Dark days of mining strike in Doncaster set to be commemorated

Police and miners during protests on Emmerson Avenue, Stainforth as Hatfield Colliery once more becomes a flashpoint.
Police and miners during protests on Emmerson Avenue, Stainforth as Hatfield Colliery once more becomes a flashpoint.

The dark days of the crippling year long miners’ strike are to be revisited in Doncaster - 30 years on from the end of one of the most bitter chapters in British history.

March will mark the 30th anniversary of the miners’ return to work following a 12 month battle over a series of devastating pit closures which wrecked communities, divided families and saw scenes of bloody violence on the streets of our town.

Now politicians, star names and scores of miners who battled through the 1984-85 conflict are to come together once more for a day long commemoration to remember some of the people and events that took place at Hatfield Colliery during the strike.

The Broadway Hotel in Dunscroft will be focal point for the celebration on March 8 which will include speeches, music, a march and tributes to pit workers and officials who battled tirelessly during the campaign which pitted Arthur Scargill’s National Union of Mineworkers against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government.

Pete Thompson, who was landlord of the pub during the conflict, said it will give people the chance to reflect on the highs and lows of one of history’s biggest flashpoints.

He said: “The comradeship and togetherness that existed during the strike is still there. Although the village may have moved away from mining now, the spirit is still strong and still there and people want to remember the things that happened.

“They were very difficult times for a lot of people and people still talk about 1984-85 regularly even now.”

The Long March Back event will kick off at 11am at the pub in Broadway when guests will include Don Valley MP Caroline Flint, Mayor Ros Jones and even singer-songwriter Paul Heaton, former lead singer of The Housemartins and The Beautiful South and a keen socialist.

They will be joined by Bolsover MP Dennis Skinner and miners’ champion for the unveiling of a new banner commemorating people involved in the mining industry at Hatfield down the decades.

The new mural features tributes to collier Freddy Matthews, a Hatfield pitman who was killed on the picket line during a separate strike in 1972.

Mr Matthews, whose brother and fellow picket Jimmy will read a touching testimonial at the unveiling, died at Keadby Wharf near Scunthorpe when he was crushed by a lorry while campaigning for better wages during a seven week dispute which brought power cuts and a state of emergency to Britain.

His funeral was so well attended that Broadway in Dunscroft was brought to a standstill as thousands of miners paid their respects. Musician Alun Parry will perform the touching Ballad of Freddy Matthews at the event with Hatfield Colliery Band and the Sheffield City Pipe Band also providing music.

Mr Matthews’ picture will feature within the newly embroidered banner which will also include portraits of Mick McGahey, the firebrand president of the Scottish miners and vice president of the NUM, David Douglass, who was secretary of Hatfield Main branch from 1980 to its official winding up in 2005, Hebert Smith, who was president of the Yorkshire Miners and the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain as well as Rosa Luxembourg, the German Marxist revolutionary murdered during the failed German workers’ revolution of 1918.

A collage on the reverse of the banner will feature the names of scores of flying pickets, protesters and fundraisers involved in the dispute.

Added Mr Thompson: “The banner is dedicated to the women of the community who organised food and welfare as well as taking part in marching, picketing and public speaking in the struggles of 1984 to 1993. It is also to remember the unnamed thousands who stood firm for 12 months loyal to their community and families and the NUM.”

Hatfield is now Doncaster’s last remaining pit - with Kellingley the only other Yorkshire survivor - although that too is scheduled to close by the end of this year.

And Hatfield too faces an uncertain future with the union providing a £4 million bridging loan to keep the pit - now in private hands - open for the forseeable future.

The day will draw to a close with a social gathering at the Pit Club featuring live music and a display of photos by late photo journalist Martin Jenkinson who captured the events of the conflict on camera.

Added Mr Thompson: “The villages around here have changed a lot, but people are resillient.

“The miners were fighting for their future and knew the consequences of what would happen if they didn’t. That spirit is still very much alive.”

“We want as many people as possible to come along and remember the events of thirty years ago and celebrate the contribution people made during those days.”