Thirty years on from the end of the miners’ strike Norman Strike – his real name – still cuts a discordant figure.
He was one of the few whose life changed for the better following the miners’ strike, but he admits he still feels a great deal of bitterness about the events that occurred and indeed is more angry now than he was then.
Referring to the current Government, he says:
“[Margaret] Thatcher was terrible, she was evil. But these buggers are worse than what she ever was. They have done much worse to the working class than what she ever got away with. It is all as a direct result of us getting beat.”
Mr Strike, a retired teacher, had three spells at Westoe Colliery, in South Shields, and was arrested four times for picketing during the year long dispute between the miners and the Government which began as a protest over pit closures.
“My problem is that I have always had a big mouth and when people were just standing around passively and not doing anything, I was trying to organise them,” he says.
“Much to my shock the magistrate remanded me for 14 days in Durham Prison because he said I could not be trusted due to my previous arrests.”
The 64-year-old, who now lives in Essex, was present at the infamous Battle of Orgreave when on June 18, 1984 picketing miners attempted to blockade the British Steel coking plant in Orgreave, South Yorkshire.
In all 93 arrests were made, with 51 picketers and 72 policemen injured. All charges against those arrested were eventually dropped and police were later forced to pay half-a-million pounds in compensation after a number of lawsuits were brought by miners’ for assault, unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution.
When I suggest some of what occurred was a case of “six and two threes”, he replies:
“It was more like twelve on one. When you get hit with a truncheon it bloody hurts, I can tell you.
“The worst I ever saw from our side involved the cowards who would stand at the back and lob bricks at the police. We would shout at the buggers to stop.”
At the time Mr Strike was friends with The Redskins, a punk rock band whose songs were inspired by their left-wing politics. Famously he was invited on stage when they appeared on Channel 4’s The Tube, which was filmed in Newcastle.
But his plan to make a short speech about the strike was thwarted when his microphone was switched off.
“The Redskins had two numbers and on the first number I stood in the background with a tambourine,” he explains.
“ When they introduced the second song they said I was a Durham miner who had been on strike for 35 weeks. I had prepared a speech for 20 seconds which we reckoned was enough time before the producer latched onto what I was doing, but they were a bit quicker than what we anticipated.”
After the strike ended the ex-salvage worker, whose job it was to recover machinery from the coal face, never went back to Westoe and instead headed for the bright lights of London, where he began rebuilding his life following the break-up of his marriage.
He returned to the North-East last year to help promote a film about the strike ‘Still The Enemy Within’ and says his involvement back then represented the most momentous year of his life.
“What resonates most was the community spirit,” he says.
“If someone was going to get their gas cut off we would all go and stand outside the house so they couldn’t do it. It’s that thing that parents talk about, the ‘good old days’ when everybody stuck up for each other.
“Now everybody is out for themselves and it’s a case of ‘I’m very sorry you are having a hard time, but I can’t do anything about it’. Back then we were all broke, but people were wonderful.
“It was also the catalyst that led to other things for me. I went to London and eventually went onto university and became a school teacher, directly because I met teachers and other people during the strike who told me I was clever and planted a seed in my head.
“ It also made me more determined to fight against injustice whenever I see it. If the miners strike wouldn’t have happened, I would probably still be a miner.”
I can’t resist ending the interview by asking Mr Strike about that surname. “It’s real,” he says.
“During the strike I would get stopped by the police and asked ‘What’s your name’? ‘Norman Strike’ The response was ‘Oh yeah, I’m Arthur f****** Scargill.’ I began carrying my birth certificate to prove who I was.
“It is just so unusual to have someone called Strike involved in the greatest strike the country has seen.”
Source – Northern Echo, 05 Mar 2015
The release of state documents under the 30 year rule is lifting the lid on what was going on behind the scenes of the great miners strike.
Last year they revealed Margaret Thatcher was warned she would see nearly half of all North coal mining jobs disappear a year before the miners’ strike had even started.
The miners’ strike in 1984 came as a result of a determination by miners to fight official Government plans to close down 20 uneconomic pits. The National Union of Mineworkers insisted this was just the first of many, the Government told the public any miner who wanted to keep a job would be able to do so.
