Margaret Thatcher death: Opinion of her split in Sheffield

Baroness Thatcher Baroness Thatcher was the first woman to be UK prime minister, winning three elections

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Outside Sheffield railway station the news that former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher had died was slow to spread.

More than an hour after the official announcement, details of her death still came as a surprise to passers by.

Opinions of the 'Iron Lady', however, were more quickly made obvious among those present.

"I think Thatcher was like Marmite, you either loved her or hated her," William Henly, 44, ventured.

"Personally, I think she was the right person at the right time."

His blunt observation offered an accurate reflection of South Yorkshire's view of Baroness Thatcher.

During her 11 years in power Sheffield and South Yorkshire were at the centre of some of the biggest news stories, from the Miners' Strike of 1984 to the Hillsborough disaster five years later.

Over the course of 60 minutes people in Sheaf Square praised her as both an "excellent" Prime Minister and branded her as "bad news" for the area and for Britain.

Pensioner John Bache, 70, said: "For me, I think she did a great job.

"I think she did a lot of things that needed putting right after the unions became too powerful.

"She changed very quickly from being the Iron Lady to being a very fragile, old lady.

"I've got great respect for her. She was a leader for feminism and I'm very sorry to see her go."


In a statement from David Blunkett are the words "a ground-breaking politician" and "I cannot forgive her".

An unemotional assessment of her abilities combined with an extremely emotive feeling about her effect on South Yorkshire.

Ironic that it was just last weekend that Maltby pit closed and left Hatfield to be the final deep coal mine in Yorkshire. Once a huge industry, like steelworking, changed forever by government policy.

Places too changed forever. Many of the pit villages in South Yorkshire are exactly that; only built to house workers for the local mine.

I have been to Rossington and Orgreave in the last 24 hours, two key scenes during the year-long miners' strike. While one man told me it was "fantastic news" that Baroness Thatcher had died, one woman said "she did a good job" in allowing her to buy her own council house.

While the tributes come in, there are people in places like South Yorkshire who will never forget what happened here during Margaret Thatcher's period in power. Those same people will also tell you most communities have never recovered.

Marion Field, 51, added: "I thought she was an excellent Prime Minister, one of the best, a very brave lady, the decisions she made were very brave.

"I think she put the country back on its feet. She had a lot of tough times but she was a courageous woman."

'Terrible cuts'

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Maureen Barry, 59, said: "I think she was very bad news.

"Bad news for Sheffield and bad news for the country in general - in particular her inhumane behaviour during the miners' strike.

"She made terrible cuts to the arts and privatisation, policies which have failed us all in my view."

A 52-year-old former colliery under-manager, who asked not to be named, said Baroness Thatcher had "destroyed" his career.

"A friend of mine once said if they had two bullets they would use them both on Margaret Thatcher to make sure. I wouldn't disagree with them," he said.

"She destroyed our coal mining industry in the UK almost single-handedly, with a little help from Ian McGregor.

"It's very sad the way she had aged, and struggled with old age, but I've very little sympathy for the woman.

"I was an under-manager of a colliery within 10 miles of here.

"I was not on strike. My union was not on strike. But I lived in a pit village and I knew many of the people that were on strike and I knew the way these people had to go out at night to gather waste coal just to keep their houses warm over the winter of '84-'85 and the impact that had on people."

'Decent job'

Margaret Leggett, 83, said her husband James was working at Markham Main colliery, in Armthorpe, near Doncaster, at the time of the miners' strike.

Miner's Strike, Orgreave coke depot Police and miners clash outside the Orgreave coke depot, South Yorkshire

However, the pensioner was not bitter over Baroness Thatcher's role in the dispute, despite it spelling the end of her husband's 44-years in the mining industry.

She said: "She did a lot of things that were not good. I think the only really good thing was that she stuck up against Argentina because they were trying to push Britain around.

"All in all she did a decent job, as decent a job as anyone."

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