The latest news affecting miners and the mining industry

Death Of A Legend
Dec 30th 2008, Alan Rushby, a great Doncaster character.

Urgent news for all miners turned down for DSS benefits for vibration white finger.
New regulations on definitions of VWF for qualification for Industrial disablement benefit is now in force.

Dave Douglass' book Geordies — Wa Mental, the first volume in the
autobiographical trilogy (Stardust and Coaldust), is now available from Christie Books

Miners' Pension Scandal in the Daily Mirror
Paul Routledge, the Daily Mirror correspondent who has always been a staunch supporter of the miners and their causes, wrote this article which appeared in the Daily Mirror today, drawing attention to the Miners' Pension Scandal

The Conference of the National Union of Mineworkers has vowed to take its campaign to stop the government raiding the pension surpluses of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme to a new level.

Hatfield miners vote for NUM recognition
In what can only be described as overwhelming, the miners at Hatfield in Yorkshire have voted by postal ballot for NUM recognition.

Coal Industry Pension Scheme
Early day Motion raised by Michael Clapham

Tower Colliery Closes
Thirteen years after buying their own pit, the miners of Tower call it a day

Congratulations To Hatfield Colliery
Congratulations To Hatfield Colliery whose first new face is due to come onto production on 2nd Jan 2008

Death of Billy Matthews
We record our deep sorrow at the death of one of the miner's most stalwart friends and comrades Billy Matthews.

Death of Cajo Brendal,
Dave Douglass' tribute to Cajo Brendal, veteran and founder member of the Dutch Council Communist Movement, who died at the age of 91 on the 25th of June, 2007.

The Big Meeting 2007
Dave writes about the 123rd Annual Durham Miners Gala or the 'Big Meeting' which took place on Saturday 14th July

Tyne & Wear May Day - Saturday 5 May

Death Of Johnny Weaver
We are very sad to report the death of outstanding NUM member, Johnny Weaver.

Crucial Yorkshire Area Union Vote
Full members of the Yorkshire Area of the NUM are now voting in a postal ballot to determine the next Area General Secretary

Good News and Bad News For the Union at Hatfield
Hatfield is now at the point of development where it is signing miners back on for coal work. Dave Douglass discusses the role of the NUM there

David Jones / Joe Green memorial lecture
Details of this year's memorial

Germany will shut down its eight remaining black coal mines by 2018
under a plan which seals the fate of the sector that powered the country's industrial revolution

Watch out for Dave on 'Inside Out' BBC North
(thats for the NE and Cumbria) 2nd Feb 7-30pm

Please sign this petition to get miners' claims dealt with sooner!
This petition has been set up on the No 10 web site with regards the miner's compensation scheme and the huge delays some miners are experiencing due to the ridiculous red tape

Historical Disasters- Black Christmas is about a mining disaster that happen in 1910......

Another of the Hatfield old stagers has gone

Mining version of the Nigerian Scam
Those pesky Africans are still at it, with a mining themed slant on the Nigerian Scam

Danny The Red - Leaving Donie - 11/ June 2006
Dave picks up his dudley and takes the last ride out. Here he gives us his reasons for moving on from the desecrated mining industry.
"It is with much emotion & mixed feelings that I have finally decided my work here in Doncaster is now done, and I am returning 'back up yem'......"

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much had been paid to the "Union" of Democratic Mineworkers

The Russians Are Coming To Hatfield!
The biggest Russian coal company in the business has bought into Budge's Hatfield coal complex plant business!
What the news reporters are saying about Hatfield and the Russians

Death of Dek Hendley
We seem to be devoting a lot of room on this news page to lamenting the loss of our various comrades. We are sad to say that we have just learned of the death of another of our old Hatfield Main comrades Derek Hendley.

Massive Turnout at Paul Whetton’s final day.
Area and National Officials of the NUM and a solid block of Nottingham NUM miners and their families turned out for Paul’s funeral.

We have just been informed about the death of Paul Whetton
"He was a great leader of the striking Nottingham miners in 84/5.", (Dave Douglass)
Funeral arranged for Saturday 18th March 2006.

The miners' remembered, 22 years on from the day it began

Betty Heathfield
Miners' heroine who organised women's support groups to sustain the strikers
Geoffrey Goodman , Wednesday February 22, 2006, The Guardian

Death of Betty Heathfield
We are greatly saddened to hear of the death of Betty Heathfield

Trapped US coal miners found dead
BBC news report of another US mining tragedy

A poignant poem about the mistaken reported miracle and deaths of our West Virginian mining brothers

Death Of Hans Boettcher
We are very sorry to report the death of our old German comrade

Miners’ test case may land taxpayers with £100m bill
THE Government is being taken to court to defend a miners’ legal action that could result in multimillion-pound compensation rewards for personal injury lawyers

Death of Hatfield Main octogenarian - Wally Parkin
Urgent notice for funeral arrangements

Claim for 'missing miners' money
On Wednesday the long-running issue of miners' compensation will go before the High Court in London

Death of comrade Burt Whittle
Doncaster pitman and veteran revolutionary socialist activist Burt Whittle has died

Polish police lay into miners' protest
AT LEAST six police officers and two protesters were injured when a miners' demonstration outside Poland's parliament turned violent yesterday.

Somewhere in the region of 60,000 people attended a mass Durham Miners Gala today, July 9th

Police Riot Squads Run Amuck In Edinburgh
This week has seen mass protests by various groups in Edinburgh on the occasion of the meeting of the world’s rulers the G8. Dave was there as a guest speaker and witnessed the whole thing.

Death Of Tommy Preskey
One of the best loved Hatfield Main pit characters Tommy Preskey has died.

Big TIMES revelation on UDM under the title of FRAUD
See The Times Tues. June 28th Wed June 29th

Mining Community Advice Centre -Office to close?
The end is near for Mining Community Advice Centre. After years of good work in the community the centre is set to close.

By the minerswebsite correspondent
The brief review of miner's protest actions in Ukraine for March - May,

Blood and coal: the human cost of cheap Chinese goods
Story from The Guardian Monday March 14, 2005

More Slaughter In The Chinese Mines
Yet another tragic waste of lives in the mines in China.

Legal challenge on colliery closure?
MINEWORKERS' Union leaders are in talks with a law team over a possible legal challenge against the Ellington Colliery closure amid claims that coal bosses are failing to follow proper redundancy procedures.

Miners' Gig - Norwich
Dave sent me this poster. Unfortunately I'm not sure of the exact venue.

The Grand Social and Rally The Old Club, from around 5-30 p.m.

Dave turns in last duty as Union Delegate for Hatfield
Hatfield branch to close in March 2005

For more news items visit our Other News pages
Our News, Views & Updates page was getting a little on the large side, so to aid faster loading times I have moved the older news items to Other News Pages

Main News Views & Updates Page

Other News5 - Jan 2004- Jan 2005

Other News4 - 2002 - Dec 2003

Other News3

Other News2

Other News1


Back to the Miner's Advice Home Page


News Items



Death Of A Legend

On Dec 30th 2008, Alan Rushby, a great Doncaster character and star of the Martial Arts world died. Alan started his Karate career way back in 1966 and rapidly shot through the grades to achieve his first Dan in eight months. Three years would be more normal. His switched from Wado-Ryu, which was the most popular form of Karate in Doncaster in the 60s and 70s, to Shukokai, which was a lesser known and somewhat more complex style. Alan had the great privilege of training under the direct instruction of the founder of the style Sensei Kimura and of travelling to Japan where he undertook first hand live-in full time instruction under the master, living and training in the founder’s dojo. Alan took on international fame fighting for Britain in Europe and around the world, his stock in trade, some would say shock in trade was his (in English) front punch to the face and utterly disabling thigh kick.

