LIFE ON THE FRONT LINE
In the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike
PART FIVE: June 1984
Friday, 1st June 1984.
Orders for today, Calverton Notts. Set off and nearly got there, managed to get through a couple of roadblocks but time’s running out, we had to get back to Orgreave. We turned round and headed back.
When we arrived, we took our time walking down to the front line. We were in no rush to get arrested and it’s a good job too. We were about to join in a push against the police lines, the pickets launched themselves en-masse at the police front lines, they must have been fifteen deep, all I could hear was repeated shouts of, ‘Zulu’ and chanting, ‘here we go, here we go here we go’ oh’. The police retaliated with a baton charge, there was quite a few pickets badly injured who had gone down on the floor in the ‘push’. The police were not shy about reaching over their shields with their truncheons and hitting men on the head.
After this the pickets fell back and then a hail of missiles went into the thick ranks of police. At one time the police line broke to let an Ambulance through to reach injured men from both sides, bloody hell I don’t know how the hospital is coping with all these casualties. It went quiet in the afternoon, we were all ‘very lucky today’ not one of our team injured or arrested.
Saturday, 2nd June 1984.
Set off for Orgreave, found out the lorries not turning out today or Sunday. Went home, early finish today.
Monday, 4th June 1984.
Babbington Pit Notts, then fall back to Orgreave. Set off down the M1 south bound, all the way down to Tibshelf Services. We went into the services carpark, right at the back of the carpark is a little country road, that takes you into the heart of Notts. Up to now only the pickets know about it. Just as we drove through the trees and onto the country lane, about a hundred bobbie’s came towards us, just arriving in their vans, they had come to seal the secret access into Notts off. Well they know about it now.
When we arrived at Babbington it was fairly quiet by Orgreave standards. We had a little push, giving it some Zulu, a lamp post went over, one bobby was hurt and several others were sent flying down an embankment. We made our way to Orgreave.
All quiet today at Orgreave, a lovely day. We just sat in front of the massed police lines, at a safe distance sunbathing. They had all their full clobber on and then there was the long shield police. They decided to do a bit of “shield banging” [banging their truncheons on their shields] very intimidating, trying to entice us to charge them. ‘Not today‘, we just carried on sunbathing laid on the grass with one eye open.
Tuesday, 5th June 1984.
Cotgrave pit today, set off at 9.30am, to catch the afternoon shift going in. The police must have known our destination as all roads were blocked. Those that set off earlier than us got through, the police are at it again, letting so many pickets through to find out their destination, then concentrating their resources on ‘that pit’.
Some Silverwood lads did manage to get through. They managed to put two NCB coal lorry windscreens through. Back to the Baggin’ for some snap. Then fall back to Orgreave.
All quiet on the front line today. Had a walk along the police front line, at a safe distance, I witnessed a very strange sight. The front lines of police I was facing were no more than five foot six tall, they all looked scruffy and unkempt, their uniforms didn’t fit properly, their boots were unpolished and looked too big for them and they turned up at the toes.
“Are these really policemen?”
Later the pickets had a push at the police front line, we sat on the grass field facing the massed police ranks. The riot police had a little bang on their shields, using their truncheons for a couple of minutes, the noise was deafening, but didn’t bother us. Had a nice quiet day, went home.
Wednesday, 6th June 1984.
Big day today. ‘Operation paint tin’.
Orders for today Welbeck Colliery Notts. 4am start, then ‘fall back to Orgreave’. We had a ‘stash of ammo’ well hidden in the bushes, above the slip road on the Sheffield Parkway where the ‘Coke convoys’ came off. There is a rumour going round that someone is going round the pubs in Sheffield offering ‘ HGV drivers’ a hundred pounds a shift to drive lorries in these scab convoys.
I overlaid, waking up at 8.am with the clock in my hand. I got straight out of bed and set off to pick the lads up. After picking my crew up we headed straight for Orgreave. We parked up near the Plough pub at Catcliffe and walked up to the Sheffield parkway. We climbed up the embankment to our favourite spot. Overlooking the slip road where the lorry convoy came off. We had missed the first convoy of coke lorries. We checked our ‘stash of hidden ammo’ and waited for the second convoy. We had only been waiting twenty minutes when it came about 11.30am.
The same plan of ‘action’ as the convoy came off the Sheffield Parkway and slowed down to negotiate the bend onto Poplar way. They slowed down and we were in the trees above, ready for action.
Again, we gave it to them and did they get it today! Lorries, the police escort. They [the police] were in vans and motorbikes. They did the same again! The motorbike cops drove up the steep embankment and fell off their bikes. The vans full of police tried too!!! This is so funny. We stood at the top of the embankment, bent double with laughter. The police van wheels were skidding on the banking, motorbike cops were stood over their bikes, scratching their heads. We made our getaway, running onto the golf course overlooking the embankment and detouring back to the front line at Orgreave.
Later that day, making our way home. I made a point driving down the Parkway and have a nosey at the scene of the ‘ambush’. You could see all the tyre marks in the grass where the police escort vehicles tried to drive up the embankment. WE’RE ALL SHARING THE MEDAL TODAY.
