Your Miners Strike Stories
The Miners Strike started in South Yorkshire in March 1984 and continued for a year. We have been collecting your stories and memories of the strikes. Read them here, and send us more.
:: Send us your stories and recollections of the 1984/85 Miners Strike. The views on this page are those of the people who sent them in, not of the BBC.
Arthur Scargill at Orgreave, June 1984
John - Police officer provoked by the Police
I am from a family where all my male relatives were miners. I worked at the time for the Police as a civilian and lived in Mapplewell.
I never had any problems with anyone from the village or from the mining community. I used to have a morning routine of taking the family dog for a walk down to the newsagents to buy a newspaper and get back in time to catch a bus into work.
After the first one to go back at North Gawber Colliery, my mornings used to find me bumping into people I had known all my life as solid sensible individuals who knew right from wrong.
They were going to the pit gates to do their bit. My routine never took me near that area so I thought it would be difficult to become embroiled in anything, however for some reason I attracted the attention of two vans full of Police Officers. The vans had the Cambridgeshire livery. The first day they just followed me up Greenside. The second day they decided to throw in some provocative commentary which I didn't respond to. I didn't identify myself to them either. If they were bothering me, then they weren't bothering anyone else.
Amanda Joyce - Finding a tenner
I was 12 years old at the start of the strike. My dad worked at Elsecar workshops when he came out on Strike.
Pithead and miners
I remember having very little but my dad and step-mum always tried to make sure I never went without. I remember the free school uniforms that were provided for kids whose dads were on strike and free school meals.
But one day my step-mum had gone to the shops with hardly anything in her purse and she found a crisp £10 note blowing around Hoyland Town Hall car park.
At first she thought it was a set up, but she picked it up and went into the Co-op and you cannot imagine the amount of shopping that she came back with, even today we still talk about the she found a tenner.
George Telford - Stop blaming Scargill
I'm sick to death of people blaming Arthur Scargill for the Strike. Let's put the record straight: Arthur didn't want us out on strike for a start, he wanted an overtime ban and a work to rule, but we didn't listen to him, we voted with our feet - it was nothing to do with Arthur Scargill.
He's not a stupid man, he knew that Thatcher had prepared for the Strike with record stocks of coal, all Arthur did was to back his members.
Mrs Margaret Curran - 'Support the Miners' Cry'
Throughout the nation's history these gallant men have shown,
Attempts to bring them to their knees, are reckless ill advised,
Iron gate at The New Dearne Playhouse
Condemned to live in poverty, futility, and dole
Their plea shall not be silenced, their leaders not be hushed,
Maurice Green - Scargill's intransigence
Many reports of the 1984-5 Miners Strike speak of Scargill's reluctance to engage with the media.
It should be remembered that most of it was and still is controlled by Murdoch and Maxwell.
I became personally aware of Trades Union corruption after a NUR meeting in Coalvillle and worked against the NUM with a heavy heart.
I was determined, as we all were, not to give the Murdoch press the satisfaction of being able to exploit the Working Class weakness for his own political reasons.
The NUM was doomed to failure because of Scargill's intransigence. Norman Tebbit was wrong: he would have won a ballot if he had surrendered his pride to his members.
Ian Tattershall - Thatcher changed lives for the worse
It was the summer of 1984. I was 8 years old living in Goldthorpe. My dad was a miner, my granddad was a miner, also my uncles, I remember it as if it was yesterday.
Orgreave, 18th June 1984
Times were very hard, but we still managed to have fun. Money was non-existent. I can remember going to the soup kitchens at the welfare hall in Goldthorpe. This was run by miners' wives, it was great - I loved going down with my mates for our dinner, everyone stuck together and everyone helped each other.
I remember the police charging through our village as if we were all criminals and shouting abuse at women and children, when all our fathers and grandfathers were doing is fighting for our futures.
I remember going to school one day and I saw a lad on his bike probably about 14 years old, I think he was delivering papers..? A police van pulled up and about five police officers jumped out and dragged the young boy off his bike and threw him in the back of the van, for no apparent reason!