He founded an ongoing club in Donie, which an army of students have studied at over the years including a number of Hatfield, Armthorpe and Edlington miners. For the greatest time however the main dojo has been above the Hallcross at the top of the High Street.

He had struggled through throat cancer in 2000 and came out smiling at the other end.
This new condition we never discovered the true cause of, as greatly weakened and infused with a mass of steroids he died of Bronchopneumonia. It’s a tribute to Alan’s belief in Karate and his discipline to work through any illness and injury and keep training, that he trained and instructed less than 48 hours before his death.

Alan’s funeral and cremation was in Tuesday 13th January at Rose hill, The tributes were paid by Annette his former wife of 20 years and herself a 5th Dan and Kata expert. She read in perfect Japanese a poem On The Death Of A Samurai. Katherine his youngest, now 16, retold memories and cherished portions from her life with her Dad and his own form of comedy and magic.

I on behalf of the Karate club was asked to make a short eulogy, which formed a slightly shortened and ad-libbed version of the following:

I haven’t got up here to make a speech

I’m told we only have a few minutes, and even suppose we had all day, it still wouldn’t be long enough to exhaust all the things we wanted to say about Alan, and the impact he made upon us, not least his ashibari, but I was thinking in less physical ways

No, I’ve come up hear to say a few words about a bloke about whom I have the most immense respect and to whom, like many of you, I owe a great deal of gratitude in having enriched my life and I know yours too.

Alan’s embodiment of karate wasn’t just some physical expertise, although he had that in large measure, it was about feeling good about yourself, about enjoying the life flowing through your veins, about taking life in both hands and enjoying it. that was what Alan’s Karate revealed to you.
You only had to look at the way Alan lived his own life to know what this was all about. Al loved life to the limit, and in keeping with that 1960s generation he was part of, tested every boundary, tested every frontier In his long varied and colourful life. Alan’s life is a kaleidoscope of experiences, of all descriptions, those of us who have had the privilege of listening to tales will know what am talking about.

Alan loved the crack, loved the cut and trust of working class humour and culture, he was a great raconteur, a sort of fusion of Sid James, Dell Boy, and Richard Prior, shot through with Zen but framed in his own unique character. The centre of any crowd, the life and soul of any party. Alan telling the tale.

Alan had no time for God, he believed too much in justice and fairness for that. But Alan was a cipher for the spirit of joy in the world, I don’t think I ever seen him sad, cant think of a single time when he didn’t have a comic response to whatever life flung at him, this wasn’t as well as his Karate
This was part of his karate

Alan’s Karate wasn’t and isnt a sport, you don’t leave this karate in the dojo, it was with him every minute in the whole way he perceived the world and the people in it.

I mentioned Zen

Anyone who ever took what Alan said on face value missed a great deal of the point, that point often took days sometimes weeks, to sink in, and when it did, you realised he was talking of a far deeper perception than you had realised.

Alan would chalenege all wisdoms, all philosophies all beliefs challenge all your deeply held convictions all your sensitivities, nothing was inappropriate to Al, if you had a view, if you had a belief you’d better get ready to defend it as vigorously in the tap room as do an attack in the dojo. I think everyone in here knows All and me went many rounds downstairs in the bar, as he refused to accept a damn thing I said of my carefully worked out philosophies and doctrines. Likely as not dismissed in an instant as bullshit.

If you were vulnerable in any way shape or form Alan would test you on it, probe you on it, provoke you to screaming point on it…until you learned, to absorb the impact, to accept the challenge, to roll with the force, to fear nothing that words or insecurities which would otherwise be used to disarm discredit or weaken you mentally and physically before you even got to the physical attack. Alan understood well that self-belief and self-confidence were the mental strong stance, which had to accompany the strong physical stance. Alan’s Zen wisdom came in the form of pillock, piss taking; to outsiders they didn’t understand it. Many of the things Alan said were more about seeing how you yourself responded to them, than anything, he believed himself. Alan kept his wisdom and powers of instruction in some rough and ready forms, but that they were totally effective is beyond doubt. Like Zen, sometimes the point was that there wasn’t a point, or as the man said, when sitting just sit, when walking just walk,

Alan’s skills as a teacher cannot be underestimated

I teach you the techniques he would say, you have to provide the conviction, But truth is Alan’s conviction gave us conviction.

All of us who trained with Alan, and many people here trained much longer with him than my fifteen years, know what sort of a teacher he was. He would take you from absolute nothing, in my own case from a quivering mass of indecision and immobility in my own and give you two things, one the technique, which he would relentlessly persue you on, painstaking, hour on hour, perfection of the technique, he would never ever allow anything just to do, never pass anything which wasn’t right, never ever accept the easy road, and you would stand exactly where you were and not move-on till you had it right. Alan went through no motions; you did it right or what was the point. Second, he would give you confidence in yourself and your technique. When Alan criticised you he took the skin off your back…but when he praised you, it was like being awarded a much-prised medal. Alan’s esteem and Alan’s praise was like gold nuggets, when Alan awarded me my first Dan in 1999 it was one of the most important and gratifying awards anyone on any field of my whole life has ever bestowed upon me, and I am entirely grateful for having had the huge privilege of training with this man, being one of Alan’s students in the community of his students , a more unique collection of people and a loyaler set of mates you will find nowhere in the world. What we are, the characters that we are, the human beings that we are, in strong measure come down to you Alan, sensei.



Back to News Menu


Urgent news for all miners turned down for DSS benefits for vibration white finger.



New regulations on definitions of VWF for qualification for Industrial disablement benefit is now in force.


It means anyone turned down for not having enough whiteness in the fingers, or for not describing correctly the whiteness you have, can apply again.


It also means if you are successful this time, you can have another bash at REA, reduced earnings allowance. You should note, although back money is grossly restricted from what it was, the weekly benefit is still available.


Miners Advice is not now usually available to represent you at tribunals but on occasion can give you advice time permitting. Dave is likely to be back in Doncaster next weekend and might be able to meet you to explain. No promises.


You should also note, changes are in the pipeline to widen the number of complaints, which carry a disablement benefit award for miner's knee, particularly osteoarthritis of the knee. This isn't law yet but you should start to make enquiries as to when you can make applications. Again, time permitting Dave may be able to find time to discuss the matter with you when he's next in Doncaster .

Please note:
Only those people who didnt get a % when they first applied because they didnt describe enough whiteness in their fingers should reapply. People with an existing REA should not reapply. People with an existing Disablement Award but no REA who are hoping to up the % of their award should note it is highly unlikely to be upped and could be dropped. Nobody who hasn't already got REA will get it as a result of these new changes.

The only people we recommend to reapply are those people were awarded NO % and therefore no Disablement Award, because they didnt describe enough whiteness in their fingers.


Back to News Menu


Mental !!!

New from ChristieBooks
Published September 29, 2008

Geordies — Wa Mental, is the first volume in the
autobiographical trilogy (Stardust and Coaldust) of David John Douglass, a coalminer for 40 years. It tells the fascinating story of the radicalisation of a working-class Geordie ‘baby-boomer’ during the first twenty years of his life and provides a unique and valuable insight into the political and cultural movements of the 1960s.

