LIFE ON THE FRONT LINE
In the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike
PART SIX: July 1984
SCUNTHORPE. SELBY AND A POLICE CELL
The police cell was like the ‘black hole of Calcutta’ Miners were singing. Arthur Scargill, Arthur Scargill, we support you ever more! A policeman opened the cell door and came in. Someone shouted ‘I’m Spartacus’ another voice followed, ‘No I’m Spartacus’. Then all the occupants of the police cell in unison called out ‘No, I’m Spartacus!’
Monday, 2nd July 1984.
Got our orders and my seven pound petrol money. Off to Selby today. Set off at 4.am and arrived at Whitemoor Pit, Selby complex 5.30am. I didn’t know at the time, but it was to picket contractors who came in at 8.00am, there’s been a mix up somewhere.
A cold morning and it tried raining. Nothing going off so about thirty of us made our way to the plant. At the back there was the road where the scabs would come in. Police sent ‘marching squads’ round the back to intercept us. Then the convoy of scabs came, there was loads of us now, we gave it some ‘Ooh Ooh’ followed by Zulu!
I got lifted off my feet in the push, squeezing and shoving. I didn’t have much choice about it. A load of pickets behind me finished up in a ditch about six foot deep, mud in the bottom, four coppers went in as well! Everybody came out all sludged up, wet through and mucky. One picket dragged Andy out. He sat on the bank all dazed, he didn’t have a clue where he was, sludged up to the eyeballs and soaked to the skin. Another lad pulled Mick Reid’s brother out of the ditch, he was sludged up to the bollocks too. He wasn’t very pleased either.
When we got into the plant, ‘Captain Sensible’ Lee, started dishing out sticks to fight the coppers off. The police were OK though, they thought it all funny [West Yorkshire Bobbies] four lads picked me up and used me as a battering ram against the police. ‘Captain Sensible’ did the same with Shaun, he picked him up, charged and broke right through the police line! He was a big lad was Lee (mind you, we had a word with the police first, informing them of our bit of fun, so we didn’t get nicked).
After a good day out, no casualties, the police good sports, we went back to the car. On the way back some idiot drove up close to a milk float and lifted a bottle of pop, a woman saw it and told the milk float driver. He went up to the miners and threatened to get the police. So they gave it back. A good job they did, you already get arrested for now’t now, so I think nicking a bottle of pop means an automatic life sentence.
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT!
Tuesday, 3rd July 1984.
Destination. Pye Hill Colliery. Nottinghamshire. We did the impossible today. Got through to Clipstone colliery and met a nice policeman.
Eight pound petrol money today. We set off from Silverwood Miners Welfare in the morning. Brian Lonsdale followed my car. I made the mistake of going through Pleasley. I saw a road sign at Glapwell, saying Hardwick Hall. Then in the dip in the road just before entering Mansfield I noticed a police car hiding in the hedges picket spotting. We got half a mile up the road when he pulled out and followed us, his siren blaring, just to let us know he was after us.
He overtook Brian Lonsdale. The police car then drove up behind me, I drove in the middle of the road so he couldn’t overtake me, after a while I thought it wise to pull over. I got out of the car and waved Brian on, the policeman wasn’t the slightest bit impressed with me. He took my name and address and instructed me in no uncertain terms to turn round and go home. They can swear when they want to the Police.
I turned round went round a corner, then I put my foot down, dodging and weaving cars and a lorry. I frightened my team to death, the police must have guessed what we were up to, they followed us.
I pulled into a farmhouse yard hitting one of the big stone entrance pillars, and moving it two foot in the process, smashing the front end of my car up. Well, just crumpled the front nearside wing a bit. After a bit of manoeuvring I got into the farmhouse yard and stopped my car next to a low wall. I switched the engine off, and told the lads to be quiet and get down in the car. Two minutes later a police jam sandwich drove past us slowly! He stopped, and got out of his car, he looked over the wall, ‘caught again!’ The policeman came up to us, told us to get out of the car and at the same time the farmer came out moaning and groaning wanting compensation. To make matters worse Shaun, Daz and Bob were scitting at the police.
One of the policemen told me to get in his car, in the passenger side, so he could take my details. I sat in the passenger seat with one foot in the car and the other on the road. The car door open. Then the copper said to me ‘were not all bastards like your mates seem to think’ I went along with him, he told me he could do me for reckless driving etc, etc, but I’d got enough on my plate without fines etc. He gave me a producing ticket. The policeman then told me he’d had a word with the farmer and he wasn’t going to take matters any further. As the copper got up to get out of the car he added, “my Dad’s a Striking Notts Miner” and that if I was seen anywhere in Notts again that day I’d be nicked.
We set off again for an unknown destination. As good as that police officer was, nobody was telling me where I could go and not go in my own country! So we set off into Nottinghamshire.