Thursday, 7th June 1984.
Today were heading for Cotgrave Colliery, Notts. We set off about 9.30 am for the afters shift. Police must have known our destination. All the roads were blocked, those lads that set off earlier than us got through we went to the Baggin’ for some snap. Then to Orgreave.
There’s some really bad things going off at these Notts pits. The police are really giving the Notts striking miners a terrible time, one of the stories we heard was about the wife of a Notts Striking miner, arrested on the picket line at Cotgrave, she was put in a police cell for 18 hours with no water, no food, no toilet facilities, not even allowed a phone call to let anybody know where she was and it was this woman’s time of month’ it beggars belief.
Well it was funny, as we were driving to Orgreave ‘Wipeout’ came on the radio [the old 1960’s record] I was trying to drive and everybody in the car was slapping the car seats and facia in tune to the record, everyone was hyped up ready for action. After what I’ve seen at this place, I just hope it isn’t us that gets ‘wiped out’ today.
I pulled up outside the Plough pub in Catcliffe. We all popped in for a quick pint, then we came out and headed up to the picket line at the junction of Poplar Way and Orgreave Lane. When we got there with all the other pickets, I looked at the riot police in front of us, they must have been ten deep and they ‘LOOKED MEAN’. Me and the lad’s got as near as we could to the front line. Things tensed up, you could see that the riot police were agitated, the convoy of lorries were here!
As the convoy got near us, a deafening noise erupted from the pickets, ‘ZULU’ masses of pickets rushed and charged the police front line. I was at the front again in the crush, the riot police were reaching out over their shields with their truncheons and hitting miners over the head or shoulders, the pickets moved back for safety and stood about 20 feet away from the police lines, then all of a sudden they charged. They looked mean. We all ran for our lives, as we were running Daz Goulty came to a policeman on the floor, he stopped and gave him a good kick, then set off running again, that was when he got overtaken by a ‘flying truncheon.’
Frank next to me was chased by a truncheon wielding bobby. One picket sat on a wall ‘just watching’ was attacked by several police and severely beaten with truncheons, they broke his arm and leg, he then fell head first into a field. Nobody dare stop and help him. As I was running from the riot police back to the pub [Plough], I overtook Jack Taylor, the Yorkshire NUM official, he ran like a duck bless him. As we were running together I said “Come on Jack their not taking any prisoners today” then I shot off. I don’t know whether or not they got him.
Friday, 8th June 1984.
Orders for today. Orgreave. When we got there this morning it was the same thing, lines of police. They must have been 20 deep. Cavalry tucked away at the back. Hundreds of pickets stood about or sat down on the grass. It was all quiet at first then the pickets stood in front of the police lines all shouted ‘Zulu’ all the pickets stood around rushed to join in the mass push.
The police front line nearly crumbled in one place under the pressure from pickets, it held but only just! Police stood in the second and third rows held their mates up and stopped them falling over backwards. After twenty minutes of pushing and shoving from both sides the police reached over their shields brandishing their truncheons and not afraid to use them. It quietened down, but only for five minutes.
There was a gap a ‘no man’s land’ of about five yards between pickets and police. ‘Then it came’ massed shield banging by hundreds of police riot squad. They were reaching round the front of their shields with their truncheons and in unison, hammering their shields for all they were worth. If you shut your eyes and listened, you would have thought you were facing ‘Zulu’s’, the noise was deafening and intimidating. We knew ‘what was coming next’. The police ranks parted and the cavalry charged out.
I was stood at the far end of the front picket line, well away from the main ‘cavalry charge’ which was followed by the short shield riot squad. I retreated quick and fast into the fields next to the road, looking behind me all the time. I stood at a safe distance for a while watching pickets getting clobbered and then arrested or visa-versa. The lorries have done for today. As soon as I thought it safe to do so, I made my way back to the car. After a short wait the rest of lads turned up. ‘One by one’ but all safe and unhurt.
Got a few bob spare so I went for a drink tonight in the Titanic WMC at Rawmarsh. I got talking to Stuart Traquair a Manvers Main lad. He wanted to come picketing, like a lot of other’s, especially the older end. They were incensed by what they had seen on television. How pickets were being badly treated by the police. I told Stuart and his mates I’d lost four men the other day and was looking for new recruits. I had loads of volunteers.
Saturday-Sunday, 9th-10th June 1984.
My wife, Gay and kids are coming home today after visiting her parents in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire. Her Grandad gave her 100 pounds to help out. I didn’t go out picketing this weekend, though some cars went to Scunthorpe in the afternoons.
Monday, 11th June 1984.
Destination, Welbeck Colliery Notts. Set off at 4.00am. We could not get through, got turned back at Worksop and escorted out of Nottinghamshire by a police car. When our police escort left us near the M1 motorway, not being deterred we sneaked down a country lane and made it to Cresswell.