Review pdf



Back to News Menu



This article appeared in The Daily Mirror by Paul Routledge 12/09/2008

A decade ago I campaigned for reform of the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme.

I was appalled to discover that half the fund's annual surplus, often amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds, was stolen by the Treasury.

That's because it is a Tory scheme, forced on the miners as part of Thatcher's revenge for the great strike of 1984.

Labour, I argued, should end this scandal. Ed Balls, now a Cabinet minister but then Chancellor Brown's chief economic adviser, promised to "do something".

But nothing has happened. Since then, a massive £3billion has been siphoned off.

Advertisement - article continues below »

Neither the Government nor British Coal have put a penny into the fund since 1987, while some pit pensioners receive less than £10 a week.

Admittedly, the Government has paid compensation for industrial injuries to many thousands of miners and their widows. But this legalised theft means they are paying for their own compensation.

How crooked can you get? As Yorkshire miner Steve Mace puts it: "Even Dick Turpin had the common decency to wear a mask."

The National Union of Mineworkers is now campaigning for the return of the stolen millions. More power to their arm.


Back to News Menu





For several years the Cannock Chase Retired Members have been lobbying MPs and miners' union leaders for support to help miners stop the government from stealing from miners' pensions.

Three years ago a part of the Stainforthonline forum was given over to the leaders of the Cannock Chase Retired Miners Members, accessible from a link on the home page of Miners Advice, so that they could voice their arguments and keep miners informed of what was happening.
Pensions fight forum discussion

At last, after being continually harrassed to do the right thing, the N.U.M. have promised to join the fight!
The following appeared on the N.U.M. website this week:

The Conference of the National Union of Mineworkers has vowed to take its campaign to stop the government raiding the pension surpluses of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme to a new level.

Keith Stanley the NUM Vice-President said since 1987 the government has stolen £3 billion from the Scheme surpluses and contribution holidays accrued under the days of British Coal.

He pointed out that when the industry was privatised a trustee from the breakaway UDM was imposed whose vote enabled the government to raid the scheme.

“They have not put one penny into the Scheme since 1987, only miners have done that, yet the have continued to steel our money and at the same time refused to meet me us simply saying we have a “Fair deal". How can they justify what they do when there are pensioners on less than £10 per week from the Scheme?. He Said

He told delegates attending the Conference in Blackpool that the Union would be launching a massive campaign which would involve lobbying both MPs and the government.

“I see no difference between the government taking money from the MPS and Robert Maxwell’s theft of the Mirror Group Pension Fund.” He added.

Wayne Thomas South Wales Area Secretary in seconding said “This is a fundamental issue with us, it is an absolute scandal what the government are doing with our surpluses”

Referring to the Cannock Chase Retired Members’ Campaign led by Mick Westwood he said “They have been fighting a tremendous campaign and the money taken by the government should be returned to Scheme so that beneficiaries can have a decent pension and our miners can retire at 50.”

Steve Mace from Yorkshire supporting the motion said, “I want to say this to the government. ‘Get your grubby hands out of our pension scheme’ and continued “Even Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask”.

Original article:


Back to News Menu



Hatfield miners vote for NUM recognition

May 2008

In what can only be described as overwhelming the miners at Hatfield in Yorkshire have voted by postal ballot for NUM recognition.
A total of 165 votes were cast for the NUM with only 7 against representing a resounding 95.76%.

A total of 235 members of the workforce were entitled to vote and the turnout was 73% a stunning turnout for a postal ballot. The 165 voting for the NUM represent just over 70% of the total workforce entitled to vote.

Chris Kitchen NUM National and Yorkshire Area Secretary said:

"This is a great response by the miners at Hatfield Colliery and sends a clear message to Powerfuel management that the NUM has a role to play in what is hoped to be a success story at Hatfield Colliery. At a time when trade union membership is perceived to be in decline this ballot result shows this is clearly not the case.

"The CAC will issue a declaration with regard to the result within the next 2 weeks. The next stage is then for the NUM Yorkshire Area to agree with Powerfuel a Collective Bargaining Agreement. If at the end of 30 days no agreement has been reached the CAC has a further 20 days to arbitrate between the two parties. If this is not successful the CAC Panel will make the decision with regard to the mechanics of the collective bargaining at Hatfield Colliery. This is the procedure under the Trade Union Labour Relations Act 2002.

"Given the concerns that have been expressed to the NUM from members and non-members working at Hatfield Colliery with regard to safety it is not the NUM's intention to sit back and wait for what could possibly be a further 51 days for this procedure. We intend to pursue the right to set up workforce elected representatives (123 Inspectors) to conduct 123 inspections on behalf of the workforce under the regulations. Reports from these inspections must be sent to the HMI which is not the case with the safety committee that currently operates at Hatfield Colliery.

"Any member with previous 123 inspectors experience or wishing to put themselves forward as a 123 inspector should contact the NUM office 01226 215555 extension 211 as soon as possible. We will be writing to Mr Chris Daniels, Colliery Manager, in an attempt to facilitate the setting up of 123 inspections as a matter of urgency.
"The men at Hatfield Colliery should be congratulated for the outstanding result and the vote of confidence they have given to their Union.

A well deserved pat on the back must be given to the staff and all concerned whose campaign efforts and hard work have come to fruition."


Back to News Menu


Coal Industry Pension Scheme

Below is the Early day Motion that has been raised by Michael Clapham, it is very important to get as many MPs to sign this motion as possible, it will probably need at least 150 signatures before it is given ten minutes time to be debated on, in the commons, so get an email off to you MP, Some MPS stipulate that it must be someone in that MPs constituency that requests them to sign.

Ian Morrison
Notts NUM Ex & Retired Miners Association
C/O NUM Area Office
42 St John Street
NG18 1QJ

Clapham, Michael EDM 722
That this House urges the Government to begin discussions with the trustees of the coal industry pension schemes to consider how best to implement the joint statement of 17th January 2002 issued by the Government and the coal industry pension trustees declaring that `both the Government and the trustees recognise that there have been changes in circumstances since 1994. They have therefore agreed to explore how these changes might best be reflected in revisions to the 1994 arrangements which would benefit members'.


Back to News Menu


Tower Colliery Closes

Thirteen years ago the miners of Tower Colliery bought their own pit, refusing to accept British Coal's assessment that the colliery was unprofitable and surplus to requirements.

This week the 240 strong workforce finally called it a day, after mining more than 7 million tonnes of coal and finally exhausting the mine's reserves.

Although it is another sad day for the Welsh coalfield communities, the miners of Tower Colliery can be proud of their achievements.

Dave Douglass commented:
This week we have to note the closure of Tower Colliery, the last deep (that is shaft) mine in Wales, we believe there are two drift mines still working . Tower is at last fully exhausted, one of the few times we have heard that expression when it is likely to be true. The mine which was a workers buy out under their own direct control has provided a safe living for the miners of the area many years after British Coal closed it as 'uneconomic'.Its not made any of them a fortune, but its continued to put food on the
table and keep their dignity and culture.

The site is probably best left to nature with the headgear left in situ, but this unlikely to happen. The men are likely to put the site up for development in the hope of getting the maximum back off the money they all put in the buy the mine and land in the first place. We are confident that if it is sold as business development the lads will ensure it is something worthy of their traditions and love for the area.

Good luck to all the lads at Tower from the Minersadvice website

Report from

MinersAdvice - Mining 2000 - Tower Colliery


Back to News Menu



Congratulations To Hatfield Colliery

Congratulations To Hatfield Colliery whose first new face is due to come onto production on 2nd Jan 2008

The pit has set on new 'green' labour the first 36 new miners probably anywhere in Britian, 26 of whom are miners kids.