We finished up on the Ollerton road and came to road block after road block manned by the police. The first one we came to the coppers were having a shift change. I told the lads to get down as low as they could in the back of the car. The second roadblock, the police were laxy-daisy. One of the police officers walked into the road and held his arm in the air for me to stop, so I waved back, I acted daft and drove on. They didn’t follow us, they must have thought I was a local.
We got through to Clipstone colliery. On our arrival at Clipstone the police were very surprised to see us, its just about impossible to get through by car. The only other way is by bus or walk it. I parked my car outside of the pit and got out. Clipstone’s ideally situated for picketing. The canteen is on the main road, and it’s full of scabs! There were cars and buses pulling up outside the pit entrance, dropping scabs off. Twenty minutes later a police patrol car drove past my parked car and had a good look. They are from one of the roadblocks near Mansfield. I knew we were marked men as soon as we got back in the car after the farmhouse incident.
Anyway I made my way back to the car and got within ten foot of it when a police Landrover pulled up alongside my car. Thinking my number was up, I put the crook lock on my cars steering wheel, then locked the car up again, thinking to myself that I won’t be using it again for a while. I started walking back to my mates when a copper called me over. I stopped were I was, pausing for a moment. I decided to make my way over to him, very slowly! I wasn’t in a hurry to get arrested.
Then two more bobbies converged on me. One was high ranking, the other one just a uniformed bobby. But he was ‘built like a brick shithouse!’ He was that big I looked at him in awe. I asked him if those shoulders were real or padded? He looked like he’d got a cardboard box under his tunic. Well, I might as well get arrested for summat! His Commanding officer said to me, “listen son, a bit of friendly advice, you’ve been warned twice today. You’ve had a bloody good run. One to you for getting through. But today’s today and tomorrow’s another day. So if you come back tomorrow, you’re nicked son.”
I replied, “well, as you say, today’s today and tomorrow’s another day.” Then I joined the rest of the pickets on the front line at Clipstone. I’ve nothing but respect for these striking Nottinghamshire Miners. We stood shoulder to shoulder with the handful of them that were there today.
At the end of our picketing shift at Clipstone we were invited into the Clipstone Strike Centre and had a cup of tea. It was just a big wooden hut! I felt very sorry for them, it was a very humbling experience. But they were willing to share everything they had with us.
Their main meal today was a salad. This wooden hut served striker’s families, from three striking Nottinghamshire pits. They’re having a rough time, the local striking lads. They are being arrested just for saying ‘boo!’ on the picket line. The police are intimidating them badly. I think they got an uplift to having us here today. They’ve been on their own all this time. I was absolutely incensed how these men were being treated. I would have died for them today.
Earlier on I walked past the pit canteen. I stood near the entrance. I waited till a scab had the guts to look up after supping his cup of tea. I looked at him and I didn’t half verbally lace into him. The canteen was full of scabs! And not one of them said anything! I shouted at the top of my voice, “‘sup your tea and enjoy it cus’ there’s 3000 of us coming down from Yorkshire tomorrow you scabbing bastards!” Not one of them looked at me. They know they are in the wrong. They won’t even look you in the eye. Even when there’s dozens of them and ten of us THEY LOOK DOWN AT THE FLOOR. ANYWHERE BUT AT YOU.
Wednesday, 4th July 1984.
Pye Hill Colliery today. Eight pound petrol money. There must be 180 pits in England but we keep getting sent here. Went down the Sheffield Parkway, followed the Chesterfield signs, got through OK. On the picket line at Pye Hill a policeman asked me if I had been having any trouble with the overdrive on my Triumph 2.5 (Battlebus to us). We had a chat, and I told him no trouble at all ‘because mine doesn’t work’. He was a very nice polite bobby. Then the scabs came, I said ‘sorry but I must dash’. Just goes to show, they don’t miss a thing.
After the scabs went in things went quiet. I got talking to a London bobby, only a young lad like us. He asked us what the strike was all about and what went off, trouble wise etc. We wasted no time in getting our case across. Then his gaffer came across. He told us to get back in our places. I cannot believe the young bobby did not know what the strike was about!!
Made our way home. On the way back we were going down a country lane and my car exhaust dropped off. It made a right noise, scraping on the road. I pulled up at the side of the country lane and three or four cars full of pickets stopped behind us. They got out and asked us if we were ok. I went into the car boot and got a hammer out. As I was laid underneath the car, banging away a police car pulled up about twenty foot away, with a bobby and a woman officer in. I got up from under the car to have a closer look, not realizing I still had the hammer in my hand. They didn’t get out of their car, but kept shouting at me to, “put that hammer down!”
I started walking towards them to try and explain, even pointing at the hammer and then at the car, gesturing that I was using the hammer to fix the car. As I got closer to the police car and its occupants the bobby put the car in reverse and drove off and didn’t he shift, he thought I was going to attack them!. It’s a good job there was all us pickets and just them two. If it had been the other way round, I can’t begin to imagine what I could have been charged with. I wonder what their commanding officer has been telling them for bedtime stories about miners!
