The records of 200,000 miners who worked in the Durham Coalfield can now be viewed online.
Volunteers working on Mining Durham’s Hidden Depths project have spent five years cataloguing and indexing records from Durham Miners’ Association.
Their work means that visitors to the Durham County Record Office website can search for a miner online and find out what records are held in the archives for that person.
The project was launched in 2009 with funding for just six months.
However, some volunteers have continued indexing copies of arbitration committee minutes, signing-on books, accident books and other documents and now the number of miners referenced has reached 200,000.
Liz Bregazzi, county archivist, said:
“We are very grateful to all of our volunteers for their hard work in helping build up this important database.
“The database is very popular, receiving more than 100,000 page views last year and about 45,000 so far this year so it’s great that it continues to grow.
“Anyone who has checked the index in the past and not been able to find the miner they are searching for should definitely take another look now that so many more names have been added.”
However, other records give much more detail about individual miners and any injuries and compensation they and their dependants received.
The database is at www.durhamrecordoffice.org.uk
Source – Durham Times, 24 Oct 2014
A miners’ leader has called for an investigation after miners were left owing hundreds of pounds in unpaid tax.
Alan Cummings, chairman of Durham Miners’ Association, said he had received more than a dozen calls in two days from worried ex-miners who had received PAYE calculations stating they owed between £300 and £900.
The problem appeared to affect former miners who were in receipt of contribution-based employment support allowance and were also receiving a mineworkers’ pension.
Mr Cummings said in previous years tax was taken from the employment support allowance through the PAYE system without problems.
However, he believed there had been an error which meant the system had not taken tax from ex-miners for the 2013/14 tax year.
“For some reason something has gone badly wrong and the tax hasn’t been taken off,” he said.
“We now have people who have received tax demands for several hundred pounds and they want to know why the system has failed.”
He added: “This has caused a lock of shock and concern among people who aren’t on much money.”
Mr Cummings said he was talking to HMRC to find out why the problem had occurred.
The former miner has contacted Easington MP Grahame Morris asking him for help.
“This is affecting people who are often on particularly low incomes and maybe aren’t in the best of health – it beggars belief that this has occurred,” Mr Cummings added.
HMRC stressed that it sent out tax calculations rather than tax demands.
Any money owed could be paid interest free from April 2015 until March 2016, using the PAYE system in 12 chunks.
If people needed further time to pay, it could be done over two or three years.
A HMRC spokesman added: “We are unable to comment on individual taxpayers. Anyone who receives a calculation which they believe is incorrect should contact us and we will do all we can to help.”
Source – Durham Times, 16 Oct 2014
Last night the Mayor of South Tyneside carried out an official engagement which transported him back 30 years.
It was not a pleasant trip.
Coun Ernest Gibson attended the preview of an exhibition at South Shields Museum to mark the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike.
As a 19-year-old miner at Westoe Colliery in South Shields, Ernest Gibson watched and experienced the bitter dispute at first hand.
South Shields born and bred, Ernest went straight from school at 16 into mining.
Nine months later, after training, he was working underground at Westoe.
His grandfather and father had worked down the pit and Ernest grew up in a mining community in the Whiteleas area of South Shields.
He has boyhood memories of walking home from church on a Sunday with his grandfather and the friendly greetings and banter they received from mining neighbours on the way home.
“Everyone was friendly. It was the sort of community where, if you were out and it started to rain, somebody would bring your washing in and iron it for you,” says Ernest.
“There were collections for injured miners. People in that community helped each other.”
Then came the strike.
Ernest was lucky in that, as a teenager, he was still living at home, although he had to give up his Cortina car, which was his pride and joy.
“Every miner can tell a different story about the strike,” he says.
“It was a devastating time for miners with families. At Christmas they had nothing to give the children. Marriages were on the line because of money problems.
“The hardship was terrible. Kids went without.”
He believes the miners had no other option but to come out in an effort to save their jobs and communities.
“We were fighting for our communities, for the 2,500 underground jobs at Westoe, and the millions of tonnes of coal which would have lasted well into the future and provided the country with its own energy.
“Arthur Scargill may have made mistakes, but he had to stand up for the rights of the people he represented because Mrs Thatcher was out to break the miners.
“It was a case of break the most powerful union and the rest are easy to get. The miners were on her radar, her personal agenda.
“There was no option but to strike, and the miners at Westoe were totally united.”
They did not want to see the big reserves of coal at their pit sterilised by closure. Although the mayor appreciates that times have moved on and cargoes arriving in the Tyne are good for the port, the sight of coal being imported from abroad into a river which once made its name exporting vast tonnages of the commodity is still difficult to come to terms with.
His strike memories include the food banks, which are nothing new, and the street collections.
“The wider community was generous, and women were the backbone of the strike. They were fantastic, organising collections and soup kitchens,” he says.
What particularly rankles is Mrs Thatcher’s remark about “the enemy within.”
Ernest says: “It was an insult. The miners were working people fighting for the right to work and for their industry.
“Mining communities were family-orientated and had good ethics. They were generous people but they were treated worse than criminals.
“We were fighting to save something important and when the strike ended we marched back with heads held high.”
Ernest was elected as a councillor for Whiteleas in 1999, and is a member of the Harton and Westoe Miners Heritage Group.
The group will be taking part in a march, with mining banners, from the museum on Saturday at around 11am with the Westoe Colliery brass band.