Everyone was scared of the police because they showed malice and no mercy to anyone - be it man, women or child. All we were was people trying to get on with our lives. Margaret Thatcher not only destroyed our fathers' lives but ours also!
If the pits were still open maybe I would have gone down the pit and been able to provide for my family, and maybe there wouldn't be all the problems with crime and drugs?
Thatcher's mess will go on forever in our village and every other mining village in the country. She changed all our lives for the worse. If only she knew!!!!!!!!!
Philip Geary - From Oz to Orgreave
I was an apprentice electrician at Orgreave Coke Ovens from 1966 to 1970 and worked as a qualified tradesman until 1972 when I emigrated to Australia.
Miners stike at Cortonwood, 1984
I was amazed to see pictures of the confrontation at Orgreave on TV here in Oz. We came home to Sheffield for a holiday in 1995 and drove down Orgreave Lane.
There were green fields and grazing sheep where the Coke ovens used to be. Seeing the picture of the Orgreave Plant on the BBC South Yorkshire website was quite a moving experience for me, it was the first time I had seen it since our first trip back home in 1978.
I wonder what happened to Rotherwood Hall, the beautiful old manor house which had been converted to offices and a social club for Orgreave Plant Workers?
It was situated in a wooded area between the coking plant and the colliery. I often wonder if it survived and if so, what became of it.
:: If anyone knows what became of Rotherwood Hall, email email@example.com
Garth Heyworth - In touch with the whole workforce
Manvers was on Strike two weeks before the Miners Strike started - over 'snap times.' As a result Wath Main, where I worked, was locked out. In theory we were not on strike, initially. I was one of the many who after six months or so realised that we would not win especially when millions of tons of coal had been stockpiled in Rotterdam and were being brought into the country.
It was right to show our contempt for Government Policy but I still believe that NUM leaders should have been more in touch with the whole workforce and removed their blinkers a lot earlier.
Mounted Police, Orgreave
David Case - The other side of the story: Bullied for being a policeman's son
I appreciate the major conflicts local strikers had with police officers from other forces who travelled to the North Midlands and South Yorkshire.
However what about the memories of the local police officers and their families who lived in the mining community before, during and after the strike?
As the son of police officer who lived in a mining town, all I can remember was being bullied relentlessly for being the son of the local policeman. All this when I was facing my first year in secondary school!
Philip Higgs - Working through the Strike
I was a student of Mining Engineering when the strike started. For the next 12 months I was part of a team of managers and engineers whose job it was to perform underground inspections and maintenance to ensure that the mines remained in a fit state to resume production once the Strike had ended.
I worked at Woolley Colliery near Barnsley. Soon after the Strike began, we were issued with passes to show to the pickets that identified us as essential maintenance workers. There were few problems with the NUM at this time, they accepted we had essential work to do and we were waved through the gates each morning.
The strike was solid in this area and the picket line just consisted of maybe half a dozen men (mainly union officials). There was no need for a police presence.
As the strike dragged on and men started to drift back to work in other areas, attitudes hardened. There were no more friendly waves at the gates and we had a detachment of police on standby (I think they were from the Met).
At Woolley Colliery, the strike stayed solid almost right to the end. After all, it was where Arthur Scargill himself had once worked and started his union career. Finally one day we were told that one of the men had decided to return to work. I don't know what persuaded him to do it, maybe pressure from his family. There were rumours he had been offered a cash incentive from The Sun newspaper and the promise of a holiday in Spain if he went back.
All hell broke loose after that. We needed to travel into work in a police convoy. As we approached the pit gates on that first day I remember seeing lamp posts that had been pulled down and used to barricade the street, fires had been lit producing a kind of smokescreen which, combined with the darkness of the early morning, made a kind of surreal atmosphere.
As we approached the gates there was an incredible noise from hundreds of angry men. Stones were hurled at us, most hitting the police vehicles and the bus carrying the one man. There were hundreds of police holding back the crowd. I was very grateful for their presence.
I dread to think what would have happened to us if the crowd had broken through. As time went on, more and more men started to come back to work until only a hard core of strikers remained.
