1984 - Page 9
Thousands Of Pickets Surrounded Orgreave Coking Plant
During the summer 5,000 pickets led by Arthur Scargill had surrounded Orgreave coking plant, near Rotherham in South Yorkshire with the aim of stopping lorries carrying out the fuel for distribution. 18th June 1984 was the day when things came to a crescendo. 4,600 police in riot gear, including 42 mounted police on horses attended the Orgreave plant. The violence increased, there being about 8,500 people there. The Chief of police called in the cavalry to disperse the crowd, and it worked, for the mob broke ranks and many fled into the nearby woods, followed by 24 Alsatian police dogs. There were many arrests and injuries. It was a bruising defeat for the pickets. From 21st June 1984 miners only picketed their own place of work being pinned in by the police and retreated back into Yorkshire. 20,000 miners fed up with the strike and all its problems applied for redundancy terms.
Police Used Riot Shields
Police used riot shields for the first time North Nottinghamshire during June 1984 to repel the 400 or so pickets outside the NUM offices at Berry Hill, Mansfield. Previously around 100 pickets had occupied the site.
Andy Stewart MP (Con) for Sherwood launched a blistering attack in the House of Commons claiming that his constituents were being intimidated by the flying pickets in the same way as the Jews in Nazi Germany.
Agreement With Other Unions
Scargill had reached agreement with the two Rail Unions, the main Seamen’s Union and main Steel Union hoping for a blockade of coal and oil supplies to power stations and steel works, however the rail men at Shirebrook depot could not be persuaded not to move coal from the local pits so it failed, and later following a further meeting with Ian McGregor that sounded encouraging some of the miners at Shirebrook returned to work and the pit started producing coal again. This was looked upon as treachery by the strikers.
New NUM Area Council
Branch elections in July 1984 by the working miners created a new Nottinghamshire NUM Area council. However the strikers took over the Berry Hill offices and robbed the area of a say in a national NUM conference debating a new disciplinary rule known as the ‘Star Chamber’. And the NUM committee backed it despite a ruling that the Nottinghamshire Branch should have a say. On 11th July the NUM introduced Rule 51 aimed at removing officers who opposed the strike. On 16th July 1984 Ian MacGregor wrote to all miners saying he would not withdraw streamlining proposals.
By 30th July 1984 There Were 58 Pits At Work.
But the talks lurched on and there was even a live TV debate on Channel 4 between Scargill and NCB Chairman Ian McGregor on 22nd August 1984. MacGregor was born in Scotland but had lived and worked in USA for many years and was classed as an American.
Flying Pickets At Babbington
Flying pickets from Yorkshire engulfed Babbington (Nottinghamshire) and sabotaged the main fan by a device that stopped oil flowing to the bearings of the fan and caused a considerable amount of damage requiring the fan to be stopped. The men of course had to be brought out of the pit.
Asfordby New Mine
Work started at Asfordby (Leicestershire) in August 1984 six years after the original planning application.
A special freezing process was to be adopted whilst sinking the 2 shafts, with drilling compartments being constructed partway down the shafts.
Temporary engine houses, offices and pithead baths were erected.
Ugly Scenes At Silverhill
In August 1984 there were some ugly scenes at Silverhill (Nottinghamshire) where 1,000 pickets caused some £5,000 worth of damage at the working mine. A hit squad of striking miners raided a NCB depot.
500 pickets turned up again on 9th August 1984.
NCB buses were gutted in an arson attack at Pleasley Vale (Derbyshire). The ones who did it should never have been allowed to work in the pits again. Couldn’t they see that to replace them cost money out of the public purse and aggravated the situation even more.
Police At Cuckney
Police clashed with about 2,000 men at Cuckney crossroads.
Scargill announced that any further talks were off because Ian McGregor said that the issue of uneconomic pits was on the agenda and accused him of lying on TV.
Talks in Edinburgh
However the talks resumed a couple of days later in September for 2 tough days of talking in Edinburgh and McGregor said that new initiatives were offered but the NUM were being impractical and Scargill scoffed at the idea that miners would be asked to vote on the final terms put forward by the Board.
Ugly Scenes Also At New Houghton
On 13th September 1984 there were ugly scenes in New Houghton as striking miners and women gathered to jeer a working collier as he returned home. Police set up a line to hold back the crowd. Similar scenes were found at Kirkby-in-Ashfield and there were scuffles between miners’ wives. Further scenes were seen at Meden Vale Village Hall where miners’ wives took over. The battle buses taking men to work in North Derbyshire were attacked daily and were screened with mesh but unfortunately as one can see in the photograph arson destroyed 2 of them.
