Miners’ memories of year-long strike

Thirty years on from the start of the miners’ strike of 1984-85, former Fife pit workers gathered on Saturday to reflect on its legacy.

A mock picket at the former Frances Colliery in Dysart was attended by a 50-strong crowd, who shared memories of the dispute and the battle against a programme of pit closures across Britain by the Thatcher Government which, they said, wrecked the mining industry and its communities.

A banner at the mock picket which commemorated the 30th anniversary of the miners' strike (picture by Walter Neilson)

A banner at the mock picket which commemorated the 30th anniversary of the miners' strike (picture by Walter Neilson)

Guest speakers said that, 30 years on, the damaging effects of the strike were still being felt in many of these areas.

Principal organiser, Levenmouth councillor Tom Adams, a former miner and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) official, stages a commemoration each year but felt there was a duty to remember it on this “big anniversary”.

“On the back of Margaret Thatcher dying last year – we are still here, but she’s away,” said Cllr Adams. “She was a hate figure.”

Cllr Adams, chairman of Fife Council’s Levenmouth area committee, added: “The strike also politicised a whole generation and brought churches in a big way into the trade union movement.”

Nicky Wilson, Scottish NUM president, said the nation was lied to by Mrs Thatcher over the true facts behind the niners’ strike.

He said: “It’s pretty ironic that we’re at the gates of a colliery that’s closed. We are standing above millions of tons of coal reserves that Scottish miners could still be working and young people getting employed in an industry that could still be producing.”

There was still anger about the effects on the industry, added Mr Wilson, and the communities which suffered then were the weakest when recession hit again in 2008.

Cath Cunningham, of East Wemyss, chairman of the women’s committee at the time, said the dispute was not about money but the “future of our communities” and defending the values they had.

“To see where we are now and what the legacy of the strike has done to the young people of Fife is a damned disgrace.

‘‘The generation today is paying for that,” she added.

Mrs Cunningham, who, with Maggie Wright, produced a 25th anniversary DVD on the dispute entitled ‘Women Living The Strike’,added: “We can remember and choose to be bitter, but we can also choose to be postitive about it.”

Councillor Willie Clarke, ex-chairman of the Seafield/Frances strike committee, said: “We have young people who can’t get a job. Embedded in any constitution should be the right to work.”

Other ex-miners said the dispute could have been won, had there been more support from other unions.