There weren't enough to mount large pickets at the gates of every pit each day and so the NUM organised a kind of rota system where a particular pit would be targeted on a particular day.
Our only problem now was when it was our turn to be picketed. The police had intelligence about which pit was to be targeted and we had at least a day's notice. We had to travel in convoy on these days. One very foggy morning our police escort got lost and our convoy ended up in a cul-de-sac on a housing estate at 5am.
We woke up all the residents as the convoy performed a U-turn in the narrow street. By now the police outnumbered the pickets and they were held well away from us. However, on one occasion a couple of pickets did manage to break through the line and jumped on my car bonnet.
They were soon dragged off by the police but it was a pretty frightening incident none the less. The strike finally petered out and everyone returned to work. The working atmosphere was terrible though.
So called 'scabs' had to be separated from the other men - very difficult to do in the close confines of a coal mine. The two groups of men wouldn't speak or communicate with each other in any way.
There were incidents of violence which resulted in the perpetrators being instantly dismissed. Each morning there would be a gaggle of these 'sacked miners' at the gates with collection buckets.
They recognised me as 'management' and my car was routinely spat on. Despite all this, I felt really sorry for the majority of the miners. They were, on the whole, very hard working and conscientious.
Striking miner Paul Toon in 1984
As a rookie Mining Engineer, they helped me a great deal when I hadn't a clue what I was doing. I had nothing but respect for the skilled face workers and tunnelling teams. It's a dangerous and physically demanding job as anyone who has visited a production coal face will tell you. I've no doubt they saved my neck a few times.
As for the justification for the strike, yes, the industry had to be slimmed down. Many of the mines were ancient with low reserves and running at huge losses. However, the previous Labour government had expanded the coal industry.
Its 'Plan for Coal' produced in reaction to the 1970's oil crisis resulted in new mines being sunk in the Selby area and many of the small mines in the Barnsley area were being linked together underground to produce more coal at lower cost.
If the NUM had recognised this, and negotiated for the old, exhausted collieries to be closed in return for continued investment in the modern pits I think we would still have a significant coal industry today.
I think Arthur Scargill should shoulder much of the blame for the strike and the rapid contraction of the industry that followed. He was hell-bent on confrontation with the government, trying to recreate his 'victory' during the previous strike which brought down the Heath government.
He used the miners as shock troops in his class warfare. They were truly lions led by donkeys.
Privately, there was a good deal of resentment at the way the Union had handled the strike. The lack of any ballot before the strike was a consistent complaint I heard.
Scuffle at Orgreave © Steve Eason
The violence and intimidation also sickened many of the men. They were just ordinary workers trying to make a living.
They told me, though I've no way of knowing, that many of the people on the picket lines towards the end of the strike weren't even miners.
All this talk of 'once a scab always a scab' and people not speaking to each other since some strike in the 1930s they found faintly ridiculous.
Still, those sort of attitudes do exist in a small hard core of people and are always good for quotes on a television documentary.
I left coal mining in 1987 and now work in the IT industry in the South of England. I was born and brought up in Barnsley. On the few occasions I go back to the area I've been shocked at the way it has become run down.
Kath - Police provocation, pride and principles
I was a young mum aged 24 in 1984, with two sons aged two and 10 months old.
My husband, father, brother, uncles and cousins were all on strike - none of them ever dreamed of returning to work before the strike was over.
Times were hard but we all stuck together through it all. I remember the southern police who seemed to be everywhere in our village, waving £5 notes at us when we went to the shop and shouting, 'You forgot your whippet' and things like that at us - trying to provoke a response.
We were right to strike, the police were being paid enormous amounts of money to goad people into a fight to justify them being there.
The Christmas of 1984 was fantastic - we had a big party for all the striking families' children, a Christmas dinner for the adults, and on Christmas Day we had a turkey and veg donated.
We used to get a food parcel every week and we walked everywhere, we were very fit!
When I look back at that year it is always with fondness - we had nothing but our pride and principles and they couldn't take those from us.