Budge one of the owners is to be congratulated on his long sighted faith in Hatfield and coal mining in particular. He is however still blind in one eye, fighting all efforts to restore the union to Hatfield. The union is fighting desperately to win enough workers to support the application for union recognition. We urge everyone at the pit, regardless of which coal field they come from and which pit they were previously based at to fall in with the local lads and join the NUM.

Good luck to Hatfield miners a vision for energy policy in Britian. The pit is to fuel a 'clean coal'
power station and energy park and stands in sharp contrast to foolish and dangerous nuclear
power plans or utterly destructive wind farms. Taken with energy conservation, a halt to new
road building, and an end to all deforrestation across the world we might be in with a chance of slowing down the rate of climate change and surviving without going back to the stone age.

Dave Douglass


Back to News Menu



Death of Billy Matthews

We record our deep sorrow at the death of one of the miner's most stalwart friends and comrades Billy Matthews. Few NUM and Trade Union activists in Yorkshire and in many other parts of the country will not have heard of Billy. He was at the forefront of all the major struggles in the industry in the 60s through to the 90s. A life long Communist he bit the bullet and joined the hated Labour Party after the formal demise of the CPGB. He felt it was his class duty to continue the fight within Labours ranks to try and hold it to its early principles and roots in the working class. It was not an easy or happy role.
Billy was well known among communist militants all over the country and in many parts of the world. He hated the bureaucrats and the union fat cats who so often sold out the struggles and workers he was dedicated to. No respecter of position Billy spoke his mind and told you exactly what he thought of you, doubtless too reciting a volume from your past much of which you hoped had been forgotten. He applied this to Union presidents, MPs, Lord Mayors and on occasion Prime Ministers and Cabinet members. His greatest endeavour was to change the social system in which we live from top to bottom.
Although a great admirer of the USSR in the early days he could see only too clearly that it had lost its way and been betrayed by privilege and position.
As a miner Billy was a go getter, a highly conscientious and skilled coal cutter / machine man. He was highly regarded even by the management who couldn't deny his ability to take his cutting machine on journeys which The Enterprise wouldn't have dared.
He was a well loved Husband, Dad and Granddad in a big family of Brothers and sisters. They will feel his absence very deeply and so shall we. He was a great comrade and a sincere and loyal friend.
His funeral on Thursday 15th November at 09:40hrs, Rosehill Crematorium, Cantley, Doncaster, was a simple affair, with his comrades, friends, fellow union men and family. There was of course no man of God or magic about to tell us about heaven or hell, instead Comrades reflected on his life and his dedication and his love of his fellow workers.
Its cliché perhaps, but Bill was pure grit, the man to be with when going got tough down the Pit, on the picket line or arguing his corner wherever that needed to be.

David Douglass
Former Hatfield Main NUM Branch Secretary and
Yorkshire Area EC Member
November 22nd 2007


Back to News Menu



Cajo Brendal

People who follow debates within the left movement will know that I had a major public, indeed international, argument with Cajo Brendal a veteran and founder member of the Dutch Council Communist Movement. Our discussion was carried in quite a few of the far left anarchist and syndicalist journals across Europe. I made the disagreement the major element in by polemical work All Power To The Imagination published by Class War in the mid-90's. I have just discovered through the inter-net that Cajo is dead.

I am deeply saddened that Cajo is dead. We had concluded our debate with the publication of my little pamphlet All Power To The Imagination (published by Class War) in which I reprint his ideas and my polemic against his conclusions. Following this we agreed to disagree.

Most anarcho's in Europe are aware of only the opening shots of this debate and not
the subsequent in-depth riposte and counters.

Other than our public polemic we had a fair bit of private correspondence, and in that
Cajo made the sharpest criticism of me of the whole encounter. This was for responding to his ideas as though he was the foe and not simply as a comrade with whom I disagreed. He was right, and afterwards I altered the tone of my responses and we exchanged some friendly correspondence. Cajo was most comradely and supportive during the 'last stand ' of the miners in 92/93 when the Government of John Major aided at length by the Liberal-Democrats forced through the final decimation of the coal industry. Other than the political significance of that attack was the deeply traumatic personal upheaval and life change engendered by it, and the depth of depression it had thrown me and a great many other miners into. I found Cajo's words at this time most helpful.

For all this we never met, and for that I am greatly saddened. I am sure that in a more
relaxed arena and over a glass of beer we may both have appreciated a little more of
each others reasoning.

Cajo was a great thinker and writer and humanitarian. His motivation was unquestionably respect for and love of the working class and its struggle to be free of economic and social oppression, and all that stood in the way of that. That union leaders and through them frequently union structures obstruct our progress to that goal
is undoubtedly correct. The extent that this is true and the conclusions which follow from that was the basis of our much publicised polemic.

I shall miss you old comrade, but your words will be rattling my head for the rest of my life.

David Douglass

Copies of All Power To The Imagination, are available post paid for £6 from myself c/o 07900 160 841.

Back to News Menu


Tyne & Wear May Day - Saturday 5 May.

Assemble Centre for Life, Newcastle Upon Tyne, (Turn left from the front of Central Station) 11.00 am.

March leaves at 11.30 for rally at Exhibition Park 12 noon.

IWW members will be meeeting up for the march with the banner at the assembly point, there will also be Wobs at Exhibition park setting the stall up from about 11.00 too.

Speakers: Paul Kenny, John McDonnell, Joy Mitchell, Mary Ferguson, Kath Sainsbury, David Golding.

Music from Broughton's Brass Band, The Stumbling Band and Caravan.

Please note that the Central Motorway will be closed on 5 May - travel by Metro advised.


Back to News Menu


Death Of Johnny Weaver

We are very sad to report the death of an outstanding NUM member, National Executive Committee member Johnny Weaver. Johnny had been a miner at Thorne Colliery, and then transferred to Yorkshire Main following the closure of that colliery.

He became a branch official and Area Executive member before being elected as a 'lay' member of the National Executive Committee. Johnny was an outstanding member of the Doncaster NUM Panel and fought for Doncaster's corner against all comers.

He was a natural comic and had the amazing ability to strike up conversations and friendships on a sixpence. Everybody knew Johnny, it never failed to impress me.

Johnny used to drive me to Area Council meeting and many's a row and discussion on union and political of the left we had on the way, although he usually won. He achieved this by naked terror, inevitably he would be smoking throughout, he would turn to argue with me and look me in the eye, as smoke curled up into his eyes and he would abandon any attempt to look at the road. I would invariably concede the argument on pain of death. At other times in the heat of the argument and having used up all his key points he would demand to know 'whose car is it ?' and again I would be forced to submit.

One early ride from the Barnsley Council chamber I thought to impress Johnny by introducing him to Beethams. Beethams was a cellar bar in Doncaster market, the home of hippies, bikers, dope smokers and heavy rock fans. The smell of incense, putuli oil, pot, leather and petrol pervaded with the sounds of Iron Maiden and Rainbow. I took Johnny down into the dark of the bar and uncertainty. No sooner had we reached the bottom when a shout from behind the bar goes "Hello Johnny lad", then another from a group of bikers in a huddle in the corner "Johnny Weaver, the Man !' . Bliddy hell, I said, how the hell do you know these ? Well, him behind the bar is an ex Yorkshire Main committee man, and them still work there.

