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13 November 2014

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You are in: Leeds > History > Mining history > Jean's Story

Miners' Strike graphic

Jean's Story

Jean Gittins lives in a mining family, was active in a miners' support group during the 1984-5 strike and even found time to write poetry.

Here's one example of one of Jean's strike poems - Kim.

I can’t understand what has happened to Kim
There’s been such a terrible change
When I think of how that girl acted before
I can’t understand such a change
A lovely hand with the pastry she had
Her sponge cakes were lovely and light
But now it’s all muesli and yoghurt and nuts
While she’s out at meetings each night
We could have gone on for the rest of our lives
Never knowing just what she was like
And she’d have been trapped in our image of her
If it hadn’t been for the strike.
(Gittins, Kim in Striking Stuff, p.24)

This is Jean's story.

"Kim Young was a real person, she was married to a miner but has slipped out of my sight. She hasn't been to any of the re-unions that I've been to.

"I live in Kippax, as I did during the strike.

"My involvement started when I went to a young socialist meeting in BlacKpool. The political meeting opened my eyes to what might be a long strike and I came back with a different mind. It was really explained to me what a big thing this was I realised that it was a right political thing, far more than I realised at the start.
 
"When I got back there was some reticence from the men who didn't like ordering them around. I was involved in a support group that was going by 25 March 1984 - very early in the strike.

"I had written some poetry all my life but my family said 'that won't earn yer'. Publishing the booklet Kim appeared in was a fund-raising thing when the miners' funds were sequestrated.

"I find that my poetry has to be inspired by something, I can't just turn the tap on.

"It might seem odd to say but the strike was the best year of my life and very different to anything I could have expected. Who would have thought I'd be making a speech on the back of a tractor at Hyde Park with faces in the crowd stretching further back than I could see?

"Mine was a mining family including my two youngest sons who were miners. I'm not sure that, even now, some of the miners involved want reminding about the strike.

"People don't know the severity of it all. If you weren't involved why would you know? You don't always know much before getting involved in something and people wouldn't know what the strike entailed before it started.

"I learnt about other things during the strike that I hadn't thought about before, like the Irish question, I didn't know about the struggles in Ireland. Same with the Anti-apartheid struggles.

"I am 72 now, but I would go back, if I could, to 1984-5 that would do me.

"History wasn't written by people like us and I think it should be.

"You know in real life things can be depressing, I've lost a grandson who died and my neighbour had an accident recently but then one of my sons said 'Mam, you shone during the strike'.

"All in all I'm suited."

last updated: 18/03/2009 at 08:31
created: 24/02/2009

You are in: Leeds > History > Mining history > Jean's Story



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