When we arrived we went straight to the front line and had one little push against the police lines. It went quiet after this so we made our way home. In the evening I picked Captain Bob. About 6.30pm. It’s our usual routine. Made our way to the Baggin’ for the next day’s orders. When we got there me and Captain Bob sat at a table in the club. I went up to our NUM man sat at a table at the back of the room. On his own with his back to the wall. In front of him was the usual bit of paper with tomorrows ‘target’ wrote on it. I gave him my name and the names of picket passengers and he would give me a pound for each picket and me, my petrol money. It’s all top secret.
Tonight me and Bob decided to break into our picket money and have a pint. We sat there supping it like a budgie with chapped lips. The tables near to us were full of young steelworkers and their wives. You would not think there was a strike going on looking around you. The Baggin’ club is situated slap-bang next to a massive ‘British Steel works’. Someone put ‘Wham’ on the jukebox. ‘Wake me up before you-go-go’. How appropriate that’s what the wife says to me when I get up for picket duty. I’m sick of hearing it now, it’s all you hear as you walk in the club nowadays. I’m under orders from the rest of the lads to save their picket money until Friday. So they can go out and have a pint. That’s if they’re still in one piece and not locked up.
Tuesday, 12th June 1984.
No Orgreave. Mansfield Colliery today. Set off at 10.am.Got through OK. At Pleasley, on the Mansfield road there is a little alleyway at the back of some terraced houses. Used this route many times, the police never found out about this one. We drove down the alley where they hang their washing out and got back onto the main Mansfield road, by-passing police roadblocks.
Arrived at Mansfield Pit about 11.30am.Weather dull and heavy. It was a fair turnout for South Notts. About 500 of us there, although a lot did not get through. Some of the scabs smile at you as they go in. A full team of flying pickets today and no ‘Orgreave!
Wednesday, 13th June 1984.
Today’s destination Harworth Colliery, Notts. Weather dull and humid, set off from the Baggin’ at 10am. Managed to get about a mile and a half away from the pit, then had to walk the rest of the way.
About a 1000 to 1500 pickets here today, we had two little pushes at the police lines. I took some photo’s. Right bastards the police, one minute they’re talking nice to you the next they reach into the pickets and pull one out “arrested!” They did this twice, a copper in front of me got hit in the face with a flying egg! He didn’t like that. Brian Lonsdale started picketing today [Silverwood underground loco driver].
HM Police Force today were from Worcester, Thames, Nottinghamshire and Hampshire.
Friday, 15th June 1984.
Set off for Cadley Hill Colliery, NCB South Midlands Area. £10 petrol money. Got through with no trouble, a lot of pickets went down the M1 motorway and got turned back the pillocks. We had more sense and went down the M1 and came off onto the A38 and followed the Burton-on-Trent signs, then headed for Swadlincote on the A444.
When we got on the picket line it was a beautiful sunny day. It was a big turnout, there was no trouble but as more and more pickets turned up, the more police came out of the pit gates to swell their numbers. Police using different tactics today, they stop all scabs going in and let the Official NUM pickets talk to them, they even let pickets onto buses to talk to the scabs. I think it’s a plan, they don’t give a shit about Staffordshire and Midlands pits. It’s the Nottinghamshire coalfield they want to keep open.
Monday, 18th June 1984.
The Battle of Orgreave via the coking plant.
“What a beautiful, bright and still morning”
Then we fought them with the only weapons
we could find, bricks and stones, against
horses’ shields and truncheons.
Me and Captain Bob Taylor went to the Silverwood miners welfare Sunday evening for our orders the next day. There’s something big going down tomorrow. Me and Bob sat down for a while in the club, then I got up on my own and made my way to the N.U.M. official sat at a table on his own. On the table in front of him was a sheet of paper with some instructions written down for the following day, “Orgreave.”
All meet in the big car park of the Treeton and Catcliffe Working Men’s Club at 7am. You just looked at the instructions on the sheet of paper, you didn’t say anything, you nodded and acknowledged the N.U.M. official, and he gave you some petrol money.
We arrived very early Monday morning at the Treeton and Catcliffe Miners’ Welfare. It was a beautiful morning still, bright, the birds chirping. When we got to the carpark there was hundreds of cars and vans, I noticed miners with walkie-talkies! I’ve never seen the likes of this before, what was going off today I wondered? We had been picketing Orgreave for weeks but there’s something special going off today. Then we were instructed to keep quiet and follow certain men, there must have been two thousand pickets here and all cramped into a small space. A local miner reckons we have all been hand-picked from local pits.
Our instructions were then to follow the men with walkie-talkies and sneak round the back of the plant [Orgreave coking plant] reaching Orgreave from the bottom end of the lane. All the pickets walked in the edge of a field at the bottom of an embankment, we all got in to the plant. The landscape was all waste muck from the coking works, dust and muck dumped and formed into mounds of dirt about 3 foot high.
All of a sudden about 50 police confronted us, then another 100 came up as well, all wielding truncheons, some had dogs. We all moved forward to meet them, then two thirds of the pickets stopped and held back, the police tried to take the embankment we were all lined upon we fought them with the only weapons we could find, bricks and stones against shields and truncheons. When the police got too close we threw dust in their faces [it got behind their visors and into their eyes].
