As the Beast from the East, the description that is given to the current weather front that is threatening, the East Midlands and much of the United Kingdom arrives; I began to think of days-gone-by, snuggling up around our coal fire.
My late father worked at Thorseby Colliery. As such we were lucky as a family to always have a warm house. Concessionary coal was an integral part of his wages. The glow of the coal fire a welcome sight to come home to when the weather outside was freezing cold. Sadly, the era of the coal fire was to rapidly decline as a result of the Miners strike of 1984.
Thorseby Colliery closed in 2015, marking the end of an era of mining in Nottinghamshire.
At one time Nottinghamshire, with 42 collieries and 40,000 miners, was one of the most successful coal-fields in Europe. Many of Nottinghamshire’s towns and villages were established around the collieries. There was a good community spirit and a sense of belonging. Sons often followed their fathers into the mines or allied professions which supported the mining industry.
Sadly, all of this changed in March 1984 when Arthur Scargill led major industrial action.
The choice of whether to join a picket line or continue working; divided workforces, caused arguments within families and began fights across the country.
As the situation became worse, many miners refusing to work found themselves struggling financially and kitchens were set up by families to provide food for those who could not afford it. These struggles are explored in my book, a work of contemporary fiction.
Love, Secrets, and Absolution. Published by The Globeflower Agency. Available from Amazon and Waterstones.
Extracts from Love, Secrets, and Absolution.
‘You heard the news?’ Grace nodded and said, ‘Will you be going on strike?’ Paul gulped his beer and then began to update Grace on what was happening. He told her that the Nottinghamshire NUM supported strike action, but some members wanted to continue working as they didn’t agree with it. Paul explained that he didn’t know what to do. His whole family worked, or had worked, in the mines of Nottinghamshire. His great-grandfather had helped to sink the first mine in their district and his own father had carried on the family tradition of working the coal face. He felt loyal to his family and fellow miners, and didn’t want to be a ‘scab’. But, if he went on strike then money would be tight.
Helping in the soup kitchen.
Paul went on strike, and initially tried to be constructive with his time. He planted the garden with the vegetables, as Grace had suggested. He also chopped down an old tree at the bottom of the garden and cut it into logs. Along with the loss of wages the concessionary fuel was stopped. Their last load of coal that was delivered would have to be used very carefully. Grace thought it was fantastic that Paul would take Alfie to the playground every day. However, she noted that Alfie never seemed happy upon their return. Money was very tight, so throughout the strike the wives rallied round and supported each other. Whilst Paul took Alfie out, Grace met her friend Hazel and they would talk about the strike. Hazel informed her that the Women’s Institute was helping struggling families, and she wondered if Grace would like to help set up a local soup kitchen with funding from the Women’s Institute. Grace thought that this was a fantastic idea and threw herself into this new role of helping others. She began to feel empowered by her actions and her confidence soared.