A Fife miner's wounds that are yet to heal
'A police officer shouted 'take prisoners' then I was one of the first picked out, arrested, fined and and sacked and I'm still seeking a sense of justice all these years later.'
Some 33 years on from one of the most bitter and divisive industrial disputes in British history, the miners’ strike represents a wound that has yet to heal for one former Frances Colliery worker, John Mitchell,
For the pit delegate and official picket co-ordinator during the miner’s strike of 1984-85, it’s been a continuous battle, long beyond those endless months of mass pickets and tough times to clear his name once and for all.
Now 73, he was one who paid a heavier price than most when he was fined £50 for obstructing a police officer while picketing at the Frances Colliery and sacked the following day by the the National Coal Board, the company he had given 24 years service to.
Three decades on, the announcement by Scottish Justice Minister Michael Matheson that there will be an independent review into the police handling of the strike is much welcomed by those involved, including John, who will finally be given a chance to have their voices heard.
“I’ve no doubt that we were specifically targeted by officers because of my role within the union and among those out on strike,” said John.
“That day just happened to be my wedding anniversary.
“Despite being sacked, I continued to support my colleagues and was there to eventually lead the men back in to Frances pit when the strike ended.
For John, a one-time Scottish Amateur bantamweight champion from the same training stable as Jim Watt, and who later went on to run Kirkcaldy Amateur Boxing Club for many years, it was the start of three years of hell.
A fight for his pension and the loss of more than £26,000 of redundancy was just the tip of the iceberg.
The NCB’s refusal to reinstated sacked miners, and a subsequent blacklisting meant years of unemployment, and a sense of betrayal by the miners’ union who failed to fight his corner.