We pushed the police back down the embankment, they charged again with truncheons raised in the air. Paul Burke, a Silverwood lad, was stood next to me. He had come all kitted out, crash helmet on and waving a big stick. I think he’d had enough truncheon from previous encounters with the riot squad! He launched himself into the police front line ranks he got taken and arrested, this must be his fifth arrest to my knowledge.
We all walked away from the police lines and made our way to the Plough [pub], then we all marched up the main road towards Orgreave coking plant in front of us. Walking up the road we met a police road block. At Poplar Way, where the coke lorries came off the Sheffield Parkway, in our hundreds we broke through the police road block. They took a few prisoners as we broke through, then we came to another line of police and we broke through them as well! Although we lost a few more men, we carried on marching up the road to within about 700 yards of the other pickets at the top gates of Orgreave, where we came to a third line of police! They had horses as well this time.
That was it. No cavalry coming down this road today! All the pickets started dismantling a stone wall next to the road, placing the boulders in the road and staggering them, it made the road an obstacle course, it was impassable. All of a sudden a police convoy of about 15 transit vans full of police came towards us, they stopped at the obstacle course in the road. They had come up behind us from the Poplar Way junction and off the Sheffield Parkway. They were going to their mates at the top end of Orgreave, at their rear was a police officer with ‘pips’ on his white shirt he was a high ranking officer you could see that.
As the first of the police vans tried negotiating the obstacle course of rocks and boulders in the road, they got bricked to death. The police vans were in full panic, they were swerving, reversing back, going forwards, smoke bellowing off their tyres! It seemed like a lifetime I bet for them. But they did get through, although all their windscreens had been smashed, no glass in the side windows, dents in the vans and headlamps smashed, then last off the officer with pips tried to get through the obstacle course. He was in a brand new ‘A’ registered white car. As much as he tried he could not get through. He drove onto a boulder in the road and got stuck. He revved the car up and all you could see and smell was smoke and burning rubber. He was then surrounded by pickets, all of the car windows were bricked and put through, one picket stood on the car roof the police officer was in and dropped a f***g great boulder straight through the windscreen and it landed on the officers lap! He then panicked and set off again in his new car, bouncing off boulders in the road left right and centre, writing the car off in the process, but he did escape.
As me and everybody else scarpered, the ‘cavalry’ came to the rescue. They had witnessed what had happened and come to rescue their officer. They didn’t get far though, the obstacle course stopped them in their tracks. An ambulance came up the road wanting to go up to the top of Orgeave, someone shouted, “don’t move those boulders, you’ll let the police through”, but some miners did and cleared a path for the ambulance. That was a big mistake! After the ambulance went through, the cavalry charged through followed by the short shield riot squad. They chased us all the way back down the road to Poplar Way, the road onto the Parkway.
Eight riot police caught a picket and tie wrapped his hands behind his back, then started thumping, elbowing and kicking him as they frog marched him back up the road. They were laughing as they were assaulting the miner, we shouted to the police, “don’t laugh you bastards!” They just blew kisses at us.
In one of the riot police charges after they had broken through our blockade. I was running with dozens of riot police in hot pursuit. I ran past an elderly miner, on his knees out of breath. I stopped, this miner must have been in his late fifties, he had an old long gaberdine coat on, and it was hot today. He couldn’t get his breath, the riot police were closing in but I couldn’t leave him there. I said, “come on ow’d lad they’re not taking any prisoners today.” To this day I don’t know how he managed to get up and run, but he did, I ran alongside him till we got out of the way of the riot police and safety. When he was safe I left him.
We found out then the scab lorry convoy had gone in. I caught the eye of the riot police and they chased me again! I was well in the fields now, a crowd of lads who worked in a factory high up overlooking the ‘Battlefield of Orgreave’ started cheering me and shouting go on mate come up here! Anyway, I managed to get away and outrun the police, they can’t run far these police. They’ve got full kit on and its hot today. I made my way back to a mass of the pickets, some of them told me that the police were systematically beating pickets up in Rotherham police station.
That morning after breaking through the first police line we marched past a lorry parked on the side of the road, no driver but loaded to the top with hessian sacks full of sand? Coincidence? Who were they for? This morning is the worst fighting and violence I’ve seen and been involved in for 16 weeks on strike, even previous battles at Orgreave. This is nothing but war.
At the end of the day I took a cautious walk right up to the top of Orgreave, towards the truck place, what a mess, roads blockaded, debris all over. As I got to the top the cavalry were on the move. Me and another young miner went into an entrance between the terraced houses at the top of Orgreave. We were in this entrance ‘tunnel’ between the terraced houses keeping out of the way of the cavalry, when a horse and rider came up. The copper on his horse bent over and peered into the tunnel, his ‘hurry-up stick’ in his hand [truncheon]. We were well into the tunnel and he couldn’t reach us, “ come on lads lets have you out,” he shouted. I told the other young miner I was with, to stay put don’t go, don’t trust him. The policeman said, “come on lad you’ll be alright.”
