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  Inside Out East Midlands: Monday February 2, 2004

THE MINERS' STRIKE REVISITED

Miner's helmet
Whatever happened to the men who lost their jobs?

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1984 Miners' Strike, the longest industrial dispute of the 20th Century. Inside Out looks at what happened to the miners who lost their jobs.

The Miners' Strike was one of the hardest fought industrial disputes in British history.

Its battlegrounds were the old mining areas including the Notts and Derbyshire coalfields. Thousands of miners came out in protest against proposed pit closures and job losses.

Inside Out looks back at the key events of the strike, and investigates what happened to the miners when the East Midland pits finally closed.

King coal

The Miners' Strike marked the beginning of the end for Britain's coal industry.

Demolition of a mine
The end of an industry - the pits come tumbling down

Once an important part of the economy, coal was no longer a force to be reckoned with.

After the Second World War coal had been king in the Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire coalfields.

Whole communities were built on the black stuff, and the area's many pit villages were renowned for their close-knit spirit.

Before the Miners' Strike, the East Midlands boasted around 30 working mines.

Just a few years later most of those mines had closed with the loss of tens of thousands of mining jobs.

Today, only three mines remain - all in Nottinghamshire.

So where did it all go wrong, and what happened to the miners who lost their jobs?

The 1984 Strike

MINERS' STRIKE FACT FILE

9 January - 25 February, 1972 - Major miners' strike.

12 March, 1984 - Miners strike over threatened pit closures.

15 March, 1984 - Flying picket dies outside Ollerton colliery.

9 April, 1984 - Dozens of miners arrested in picket line violence

29 May, 1984 - Major clash between police and miners at Orgreave.

3 March, 1985 - The NUM executive narrowly vote for a return to work.

2002 - Arthur Scargill retires as NUM President

The 1984 Miners' Strike was a last attempt by the mining unions to stop mining closures and the loss of jobs.

In March 1984 more than 187,000 miners came out on strike when the National Coal Board announced that 20 pits in England would have to close with the loss of 20,000 jobs.

It was the start of one of the most confrontational strikes ever seen, marred by picket line violence and clashes between police and miners.

Miners in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire eventually came out on strike.

But some miners continued to work and were branded as "scabs" by their colleagues when they crossed picket lines.

The Government branded the striking miners as "the enemy within".

When the strike ended 12 months later, it was estimated that the total cost had been £3 billion.

Over 11,000 people had been arrested, and around 5,000 miners stood trial for a variety of offences.

Many of the threatened closures took place in 1992.

Mining communities throughout the country were scarred, and many never fully recovered.

It was the end of the industry that had once been the backbone of industrial Britain.

Collapse of an industry

In 1984 there were 170 collieries in Britain, employing more than 190,000 people.

Old pit head
When coal was king - the pithead was once a familiar landmark in the Midlands

Today there are fewer than 20 collieries, employing a workforce of around 5,000.

There is no official record of what happened to the thousands of miners who were forced to leave the industry over the last 20 years.

However a 1994 study by the Coalfield Communities Campaign, based on a survey of 900 ex-miners, painted a depressing picture.

It found that more than 50% of ex-miners were still out of work more than a year after leaving the pit.

Some of the miners were on retraining schemes, but the majority were unemployed. Of those who were working, almost half had taken pay cuts.

Inside Out decided to look at whether the situation had improved 20 years on.

A new life for ex-miners

Many of the East Midland's miners have adjusted to new lives following the collapse of the industry.

Inside Out followed four of ex-miners, and found that their lives are very different today.

Chris Craven diving
Chris Craven has forged a new life as a diving instructor

Former miner Andy Boyles is back in the community, working as a primary school teacher.

When Andy left the coalface, he retrained for the chalkface.

Seven years on, he's a teacher at Heatherly Primary School.

Another miner Chris Craven has swapped being underground for being underwater.

He now works as a diving instructor in an exclusive Turkish hoilday resort.

Alan Craig has moved even further away... he's planning a fresh start down under and has emigrated to Australia.

A fresh start

Martin Newbury is proof of how many miners have turned their hand to new trades.

Martin Newbury
Working above ground a world away from the pit

He's putting something back into the community, working out of doors training workers with learning difficulties.

Martin is happy to be working above ground, and recalls the difficult conditions underground when he worked as a miner.

"Working here in the fresh air is so much better," he says.

"Conditions in the pit were awful. I feel healthier (working) in the fresh air."

Community spirit

There's no doubt that working down the pit was a tough life with conditions underground being difficult.

Although the men don't miss the conditions in the pit, they do feel nostalgic for the close-knit community that it engendered.

Alan Craig sums it up, "Thirty-three years of sheer enjoyment. At the end of the day, they can't take memories away... they'll never do that."

The scars of the Miners' Strike remain deep ones, but at least some of the men who once went underground have now found new lives above ground.

See also ...

Inside Out: East Midlands
More great stories

On bbc.co.uk
BBC: The 1984 Miners' Strike
BBC: Where did the mine workers go?
BBC Nation on Film - mining archive

On the rest of the web
The Miners' Strike
UK Coal
Coalfields Regeneration Trust
HMSO: A new start for mining communities
Mining History Network
Terry Blythe Mining Site

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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