failed to adapt and disappeared as a result. The ship building industry is a classic example. In recent years 100+ cruise ships have been purchased by Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, Cunard, P&O, Costa, MSC and others. Each ship costs hundreds of millions. Where were they built? No- not the Far East. They were ALL built in Finland, Germany, France or Italy. All high labour cost economies. Thousands of workers, highly skilled and well paid have made a good living out of the business. But the UK worker preferred to go on strike or turn out rubbish products, delivered late. The result was the death of our ship building industry. It makes me sick.
You make an excellent point DarloXman. Adapt or die. The industries you mentioned all failed to adapt and disappeared as a result. The ship building industry is a classic example. In recent years 100+ cruise ships have been purchased by Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, Cunard, P&O, Costa, MSC and others. Each ship costs hundreds of millions. Where were they built? No- not the Far East. They were ALL built in Finland, Germany, France or Italy. All high labour cost economies. Thousands of workers, highly skilled and well paid have made a good living out of the business. But the UK worker preferred to go on strike or turn out rubbish products, delivered late. The result was the death of our ship building industry. It makes me sick. David Lacey
  • Score: 14

1:53pm Mon 3 Mar 14

punkrocker says...

I was at Doncaster for the entire strike. saw a great deal of violence on all sides. time to move on from a terrible time. ps am not an ex miner
I was at Doncaster for the entire strike. saw a great deal of violence on all sides. time to move on from a terrible time. ps am not an ex miner punkrocker
  • Score: 10

2:24pm Mon 3 Mar 14

sineater says...

It would b e great iff the tories could adapt,they are persuing the same brutal ploicies they employed decades ago. They force people to use foodbanks because of making people to poor to eat,then funding has to be found to support food banks,and that comes from a tory think tank !!!
It would b e great iff the tories could adapt,they are persuing the same brutal ploicies they employed decades ago. They force people to use foodbanks because of making people to poor to eat,then funding has to be found to support food banks,and that comes from a tory think tank !!! sineater
  • Score: -17

3:38pm Mon 3 Mar 14

David Lacey says...

Are you sure that English is your first language?
Are you sure that English is your first language? David Lacey
  • Score: 5

4:56pm Mon 3 Mar 14

thetruthyoucanthandlethetruth says...

sineater wrote:
It would b e great iff the tories could adapt,they are persuing the same brutal ploicies they employed decades ago. They force people to use foodbanks because of making people to poor to eat,then funding has to be found to support food banks,and that comes from a tory think tank !!!
Can you repost in English please. There's a good Lemming.
[quote][p][bold]sineater[/bold] wrote: It would b e great iff the tories could adapt,they are persuing the same brutal ploicies they employed decades ago. They force people to use foodbanks because of making people to poor to eat,then funding has to be found to support food banks,and that comes from a tory think tank !!![/p][/quote]Can you repost in English please. There's a good Lemming. thetruthyoucanthandlethetruth
  • Score: 7

1:51am Tue 4 Mar 14

SirLance says...

Consult your Darwin! "It is not the strongest that survives nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable! ---Time to move on folks! Get away from being 'mollycoddled' by the nanny state, nothing comes to you free in life, you have to go out , look for it and get it! God Bless Maggie who woke up the country from the unionist bliss! Bankrolled by Russia the then ' King Arthur' was toppled by the fair maiden of common sense! Twas then when the UK prospered!
Consult your Darwin! "It is not the strongest that survives nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable! ---Time to move on folks! Get away from being 'mollycoddled' by the nanny state, nothing comes to you free in life, you have to go out , look for it and get it! God Bless Maggie who woke up the country from the unionist bliss! Bankrolled by Russia the then ' King Arthur' was toppled by the fair maiden of common sense! Twas then when the UK prospered! SirLance
  • Score: 5

3:04pm Tue 4 Mar 14

Rasselas says...

sineater wrote:
It would b e great iff the tories could adapt,they are persuing the same brutal ploicies they employed decades ago. They force people to use foodbanks because of making people to poor to eat,then funding has to be found to support food banks,and that comes from a tory think tank !!!
Sineater.
Please check your post before you hit the send key. Your torment of the English language pains me.
[quote][p][bold]sineater[/bold] wrote: It would b e great iff the tories could adapt,they are persuing the same brutal ploicies they employed decades ago. They force people to use foodbanks because of making people to poor to eat,then funding has to be found to support food banks,and that comes from a tory think tank !!![/p][/quote]Sineater. Please check your post before you hit the send key. Your torment of the English language pains me. Rasselas
  • Score: 0

6:47pm Tue 4 Mar 14

Jackaranda says...

sineater wrote:
It would b e great iff the tories could adapt,they are persuing the same brutal ploicies they employed decades ago. They force people to use foodbanks because of making people to poor to eat,then funding has to be found to support food banks,and that comes from a tory think tank !!!
What type of force is used?
[quote][p][bold]sineater[/bold] wrote: It would b e great iff the tories could adapt,they are persuing the same brutal ploicies they employed decades ago. They force people to use foodbanks because of making people to poor to eat,then funding has to be found to support food banks,and that comes from a tory think tank !!![/p][/quote]What type of force is used? Jackaranda
  • Score: -1

8:33am Wed 5 Mar 14

easingtonboy says...

I was born and bred in Easington,my father was manager of Walter Willson supermarket in Seaside lane for more than 15 years,my Grandfather worked all of his life in Easington,and it was inevitable that the pit would close due to the state of the undersea coal mine.Maggie did everybody a favour by closing it down and stopping people going miles down under the sea.Times change and it is for the better in my opinion.
I was born and bred in Easington,my father was manager of Walter Willson supermarket in Seaside lane for more than 15 years,my Grandfather worked all of his life in Easington,and it was inevitable that the pit would close due to the state of the undersea coal mine.Maggie did everybody a favour by closing it down and stopping people going miles down under the sea.Times change and it is for the better in my opinion. easingtonboy
  • Score: -1

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