The young lad went out into the open and as he got close to the cavalryman, he smacked the young miner on the head with his truncheon. I heard such a crack, the picket was holding his head with both hands. I heard shouting and I knew it was the riot squad following up, so I went to the far end of the entrance and jumped over a wall into the fields. From there I made my way back to civilization, where people could see what going off and you felt reasonably safe. This was the end of the day now and everything was clear, the dust of today’s battle had settled. I made my way to the top of Orgreave again, I haven’t got a clue to the whereabouts of my crew or what fate had befallen them, I was on my own.
I surveyed the battleground, rubble everywhere, wooden stakes sticking up in the air pointing at an angle, supported by a mound of rubble pointing at the police lines, ‘cavalry stoppers’. It looked like something out of the film Spartacus.
I thought we’d had a good day. At the top end of Orgreave (the Handsworth end), a small man with a white short sleeved shirt with pips on and a little Errol Flynn moustache came up to me and started talking. He said, “you’ve lost all sympathy with the people of South Yorkshire today.” Very wary and watching what was going off around me, I just nodded to him and carried on surveying the battleground. I could see all the media with cameras rolling on the brow of the of the hill.
I didn’t know at the time but I had been in the company of the enemy commander, Tony Clements. After this I made my way back down to the bottom end of Orgreave, I stopped to have a conversation with a group of pickets some way down. I noticed groups of short shield riot police all over the place, so I carried on with my journey through fields, road, anywhere out of the way of the roaming police. I bumped into a group of the riot squad on the road, so I leapt over a wall and back into the fields again. It was the end of one almighty battle.
When I reached the bottom of Orgreave near the Plough pub, both sides were recuperating and licking their wounds.Police sat all over in groups with their helmets in their laps wiping their foreheads, shields at their sides. Pickets sat wiping the blood running off their foreheads, stood up and sat down.
When I got to the grass field near the Plough pub all the lads, my team, were waiting for me back at the car. You should have seen their faces when they saw me approaching them. They thought I was a gonner. What a day! Everybody back safe, none of us locked up or hurt, amazing! I heard later there was 11,000 pickets at Orgreave today.
Orgreave 30 years later.
On the morning of the 18th June 1984. 2,000 South Yorkshire pickets marched up this road from Catcliffe to the Orgreave coking plant in the distance, half a mile up the road. The car in the middle distance is coming out of Poplar Way, the road used by the convoys of lorries making their way to the Orgreave coking plant. In May and June of 1984 the junction in the distance was always manned by large numbers of police. Many miners were arrested and badly treated in this vicinity. On the morning of the 18th June we fought our way through several massed police lines. In the distant view we had many men arrested as we tried to make our way up to the top of Orgreave and the coking plant that morning.
At the end of the day on the 18th June 1984, this ‘gennel’ is where me and another young striking miner sought refuge from marauding police cavalry. A cavalryman leant down from his horse and promised us safety if we came out. I told the young lad next to me “don’t go, don’t trust him” he went. The Cavalryman hit the young miner over the head with his truncheon, the lad put his hands on his head, and collapsed on the ground, then I heard the footsteps of the riot squad following up, I went to the end of the gennel and into someone’s garden and escaped [Bruce Wilson in the picture].
Tuesday, 19th June 1984.
Newstead Colliery, Notts. £8 petrol money. We’ve been here a few times. It’s an old pit not far from Annesley colliery. It’s a nice little place, a very old mine, complete with pit village with old brick terraced houses and even an old fashioned corner shop.
Near the pit entrance is a big wooden hut. The NUM hut. It started off quiet today, hot as well. The copper in charge is a pleasant chap, he’s from Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. We sometimes get a decent officer who just wants a quiet life, then we come along!
Coal lorries were going in and out of the pit all day, not a care in the world. Me, Daz and Shaun went into the woods and it wasn’t for a Teddy bears picnic either. We found some ammo’ and dashed out of the woods into the road, a car coming towards us screeched to a halt. Hands and arms appeared out of the car window’s waving, “we’re pickets you daft buggers!” They were Kilnhurst lads arriving late at the picket line. We went into the woods again and waited for a ‘legitimate target’.
An NCB scab bus appeared, we waved at the driver hoping he would stop, thinking we were scabs going into work, he drove past us, we just missed him. We went back into the woods again for some more ammo’ we dashed out again. This time we threw our missiles at a coal lorry, he stopped and parked up, I think he got a nasty shock and decided to keep away from the pit entrance and pickets.
Wednesday, 20th June 1984.
Destination today, South Nottinghamshire but could not get through, so we fell back to Cresswell pit in North Derbyshire and that took some getting to. When we finally arrived the place was crawling with coppers.
We gave them the run around, one copper chased me into the village, he had no chance of catching me, he shouted at me “EH GODFREY DON’T GO DOWN THERE!”