But papers put to the PM in 1983 show a different reality. “The closure programme had,” Downing Street minutes show, “gone better this year than planned: there had been one pit closed every three weeks and there were now 18,000 fewer in the workforce.”
> “gone better this year than planned” – I think that chilling statement tells you all you need to know about Thatcher.
The Prime Minister was told in the secret meeting that Ian MacGregor, chairman of the National Coal Board, wanted to close another 75 mines over the next three years.
At this point, in September, the energy secretary Peter Walker admitted in a meeting with the PM and others that “there would be considerable problems in all this”.
The minutes add: “The manpower reductions would bite heavily in particular areas two thirds of Welsh miners would become redundant… 48 in the North East.
“From 1984 onwards it would not be possible to offer redundant miners other employment in the mining industry.”
The minute ends noting that “it was agreed that no record of this meeting should be circulated.”
> I bet it was ! And we might wonder what is going on behind closed doors right now but we won’t know about for another 30 years (those of us who are still around…)
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 Dec 2014
Margaret Thatcher was privately warned to break off relations with a shadowy adviser who claimed to have masterminded the defeat of the miners’ strike, according to newly released government papers.
Files released by the National Archives at Kew, west London, show officials feared David Hart – a wealthy Old Etonian property developer – was exploiting his links with No 10 for his own ends.
They warned that unless the Prime Minister severed her links with him, he would end up causing her “grave embarrassment“.
The flamboyant Mr Hart had managed to ingratiate himself with Mrs Thatcher with his enthusiasm for her free market policies, offering informal advice on a range of issues, but it was during the miners’ strike, which began in 1984, that he came into his own.
From his suite at Claridges, he established himself as a go-between between Mrs Thatcher and National Coal Board chairman Ian MacGregor while making regular forays to the coalfields in support of the working miners in his chauffeur-driven Mercedes.
He was said to have bankrolled the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers and organised the legal action by working miners which led to the strike by Arthur Scargill‘s National Union of Mineworkers strike being ruled illegal.
He later boasted that Mrs Thatcher came to rely on him completely, claiming: “It got to the point where she really let me run it.”
While the true extent of his influence has been questioned, the files show that by the time the strike was drawing to a close in 1985 there was mounting concern in Downing Street about his activities.
In February 1985 Mrs Thatcher’s political secretary Stephen Sherbourne wrote to warn her that while Mr Hart had proved “useful” in the past, he had begun to pursue his own agenda, briefing against ministers like Energy Secretary Peter Walker.
“For example, while professing total loyalty to you, he has not shrunk from denigrating Peter Walker’s activities even though the latter was carrying out the line agreed with you and ministers.
He said that Mr Hart had even sought to interpose himself as an intermediary with the White House in discussions over Ronald Reagan‘s “Star Wars” strategic defence initiative, and warned that he may try to interfere in Northern Ireland as well.
“So long as he feels he can telephone me regularly on whatever issue, so long will there be a risk of grave embarrassment to you,” he wrote.
“I think therefore we must consider how we sever the link with DH in a way which is clear to him but does not unduly offend him.”
In the event the link was abruptedly broken not long afterwards when a misjudged attempt by Mr Hart to lobby the Americans on behalf of a British defence supplier resulted in the contract they were seeking being awarded to the French.
He nevertheless re-emerged in the 1990s as an adviser to Conservative defence secretaries Malcolm Rifkind and Michael Portillo.
Source – Durham Times, 30 Dec 2014
THE trauma of the miners’ strike would have been avoided if Arthur Scargill had pursued “partnership” with the Government, a minister claimed today (Tuesday) – to howls of disbelief.
Matt Hancock, a business minister – answering an historic Commons debate – argued the real “betrayal” was the miners’ leader refusal to ballot NUM members before the strike.
And he told MPs: “It was a difficult process and it could have been done far better through partnership, rather than through an adversarial nature.”
The minister also argued that the pit closure programme which sparked the bitter 1984-85 dispute had paved the way for economic success in the decades since.
“The transition of an economy dominated by outdated heavy industry into a modern service-based economy was necessary and is the basis of the nation’s prosperity now – and that is not much disputed these days.”
> I’d say it’s very much disputed, just not by politicians with their heads up their arses.