Maltby miners' return to work, 1985
Kath - Staveley near Chesterfield
Anon - Son of a miner - "Scargill's tactics were wrong"
My late father was a miner for many years and of course I wanted the the miners to win the battle ahead.
But from the beginning I believed Arthur Scargill had got the tactics wrong.
His decision not to hold a national ballot - which then led to the need for him to try to bully his own NUM members into going out on strike - was plain stupidity!
I believe that Scargill was right in his often-quoted estimates of the amount of the planned pit closures to come. But because of his ill-conceived strategy, the way was paved for considerably more pits to be closed with little or no resistance!
Thank you Arthur - you did Maggie's work for her, and to a much higher level than she could ever have hoped for!
A later parade with the Maltby miners banner
Andrew Fletcher - From honeymoon to picket line
I was a miner from Maltby pit. I started there in 1980 straight from school. It was a hard job but the lads I worked with were the best workforce you could have behind you.
I got married on 4th February 1984 - I went on my honeymoon and when I came back I went on the nightshift. I got as far as the entrance to find the union rep there.
He gets on the bus to tell me we're on strike, "Go home, it won't last long." So home I went, not to return back to work a full 12 months later.
As my wife said, one long honeymoon. We are now having our 25th wedding anniversary soon.
The biggest thing was that we'd just got our own house which meant a lot to us, but with no money coming in was really hard. Halifax Building Society was brilliant - they understood what we were going through so there were no problems there.
Iron gate at The New Dearne Playhouse
The problems came from the Gas Board and the Council who wanted their payments but we couldn't pay them, so the Gas Board came to take our meter out.
So I said, "Fine, wait there..." I went in the house to fetch him a nice gas fire. I said to him, "You can have this - it's no good to me."
But the strike was hard - no money, hardly any food... I had two dogs and I can tell you, every day of the week they caught rabbit, pheasants, even squirrels just to eat.
Sheffield WAPC Christmas Cards
We did have food kitchens and food parcels but they were not every week. My dad also worked at Maltby so it was no good trying to get stuff of him as he was in the same boat.
All the help we had came from my wife's side - thank God for the in-laws, they fetched us anything we wanted. So I never went to the soup kitchens, I left it for the really hard struggling ones that were worse off than me.
One thing I will really remember was my wife's mother - God rest her soul - she said to us, if you can get through this without money then you can survive the rest of your married life on anything. She was right - we are still together and have two kids, one has given us two grandkids, the other is now engaged and we are happy.
But I still miss the lads. I also still live in the village of Maltby.
Ian 'Mac' McDonnell - Student in Goldthorpe
I left Dearne Valley Colliery in July 1984 to return to Sheffield University aged 42, where I read for an Honours degree in Education as a Mature student. I lived in Goldthorpe at the time and can well remember being hit on the back of my head by a policeman on horseback for the crime of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was near the entrance to Goldthorpe colliery.
A young lady on the same course as me was very anti-miner - a Tory. I asked her what her thoughts were on someone being arrested, imprisoned, losing their employment before even getting to court.
Her reply was that it was scandalous and an affront to morality. When I told her that this was the case for miners, her reply was... "Well they must be guilty then"...!
Andrea Mason - A child's view
I was a young teenager - 12 and 13 - during the strike. My dad was on strike from the coking plant where he worked in Chapeltown, Sheffield.
Standoff at Orgreave, 1984 © Steve Eason
My memories are mainly good ones. Although we had very little money, I remember the way people pulled together. My fondest memories were of having to go to school for our dinner even during the six week holidays.
I went to school in Thrybergh so most families were in the same situation and we kids thought it was a great laugh meeting up at school for lunch.
Another really fond memory I have is of Christmas 1984 - we ended up with three turkeys! Two were given to us by kind relatives, and one was from the Miners Welfare.
The family whose garden met ours at the bottom only had one turkey, so my mum decided that we should give them one of ours (they were also a mining family).
But instead of getting one of us kids to take it round, my mum decided that we should try and toss it over the hedge using a towel as a sort of catapult! We were at it for about half an hour and couldn't throw it for laughing.