I stopped running and replied “Why not?” He jumped over a wall to get me. I did not run I just stood still and looked at him, that’s all I could do. If he didn’t get me his mates a few yards away would. The copper calmed down then and told me to, “stop fucking about” and get back to the rest of the pickets which I did. Lucky Bruce! Back on the front line two scabs turned round and went home.
Thursday, 21st June 1984.
On for an early start today. Bentinck. 4.00 am, £6 petrol money; overlaid.
Friday, 22nd June 1984.
Early start again. 4.00am. Today’s target, Bevercotes. Overlaid ‘again’.
Saturday, 23rd June 1984.
“We’re going to the seaside for the day. Whey hey!”
I’m still here safe and sound. Today we are going to the seaside for the day. What a relief, we’re going to Skegness or ‘Skegvegas’ (its nickname). Me, the wife and our two little kids.
We arrived at the Ryecroft & Rawmarsh WMC early doors. I don’t know about our lass and kids but I’m as excited as hell. I’m like a little kid myself. Well, we arrived at the club and the coach turned up, bloody hell it looked like an old charabanc from the 1930’s. We set off to Skeggy with our 4 year old lad and nine months old daughter. We hadn’t got far when I noticed the charabanc had no air conditioning and you couldn’t open the windows. It was red hot! While the coach was moving it was OK, but when it stopped; bloody hell it was like an oven.
The coach plodded on and at Louth the coach driver announced on his microphone, “first to see the sea; shout and get a pound.” Anyway I saw it first and shouted, the wife poked me in the ribs and told me not to be a silly bugger and sit down, it’s for the kids. I thought to myself. I’m going on front line picket duty everyday risking life and limb for a pound a day, and someone offers to give me a pound if I spot the sea first, I’m not turning this one down.
We got to Skeggy and had a good day, we did not have a lot of money, in fact it was mostly what the club gave us for the kids, but we enjoyed it. You can have a good time without money. At the end of the day, well it was late afternoon and still hot we went to the coach pickup point, got on the coach and set off for home.
The journey back was awful, I felt sorry for all the kids and our lass. It was really hot on the coach and it was ‘stop-start’ in the heavy traffic. Then just past Gainsborough, the f***g thing broke down. A coach full of pensioners, babies, kids and miners families. It’s ok for the older end, but these poor buggers! Most of us got off the coach and sat on a grass verge. Our little girl never cried once. After a wait of about three hours a rescue coach came and picked us up. What a difference in coaches between the one that’s just arrived and the one we went on! Why didn’t they send us the new one to begin with?
We got home OK, it was a very welcome break from my other duties. A beautiful, hot sunny day and I managed to get a couple of pints at the club on our return. Me and the family all walked home, a lovely ending to a perfect day. For a full day I forgot about everything. Just me and the family, you could not wish for more.
Monday, 25th June 1985.
Ha-ha, I’ve had a rest. I’ve been to the seaside and now ready for action. Today it’s Newstead Colliery, Notts. I played cat and mouse with the police roadblocks, we didn’t get stopped. I just ran through them, as we looked back there was a lot of head scratching going off among the police. We were supposed to stop, they will be looking out for us today.
We came to another roadblock but we sneaked through at Pleasley on the Notts border. We finally managed to reach Newstead and made our way to the picket line, we walked down to the big wooden NUM hut (National Union of Mineworkers) at the pit entrance. We all went in for a sit down. There was something going off outside so I rushed out of the hut, some scabs were coming down the road. I went back in, Shaun and Daz were still sat playing ‘all bleeding hearts’, they dropped their cards at the sound of the noise outside and we all stood on the front line shouting, “SCABBING BASTARDS.”
Bob Wilson was threatened with arrest, so he pretended to ‘jump out’ at two passing scabs, the coppers nearly had an heart attack. On the picket line while we were waiting for more scabs to arrive, Barney Kilgallan came marching down the road flask in his hand, five foot tall and not a care in the world. Well, he marched down the road surrounded by pickets, oblivious to what had been going off. All of a sudden everyone shouted “scab” Barney shouted back, “don’t be fucking silly I’m a picket” and he joined the lads. Barney was a Silverwood lad.
Tuesday, 26th June 1984.
The day Captain Bob lost his flat cap.
Today’s orders. Nottinghamshire. We managed to get to Pleasley near Mansfield. We saw the roadblock ahead of us, well a lone policeman stood on a little bridge over a stream. I stopped the battle bus out of sight of the lone bobby and his one man roadblock and let the ‘commando’s out’. They make their way through fields and met me further down the road.
I set off to the one man roadblock on my own, as expected the bobby waved me down, he said to me good morning sir, what’s your name and where are you bound. No Yorkshire accent today, using my best posh southern accent I replied ‘I’m visiting my grandma who lives in Pleasley’ she’s expecting me and I have to cook dinner for her. OK sir the bobby replied, and waved me through. Sucker!