Thursday, 5th July 1984.
Pye Hill. Eight pound petrol money. Set off down the motorway, potluck getting there. It’s a waste of time anyway. Lads got down in the back of the car at junction 27 of the M1. I didn’t slow down. I just ran the roadblock – foot down and off!
When we got through the lads got up and gave the coppers a wave, we left them scratching their heads, mind you some days they let so many pickets through to see where everyone’s going. Silly me I took a wrong turning, I drove past Annesley, Linby and Newstead collieries and into Mansfield. It’s amazing we can’t get to these pits when we want to.
We came to a roadblock manned by the Met! The pretty boys in their double breasted uniforms (London Metropolitan Police). They stopped us and we were turned round. I drove around for ages trying to get through. Then we came to the same roadblock again, manned by the Met. They stopped us and wanted to know who had been calling them ‘wankers’, with accompanying hand signs. No one owned up. A copper said, “it was that lad in the back”, Shaun had been at it again. He let us off with a warning. As I set off I realized that I was going the wrong way, so we turned round and went back. We came to the same bloody roadblock again, this time I told them we’d had enough and were going sunbathing. We waved to the police as we drove off. Suckers! We carried on and finally made it to Pye Hill.
When we got on the picket line the police penned us in again. Me, Shaun and Darren managed to get out and have a walk round the village, it keeps coppers on their toes. No luck though, got turned back at the road to the pit entrance. We made our way back to the rest of the pickets. After ten minutes we got bored.
So, we tried our luck again. We went under hedgerows, over fields, climbed up an old slagheap overgrown with trees. A copper on the pit winding gear saw us and sent one of his men to get us. We saw him getting closer and closer, then he shouted, “NOW THEN, COME HERE YOU BASTARDS”, he took his hat off and wiped his forehead. Mind you he was alright. I told him we were ‘testing their defences’. He replied, “back with the rest of your mates now lads.”
On the way back to the rest of the pickets Shaun stood next to a copper, I said, “stop there, I’ll take your picture.” The bobby would not have it, he turned and walked away. I still took one though.
Back on the picket line a coach full of scabs arrived, but they couldn’t get through. Pickets had driven their cars into the middle of the road. The coach managed to get through by driving on the causeway. Generally quiet today, we set off home, had a cup of tea in the Baggin’. We heard on the grapevine there’s a free do’ for striking miners at the Sheffield City Hall on Saturday night. I told the wife and we made arrangements to meet Shaun and his wife. We set off at teatime Saturday for the free dinner and booze at Sheffield. We made our way there on the bus. When we arrived at the City Hall there weren’t many people there, we were too early. A man on the door gave us free beer tickets, but there was no buffet! We were very disappointed. We came away early with just enough money for our taxi fare back to Rotherham. Going home we told the taxi driver how much we had on us. He set off to Rotherham, but our money ran out on the meter, on Sheffield road. Templeborough. So we had to start walking. Gay the wife, stuck her thumb out for a lift, a young man stopped almost straight away. When he found out we were striking miners he offered to take us all home. He dropped Shaun and his wife off, then he took me and Gay all the way home to Rawmarsh.
Friday, 6th July 1984.
Went to the Miners’ Welfare at 6pm, got seven pounds petrol money. Surprise, Surprise! Our orders for tomorrow. Meet at Silverwood Miners’ Welfare 6.30am; destination Whitemoor pit; Selby complex North Yorkshire. I picked the lads up and we set off from the Miners’ Welfare at 6.30am. It was cloudy and drizzling with rain. When we arrived a Whitemoor there was a mass picket on! It was running battles all day again just like the old times at Orgreave.
We climbed over hills to get to the rest of the pickets, when we got there, there was a bit of pushing and shoving between the police and the pickets, the police were trying to push the pickets into a field, behind the fences, a large group of us decided to walk back up the road, much to the annoyance of the police, we climbed back over the fence out of our ‘pen’ and took the road!
Pickets then came from all over to build up our numbers, then some lads turned a police transit over on its side. Police seeing this charged up the road, everybody scattered climbing up the embankment, the short shield riot police followed up, the uniformed police chased one man down the road, instead of arresting him when they caught him, they threw him in a ditch. The riot police chased us up to the top of the hill, they got a right hammering, you couldn’t see the sky for missiles being thrown at them. A couple went down, missiles thrown that thick and fast the police couldn’t move forward, a couple more went down we retreated again.
Some pickets sneaked round the back of the police and put another of their transit vans in a ditch. It had turned out a sunny, hot day and in the near distance you could see running battles taking place between police and pickets. You could hear the shouts of ‘Zulu’, miners charging at the police lines en- masse, clouds of dust rising everywhere, you could see pickets and police falling into ditches at either side of the road and they were steep, deep ditches, full of water you would come out soaked after falling in one of them. In uniform it was North Yorkshire and London police today, I’ve never seen badges like the London police were wearing before. The short shield riot squad chased us up the hill and over it, they couldn’t get us, we kept running then stopping to throw missiles at them and if we didn’t another group of pickets would appear from behind a “mound’ and join in.You could hear a series of thud’s as the muck rocks hit the police perspex shields and on impact knocking them sharply to one side, it stopped them dead in their tracks.
