25th anniversary of miners' strike

TODAY (Thursday) marks the 25th anniversary of the miners' strike.

It was the start of the year-long industrial dispute which changed the face of the industry, and mining towns such as Kirkcaldy.

Today there are only a few landmarks to indicate the collieries which once employed thousands of men – the old Seafield pit has been replaced by a luxury housing scheme.

But the legacy of the strike will never be forgotten by those who, in 1984, endured 12 months of picket lines, marches and soup kitchens.

Dan Imrie, a miner for 41 years and secretary of Fife Miners Community Culture Group, spoke to The Press this week about his experiences during the strike that changed Kirkcaldy, and Fife, forever.

"I went through the 1972 and '74 strikes, but they were shorter, different, and victorious," Mr Imrie (79) said.

At the time, the father of six was working at Frances Colliery in Dysart, and when the strike was called on March 12, 1984, the miners unanimously stayed away from the pits.

"Once we had taken the decision to strike, everybody was out. That was it," he continued. ''Each colliery made their own decision - it was an unofficial strike, and, with hindsight, we should have carried a national ballot - but everyone accepted they had to fight."

Despite the hardships the action brought, the Mr Imrie vividly remembers the support in Fife.

The then Fife Regional Council waived the rent of many of the miners on strike, including Mr Imrie, while the Council convener, the late Bert Gough, promised: "No bairns in Fife will have empty bellies."

He was true to his word as soup kitchens popping up throughout the Kingdom.

"They kept everyone going," Mr Imrie added. "The women were a great support too. They led marches across Fife and raised funds. That's one thing we did a lot of here and it really helped."

However, for those who went back to work early, there was little support.

''They were condemend as 'scabs' and became the target of animosity throughout the UK and were not easily forgiven.

"Families really stuck together, although it was with the exception of the boys who broke the picket," Mr Imrie said. "Sometimes I understood them.

''It was nine months into the strike before the first ones went back, but they will always be branded. You saw a new side of life during that time.

"I remember one boy who lived across the street from me. 'There was a picket at his house. I couldn't believe the number of people and police who were there. I took a few in to my house and gave them cups of tea - I didn't want them to get lifted. Had they been taken to court they would have lost everything, including their pensions."

Although spirits were kept high in Fife, Mr Imrie admits the damage came after the strike. He worked at Frances for 19 years, but never returned.

"The pit never re-opened. More than 1000 people lost jobs. Seafield went on for a couple more years, but they were a complex, and, without Frances, Seafield couldn't work.

"That cost us another 2000 jobs. We felt down. During the strike it was alright, but finding there were no jobs to go back to was a blow.

"Once the strike ended, a year later, it was a case of 'you're on your own' - each family had to do what they could to get by. It was a big loss to the area and everything changed."

Prior to the strike, the Frances and Seafield complex was thought to be a gold mine. Seafield eventually closed in 1987, with the last visible trace - two massive winding towers that had become Kirkcaldy landmarks - taken down in 1989.

"The support was always strong," Mr Imrie added. "We wouldn't have lasted without the camaraderie. Unfortunately it was our Waterloo. Everything was lost."