I drove a few hundred yards so I was out of sight of the bobby I’d just suckered, then pulled up and waited for my commandos. I got out of the car and started looking at the spot in the near distance were the stream narrowed, where the lads should come out of the undergrowth. All of a sudden they appeared, then one by one they jumped across the stream. Bob Wilson jumped first, then Daz followed by Shaun. They all made it and were dry as a bone. Then it was Captain Bob’s turn, he jumped, but being a big lad he stopped in mid-air. Splash, he landed in the middle of the stream. I could hear him cursing, poor old Bob. He crawled out of the stream on all fours, pulling himself up onto the bank soaked to the skin, builders arse showing.
All we could hear was, ‘mi’ cap, mi’ cap, mi’ fucking cap! Its gone mi’ cap’. We all went looking for that bloody cap. Its probably in the North sea by now, we looked downstream, we looked upstream, we looked high and low for that fucking cap. But he did love that cap. I think its because Captain Bob’s a bit thin on top.
Well, we carried on into Nott’s and beat the first roadblock we came to, but after this I don’t think anyone of us is in a fit state to picket, poor old Bob. We all thought that his cap was his hair, he used to bloody comb it. I think he went to bed in it as well.
Captain Bob never shut up about that bleeding cap. All day long he moaned about his pride and joy, his cap. God did he love that cap. We got it all the way back home, we’ve never seen Bob without his cap before, he’s saving his picket money for a new one now. That’s his next objective in life. A Yorkshire man without a flat cap, its not on!
For a laugh, when we got home I dropped Captain Bob off at Rawmarsh Baths, a fair distance from his house. Bob was game for a laugh though. All he had on was a pair of old blue, bri-nylon underpants and an old, kiddies Winnie the Poo duffle coat I found in the car boot. The coat was far too small and only came upto his crotch. It’s a good job there was no police about they could have thrown the book at him.
For today’s ‘actions’, Captain Bob Taylor was awarded the deed of the day medal for a full week. I could have thrown that medal into the middle of a thousand riot police and I bet Captain Bob would have gone in for it.
Wednesday, 27th June 1984.
Rufford Colliery near Mansfield, eight pound petrol money. Set off this morning but we couldn’t get through. I used all the usual shortcuts but all the main roads were blocked off. Nottinghamshire is as tight as a ducks arse today. Correction, tight as a ‘knats arse’. Decided to head back, we went to Silverwood Welfare and had a bite to eat.
Most days after picketing, me the wife and kids would go to the Swinton Civic Centre and have a free dinner, nice dinner as well, they served dinners all week Monday to Friday for striking miners and their families. Sometimes if we were still hungry we’d all go back to the Silverwood Miners’ Welfare for another free dinner. I felt a bit guilty though. Then once a week we would go across the road from the Silverwood Miners’ Welfare and queue up for a food parcel, in a little building. I think it’s the Dalton and Sunnyside Community Centre. Once a week we got a carrier bag full of goodies – a bag of sugar, couple of tins of beans, teabags, margarine, a tin of peaches and a jar of jam. It’s a good job the kids like jam we’ve got a cupboard full of it.
Its ever so embarrassing stood in the queue at this little community centre, its next to the main road and everybody on the passing buses have a good look, but I have to do it. Joking aside, we need the food.
That night went for a pint with my Dad to the Alpine pub at Rockingham. He always bought me a couple of pints on his payday, he’s a redundant Steelworker, my old Dad. Sat in the pub that night, it was choc-a-block it must have been everybodies payday!
They were a lot of old redundant steelworkers in. His mate who was well merry asked me if I was a striking miner, I replied yes, he got up and went somewhere. Half an hour later he came back with a carrier bag of food. Well! There was an opened box of cornflakes, half a bag of sugar, a large handful of teabags. Oh, and a full jar of bloody jam! It was a bit embarrassing, everybody looked, but his heart was in the right place. I took it off him, thanked him and hid it under the table. I didn’t want to offend him and he meant well.
One day having our dinner in the Silverwood Miners’ Welfare, an elderly miner sat next to us, having a free dinner, put his reading glasses on. His mate asked him what he was doing putting his glasses on? The old miner replied, “it makes my dinner look bigger!”
Thursday, 28th June 1984.
Rufford Colliery near Mansfield. Eight pound petrol money. Set off at 9am from the Baggin. Same route, through Whiston crossroads to Clowne. Road blocks all over, its still not impossible to get through, just need a little more time. All the side roads off the main Worksop road were sealed. Drove up and down for a while, managed to get to Worksop, then we came to another roadblock, so I turned back.
All the time the lads giving the police some lip and making rude hand signs, one copper at a roadblock waved his wallet at us. We finished up at a roundabout near the motorway, we were stopped by the boys in blue and told to get back on the motorway back to Yorkshire. We argued with the coppers, telling them you can’t stop us in Derbyshire. They waved a motorbike bobby, we were then told to follow him, he would show us the way home. The motorbike bobby led us and Brian Lonsdale’s car to the motorway. As the copper turned off the roundabout for the M1, we carried on ignoring him. You should have seen the police, coppers arms waving about all over the place, panic stricken.