This large hill or mound was built round the pit out of excavations and spoil, mainly earth. The Riot squad continued to chase us, they finally consolidated their position and took the hill, in the distance we watched them it looked like a scene out of the film ‘Zulu’.
Things went quiet after this, me and the lads made our way back to the rest of the pickets on the main road. One lad came up to me and asked to swop him shirts he’d been involved in some dirty deed, the police had spotted him and he was a marked man, so we swopped shirts then it was home time. On the way back police were mingling with pickets, we kept quiet, you felt very vulnerable. Then all of a sudden six coaches of police reinforcements dressed in full riot gear came through and drove past us, so we went off trekking over the hills again. We tried to get to the road where the scabs come in, two coppers with dogs came up to us and told us to clear the hill or they would let the dogs on us. One lad with a stick in his hand was told to drop it or the dog would go for him. The lad did as he was told!
We made our way back to the car and home again. On the way back we stopped next to a lettuce field and filled the boot of the car up. We had to do a detour back home, 1000 pickets had taken the small toll bridge in Selby town and blocked everything off for miles around. They turned a van over on the bridge carrying scab contractors. The scabs were armed with pickaxe handles. 15 mile tailbacks of traffic and the police couldn’t get through to the scabs. All hell let loose, mind you, there was no violence or wrecking. We went home down the A1. The police finally got to Selby but had to go the long way round.
Sunday, 8th July 1984.
MacGregor and Scargill talking for nine hours last Thursday (5th July). Talks resumed on Friday. They lasted another five hours. They’re meeting again on Monday 9th July. Personally I think it’s the same old story, build you up and then drop you down, hoping men will get fed up and start drifting back to work. Last week Thatcher and the NCB started on a major propaganda programme. I bet these talks are part of it. We might get power cuts in the autumn. At the end of August and September the army are on red alert to shift coal stocks. Nuclear power stations are been run, minus safety overhauls etc to keep up maximum output. The Government are burning oil to save coal stocks.
In today’s paper, July 8th the News of the world, MacGregor’s plan for coal is virtually the same as they have been saying for the last four months.
RUN DOWN OF PITS IN TWO YEARS.
HEAVY INVESTMENT IN NEW SUPERPITS.
DEFINITION OF WHAT UNECONOMIC MEANS.
I CAN’T SEE ARTHUR AGREEING TO THESE TERMS. BETWEEN THE LINES IT SAYS THE SAME AS BEFORE. I’VE HEARD ORGREAVE MIGHT BE OPENING UP TOMORROW?
Monday, 9th July 1984.
Pye Hill again. Eight pound petrol money. Set off on an old route. Chesterfield, Alfreton and the A61 etc. Arrived at Pye Hill about 11am. Pickets stood watching as usual. We sneaked round the back, dodging police, going through fields and hedges. We got right to the pit gates.
I got talking to a young bobby on duty. Then the young bobby spotted Daz sneaking up towards him, crouching in the grass, commando style, holding a small branch in the air, just in front of his face, his ‘camouflage’. The copper wondered what was going off. Me and Shaun were pissing ourselves with laughter. It was the ‘young bobby’s’ first day on picket duty. He was from Wembley. We had a good chat with him. We couldn’t believe it. He let us stop and picket for a change!
After half an hour we got fed up and went back to the rest of the lads on the picket line. We had a game of cards in the little pub near the pit entrance. Then we heard pickets heckling coaches full of scabs, we rushed out but missed all the fun. Made our way back to Silverwood miners’ welfare.
Heard ‘TALKS BROKE OUT’ between Scargill and MacGregor. They look like settling the dispute at the last minute. But Macgregor refused to sign. They’re meeting again on Wednesday, 18th July. The same day I go to court for non-payment of fines. When I got home they’d been and taken our telly away. I went and ordered a slot telly, it takes 50p pieces.
One lad at Silverwood has a young un’ about five years old, he was paying a pound a week electric, the YEB changed their policy and told him he’s got to pay seven pounds and fifty pence a week, and he’s got a bill of eighty two quid. They are going to cut his supply off on Thursday.
Heard Orgreave opening up again today?
Tuesday, 10th July 1984.
Ambush at Pye Hill. Pye Hill again. We set off back down to Chesterfield, to the A61 and Alfreton. Turning off at Somercotes and Selston signs. Arriving at Pye Hill we found out the scabs go down at Underwood. There’s two shafts at Pye Hill. No’s 1 and 2.