The TUC Congress in Brighton called for a reappraisal of the strike, but they got pledges of financial help and confirmed its policy of not crossing Official picket lines and also offered constructive support by not moving supplies of coal or oil to power stations.
The Labour Party Conference in Blackpool was an embarrassment for Neil Kinnock and Arthur Scargill succeeded in his pressure for a debate on the police and their picket line conduct.
Miners In North Nottinghamshire And South Derbyshire Vote To Form A New Union
By late September 1984, 28,000 miners North Nottinghamshire and 3,200 miners in South Derbyshire plus some small splinter groups voted to form a breakaway union. There was to be no compulsory redundancies at closing mines for there was to be an offer of another job elsewhere with generous transfer payments. Many men would transfer to Nottinghamshire and North Derbyshire. The government was to invest some £750m into the industry.
Assassination Attempt On Margaret Thatcher
On 12th October 1984 in the early hours of the day a bomb was detonated at the Grand Hotel Brighton by Patrick Magee. He had planted the bomb under the floor of room 659 some 2 weeks before in readiness for Conservative members attending their annual conference. His intention was to assassinate Margaret Thatcher but she was not in that part of the building and unfortunately others were killed or maimed. Whether the reason was political or because of the stand against the unions I do not know.
Margaret Thatcher PM wrote to the Nottinghamshire miners to thank them for their efforts. A judge backed three North Derbyshire miners by ruling that the strike was unlawful. A Review body was established but did not save any of the proposed closures.
NACODS Voted To Go On Strike
On 16th October 1984 the 17,000 NACODS members voted to go on strike, unhappy with the Colliery revue procedure. 80 pickets tried to stop the afternoon shift at Ollerton on that day and again 130 pickets on night shift on 18th October. However the decision to strike was called off on 24th October 1984 when a deal was agreed.
British Coal Enterprise Set Up
British Coal Enterprise was set up under the Chairmanship of H Merrik Spanton (4612) ex-Director of North Nottinghamshire Area) (died Nov 2007), to help create jobs for ex-miners.
Picketing Slows - Trickle Back To Work
By now there was hardly any picketing North Nottinghamshire and their attention turned to the steady trickle back to work of Yorkshire miners and that caused violent clashes with the police.
Newstead to Bentinck Connection
An underground drift linked Newstead to Bentinck in November 1984. A 1,420 yards (1,300m) long drift from Newstead pit bottom was driven to Bentinck Waterloo workings some 200 odd yards (183m) below. Coal production at Newstead from the High Hazles would be transported via this later in 1986 and raised there for coal preparation. The Tupton seam was abandoned, the coal preparation at Newstead was closed and coal was transported for now by road to Bentinck (South Nottinghamshire).
Public Opinion Turned Against The Strike
Public opinion turned against the strike due to the numerous violent scenes. In South Wales a taxi driver was killed when a striker dropped a lump of concrete from a bridge onto the cab.
However the strikers and their families still banded together and in particular the women who sang songs as they worked in the soup kitchens. Christmas was bleak for some of them albeit that some of the strikers took to stealing coal and vegetables.
Flood Back To Work
Around 900 strikers abandoned the strike. In the pit villages there was hatred, even in families where they had differences in opinion regarding the strike. Men returning to work were spat at and called scabs. Their wives were treated similarly and some had their house windows broken. Even brother against brother and friends fell out, and some men even split up with their wives.
Was it worth it? It was a lost cause from day one. Lessons should have been learned from the last major strike in 1926. In fact practically every strike in the mining industry has ended in abject failure and tears. Even the ones that were ‘won’, if one examines the details it took years to try to recover the pay that was lost (in fact one never does), apart from the grief that never goes away.
Trickle Back To Work
There was a trickle back to work by miners in North Derbyshire in July, a steady return at the beginning of the month and by mid November this had turned to a flood. Nottinghamshire NUM Secretary Henry Richardson refused to speak to his brother because he had returned to work. By December the situation in North Nottinghamshire had eased, and then there was a flare up in Yorkshire when more miners broke ranks and returned to work.
There was record 3-shift attendance in North Derbyshire Area of 4,713 men on 3rd – 4th December 1984 and since the end of November 3,942 NUM members had returned to work. In Leicestershire and South Derbyshire parts of South Midlands Area there were only about 400 NUM still out on strike.
NACODS Reached A Last Minute Settlement
NACODS 17,000 members of the pit Deputies union had threatened to strike from 25th October 1984 but reached a last minute settlement with the Coal Board, which they claimed offered them exactly what the NUM was seeking.
Violence returned as police were subjected to petrol bomb attacks, homemade spears and bolts.
Throughout the coalfields 800 NUM miners went back to work on 5th November 1984.