The exhibition, which opens today, will run over the weekend.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 07 March 2014
MINERS who broke the strike and “scabbed” can still expect to be blanked in the street 30 years on, according to a former union official.
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, 10 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 an influx of problem tenants and class A drugs.
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.
Source – Shields Gazette, 03 Mar 2014
They were supposedly part of a charitable scheme that offered alternative employment to the region’s young out-of-work miners.
At their height, the work camps of East Cleveland attracted the great and the good of depression-era Britain and even received a visit from Prince George.
But new research into archive documents and the writings of a self-styled “English Fuhrer” reveal the sinister true motives behind the camps – the Nazi creed of Heartbreak Hill.
During the Great Depression, between 1928 and 1933, the closure of many of East Cleveland’s ironstone mines devastated thousands of families as unemployment soared to 91%.
Under the guidance of their friend Rolf Gardiner, husband and wife Major “Jim” and Ruth Pennyman, of Ormesby Hall, began buying stretches of land around Margrove Park, Boosbeck and Lingdale.
The scheme, known as Heartbreak Hill, worked by providing plots of land that the miners could cultivate as farmland, the miners were then paid in produce.
The plan was lauded as a great success and attracted the attention of 1930s high society with Prince George’s visiting 1933.
Yet behind the plaudits and royal visits, it appears the scheme was designed to promote an ideology founded in Nazism – and the connection can be traced to Rolf Gardiner.
Aristocratic and charismatic, the blond haired, blue-eyed Gardiner spoke fluent German, was a prolific writer, folk dancer and a rural revivalist.
He helped pioneer organic farming and co-founded Kinship in Husbandry, a forerunner of today’s Soil Association.
But Gardiner was also an anti-Semite, a Nazi sympathiser and the self-described Fuhrer of German-style youth movements in England.
In his writings found by the Gazette at Tees Archives in Middlesbrough, Gardiner rants of how a “Jew-controlled press, cinema, wireless and advertising,” had “corrupted the soul of England”.
In another piece Gardiner wrote: “Germany has the innate power to claim captaincy of European civilisation at a time when it is menaced from without and within.”
Perhaps most unsettling is the letter Gardiner wrote on April 25, 1933 to the infamous Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.
Gardiner begins: “Esteemed Herr Reich Minister,” before introducing himself as the “Fuhrer of a young English generation”.
Explaining the difficulties he had faced while setting up a far-right youth movement in England he wrote: “An entire old world stood opposed to our direction and wanted to reverse it. For we sought the new order of a third Reich…
“We wanted to bring about not brotherhood but spiritual combat… We thought in an undemocratic and un-pacifist way.”
Goebbels immediately published the letter as an example of Nazi support in Britain.
It was in 1929 that Gardiner first wrote to the Pennymans with his idea of politicising Cleveland youths under the guise of work camps for the unemployed.
Beginning, “My dear Jim and Ruth,” Gardiner wrote: “Our business is to create something new, something rooted in faith and obedience which may survive the storms which loom and break over England.
“Here’s your job! To initiate something new, and to kindle the life quality where it has been quenched.
“In the neighbourhood of every fluctuating industry today, we ought to be starting some form of rural activity which will about and train the surplus young men.
“Try to get the young socialists and communists to meet the “Imps”… Start your smaller discussion groups.
“Get them to report the result of their discussions to the united assembly afterwards, but be careful whom you put in charge of the groups.”
“You’ll have to sift your human material somewhat cunningly at first and pick out the live-wires from the furred ones: for upon your original nucleus, your larger one will later on depend…
…Have organization and real discipline whenever it is necessary.”
Throughout the 1930s, Gardiner set up similar work camps across Britain, all following the same ideology.
The Gardiner’s camps received regular visits from Nazi youth groups led by Georg Gotsch, director of the Musikheim in Frankfurt, described by Gardiner as being “a true executor of the ideas of the National Socialist state”.
In an Evening Gazette interview after his visit to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jim Pennyman said: “So much had been said about the bullying of the Jews and political opponents that Hitler’s constructive ideas had been overlooked in many circles.
“The treatment of individual Jews is to English eyes inexcusable but this is not the first time, that in a revolution, people have been deprived of their property.
“There are two classes of Jews to whom the Hitler regime objects, namely the international financier and the Jews who filter in from the East.
“They say Germany is for the Germans, and no foreigner will be allowed to own land or have an important position in the state service.”
While this doesn’t look good in retrospect, it should be understood that in the early 1930s, the true nature of Nazi ideology was poorly understood by most.
At that time there was widespread feeling that the Treaty of Versailles imposed unfair punishment on Germany and that the Nazi’s demands were in some ways justified.
And it should be noted that when asked if he would like to see any form of Hitlerism or Fascism introduced into Britain, Jim’s reply was: “Most decidedly No”.
Also “Red Ruth” Pennyman, as she was known, considered herself to be a communist.
It seems that towards the final years of the scheme, Ruth’s influence succeeded in marginalising Gardiner.
Finally, the record shows that towards the outbreak of WW2, the Pennymans distanced themselves from Gardiner.
Major Pennyman was promoted to Colonel and remained steadfastly loyal to Britain.
Gardiner himself turned his back on Nazism but did keep in touch with his friend, the convicted war criminal and Reichs minister for agriculture Richard Darre.
And history shows that despite the efforts of a fanatical few, the ideals of National Socialism never caught on with the people of East Cleveland.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 24 Feb 2014