Marking 30 years since the Miners’ Strike - mock picket to be held

Miners' strike rally in The Centre Leven from East Fife Mail September 19, 1984
Miners' strike rally in The Centre Leven from East Fife Mail September 19, 1984

A local councillor has made a call to the public to help mark 30 years since the devastating miners strike at a mock picket this weekend.

Councillor Tom Adams, chairman of the Levenmouth area committee, hopes to welcome a number of former miners and union members to the special picket line, which will be set up at the entrance of the Frances Colliery in Dysart.

Local miners set up a round-the-clock, 24-hour picket line in March 1984 outside the former Methil Power Station.

Local miners set up a round-the-clock, 24-hour picket line in March 1984 outside the former Methil Power Station.

The event will take place on Saturday at 11.00 a.m.

Councillor Adams, a former miner who was also an official for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said: “I want to try to get as many people there as possible - we’ve already got about 10, but I would love to see 30-40 there.

“We’ll be there for about half an hour to an hour and there will be speakers too. I’ve spoken to Willie Clark about coming, and Kath Cunningham, a miners wife who was heavily involved during the strike, is speaking too.

“Nicky Wilson from NUM Scotland has also told me he is coming through, so he should say a few words too.”

Cllr Adams worked at the Frances for 16 years, and during the strike, was a picket coordinator.

The councillor is hoping some women who helped in the soup kitchens will come along too - “If we could get some miners wives to come down to the picket as well, then all the better.”

Thousands of Kingdom residents, many of them from Levenmouth and the surrounding villages, were employed at local pits such as the Frances and at Seafield.

“There were buses filled with guys from this area that would go along to the Frances and Seafield, and those people have never been able to leave or get other jobs,” said Cllr Adams. “I remember the strike very well, and it means a lot to people especially here in the East of Fife.”

Still feeling the effects 30 years on

Exactly 30 years on, the devastating impact of the miners’ strike is at the foundation of efforts to regenerate and revitalise Levenmouth.

In March 1984 began a year-long dispute, provoked by the National Coal Board’s announcement to close 20 pits with the loss of 20,000 jobs.

The strike changed the face of the industry and, with it, the lives of many people in the Levenmouth communities with a mining tradition.

Virtually all Levenmouth’s pit workers at the time were employed at the Frances and Seafield collieries – and all were out on strike a month before the national dispute was called.

Protecting jobs was the fundamental principle of the dispute – with at least one ex-miner telling the Mail he still believed it was worth it, adding: “I would do it all again for the same reasons.”

However, when the strike was over in 1985, Frances had closed and Seafield had lost its main production face – and 800 jobs.

Within a couple of years, the remaining 600-plus jobs went when Seafield shut.

Those who broke the strike – amid allegations of deals and incentives from coal bosses – were met with bitterness and anger, which caused lasting divisions among families.

Miners’ wives became involved, both campaigning and organising practical help like soup kitchens. Although not unanimous, support for the miners came from across the community.

The end of the strike brought a mixture of relief and bitterness for, as they returned underground, the miners knew they were beaten.

While some may have taken the chance of further education and a career change, many endured broken marriages, lost careers, incurred heavy debt and, in some cases, criminal records.

Many believe the scars are here in Levenmouth to this day and the efforts to rejuvenate the area have stemmed from the ex-miners and their families who still live a meagre day-to-day lifestyle and have been unable to move on.

Recalling local media coverage during the strike, Jerzy Morkis, former East Fife Mail editor, said: “The mining community was an important part of the East Fife Mail’s readership - and had been since the General Strike.

“But there was a feeling this time that the Levenmouth community, and a whole way of life, was changing forever, and that when this was settled – however it was settled – we would be into an uncertain but new era.

“As the local paper, we still tried to provide a balanced coverage, and I think, largely down to the leadership of the editor, Ian C. Paterson, we did achieve that. But all of us had connections with the pits, so it was a deeply personal, and in many ways difficult, period for the newsroom.”