Down Memory Lane

Some of the miners sacked by British Coal during the miners' strike of 1984/85
Some of the miners sacked by British Coal during the miners' strike of 1984/85

When I think about the miners’ strike these days I am reminded of the saying, “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

Who would have thought on my 16th birthday when I went down Easthouses pit for the first time, that 19 years later I would be barred from returning to an industry that had been a huge part of my life.

In 1984 I was employed at Monktonhall Colliery and was the NUM pit delegate. Monktonhall had gone on strike the year before for eight weeks and had received the support from every coalfield across the UK. We were going into a national overtime ban as part of the fight against closures. By March 1984 this had escalated to the stage where the miners decided that enough was enough and the miners’ strike against pit closures began.

Miners were striking not for wages or conditions, but to protect their jobs and those of future generations as well as the communities that depended upon them. It became a cliché, but “Coal not Dole” was an apt catch phrase.

Ballots were held in various places, but this is not something I agreed with. Payments for older miners, who wanted to leave, were high at the time and I thought that it was wrong for these miners to vote to sell out the jobs of many young men just starting their working life.

Thatcher had planned for this for years. She saw the unions, not the politicians on the opposite benches, as the real opposition and wanted them crushed irrespective of the cost to the country or our communities.

Midlothian MP David Hamilton’s full feature appears in this week’s Advertiser. On sale now.