We had a busy day today, not many pickets here. Me, Daz, Captain Bob and Shaun had a look round. Captain Bob’s got a film for his camera today! Where the roads come to a ‘V’ off the motorway and Mansfield road, we sat on a grass verge. ‘The top bobby’ drove past us and waved, he likes a quiet life for him and his troops. But we are getting bored. We had been talking to the same police superintendent the day before. I’m sure I told him we were from Silverwood. He’s not daft though, he probably knows what we had for our suppers last night! Yesterday our union man, Granville said to us ‘with a wink and a smile’ something wants doing here. The scabs are having it too easy. He asked if we could do something about it. Anything to oblige, that’s us.
The time 12.10pm. We were ready and positioned. Our signaller gave us the sign a scab coach was coming. Daz was stood on the opposite side of the road, Captain Bob, me and Shaun sat on a bench at the bus stop. Our ammunition out of sight. As the scab coach got close, I stood up and walked to the causeway edge, as if waiting for the bus. The coach driver thought we were scabs, he pulled into the bus stop, what a surprise he got!
As I heard the ‘hiss’ of the coach doors opening, I walked in front of the coach and threw a bloody great stone at his windscreen. That was it, the coach got it from all directions, my brick had splattered the windscreen. Darren gave it him from the side, Shaun hit him on the back window ‘David Bailey’ (Captain Bob) took some pictures. I started walking away, one picket waved two fingers at the coach and shouted, “scabbing bastards” the others shouted something similar. That did it, some of the scabs on the coach stood up, shouting at their police escort on the coach, “what are you going to do about it? You are supposed to protect us!” Big fucking babies.
I don’t know if anyone got hurt or not. We didn’t wait to find out. The scabs went wild and piled off the coach and gave chase, we ran like fucking hell. As we were running I heard them shouting, “get that fat bastard.”Poor old Captain Bob, its everyman for himself now, we really got to them today. They were shouting, “get them bastards, fucking have ‘em!”
We missed a snicket and ran up someone’s drive, a dog came out, we only just got over the fence in time to shouts of, “we’ll have you bastards!” We got back to the rest of the pickets, we couldn’t find Captain Bob! He must have got his ear hole thumped. The mood the scabs were in, they would have killed someone.
I took my black and red striped ‘T’ shirt off and gave it to ‘Razzer’ a Silverwood lad. I told him to keep it out of sight and I would tell him the story later. It’s a good job we didn’t drive off straight away. All the cars that did were stopped and checked. A witness off the coach was in a police van looking at the pickets!
Bloody hell, we’ve got to come here tomorrow. Very lucky we were. On the way home we passed a young lad called Dean Beavers from Cortonwood being dragged out of his car by police, he had a similar ‘T’ shirt on as me! Driving back there were coppers on bridges and every 500 yards signalling to each other. On the motorway going back it was swarming with police. A jaguar patrol car followed us and overtook us twice at speed. He pulled alongside us and looked in the car. He had a scab in the back. The thing was, I had my grey pit vest on, and no shirt. Four men ambushed the scab coach, and there was five of us in the car, the scab didn’t recognise us and the jam sandwich sped off. We didn’t get caught today, but I’ve a feeling our numbers up tomorrow. If we had set off first and got pulled, I cannot begin to imagine what the police would have done to us.
Back on the picket line after the ambush we bumped into Superintendent Bloggs. He did not know we had done it. He said to us, “you’ve done it now, you’ve gone and spoilt it all.” I bet he got his arse kicked well and truly. Our Union officials were pleased with us, breaking the monotony of things. Back at the Baggin’ one lad told me he saw two squad cars race off to the scab coaches. A scab was waving his snap box at a Sergeant, shouting at him, “where were you? You were supposed to protect us!”
A lot did not go to work that day. I just don’t have the words to describe these scabs. Oh well, one to us. All’s fair in love and war, as they say.
Wednesday, 11th July 1984.
PYE HILL AGAIN. Well, I must say after yesterday we are either were brave or stupid going back to Pye Hill Colliery, the land of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. No wonder they carry on working here, the road to the pit entrance has posh bungalows either side, they ought to see where I live in the concrete canyon! Purpose built pit houses from the 1950’s.
Turned out a good day, everybody set off, but only a handful got through! And we didn’t even try too hard. Captain Bob was awarded the deed of the day medal for ‘a full week’. We heard the police wanted blood, three lads nicked already when we got there, can you believe it they were arrested for being in possession of offensive weapons. Squeezy bottles full of pop!
When we got back to the Baggin, Mick Bush said, “Wilson you bastard, nobody got through!” I didn’t realize it at the time, but I must have set off too early and the police being crafty let a few pickets cars through, to see where they were heading, then sealed the area off, and concentrate their resources on the ‘target’.
We all voted unanimously to award Captain Bob, the deed of the day medal for the rest of the week. It was an old medal with a coal not dole sticker on it. Whoever did the ‘deed of the day’ i.e. the funniest thing, something stupid or an act of bravery got it.