The comments provoked angry Labour shouts during a three-hour debate into fresh evidence about the Thatcher Government’s conduct in the 1980s
Incredibly, Labour’s motion passed, after the Coalition failed to oppose it – despite it stating the 1980s Government “misled the public about the extent of its pit closure plans and sought to influence police tactics”.
Ministers were revealed to be aware that Ian MacGregor, the National Coal Board (NCB) chief, was plotting to close 75 pits, at the cost of 65,000 jobs – not the 20 that ministers and the NCB claimed.
The papers showed that Margaret Thatcher considered deploying troops during the strike, by declaring a state of emergency.
And MI5 was used to put union officials suspected of smuggling suitcases full of money donated by the Soviet Union under surveillance.
The debate heard passionate stories about the impact of the strike – both on the people affected at the time and on the “devastated” communities left behind.
Roberta Blackman-Woods (Durham City) said, of the Government: “They have no idea of the devastation in these communities – and they are doing it again by cutting the funds to local government.”
Pat Glass (North West Durham) said: “The scars of 1984-85 are still there and they won’t be healed until all this is publicly exposed.”
And Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) – a miner himself in the 1980s, when a police officer “spat in my face” – said Lady Thatcher and other ministers had “lied from that despatch box”.
But John Redwood, the head of Lady Thatcher’s policy unit at the time, said he advised her not to use the Army, adding: “She said ‘Of course it won’t be’ – and it wasn’t”.
Source – Northern Echo, 28 Oct 2014
An ex- miner will take part in a question and answer session after the screening of a new film about the bitter 1984 dispute.
Norman Strike, now 63 and retired, worked the coal face at Westoe Colliery in South Shields, and took to the picket lines with his workmates over the Conservative government’s plans to close down pits.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously described striking miners as “the enemy within”.
A new, partly crowd-funded film, Still the Enemy Within, records the memories of the people who took part in the strike.
He is returning to the region from his home in Essex for the film’s screening at The Gala Theatre, Durham City, on Saturday (October 11).
Mr Strike was arrested four times for picketing and was once held on remand in Durham Prison for four days and was at the infamous ‘Battle of Orgreave‘.
He once appeared on an edition of Channel 4’s acclaimed 1980s pop music show The Tube, which was made in Newcastle.
He was invited on stage by a band called The Redskins to give a speech during one of the songs but viewers could not hear what he said because the microphone was switched off.
> As seen here…
“It was portrayed that we were the violent ones, but I was there and we weren’t the violent ones.
“They said we were trying to overthrow society but that was rubbish. We weren’t. We just wanted to keep our jobs.”
Mr Strike left the region for London after the strike, which cost him his marriage, went to university and became a secondary school English teacher.
He said of the film: “I think it is brilliant, they have done a really good job.”
The film, which won the Sheffield Doc/Fest Audience Award 2014, had its London premiere last weekend and is now showing throughout the country.
The Durham screening starts at 1.45pm and tickets cost £5 from the box office on 03000 266600 and at www.galadurham.co.uk
* On Wednesday, October 22, the film will be screened at the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle at 6pm.
Wine glasses have been discovered which reveal a terrible two years in the mining history of a Tyneside town.
The four-inch high glasses from the 1830s are etched to commemorate an explosion at Jarrow Colliery which cost 42 lives and the hanging and gibbeting of miner William Jobling – the last man to suffer this fate in Britain.
The glasses were part of the personal effects of Edith Harris, who lived in Scotland but was from Blyth, Northumberland. She had inherited the glasses from her grandparents, who lived in Jarrow in the 1830s and may have had mining connections.
After her death the glasses passed to her nephew, William Ritson, of Cullercoats, whose widow Mileta considered giving the glasses to a charity shop as she sorted through items.
Instead she took the glasses to Newcastle auction house Anderson and Garland, who will put them up for sale on Tuesday.
Auctioneer Fred Wyrley-Birch said: “You would be forgiven walking past the glasses as standard 19th Century items worth a few pounds at a push. These however are engraved with local historic interest that the authorities would probably rather forget. They are a wonderful insight into the world of 19th Century miners.”
Jarrow Colliery had a woeful disaster record.
In 1817 an explosion killed six miners and 1826 another 34 died. In 1828 another eight miners were killed t the colliery and in 1830 an explosion left a death toll of 42.