On another occasion I boarded the train to London with Johnny for a Union demonstration in the late 70s, within minutes of setting off Johnny was engaged in conversations with half the carriage and changed seats at least four times en-route to sit and chat to folk and tell the tale. The sounds of laughter from the carriage continued all the way to London.

With a foot in both camps so to speak, Johnny was put in charge of running the National Picket Co ordination centre in Sheffield during the 'Great Coal Strike' of 84/85. A thankless task since the Doncaster and South Yorkshire branches weren't running it that way, we deployed our own pickets and selected our own targets. Worse for Johnny, we wouldn't tell him or anybody where we were going or what we had planned. "C'mon Dave" he would plead, Arthur wants to know what's going off" I'll tell you after we've been I would reply. Usually compromising by telling him in the early hours of the morning of the picket, too late for the cops earwigging on the phone to block us and too late for Arthur to deploy us elsewhere.

Johnny was one of the old greats of the Union, respected and valued by all Areas of the Union and a number of its national leaders whose terms he had served through.
If Johnny's up in heaven now, no doubt you will hear the crack and laughter booming out through those pearly gates as Johnny casts his spell up yon.

The Funeral leaves the house ( 6 Mile End Avenue

At 10-45 am

And the service takes place at Rose Hill Crem at 20 past 11

We hope to have the Yorkshire Main banner there, and many of his former friends and comrades.

Our deepest sympathy to his family, one can only guess at the loss felt by them at loosing such a loving, intelligent and happy man.


Back to News Menu

Crucial Yorkshire Area Union Vote

Full members of the Yorkshire Area of the NUM are now voting in a postal Ballot to determine who the General Secretary of the Area will be. The post since the Controversial Scargill rule changes in now called 'Area Agent' but actually it is In fact the position of Area Secretary and carries great wieght within the union.

The candidates are the sitting Secretary Steve Kemp and challenger Chris Kitchen, who is the Area Vice President and Branch Secretary of Kellingley Colliery. We are not certain which branches nominated the candidates.

The contest is of immense political importance to the union, to democracy and to the way forward in the future. It is essential members actually vote, you don't even have to 'get out there' and vote since it's a postal ballot.

It wouldn't be appropriate for us to suggest who you should vote for….my my we are getting coy in our old age.

We would hope whoever is elected that a serious attitude is taken to organisation at Hatfield, which is still non-union and still without a branch or any elected officials from the workforce. We have suggested someone like Dave Douglass could be brought back (not from the dead! fool,) from the TGWU on a short-term contract aimed specifically at organising this site and bringing the colliery back within the unions influence. Course it might be whoever is elected is likely to see Hatfield as a sleeping giant with bags of potential for holding the balance of power within the union not simply in Yorkshire but nationally. That might cause those seeing office In the union to be less than enthusiastic about taking up the offer, but that's just speculation of course, and we couldn't be that cynical.

It even sounds profoundly foolish to be talking of 'power' in a union with less than 2000 members but believe us; the struggle for those positions is still keenly fought, and they are just as keenly sought.



Back to News Menu


Good News and Bad News For the Union at Hatfield

Hatfield is now at the point of development where it is signing miners back on for coal work. The recruitment policy of the company is twofold. Both of these are aimed at stopping a strong union branch developing at Hatfield to carry on the traditions of the Hatfield miners in the past. The first of these is to adopt a scattered workforce policy, that is they will not be signing on most or even the majority of the miners from the Hatfield pit communities. The second is to ensure they do not take on active Union members or officials from other mines.
We know of at least one ex-branch delegate who applied in the first wave of recruits and was not selected because 'they were oversubscribed'. Most employees were in fact 'head hunted' with specific candidates being selected prior to recruitment proper and based upon their quietness or union record rather than their work record. Instead workers are being recruited from the four corners of the coalfield with a large, component being from Nottingham and formerly UDM members. Talk about salt in a wound?

Building membership at Hatfield is slow and laborious, with volunteers from the Barnsley office and old Phil the admin officer freezing their goolies off trying to talk to lads on their way in and out from work. Dave Douglass had offered his services as a full time organiser for Hatfield on a fixed term contract, but the good souls at Barnsley obviously didnt think this merited consideration. So membership is slowly building, we estimate its over 40% but Mr Budge true to form is fighting it
all the way to the wire, despite a petition which is signed by more than 70% of the workforce demanding the union that is the NUM be allowed on site. The next step is an Industrial Tribunal to force Budge to recognise the union. Doubtless after the
court rules he has to recognise the union he will claim it was his idea all along.

The bad news is that the members of the union are running scared already with not a single solitary soul coming forward for any of the branch official's jobs. Not that there is a formal branch yet, as far as we know. This bodes very badly for the fate of the Branch. A secretary and delegate at least are an urgent requirement at Hatfield. At present the branch and the affairs of Hatfield are being run by Barnsley. Barnsley has its own reasons for keeping a tight reign on the Hatfield branch, and since it is due to grow to be jewel in the crown of Yorkshire, indeed may be the Yorkshire coalfield more or less, this is even more so. Hatfield must find its own feet and shake off the parental control of the Barnsley office no matter how well intentioned that may be.

We should make the call now, to the men working at Hatfield, pick yourselves a spokesman, a representative clever and brave enough to be your voice, and take over Control of your own branch. 12 men are needed on that Branch Committee and surely
We have 12 good men and true at the pit?
We are happy to discuss organising at the pit, and building
the branch and anything you wish to know about being a
Branch official, just contact us through the website.



Back to News Menu


This year's David Jones / Joe Green memorial lecture organised by the NUM
(Yorkshire area) will take place at 10.45AM at the miners' offices,
Huddersfield Road, Barnsley on Saturday 10 march 2007. The lecture will be
given by Paul Kenny GMB General Secretary. The chairman of the meeting will
be Steve Kemp, NUM secretary.

The lecture is an annual event in memory of David Jones and Joe Green, two
Yorkshire miners killed on the picket line during the 1984/85 miners'

All supporters welcome


Back to News Menu


Germany will shut down its eight remaining black coal mines by 2018 under a plan which seals the fate of the sector that powered the country's industrial revolution and post-war economic miracle. Unlike in Britain, Germany's mining phase-out has been gentle.

This is the full story from Spiegel Online:,1518,463172,00.html


Back to News Menu



Watch out for Dave on 'Inside Out' BBC North (thats for the NE and Cumbria) 2nd Feb 7-30pm
He is presenting a TV History documentary on Tommy Armstrong the famous Geordie pitman poet of the Nineteenth Century. Tommy was a great comic and sometimes tragic and angry working class commentator of the region and the period and the working class. He was something of the forerunner of people like Bobby Thompson and later Billy Connelly but with more political commentary.


Back to News Menu



I hope you don't mind me contacting you but you may be interested in a petition I have set up on the No 10 web site with regards the miner's compensation scheme and the huge delays some miners are experiencing due to the ridiculous red tape. The petition is only a short one because of the
limit on the number of words.

If you feel you can support the petition why not visit the site and add your name to it.

Peter Watkin"


Back to News Menu


Dear David Douglass

I have spent the last 2 years researching the disaster at the Pretoria Pit in Bolton and produced a documentary that's coming out on DVD. Could you please put it in your news section on your website.

Historical Disasters- Black Christmas is about a mining disaster that happen in 1910. Using pictures from the aftermath, local experts, families of those involved and computer graphic reconstructions. All of which brings to light what happened on that fateful day.

