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What did the strike mean to you?

Police and miners during protests on Emmerson Avenue, Stainforth. Picture: Liz Mockler D4397LM

Police and miners during protests on Emmerson Avenue, Stainforth. Picture: Liz Mockler D4397LM

The miners’ strike of 1984/85 was one of the most bitter industrial disputes in history.

Families and communities were torn apart by the poverty and division that the year-long dispute caused.

As the 30th anniversary of the dispute approaches we are preparing a commemorative Free Press supplement to mark three decades since the miners took on the Thatcher Government.

As part of that historical document we want you, our readers, to tell us your stories of the miners’ strike in Doncaster.

Tell us what it meant to you to be part of that mammoth struggle which shaped the way the country has developed in the years since.

How do you think things would have turned out if all the country’s miners had joined the strike?

What if the strike had been avoided? Might we still have something left of the industry that employed 195,500 people in 1984?

Or was the industry doomed to closure for politcal reasons no matter what the miners did?

Ken Frost worked for 15 years for the Coal Board as a fitter and told his story in the book Earning A Living. Ken, who became a miner in 1979, says the 52-week strike was “a very hard time”.

He said: “My wife was seriously ill so could not work and we had two young children. We got a bit of help from both our families but the bills mounted up. Our mortgage was frozen and we had just £29 a week to live on.

“We lived in a big old semi- and while I was on strike we all lived in one room because we couldn’t afford to heat it properly.”

Six months after the strike, Ken’s pit at Beighton closed. He said: “The pits began to close down, one by one. You didn’t need to be a brain surgeon to know the job was coming to an end.

“When I think of all we suffered I’d like to think that we achieved something but I’m afraid we did not because eight years later our industry was more or less over.”

For that year the faces of Arthur Scargill, South Yorkshire’s President of the National Union of Mineworkers, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were never out of the news. Theirs was the public battle but in families in South Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Kent, Durham, Lancashire, North Nottinghamshire and Scottish coalfields there was a battle to survive as striking miners stood up for their principles and relied on strike pay and collections to pay their bills.

Friends became enemies as they clashed on picket lines and relations with police reached an all-time low.

Some of those divisions will never heal.

But there was also humour and a unity and a common cause among ordinary and extraordinary people involved in the strike that seems to have been lost. Please share with The Free Press your memories of that time. Get in touch via letter to: Doncaster Free Press, Editorial, 39 Printing Office Street, Doncaster, DN1 1TN, email, editorial@doncastertoday.co.uk Facebook at DonnyFP and please send us any pictures.

 

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