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The Miners' Strike

Photo credit: Alan Murray-Rust / The last of Denaby Main

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the start of the 1984-85 miners’ strike.  Watching grainy footage and listening to impassioned speeches on various documentaries brings back a lot of memories.  I was eighteen in 1984 and about to sit my A levels.  I didn’t consider myself especially political and was ambivalent about Margaret Thatcher and her government – mainly because I knew very little about what was happening in the country at that time.  The strike changed that for me and for many of my friends.

I lived in Conisbrough – a  mining town in South Yorkshire – and had always known ‘the pit’ - in this case Cadeby Main Colliery, which dominated the view from certain parts of the town and which employed a large proportion of the male population.  My grandfathers were miners, my uncles were miners, many of my schoolmates worked in the pit for a brief time before it was closed for good in 1986.  My father had started his working life at the colliery before moving to the railway.  My grandmother lived in a ‘pit house’ owned by the colliery. (In fact I thought all houses were owned by the pit or the council until, at the age of nine a friend told me that her parents owned their own house.)

The pit was part of the history we were taught in junior school.  I still remember hearing about the mining disaster of 1912 which killed nearly a hundred miners and warranted a visit from the King and Queen who were touring the local area.  It was part of folklore – we all traded made-up ghost stories of the spirits of men trapped underground and mysterious doors and shafts.  Conisbrough is home to one of the finest Norman castles in the country, but the history of the pit seemed to hold more interest than tales of knights in armour.  We all knew people who worked at Cadeby but I can’t think of anybody who could trace their ancestry back 800 years to the days of William de Warenne.

The strike ripped apart the community and plunged families into poverty.  It created divisions between friends and caused rifts in families that still haven’t healed after forty years.  I chose to set Closer to Home in 1985 and 2015 to explore the effects of the strike on a community that had relied on the pit for work, for housing and for social cohesion.  The sections set thirty years on reflect the aftermath and the scars that lurk just below the surface.  It feels timely to be republishing the book this month as there are already programmes on television and radio about the strike and, I’ve no doubt, there will be more to come.

Closer to Home is available on Amazon Kindle:


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