We set out to try and find out the truth about what happen. And ended up finding some shocking facts about how miners and miners families were treated before and after the explosion.

To find out more about Historical Disasters- Black Christmas please go to

Kind Regards
Steve Looker
Reel Vision Films


Back to News Menu



Another of the Hatfield old stagers has gone, and we have been asked by his family, who are readers of our website, if we will let people know of the death of JOSEPH TETLEY who once lived on broadway then moved into a bungalow in broadway nook. He was well know at the pit and worked there all of his

He died on the 13/08/2006 in tickhill road hospital aged 83 should have had his 84 birthday 30/08/2006 he did work at Hatfield Main for some 40 years and most of the Hatfield miners and community will remember him with affection.


Back to News Menu


The Nigerian Scam

Dave forwarded the following email to me. He didn't give me any directions with regards to posting it here, so I can only assume he wants me to remind people that they should NEVER respond to emails of this nature.

Basically, it follows the theme of the typical Nigerian scam, which has been around for years now; someone you have never heard of contacts you asking for help, in return for which you will receive vast wealth. (yeah right ;-)

The usual format goes along something like, "Dear Sir, I am the the daughter / son / wife (insert appropriate) of the late manager / minister / General / President / (insert appropriate) of the business name / country / organisation (insert appropriate). My husband / brother / father (insert appropriate) was murdered / imprisoned / kidnapped (insert appropriate) and I have been left in charge of a large sum of money which I need your help to get out of the country. In return for your assistance you will be rewarded with 10% / 25 % / $1,000,000 (insert appropriate)."

It's amazing, but people do fall for this scam, which is often carried out from some dirty and dusty internet cafe' on the streets of Nigeria, which is why it is called the Nigerian Scam, although there are now many parts of Africa which have joined in with phishing of millions of email addresses daily. Once the victim makes contact with the scammer he is asked to set up a bank account, through which he is steadily stripped of his wealth, house and belongings in the misguided belief that he will be rewarded in the end.

The best way of not falling victim to these parasites is to be aware that you will never be given a fortune from someone who sends you an email out of the blue. It just doesn't happen, no matter how convincing they may sound. Never respond to spammers, as they will know that they have hit an active email address, making yours more valuable so that it will added to lists of active addresses that can be sold.

Anyway, here's the mining version of the Nigerian Scam:

>Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2006 19:57:55 +0100 (BST)


Back to News Menu


Danny The Red

Leaving Donie
11/ June 2006

It is with much emotion & mixed feelings that I have finally decided my work here in Doncaster is now done, and I am returning 'back up yem'.
The kids next door have inscribed me a 'tombstone' in concrete next to my house in Abbeyfield Road, it says David D 1966-2006. Incredibly, I have
been at this address for 40 years (including my time at Ruskin and up at Glasgow when I was away but the wife and child remained here) It also means
I have had forty two years as a member of the NUM in both Durham and Doncaster and currently, that includes some thirty years on the coal face and
on face rips and headings. The last ten years before the closure of the Branch and Advice Centre in August last year I worked part time, living on donations from the branch and the community representing them with appeals and tribunals, inquests and industrial relations. For ten years I lived on little more than
£8000 per year with some fruit and veg and home made wine thrown in from folks who had no money but wanted to pay me something. It was much
appreciated and enjoyed , but didn't leave me very flush by the time xmas came round . The pit work has been some long, and often dangerous and thankless task, which has left me with Pneumo, bronchitis, white finger, carpal tunnel, partial deafness and knackered knees. The union side took me to court and to the brink of eviction, and bankruptcy, to police cells and thuggery and virtual torture, not just during the strikes of 84/85 but also before and after as Hatfield stood its ground. It has also been deeply rewarding, the Doncaster miners in general and the Hatfield miners in particular are indeed the salt of the earth and they rate as some of the most militant and uncompromising of working class militants anywhere. I am proud to have been consistently elected their representative since 1979, despite
never ever having hid my far left politics and support for struggles and organisations which the main stream political parties and newspapers classed as 'extremists'.

Truth is since the mass round down and slaughter of the industry, the spirit has all but left industry such as it remains. Despite the apparent reopening
of Hatfield with the prospect of saving coal mining in Britain from utter extinction, and the chance of some modern clean coal burning techniques, the NUM
is no more a social force for change, and the mining industry is all but finished. I have had to face some fairly sharp assessments of where I now stand and
what contribution I can make to the living class struggle, which is taking place all around. Millions of workers are unorganised and exploited, fat cat bosses
get away with murder and super exploitation unfettered by Unions, because the unions haven't taken the time and effort to start again at square one, and
start bringing these non-union workers without union traditions into the movement. I cannot remain hanging around the tombs of our dead industry and polishing
the trophies of our once proud and unbeatable union, deep though my attachment to mining and the NUM is. So leaving behind what I hope was a good record
of achievement and commitment to these communities it is time to move on into another set of battles albeit new fronts in the same ongoing war.

Some of you will know I am now organising for the TGWU (The Transport and General Workers Union) largely I am engaging among drivers, in the
so called 'logistics' industry. My targets will be based primarily in the north, and that being the case I have taken the bull by the horns and will relocate
back to my native Tyneside. I expect to have on occasion some work down in Donie, and hope to be here a couple of days per week, not least because
my daughter and granddaughter are still here, and I hope not to loose contact with them and my many friends and comrades in the town and surrounding
former pit communities so expect to see me from time to time round town , especially at the weekend revelry .

I am hoping to organise a farewell party, probably at The Woolpack, and probably on a Sunday evening either at the end of June or sometime in July
in addition, I hope all my friends and neighbours, workmates and comrades will attend, but no hypocrites please. I have promised the Landlord that my neighbours
will keep the peace that evening despite their reputation for staging wild west shows.

I will keep you informed, but in the meantime, it has been an honour and a privilege to have represented you and to have been at your side through
so many dynamic dangerous and bliddy magic moments of history.

David Douglass

(Danny The Red)


Back to News Menu


Coal Health Claims

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much had been paid to the "Union" of Democratic Mineworkers in respect of handling fees for coal health claims up to 31 March. [276]

Malcolm Wicks: As at 31 March 2005, the total paid to UDM solicitors for fees under the schemes was £19 million


Back to News Menu


The Russians Are Coming To Hatfield !!

The cat is well and truly out of the bag. The biggest Russian coal company in the business has taken over Budges Hatfield coal complex plant business. We aren't sure if they have just taken a share or whether they have bought him out, but they will now call the shots.

Why should a Russian giant with massive coal reserves wish to buy into our back yard is not clear, it could be for western currency, or a share into the energy generation market which they could supplement with their own produce from Russia.

Just when we thought the sun had set for good at Hatfield a reprieve is granted.
Photograph - Hatfield No.1 Headgear
©Adge Covell 2005
Click image to enlarge
We are seeking urgent contact with the organ grinder rather than the monkey, in an effort to get a union recognition agreement off the ground for the whole plant from word go. Many people have asked about Dave Douglass's position and would he come back as union secretary. Well a bit premature, perhaps but in theory yes, depending who would employ him as what.
We are concerned at the constant under assessment of the Hatfield reserves, the new media is calling it 27 million tonnes, far short of the potential in all directions round the colliery and beyond its current borders.