Lesley Boulton at Orgreave, 1984 © John Harris
As a child these were fantastic times, although looking back now it must have been really stressful for mum and dad, having four children to feed and clothe. I'm really proud of my parents when I think how they stuck together and coped through such difficult times and I'm proud to say I'm a miners daughter.
Dr Brigitte Pemberton - Police Watch
A short time after the strike had started, Sheffield Trades & Labour Council called a meeting.
There had been a lot of concern about the way the media was reporting the strike in South Yorkshire. An organisation, Sheffield Police Watch, was established that night with the specific role of monitoring police behaviour during the strike.
There was great concern that Civil Liberties were being ignored. We had road blocks, we were told were we could or could not go to, and people were arrested on spurious grounds.
Around 40 volunteers joined and travelled all over the region to observe the police, making daily reports. 200 reports were produced, which are now kept in the Sheffield Local Studies Library. The reports were distributed to Members of Parliament,
The most important lessons learned from the Police Watch observers was that the behaviour on the picket lines was heavily determined by the style of policing.
The Cornwall and Devonshire police engaged with the miners, talked about ordinary things and always had peaceful picketing. The Metropolitan police on the other hand, had a confrontational and provocative style of policing and usually there would be fights.
Women Against Pit Closures at Bukcingham Palace
Our findings were taken up by Members of Parliament and the Police committee. For me though, the defeat of the miners was the most inhumane act I had witnessed in my life.
Born in Holland I knew that we had a transition of 10 years during which alternative jobs and industries were created. Not one miner was made redundant.
In Germany, mining is subsidised. There were other ways of changing this economic sector but Thatcher chose the cruel way.
The Thatcher method is now adopted in Russia and Ukraine were this time the IMF and the World Bank are forcing mine closure: (50% of all mines to be closed within two years).
For the past 10 years I have worked in the mining areas of these countries to help with the development of alternative work - I spent three years in mining areas of Siberia - the situation is even worse. Unemployment and poverty in an extreme climate is unbearable.
Anon - the Battle of Orgreave
I remember watching the Battle of Orgreave in real-life.
In 1977 there was an article released with details of how the police were to deal with future miners strikes should the need arise.
This plan came to fruition at Orgreave. The police rounded up the miners and started attacking them.
Unfortunately the news clips were heavily edited for TV and made it look like the miners started attacking the police, which certainly was not the case.
Brick Lane Market, London
Keven Rogerson - collecting in London
I worked at Dearne Valley Colliery. It was November 1984. The London Underground Union had invited eight miners from our union branch to London to collect whatever donations we could.
They would provide lodging for two nights and a benefit night. There were four of us from Dearne Valley, two from Darfield Main and two more from Frickley Colliery.
We were met at London with by a union member from the Underground workers and were split into twos to lodge at different Underground workers' houses. I ended up in Fulham.
Anyway, after sorting out our lodging arrangements we all met up and were given rules and advice of where we could go to collect and where we could not.
We were told we could only collect at the Underground stations and the mainline stations for 15 minutes at a time and we could not approach anyone or have an unsealed collecting box, or we would be arrested by the police.
We started collecting at Kings Cross but after five minutes were warned to move on by the police.
This happened everywhere we went - the police just followed us. Still people came up to us and put money in the collecting box (a plastic paint bucket with the lid taped on and a slot cut in).
We walked up and down the streets, station to station not talking to anyone just holding the collecting boxes and always being followed by two or three policemen.
On the second day, a cold and rainy Wednesday, we were collecting at the edge of Brick Lane Market. We had been there for about 20 minutes when we were approached by about four market traders who invited us into the market because the traders had got together to give us something to take home.
So off we went into the centre of the market watched by the police from the glass-domed transit van. The stall holders brought us half a dozen wooden packing boxes and asked us to stand on them while they made an announcement to the shoppers and other traders.
This we did, but suddenly we found ourselves being pelted with tomatoes and any old or soft fruit - even the odd sprout, potato and cabbage!