The Times reported: “The explosion took place in Jarrow Colliery, and 23 men and 17 boys were instantly destroyed, and several others hurt, some of whom so severely that recovery is not expected. The men generally are of the married class, some of whom have left large families.”
In 1845 yet another explosion killed 39.
Unrest in the mines led to strikes and it was amid one such stoppage that William Jobling’s fate was sealed.
He was convicted at Durham Assizes of killing 71-year-old local magistrate Nicholas Fairles near Jarrow Slake at the height of the 1832 miners’ strike in the Durham and Northumberland coalfields.
Jobling was with Ralph Armstrong, who a dying Fairles identified as his killer. Armstrong escaped and was never found.
Judge Parke in his summing up attacked the unions, saying: “Combinations which are alike injurious to the public interest and to the interests of those persons concerned in them. I trust that death will deter them following your example.”
After the execution, Jobling was taken from the scaffold, his clothes were removed and his body covered in pitch. He was then riveted into an iron cage, made of flat iron bars two-and-a-half inches wide. In a wagon, drawn by two horses, his body was taken to Jarrow Slake escorted by a troop of Hussars and two companies of infantry.
The gibbet was fixed near the spot where the murder was committed. Jobling’s body mysteriously disappeared and one theory is that fellow pitmen took it down, held a burial service, and lowered the remains into a nearby disused pit shaft.
A section of the gibbet is on show at South Shields Museum.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 30 July 2014
Labour Party leaders and union chiefs who did not support the miners’ strike in the 1980s helped weaken the movement, a miners’ leader says.
Thousands of people will flock to Durham City on Saturday (July 12) for the 130th Durham Miners’ Gala, which marks 30 years since the start of the bitter dispute.
In his programme notes, Dave Hopper, general secretary of Gala organisers the Durham Miners’Association, says declassified documents reveal that the Thatcher Government was determined “to butcher the coalfields and smash the National Union of Mineworkers.”
He praises politicians and unions who supported the strike.
But he continues:“At the same time, these revelations should shame those trade unions and Labour Party leaders who did not support our strike.
“Those who refused to come to our aid bear a huge responsibility, not just for our defeat, but for weakening the whole trade union movement.
“They will be remembered in the former coalfield of Britain just as we remember those so-called leaders who betrayed the 1926 General Strike.
“The refusal of New Labour, during 13 years of government, to repeal the anti-trade union legislation, which was used to defeat us, only compounds their shame.”
Five new banners will be on display at the Gala – Fenhall Drift Mine, Lanchester; St Hilda Colliery, South Shields; New Brancepeth Colliery, County Durham; a UNITE Community Membership Banner and West Rainton Primary School’s Adventure Pit banner.
The parade through the city to the racecourse will start at about 8.30am.
There will be a funfair, various stalls and entertainment, including folk singer Benny Graham, on the field throughout the day.
Speeches will be made between 12.15pm and 2.30pm.
The speakers are Bolsover Labour MP Dennis Skinner, Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, Prison Officers Association general secretary Steve Gillan, NUT general secretary Christine Blower, and Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF.
Mr Hopper says Labour leader Ed Miliband was “sounded out” about attending the Gala, but nothing had been heard from him.
The blessing of banners service in Durham Cathedral starts at 3pm.
Delegations from Germany, Ukraine and Ireland are expected to attend.
Details, including events marking the strike anniversary, are at http://www.durhamminers.org
Source – Durham Times, 10 July 2014
AN award-winning documentary on the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike will be shown following the Durham Miners’ Gala.
Still the Enemy Within, which was crowd-funded and produced by Bad Bonobo Films, will be screened on Sunday July 13 at Redhills, the home of the Durham Miners’ Association in Durham City, the day after the 130th Big Meeting.
At the Sheffield International Documentary Festival,it picked up the prestigious Audience Award in the Feature category
Journalist and author Paul Mason will host a question and answer session after the showing.
“We’re honoured to be invited to show our film in Durham, to the people who lived through the reality of the strike,” said director Owen Gower.
“It’s an opportunity to share the stories of some of the wonderful, courageous and inspiring characters who we have had the privilege of getting to know. I hope we can give something back to the people who have taught us so much.”