Next time we came to the sign for the motorway turn off, we obliged them, we could hear them shouting, “GET THAT CAR”. After this we headed South on the M1. We came off at the next exit, stopped again! A copper walked in front of the car, I nearly ran over his toes, he fell forwards, leaning on the car bonnet. I think he needed clean underwear.
He shouted, “GET BACK ON THAT FUCKING MOTORWAY” and with driving like mine, he would arrest me next time he clapped eyes on me. Well, we did the same again. Drove round the roundabout, signalling left, but going round and round. You should have seen the police, running into the road, arms waving about all over the place and panicking. After our bit of fun we got on the motorway and headed north.
The lads in the car were in hysterics, it was like the old silent movies with the keystone cops. At the motorway turn off a policeman asked Brian Lonsdale, “which way did that brown Triumph go?” He told them south. Ha Ha!
First chance we got I turned off the M1 and drove back into Derbyshire, through Kiveton. We finished up back on the same road as when we started! Every roadblock we came to, Shaun, Bob, Daz and Capt Bob gave the police some right abuse, shouting, “wankers” with hand signs to match. Well, “they shouldn’t wave their wallets at us.”
Next thing I know looking in my rear view mirror, there were two transit vans full of police chasing us, one overtook me, or tried to, he crushed me to the opposite side of the road. I slowed down and let him get in front then I put my foot down and overtook him. For the next couple of miles they tried to get us, but I kept my right hand indicator on, and kept going into the middle of the road as if to turn down a country lane.
It worked for a while, then the road widened out, I couldn’t do anything more. Two vans full of police overtook me, I pulled up in a public place, where people could see what was going off. When I pulled up the police jumped out of their vans and surrounded us, I switched the engine off, waiting for their next move, several policemen came up to the car and told us to get out. They meant business these lads!
They searched the car, emptied the boot and even threw the back seats into a field, we had really upset these bastards today. Two plain clothed bobbies started putting their noses to ours, threatening what they were going to do to us.
A big copper told me and Shaun to go into the field away from the road, we did. Then this big fucking plain clothed bobby said to Shaun he was going to, “knock fuck out of him.” The same with Bob, Daz and Captain Bob.
We put up with their threats for a bit, then Shaun said something to the big copper. I don’t know what he said, but the big copper threatened to push his head in the car radiator and switch the engine on. He told Shaun, “nobody calls him a wanker!” He does it himself, or the wife does it for him, but Shaun doesn’t call him one.
A VERY, VERY, VERY LUCKY ESCAPE TODAY! I thought we were all definitely nicked. A police Sergeant told his men to remember my registration number and our faces. Then they all got in their vans and buggered off. It was only 11am so we tried our luck and headed for Cresswell. Got there no problems, about 11.15am, had a walk round, very quiet. Stayed for an hour then made our way back to Silverwood welfare for some snap.
Friday, 29th June 1984.
Mansfield Colliery. Eight pound petrol money. Set off at 9.40am from the Silverwood Miners Welfare. Shaun didn’t come today, it’s a good job, we wouldn’t have got through with him in the car today. Calling all those nice policemen wankers all the time and flagging them off.
Tried a different way, went down the Sheffield Parkway, then took the Chesterfield route. We went down the dual carriageway to the motorway. But about a mile from Pleasley it was swarming with police, we were sent back up the motorway by police manning a roadblock, but came off the M1 at the exit for Cresswell.
I followed a big lorry, the lads got down in the back, I drove right up the lorries backside. I followed him and got through the first roadblock. After another 500 yards we came to a roundabout, police swarming all over. Same again, I kept close to the lorry and got through again. Then I came to a third roundabout, a copper started walking into the road and flagged me down, I slowed down, then picked up speed and drove off, you should have seen his face, hope I don’t bump into him again today. We carried on and nobody followed us!
Got through to Pleasley, then at Glapwell I turned off and headed for Hardwick Hall. It was all little narrow country lanes. All of a sudden we came to another roadblock, coppers were talking to some pickets they’d stopped. There were 3 cars full of pickets behind me, so we all ‘ran the roadblock’, we drove through the police, not stopping. Sod em’! The lads shouted some abuse at the bobbies as we sped past, the look on their faces was a picture.
We got through to Mansfield Colliery about 11.25am, only us and another car from Silverwood got through. Only been there ten minutes, Bob Wilson was shouting ‘scab’, a high ranking bobby got close to us and warned Bob if he shouted scab again he would be arrested. One worker threw his snap into the crowd of pickets and went home, everybody clapped him.
Earlier on, a copper fell down an embankment, there was uproar among the pickets, everybody burst out laughing. One poor picket walking down the road on his own to join us got arrested. Just to save the coppers face. It’s alright when you get arrested for laughing at a bobby. One policeman on the picket line farted, he stunk, he blamed it on northern beer. Bob shouted out, “this coppers just shit himself.” Their No1 came over and warned Bob again.
We set off home after a rather quiet day, the roads were as clear as a bell, not a bobby in sight. We went to the Baggin’ for some dinner. We are the last back again.