The police looked on, laughing and shouted through the tannoy, "Do anything and you will be lifted."
We stood there and took it, and left the market soaked and covered from head to foot in smelly fruit and veg.
However at the market edge there is a supermarket. They had witnessed our sorry event and invited us inside. We were very wary this time I could tell you, but they reassured us and said we would be safe inside and the police would not be able to arrest us.
So in we went and they gave us paper towels and wet wipes to clean ourselves up, and hot tea and a sandwich all free.
The manager told us we could stand inside near the checkouts with our collection boxes.
Then came the wonderful transformation. An old lady brought us her shopping trolley straight from the till. She gave us the trolley with all her paid-for shopping, and just said "God bless," and left it with us.
Her unselfish actions prompted more people to do the same and then the checkout girls put an empty trolley at the end of each checkout and asked for any donations for the miners. The trolleys were soon full.
The Underground Rail Union official arranged a van for us and we were able to bring the lot back. Our NUM branch arranged for the distribution to all our branch members and the soup kitchens we relied on.
James in Barnsley - Call centres: the new pits
I'm 21 and wasn't involved with the strike, but my dad was. He is now a welder but his company is starting to struggle due to the credit crunch.
I just wanted to express my opinion that all we have done is swap mines for call centres. Although the two professions are not the same, they can be linked.
Both have long gruelling hours - although mining would affect you physically whereas call centre jobs affect you mentally. To be honest I think I'd rather be working in a pit!
Stan, Goldthorpe - Police collide with shoppers
I remember the Police charging down the main shopping area of Goldthorpe near Barnsley, knocking people to one side, including women and children.
My mother was doing her shopping at the time and was shaking and distressed when she eventually reached home. I was on strike for the duration and will never forgive Thatcher for wrecking the mining communities and for condoning police brutality.
The people of the Dearne will never forget and will certainly never forgive.
Chris Plant, Sheffield - A policeman's son
My dad was a policeman during the strike. He was a bodyguard to Lord Mason of Barnsley; when he went on the picket lines, so did my dad.
But it was his job and he never backed out of it, until he passed on a few years after the strike.
Howard Crossley, Rotherham - Miners on stage
The 1984 Miners Strike provoked local playwright Ron Rose, who ran the DAC theatre company at that time, to assemble a cast of locally based actors.
In conjunction with the Young Vic Theatre in London under Artistic Director David Thacker, they produced a play based on verbatim material gathered by the actors (who spent two weeks in South Yorkshire visiting striking miners at their homes, pit canteens, pubs, and working men's clubs).
This resulted in the critically acclaimed 'The Enemies Within,' performed at the Young Vic in London in July/August 1985.
As a professional actor (doing mainly TV and film at that time) I auditioned for a part, and as I came from Rotherham and had local knowledge of the area and mining communities, I was cast in the show.
After our two weeks in South Yorkshire Ron Rose scripted the material gathered by the actors and we moved to London for rehearsals.
It was my debut on the London stage and it led to more theatre work, including 10 years at the Royal Shaespeare Company, performing in Stratford On Avon, London and world tours including three months on Broadway and six years in Disney's 'The Lion King' in the West End.
So, indirectly, as well as supporting the miners during the strike, getting cast in this particular show at that time had a profound affect on my career.
We have contacted the original cast, and with Ron Rose and David Thacker on board are planning to do performances of the original show (including a 25 Years On script, revisiting the miners featured in the original production). We'll perform these in local
Get in touch
If you were involved in the strike, or if your life or family were affected by the events, we'd like you to share your stories and your memories.
We also need photos you took at the time (collections in town centres, t-shirts, posters, stickers, miners on strike at picket lines, soup kitchens, anything that is reminiscent of 1984-85).
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any photos we can use. We can scan them into the computer and give them straight back. Or if you already have scans of the photos, you can email them to us as a jpg.
Some of you may not even have been born when the strike took place but you may still feel that what happened then has affected your life. This is your opportunity to share YOUR story, and tell us what you believe was the wider significance of the strike.
last updated: 25/08/2009 at 12:00