The screening will be held at 1pm. Tickets cost £5 and £7 and are available from Redhills or from:
Source – Durham Times, 04 July 2014
Scenes from the strikes have been compiled by historians as they take a look back at communities as they took to picket lines.
A DVD, titled The Greatest Struggle, centres on when colliery workers took industrial action between 1984 and the following year in a fight for jobs it says was “one of the most bitter industrial disputes Britain has ever seen”.
Striking miners and families from Easington, Eppleton, Wearmouth, Dawdon and Murton among others feature in the film, with scenes outside the pits, streets of their villages and clashes with police included in the footage.
John Dawson, who is among the team to have put together the DVD, said:
“The year-long strike involved hardship and violence as pit communities from around the UK fought to retain their local collieries – for many the only source of employment.
“With scenes from the North East of England, we witness events with miners and their families from Ellington, Bates, Whittle, Ashington, Dawdon, Wearmouth and Easington Collieries and include many more to see how it was in that year- long strike.
“You never know who you may see in this film. It could be yourself, a family member, friend or a work colleague. As Arthur Scargill said to everyone at a huge rally, ‘When you look back, you’ll look back with pride, and you’ll say to your son or your daughter, in 1984 I took part in the greatest struggle in trade union history.’
“I fought to save your pit, I fought to save the job, I fought to save this community, but in doing so, I preserved my dignity as a human being and as a member of the finest trade union in the world.
“I was part of the strike myself so I know what it was like and it was very hard.”
The film includes footage shot by amateurs and has been put together by the Six Townships history group.
Others it has put together include Easington A Journey Through Time, Colliery Villages of Durham, Durham Miners’ Gala, Sunderland A Sentimental Journey and South Hetton Demolished.
The latest addition to the archive is £4.99 and available to all schools free.
It can be bought via http://www.sixtownships.org.uk
Source – Sunderland Echo, 20 June 2014
Still the Enemy Within is a unique insight into one of Britain’s most dramatic struggles, the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike. No experts. No politicians. Thirty years on, this is the raw first-hand experience of those who lived through the UK’s longest strike. Follow the highs and lows of that life-changing year.
In 1984, a conservative government under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared war on the unions, taking on the strongest in the country, the National Union of Mineworkers. Following a secret plan, the government began announcing the closure of coal mines, threatening not just an industry but whole communities and a way of life.
Against all the forces the government could throw at them, 160 000 coal miners took up the fight and became part of a battle that would change the course of history.
Still the Enemy Within tells the story of a group of miners and supporters who were on the frontline of the strike for an entire year. These are the people that the media dubbed ‘Arthur’s Army’ and who Margaret Thatcher called ‘the Enemy Within’. Many of them have never spoken on camera before.
Using interviews and a wealth of rare and never before seen archive, Still the Enemy Within draws together personal experiences – whether they’re tragic, funny or terrifying – to tell the story of the key moments in the strike. It puts the viewer right at the centre of events.
Follow Norman Strike, from devising ingenious ways of getting past police road blocks in a key battleground, Nottingham, to suddenly finding himself a minor celebrity after a mishap on national television; Paul Symonds, from the optimism and excitement of a young man fighting for his future to the tragic death of his best friend on a picket line; Joyce Sheppard, from her life as an ordinary housewife to becoming a political activist and facing violence as huge numbers of police are sent in to Yorkshire villages to break the strike.
They, along with a range of voices from across the country, give a frank, emotional and ultimately inspiring account of ordinary people at the centre of extraordinary events.
From the infamous Battle of Orgreave, where miners found themselves in a brutal confrontation with over five thousand police, to the hardship endured after almost a year on strike – their story is not just one of personal drama but one that raises questions about the very nature of British society.
Still the Enemy Within shatters the mainstream narrative of the Miners’ Strike. It challenges us to look again at Britain’s past and how it shaped the world today, so that in the words of Yorkshire miner Steve Hammil, “we can still seek to do something about the future”.
The film will premiere at the Sheffield Documentary Festival 2014 in June, followed by a screening on the weekend on the Durham Miners Gala, 13th July in the Miners Hall at Redhill, Durham City.
More info – http://the-enemy-within.org.uk/