Three months later, Terry, a Silverwood lad told me the landlord of the local pub at Pye Hill gave police the registration numbers of cars parked in his car park, the day the scabs got ambushed. Police came and dragged some Thrybergh lads out of their beds in the middle of the night. They were taken to Mansfield police station and had seven bells knocked out of them. They knew who was responsible, but would not tell. ‘WHAT MEN!’
Thursday, 12th July 1984.
Me and Captain Bob went to the Baggin’ last night for our orders, usual time 7.00pm. ‘Wham’ was on the juke box. Wake me up before you ‘bleeding- go go’. Bentinck today, picked all lads up, got through OK, straight through at Pleasley, old Grant got nicked at the pit gates. Very quiet today.
Friday, 13th July 1984.
Orders for today, Linby first then Warsop. Good job I’m not superstitious, or I would have stopped in bed today.
Difficult, but got through. Quiet, then we fell back to Warsop. When we got there my first thought was ‘they are not police’ got to be army, they’re too disciplined and at least six foot tall. Must be the Coldstream bleeding guards!
Battling all morning, they wouldn’t let us over the bridge, we got through in the end about 8am. Police didn’t stand no shit today, wanted it and had it all their own way. Dave got nicked, ‘up the pickets’. Some pickets in the back of police transits got some fist. The lads dry now, they fell in the stream at Pleasley ‘again’ – devotion to duty!
Monday, 16th July 1984.
Destination Rufford power station. Ten quid petrol money. It’s at Radcliffe on Soar, we unintentionally led a convoy of about fifteen cars from Silverwood to about five miles from the power station. Nothing doing. London coppers, we just stood in a field.
My battle bus failed its test. Before the test ran out, the union paid my Insurance for 12 months (57 quid) and car tax (50 quid). To get funding for the repairs I had to write a letter to the NUM branch Secretary, stating what the problems were and the costs to repair my car. I was a bit thick. I sent a letter in, it went like this.
My name is Bruce Wilson, my car, registration AMA 210M has failed its test, I have had a quote of a hundred pounds for repairs, plus road tax of 50 pounds, and insurance 57 pounds for twelve months.
I would hope the NUM would consider my case for funding. There’s five of us who go picketing everyday. Granville Richardson will verify all details. If I go off the road, the NUM will lose five good lads, we want to go on picketing, we earn our picket money and we can, and do, some damage. We make the police earn their money.
Granville pulled me up in the Silverwood Miners Welfare. He told me that my request for funding had been granted, but when he’d done laughing, he told me that my letter had the meeting of NUM officials in stitches, “AND NEVER PUT ANYTHING LIKE THAT IN WRITING AGAIN.”
Point taken but desperate men take desperate measures! I heard the NUM men voted unanimously to grant me funds. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we were classed as one of Arthur’s ‘Hit Squads’, but we didn’t know and he certainly didn’t.
Tuesday, 17th July 1984.
Today’s orders are, Bentinck, eight quid petrol money. Managed to get through, very quiet, had a walk into the village, up the hill from the pit. We threw a few bricks at passing coal lorries, we were hiding, the coppers wondered where the bleeding hell they were coming from. They were lucky, we missed the windscreens.
Had a walk back to the picket line. Stopped for a while then made our way back to the Baggin’ had a nice cuppa and summat to eat.
Wednesday, 18th July 1984.
Orders for today, Bentinck. Had a day off. I had to go to court for non- payment of fines. The judge very understanding, he agreed to let me pay a pound a month. It’s from last year, a driving offence. I didn’t half lay it on and plead poverty, I could have fetched tears to a glass eye this morning.
Talks between Macgregor and Scargill broke down today after nine hours. I can imagine Arthur Scargill banging on Macgregors door and saying “Are you f***g coming out or what”.
Thursday, 19th July 1984.
Got my picket money, me and Captain Bob had a day off. Silverwood lads went to, guess where? Bentinck! We heard later some Silverwood lads came across some scabs on a bend in the road, a blind spot near the pit, where nobody could see anything. Six scabs were walking to work, the lads got the last one and smacked him. His five mates didn’t even turn round, they left him on his own. He went crying to the coppers, telling them he’d been smacked.
Friday, 20th July 1984.
Set off for Bentinck. Just before Clowne all the roads were blocked off. I spotted a roadblock in front. I stopped and let the commando’s out. They went through some fields. I carried on in the car and got through the roadblock and waited for them down the road. The coppers waved me to go back. I was stood next to the car forgetting about the police, and too busy looking where the lads were.
I looked round and the coppers were still waving at me to go to them. I ignored them. I would not go anyway. They shouted to me again, “come here we want a word with you, just to talk for two minutes.” Like a fool I went to them. They arrested me straight away. Just then my commandos came out of the bushes. After a protest from my mates, a Sergeant told his men to let me go.
Monday, 23rd July 1984.