Old seams need investigating for usage in the light of new operating objectives. Kent Thick stands already accessible at about 4/5 foot, never been worked in any direction. The Shafton is illustrated as 7/8 foot on early plans but falls to 7/8 inches by later plans, this could be a simple mistake in the survey office and needs to be checked against bore hole samples, again this seam has never been worked and runs off in all directions north south east and west . The High Hazel is stated as being 'exhausted' it is far from that, only the portion within old colliery curtleges was more or less worked out, the vast seam in all probability runs across to Askern and Armthorpe, bore holes suggest, Ainley was due to take a proving heading through but never found the cash, so we think it is there, the best most environmentally sound seam in Britain low ash, sulphur, chlorine, 'green coal'.

The current reserve predictions focus solely on the Barnsley within the collieries existing curtledge, however all these seams run north and east toward North Yorkshire and across to the coast in hundreds upon hundreds of square miles of reserves in the Hazel, Kent's and Barnsley (which we believe become one seam east of Thorne.)

We hope the Russian coal company will explore this potential and not be fobbed off with dodgy survey reports. Likewise we expect them to meet the Union officials and some of the potential local workforce and lets talk future, jobs, and coal.


More on the story of Hatfield and the Russians from various news links:


UK Coal braced for Russian bid after £1bn deal with ex-chief - The Guardian

New mining prospects for colliery - BBC News

Russian Deal Could Reopen U.K. Mine - The Moscow Times

Coal mine eyes reprieve as Russians invest - Reuters


Back to News Menu



Death of Dek Hendley

We are sad to have just learned of the death of another of our old Hatfield Main comrades Derek Hendley. Dek was a good pitman, good union lad, always ready to answer whatever call the union and his mates placed upon him. He was one of the pit characters and everyone knew and liked him. It seems he died 1st March, although we hadn't previously known about it, we are sorry to have missed his funeral, but there were many many more who didnt and his send off was said to be "remarkable". Our sympathies to Derek’s family and mates who shall miss him very much.


Back to News Menu



Massive Turnout at Paul Whetton’s final day.

Area and National Officials of the NUM and a solid block of Nottingham NUM miners and their families turned out for Paul’s funeral, Saturday 18th March. Led by Notts NUM banners, the funeral procession thronged the roads and closed Newark town centre. Well known characters from the miners movement were everywhere in evidence in among the sea of faces.

The packed church had the service relayed to the crowds standing outside for over an hour in freezing temperatures. The tears froze in our eyes as we listened , to Paul's voice, talking about the meaning of pit life and the strength of pit communities.

The music and the speeches were absolutely heart wrenching, Arthur Scargill making one of the most impassioned and moving eulogies I think I have ever heard, although, the most sorrowful parts were those where he quoted from the words of Paul’s kids. It was deeply upsetting.

Paul was a hero of the workers movement, a committed Communist and trade unionist. His coffin was draped in the Soviet flag and his fur Bolshevik hat, with the badge of Communist Party CCCP, of which he had been so proudly presented in the Soviet Union, was laid on top of the flag.

During the strike Paul had thrown himself into the Nottingham offensive, fighting as all Notts strikers did on the hardest front of all, in the worse strike breaking county, which had been made the scene of counter attack by the Tories and the states special forces. At the end of the strike he was victimised. It took two years of battles in Tribunals before Paul was reinstated, albeit at Manton Colliery in the Yorkshire Area of the NUM, but within the actual geological coal county of Nottingham. In his final working years Paul sustained a serious accident which forced him to finish in the industry a couple of years early. This allowed him to devote the bulk of his time to the Justice For Miners Campaign and efforts to rebuild the NUM in Nottingham.

Paul was a great mate, a great story teller, a man of justice and common sense. We have lost too many like him in recent years and sadly they are not being replaced. God Speed, Paul marra. The (female) vicar told amusingly how Paul in his first encounter with her welcomed her and called her ‘Comrade’ and she had been a bit taken aback, but then recognised it had been a great compliment. She supposed Paul might be engaged with ‘Comrade Christ’ at this very moment. We arnt sure about that, but if it were true, doubtless Christ wont get a word in for the first few days.


Back to News Menu



We are sorry to inform of the death of Paul Whetton, former NUM branch secretary at Bevercotes Colliery, Nottinghamshire, and victimised for his role in the Great 1984-85 strike.

Paul successfully fought his victimisation and was later employed at Manton Colliery in South Yorkshire before taking early retirement through ill-health.

He was a steadfast and militant trade unionist and socialist. May he Rest in peace.

His funeral arrangements as follows:

Saturday 18th March 2006.

9.00 am Assemble and march from 10 Nicholas Place, Tuxford, Notts. Due to the number of people expected to attend you are requested to park your car and walk to Nicholas Place. Parking Available at Tuxford WMC, Newcastle Arms and the Sun Inn off the market place.

Funeral procession lead by 3 Banners (National, Notts Area and Bevercotes Colliery). This is about ½ a mile.

10.00 am Service at St Nicholas Church, Tuxford, Notts.

Burial attended by family only.

Everyone welcome afterwards at Tuxford Working Men’s Club.

The family have requested donations in Lieu of Flowers to “Notts NUM Ex & Retired Miners Association” The family have also requested only the 3 banners mentioned above.

Directions To Tuxford

From the South

From Newark Exit the A1 on to the A6075

From the North

Exit the A1 on the B1164


Back to News Menu



Sunday 12 March

The miners' remembered, 22 years on from the day it began

The Common Place. 23 Wharf Street, Leeds

On 12 March, 1984, some 100,000 miners lay down their tools in what became one of the longest and bloodiest industrial disputes in British history. Thatcher's government had ripped up a longstanding agreement and announced 20 pit closures with the loss of 20,000 jobs. Supported by an incredible solidarity movement led by the women of the community, the strike lasted a year but was ultimately doomed to failure. The government had stockpiled coal reserves and as growing poverty, personal hardship and a tough Christmas hit home, the strike collapsed by 3 March 1985. We will mark this heroic working class struggle by hearing from ex-miners and showing a number of films, including The Battle of Orgreave, the bloody June '84 assault on picketing miners by police and army.

2pm The miners campaign Tapes

3pm Talk by Dave Douglas ex miner and author of 'Geordies Wa Mental'

4pm The Battle of Orgreave 70 mins
The climactic clash of the 1984 miners' strike at
Orgreave, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire was recreated on 17th June 2001.

6pm Brassed Off
A small Yorkshire mining town is threatened with being shut down and the only hope for the town's men is to enter their Grimley Colliery Brass Band into a national competition.


Back to News Menu



Betty Heathfield

Miners' heroine who organised women's support groups to sustain the strikers

Geoffrey Goodman
Wednesday February 22, 2006

The Guardian

It is still generally assumed that the 1984-85 miners' strike was a battle between one woman and one man - prime minister Margaret Thatcher and NUM president Arthur Scargill. But there was another woman involved. Betty Heathfield, who has died aged 78, was the wife of Scargill's chief lieutenant, the union general secretary Peter Heathfield, and by the end of the bitter dispute she had become nationally known as "the miners' heroine".

Betty's role was to help create, organise, coordinate and sustain the women's support groups for the striking miners under the umbrella organisation she chaired, Women Against Pit Closures. Nothing on such a scale had been seen before in a British industrial dispute. Across the coalfields, women's groups sprang up, largely inspired by Betty's example from her small family home in Chesterfield. Even at the end of the strike, she could still organise more than 2,000 miners' wives to rally at Chesterfield football ground to demand help for the thousands of families left deprived, some penniless, by the dispute.

