2 September 2014

Banners

When I heard that there was to be an exhibition of National Union of Mineworkers banners at Barnsley Civic Theatre, I was keen to go - even with my housemaid's knee. I feel a great affinity with the coal miners of South Yorkshire - partly because my mother came from a coal mining family and both her father and grandfather worked underground in the first three decades of the twentieth century. 

Furthermore, during the miners' strike of 1984-85 my allegiance was with them and not with Thatcher and the police force she utilised to achieve her spiteful decimation of our country's coal industry. It was in my heart - like a coal fire. I sent them money and tins of food and wore a "Coal Not Dole" badge on my lapel. I even wrote a song called "On Orgreave Field" about the famous Battle of Orgreave which saw the miners defeated by the massed ranks of the British police - many flown up to Yorkshire specially from London and the south east. They waved their pay slips at the penniless miners.

The memory of that industrial struggle remains vivid and raw in the South Yorkshire coalfield. Thirty years later it has not been forgotten and the banners at Barnsley Civic Theatre are testament to that struggle, that industrial heritage and the countless men who lost their lives for those black diamonds.

24 comments:

  1. Look out for a new film called PRIDE
    Set around the miners strike
    Looks great

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the reminder John. I certainly hope to see that film.

      Delete
  2. Sorry we missed that during our time in Barnsley this summer, though we did see plenty of mining/strike-related things in the new Barnsley museum. Hard times they were, and the results of Thatcher's politics can still be felt in that area. The strike affected every family as we all had someone close involved.
    But I didn't know you'd written a song until now - is it on Youtube?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No it's not on YouTube Brian. It's in my head and in an old box file marked "Songs".

      Delete
  3. Lovely banners. The Yorkshire Pudding mine in FNQ is an old tin mine I think ~ FYI

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FYI to you too Carol! The Yorkshire Pudding mine is surely the source of Yorkshire puddings!

      Delete
  4. I was talking about this this evening in relation not to Yorkshire but to the loss of the Welsh mining communities. Few people now believe that coal is an ecologically viable was of producing the electricity that we need but we all mourn the loss of those communities. I'm not sure that I can square the circle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Coal is not ecologically viable but neither is oil. I didn't see Thatcher shutting down oil refineries. The abandonment of coal happened far too quickly and now we import it instead! Where's the sense in that?

      Delete
    2. I'm not defending Thatcher YP! I don't know enough about the economics of it to answer your question though but presumably if it was a financially viable option (and it might one day be again) then Kellingley Colliery and Thoresby Colliery wouldn't be scheduled for closure as being financially non-viable now.

      Delete
    3. It depends on how you do the sums Graham. Putting coal on ships in Poland and Venezuela and then shipping it to Britain - then transporting it on trucks and trains. There's cost in all of that including environmental cost. And what about the lost jobs? There's cost there too. The word "uneconomic" can have political undertones and its application will often be questionable .... in my ever so humble opinion.

      Delete
  5. I worked underground for three years, from September 1962 until October 1965, but it was not in a coal mine. It was in the Underground Command Post at Strategic Air Command outside of Omaha, Nebraska. It was while there that I learned how to write computer programs, which led to my being employed by IBM upon discharge from the U.S. Air Force.

    Carol is right. The banners are wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bet you didn't have to wear a hard hat and carry a miner's lamp when you worked underground - nor take a communal shower after work with all the other guys.

      Delete
  6. All my late husband's family are originally from the Barnsley area and used to live (some still do) in the surrounding mining villages, such as Thurnscoe, Wath, Bolton etc. Personally, I don't know anyone who worked down the mines back then, but my mother-in-law often tells me of those days when a young lad would leave school on a Friday and start working on a Monday, like her own father and brother did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In Steve's home district if you close your eyes and listen you can still hear the echoes of the miners' boots and the pithead hooters and faraway the sound of a plaintive brass band.

      Delete
  7. Great banners....so sad to see them.
    The daft thing is that after thirty years we still produce about 40% of our electricity from coal. Of course it is a mix of imported coal and opencast.
    Natural gas accounts for 30%, nuclear 20% and the bloody windfarms 10%.

    It would be interesting to know what percentage of GDP coal cost from the NCB and what it costs now from Poland, Venezuala and private opencast sources. It would be a travesty if she caused all that misery for nothing.

    She really was a dreadful woman.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The arithmetic you ponder is a national secret. They abandoned coal far too early and that abandonment was not riven by economic necessity but by class prejudice and spite.

      Delete
  8. The sad thing YP is there is still two hundred years of coal underground in the UK. I did my bit collecting for the miners. Brassed Off is one of my favourite northern English films. The banners remind me of regimental banners that you see hung in cathedrals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dave - I said to one of the retired miners who organised the exhibition - "These banners are amazing. Apart from anything else they are works of art and part of our social history. They should hang a couple of them in the British Museum!" His reply was, "No. We wouldn't send any of em to London. London has never done anything for us. They are better off here where they belong and where we know what they mean. London took everything from us and gave us nothing."

      Delete
  9. If nothing else, those banners might remind people today that their predecessors had enough balls to stand up to the government. Most folks today wouldn't stick their nose outside to help with anything, they'd stay home and watch it on TV.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right there Jan. Britain's miners were decent people but they didn't cower when there was a fight to be had. Workers have now been emasculated - I think that that is the polite term.

      Delete
  10. I'm glad you dragged yourself along on your hands and knees are were able to share this with us, Yorky! No wonder you have a housemaid's knee. Just make sure you don't get a tennis elbow! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My main fear is catching a disabling condition called Aussie Mouth!

      Delete
  11. Dear YP. I'd like to speak to you about the possibility of using one of your images here as part of the following book: www.inlovingmemoryofwork.com

    If you could email me through that site that would be great. Thanks.
    Craig.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Neil, please could I use image 3 and possibly 2 on the post I'm working on at the moment? I'll give you full credit and link through of course.

    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.