Set off from Silverwood Miners’ Welfare early morning for a Notts pit. Couldn’t get through, so we fell back to Cresswell again. Quiet this morning. Just a bit of shouting at the scabs. Made our way back to base. Had a cup of tea and relaxed for half an hour, then dropped lads home.
Tuesday, 24th July 1984.
THE DAY WE GOT NICKED AT GUNNESS WHARF.
Our luck ran out today. Set off from the Baggin’ at 7.45am. Destination, Gunness Wharf, Scunthorpe. They are unloading imported coal from Poland. There were massive convoys of miners’ cars. No chance of getting through. There is only three ways to get there, and you have to cross a bridge each way.
We got as close to Scunthorpe as we could. Coppers all over. Got as far as the bridge, but they wouldn’t let us through. We got out of the cars and started walking up an embankment with about another 200 pickets. We tried to get round their back, but the police holding firm. So we made our way back to the main road. The police must have been expecting trouble, they all ran to their transit vans and swopped their Noddy hats for riot helmets.
Then they assembled in the road two deep. We all stopped for a while then dispersed. That was when Shaun and Daz got chased, the Bobbies chased them through a cornfield. When the police caught up with them, one of the Bobbies said, “what shall we nick em’ for?”
The other one said, “what about damaging a cornfield?”
Shaun and Daz were too quick for the Bobbies and managed to get away. Someone shouted, “ONTO THE MOTORWAY!” Everybody jumped in their cars and made off. We got on the M180 (motorway) the way into Scunthorpe. Out of a couple of hundred cars only a handful made it.
All of a sudden we found ourselves in front of all the traffic. All five of us commandos in one of the leading cars. We got drawn into the situation unintentionally. We were in the middle lane of the M180. All four lanes including the hard shoulder came to a slow halt. Lads wasted no time, they all jumped out of the car and started to play football. I don’t know where the ball came from? After half an hour of talking and discussions on the motorway the football game finished. A coach full of old ladies, parked dead behind me were getting pissed off. Being courteous and polite, I pulled forward and let them out. Then I reversed back into my gap. Big mistake! The old ladies were taking our registration numbers.
After this we set off, I put an old newspaper over my number plate. It didn’t last long, it soon blew off. A policeman pulled up on the opposite carriageway. He tried to take car numbers.
My car was easy to spot, a big brown Triumph 2.5 with white alloy wheels. We were driving down the motorway when a police transit van came alongside us. I put my foot down. We didn’t get far in the traffic. The transit full of riot police pulled alongside us again. They didn’t look very happy. All dressed in their black riot gear and wearing riot helmets. They signalled me to, “F****G PULL OVER” I can’t lip read, but I knew what they were saying.
I slowed down and stopped in the hard shoulder. They pulled up about ten yards in front of us. All of a sudden they kicked the back doors of the van open and came ‘flying out’ charging at us, truncheons drawn. Anyone would have thought they were the SAS! I did not wait to find out. F**k that for a game of soldiers, I looked in my mirror, ‘all clear’, pulled back on the motorway and sped off.
The police were ever so funny, it was like a scene out of the keystone cops. When I set off, they all ran back to the transit and started pushing each other back in the van. They finally caught up with us again breaking all air, land and sea records in doing so. These lads meant business. I made a point of pulling off at a junction where public visibility was good (police don’t like using too much force when in the public eye) as I slowed down there was a car full of pickets in front. The police were dragging them out. I just saw a shoe fly out! We didn’t argue when they came for us, they put us straight into the back of a transit. A bobby came up to me, stuck his hand out and said, “keys” I gave them to him.
In the police van the floor and seats were covered in girly mag’s’. Our kid said, “so this is what you spend your picket money wages on and read while waiting for us.” He was told shut up in no uncertain terms. They took us to Scunthorpe nick. I was glad to get there. Certain occupants in the van kept having a little ‘dig’ at our police escort now and again. I was surprised we got there in one piece. Bob Wilson kept insulting his captors.
A bobby drove my car and followed us. He drove it straight to the ‘nick’ for me. When we arrived at Scunthorpe they threw us straight into a cell. I found a bit of chalk on the floor and drew a pig’s face round the sliding hatch on the cell door, where the bobby would put his head through and call a name. Someone would shout, “OFFICER QUICK”, a bobby would stick his head through the sliding hatch hole and everybody would make grunting noises like a pig. I felt a bit guilty about that later, the Scunthorpe police were brilliant. They offered us stew and chips. We all thought it was a joke at first, then a policeman came in the cell with a trolley loaded with plates full of stew and chips. He even asked us if we wanted second helpings!
In Scunthorpe police station, the cells were like the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’, all the cells were overflowing with arrested miners. In our cell you either stood up or sat on the floor, it was hot with only a little window. In the cell next door we could hear miners singing, “Arthur Scargill, Arthur Scargill, we’ll support you evermore”, to the tune of a Welsh hymn. A policeman came into our cell and called a name out, for them to go in front of the magistrate. No one answered. The bobby called a name out again. A voice replied, “I’m Spartacus!”