Arthur Scargill Visited Shirebrook Miners’ Welfare
Arthur Scargill visited Shirebrook Miners’ Welfare (Derbyshire) on 15th November 1984 and said that the strike was as solid as the day it started. That was not true as seen. The previous day pickets had erected barricades in Yorkshire to try to stop miners going back to work.
It would appear that foreign money was donated to the NUM cause from Eastern Europe and Russia and some secretly sent from Libya.
During this period of unrest the pumps in the low Top Hard horizon at Creswell were almost swamped. Management team members were on constant pumping duties to try to save the situation. A new modern pump house at Hollow Lodge was commissioned outbye later in December 1986, following the drivage of a new road. At Langwith pumping station, (North Derbyshire) water was only allowed by the Rivers Authority to be pumped and discharged to the River Poulter during the winter months November to April.
Voted To Go-It-Alone
Fearing a national NUM ‘kangaroo court’ the Nottinghamshire miners voted to go-it-alone and blocked the ‘Star Chamber’ disciplinary rule.
The police in the county were criticised in a Civil Liberties report.
Working Miners Warned They Could Face Expulsion From the NUM
In November working miners North Nottinghamshire were warned that they could face expulsion from the NUM over proposed ‘go-it-alone’ rule changes. Roy Lynk, Neil Greatrex and others decided that apart from the Nottinghamshire miners not being given the chance to vote and the dictatorial attitude of Arthur Scargill they would form a separate union within the NUM. The UDM, the Union of Democratic Mineworkers was founded in December 1984.
Inclined Bunker At Thoresby Operational
The 1,500 tonnes capacity inclined elliptically segmental blocked bunker constructed at Thoresby was operational the coal sliding down the 60 degrees slope into a hopper at the base and loaded out onto a conveyor delivering to the skip pockets. I had been along earlier to see this being built and was impressed by the organisation and in particular the great detail and control set up by the surveyors at the pit.
Cadley Hill Heading Machine
Buchan’s concrete lining of 16 feet 3 inches (4.925m) internal diameter was installed in a drift at Cadley Hill (South Midlands Area). A giant heading machine with a circular cutting head was installed to drive the heading.
Underground Fire At Rawdon
There was an underground fire in December at Rawdon in the South Midlands so the reserves were allocated to Donisthorpe (Leicestershire) where the output for the complex had been produced since August 1980.
Trials At Ireland
Trials with an Eimco 625 with high pressure water at 30,000 to 40,000 psi modified bucket loader with quick detachable system allowing provision for a separate boom drill and shovel were carried out at Ireland (North Derbyshire).
Tempting Offers To Return To Work
Workers returning to work the week before Christmas got Christmas holiday pay, service bonus in addition to grade rates and allowances that went with their job. Also all those returning to work were to get their annual holiday pay 4 weeks after re-starting work. The holiday pay was based on 12½ days for those who had been on strike since March 1984 and was up to £326, depending upon their grade. The offer was cash tax free for the 7 weeks up to Christmas and around 1,800 miners in North Derbyshire including Warsop Main and Shirebrook crossed the picket lines.
Arthur Scargill stood on a picket line on Christmas Day 1984 – what for? Did he get the £4 a day for picket line duty? It was probably to show to the public and his members that he was one of them.
Thousands had been arrested over the strike period and thousands had suffered great trauma and hardship. It was reported that a couple of miners had committed suicide, not being able to cope with the situation. Hundreds of miners as well as hundreds of policemen had been injured but I personally could not condone striking miners throwing missiles at policemen. Again mounted policemen charged the huge crowds of striking miners dispersing them and on film are seen hitting men with batons. It was six of one and half a dozen of the other. It was obvious to me and the majority of the staff members that they could not win because it was a losing battle.
Walton Back Lane, Unnamed seam, probably Ashgate 5/11/1984.
- Canal site, Top Soft, Upper Top Soft, Lower, Roof Soft and Deep Soft, 3/8/1984
- Clover Nook, 4th Waterloo, 3/1984
- Donington, Pottery 13/1/1984
- Glapwell, Wales, Unnamed seam, Clowne, Upper Foxearth, Lower Foxearth, Sough Top leaf and Sough Bottom leaf, and Furnace, 28/5/1981 – 29/10/1984
- Oakes Row 1st and 2nd Pipers 5/4/1984
- Old Whittington, Mickley Thick 11/1984
- Pilsley Saw Mills 1st Waterloo 4/1984
- Pinxton Wharf (Fitzwise Ltd) Coombe, Top Hard and Dunsil, July 1983-June 1984
- Ripley By Pass, Top Hard 3/1984