Then another miner shouted out, “no. I am Spartacus.”
Then all the occupants of the cell, in unison, exclaimed, “no I am Spartacus.” It was so funny, even the bobby was smiling.
Later we were interviewed by the station Sergeant etc, and charged with obstructing the highway. They had their own court room at Scunthorpe Police Station and we were waiting to appear in front of a specially drafted Magistrate.
Captain Bob was upset, when the Sergeant interviewed him, he asked him his age. Captain Bob said thirty two. The police Sergeant replied, “f**k off you lying bastard, you’re fifty if not a day!” Poor old Captain Bob, he never got over that insult.
About teatime we were led to the Magistrates’ Court by three smartly dressed policemen (C.I.D.), our kid couldn’t help but have a dig at them, “where are you lads going then tonight, clubbing? Are you taking us?”
It was a long walk to the Magistrates court. A uniformed police officer took me to one side, he said, “is that your brother?”
“Yes” I told him.
“Look” said the bobby, “would you ask him to behave or the lads are going to take him into a cell and kick f**k out of him.”
I told our kid what was said. He agreed to play nicely, for a while anyway.
We stood in front of the magistrate. We were granted bail and to appear again at a later date. We were released. Now if this had been Nottinghamshire. It would have been life sentences all round.
Wednesday, 25th July 1984.
Destination, Babbington. Couldn’t get through, Notts as tight as a gnats arse. We were chased by a transit van full of police at Pleasley, but managed to escape. Found an old railway line, disused, no tracks on it. We drove down it for several hundred yards. Then we came to an embankment. It looked a bit steep so the lads got out of the car. I had a run at it and shot straight up it. I drove the car steady along the top of the embankment. After a few hundred yards it came to an end. There was a steep drop. The lads got back in the car. I set off down the slope, we had the ride of our lives and we had escaped the police.
Not going anywhere today. Back to the Silverwood Miners’ Welfare. Food and home!
Thursday, 26th July 1984.
Today’s target – Cresswell but didn’t get through. Coppers on the Clowne (Derbyshire/Notts border) road had it sealed off again. Two thousand pickets did not get through.
Friday, 27th July 1984.
Destination Bentinck Colliery, Notts. Set off at 9am. Went the Chesterfield way and got as far as Kirby-in-Ashfield but couldn’t get any further. I parked the car in a housing estate, walking two miles on the main road and over fields etc, but we were surrounded by police and had to walk back. Made our way back to the car and tried again. Stopped again! Set off walking back.
Darren shouted something to a copper who called him over, saying, “come over here lad, I want a word with you.”
Somebody shouted, “DON’T GO!” Which was good advice as Daz did not do as he was told. PC plod then started shouting at him, the foul mouthed git. That copper’s mouth want’s washing out with soap.
Darren took his bright yellow shirt off and Bob Wilson lent him his shirt. I got a lift back to the car from another picket and drove through the back roads to pick the lads up. Daz was a marked man, but we all got safely to the Silverwood Miners’ Welfare.
Sunday, 29th July 1984.
Gay’s mum, Evelyn came up yesterday to see her on Saturday. I went to the dock’s picketing at the Humber Bridge today looking out for the movement of coal. Just me and Captain Bob.
Gay has gone back down south to Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire with her mum for a few days. Our poor little Suzanne, aged ten months is just recovering from a broken collar bone. She was wearing a sling last week and yesterday after falling out of her baby walker.
Monday, 30th July 1984.
Destination Cresswell. North Derbyshire. Met at the Baggin’ 4.00am. Six pounds petrol money. We’re heading for Markham Main, Chesterfield. Set off for the pit. Big convoys of picket’s cars all over. We couldn’t get through at first, all roads blocked off at Clowne and Staveley etc. We managed to get through to Bolsover Colliery. Going through Whitwell etc.
We ended up picketing Bolsover. After a while we decided to move on. We walked a mile or so to Markham. There was a mass picket on. There must have been 2,000 picketing miners there. One pillock next to me and Shaun threw a brick through a bus window. Top, front, offside. It left a clean round hole. He hit the wrong bus anyway.
Very quiet, no ‘Zulu’ like earlier at Bolsover down the road. Some pickets went back to their cars to find their windscreens smashed and all the wiring ripped out from under the dashboard. I wonder who that could be?
Made our way back to the Baggin’ had something to eat. There’s a menu on display for the week. Today it’s egg and beans. And tomorrow its beans and egg, I don’t know if someone’s got a funny sense of humour, or it’s a mistake. Shouldn’t complain though. Some people live to eat, others eat to live. We are the latter at the moment.
Tuesday, 31st July 1984.
Newstead, South Notts. Nine pound petrol money. We managed to sneak through at Pleasley. Two to three hundred pickets got through. The rest were turned away. Very, very, very quiet today. Unbelievably quiet.