During the strike itself, Betty and Anne Scargill, Arthur's then wife, led the national campaign to help feed, clothe and sustain a lifeline of hope for miners' families in every pit village in the country. They organised school holiday breaks for children and, with financial aid from other trade unions and street and house-to-house collections, somehow kept alive a flame of hope. Much of the public support can be attributed to Betty's remarkable dedication, relentless courage and leadership.

Many observers believe the women's support movement was the most significant element of the miners' dispute; certainly, it was a powerful factor in sustaining the strike for 12 months from March 1984. In previous industrial disputes in Britain, certainly since the end of the second world war, strikers' wives have generally been regarded as reluctant allies or silent onlookers. The Betty Heathfield campaign changed that.

Even after the return to work, the women maintained a platform, lending support to other disputes, most notably Rupert Murdoch's clash with the print unions that followed his move to Wapping in 1986. Betty and Anne Scargill toured the mining areas of the United States and Canada seeking help for the depressed mining communities of Britain.

Betty Heathfield was born into a working-class mining family in Chesterfield. Both her grandfathers had been Derbyshire miners; her father, Billy Vardy, was a miner before the first world war, and then, having been wounded, moved into the gas industry.

His exceptionally intelligent eldest daughter excelled at Chesterfield girls' high school - the top local grammar school - and won a county scholarship which should have taken her to university. As a teenager, however, she was nervous, shy and reluctant to push herself. Her headteacher sought to persuade the family to let her continue, but they were too poor to support such ambitions and she left school at 16 for a secretarial job at a local engineering company. Her weekly wage was vital to the household.

Leaving school in 1943, in the middle of the second world war, Betty joined the local auxiliary fire service, and it was here that she became interested in politics. Her family were characteristic Labour party people, but at the end of the war the experience of hearing the Communist party leader Harry Pollitt speak at a local meeting persuaded her to join the Young Communist League. Her path to a radical leftwing lifestyle was established and she went on to become a full member of the Communist party.

She met her future husband at Chesterfield's youth cycling club. He was a leftwing radical active in the Labour party and the NUM. They married in 1953, when he was still a working miner and 13 years before he became a full-time NUM official.

The most poignant moment of Betty's life came four years after the miners' strike when, in 1989, her 36-year-long marriage broke down. She and Peter had been a devoted couple, with four grown-up children and her very much the driving political force. Friends were stunned by the separation; Peter moved to Worksop to live with Sue Rolstone, a woman 22 years his junior, whom he married after divorcing Betty in 2001.

Many who knew the Heathfields blamed the marital break-up on the pyschological impact of the strike on them both, particularly on Peter. The Scargills, too, were divorced in 2001, after 37 years of marriage.

Betty tried to reconstruct her life by picking up on her earlier educational talents and studying for a politics degree at Lancaster University. At the final stage, however, she fell ill with Alzheimer's disease and her last four years were spent in a Chesterfield nursing home. Peter survives her, as do their three sons and a daughter.

· Betty Heathfield, miners' heroine, born March 30 1927; died February 16 2006



Back to News Menu



Death of Betty Heathfield

We have only just discovered the death of Betty Heathfield, who it seems, died this week or last week. We knew Betty had been ill for some time, but had no idea it was critical.
Betty as everyone will know was the wife of Peter Heathfield the general secretary of theNUM during the period of the great coal strike. Betty was however a keen activist in her own right and a founder member of the women against pit closures. She questioned everything she came across, refusing all party lines and set prescriptions. She was a great friend of the Hatfield miners. Betty went on to write books and into further education and gave lectures up and down the country. She was an activist in the left socialist movement and continued to be heavily involved in politics and the working class women's movement until her illness. She made a sound and brave and thoughtful contribution to the cause of the socialism and militant trade unionism. She will be greatly missed.

A suitable tribute to Betty comes in the chorus of one of the songs dedicated to the women of the coal strike:-

So here's to you Betty
And here's to you Ann
And a hundred thousand like you
Who made a honest stand
Endured every hardship
Insults you that you bore
We will not forget you heroines
Who fought in 84.


Back to News Menu


Trapped US coal miners found dead

According to a BBC news report Saturday, 21 January 2006, 22:58 GMT , rescuers have found the bodies of two coal miners trapped underground by a fire in the US state of West Virginia.
The two men had become separated from their crew as they tried to escape a conveyor belt blaze on Thursday.
The report goes on to say that rescue teams who searched for 40 hours at the Aracoma mine said the heat of the fire had hampered their efforts. Another 19 miners made it out unharmed.
The deaths come less than a month after 12 men lost their lives in a blast in the Sago Mine in West Virginia.


Back to News Menu



Another Coalminer’s Daughter (and Son)
Has Heart and Soul beneath the Ground
With Tears and Hopes and Prayers
That their lost Daddies will be Found.

Hoping for some great Miracle
Not only Found, but Safe and Well
One more Escape from the Hazards
That Stories and the Folklore tell.

A Dangerous Job at its best
And for some the only one
To take care of their Family
It’s one Chore that Must be Done.

We all know the Historical
Of the company town and store
Some say those days are gone??
But, it’s known they could do More.

The wages for the "Muckers" (look it up)
And those Men who run the Drills
May be Paid a little More
But, the Lack of Safety still Kills.

The Bureau of Mines (and Safety)
Although they have done much good
Like most all federal agencies
Not Half, nearly what they should.

So the Money, buying favors
Flows much faster than the Ore
To protect the mining companies
From the Pimp, to the real Whore.

The preceding written Tuesday

After the news they were found alive
I'm adding this this morning
From joyful, happy, jubilation
To the pain and tears and mourning.

How could this have happened?
Why was the good news so wrong?
And though some knew about it
Why did the truth take so long?

Then there is the rage and anger
That has come a bit too late
About all the safety violations
That have sealed those Miners Fate.

If the officials with the power
From Fed, State, or Company
Had fulfilled their obligations
They could have stopped this tragedy.

If the men themselves had complained
They probably would have been let go
But what could those violations cost?
Well sadly now, we all know.

Just another of those lessons learned
(Though we all know that isn't so)
Soon it will be the same ol' same
To guarantee the money flow.

Lives are cheap and expendable
When it comes to the bottom line
Seems it's always been and will be
For those folks down in the Mine.

©Del "Abe" Jones


Back to News Menu



Death Of Hans

We are very sorry to report the death of our old German comrade, Hans Boettcher. A well known character at the pit during his time working there, and in the active social life of the clubs and the village and the NUM. Although last off, badly crippled with injuries to his hips and legs, he continued with his love of dancing, especially the waltz, and continued to spin and waltz at Kirk Sandal club, albeit with rather stiff legs.He dressed smartly and was one of the most polite men you could wish to speak to, we never ever heard him swear. He walked everywhere with his stick, but managed to waltz without one
Hans had been a recruit to the German army during the war years and endured many a war time encounter of the kind this generation will hopefully only ever read about. At the end of the war, he stayed in Britain and returned to mining. He was a firm supporter of the union, and frequently attended his meetings and local miners gala's.
He was a well liked man, with whom we often had interesting discussions on history and politics and the future direction of the union and the labour movement.

Hans was 85 and died suddenly. He is missed as a Dad and Granddad as well as a fellow miners and union brother.


Back to News Menu


Miners’ test case may land taxpayers with £100m bill

THE Government is being taken to court to defend a miners’ legal action that could result in multimillion-pound compensation rewards for personal injury lawyers.

A court date in January has been set for a preliminary hearing into the proposed group action on behalf of miners who suffer from a chronic knee condition allegedly caused by working underground.

Funding for the litigation is being provided by the National Union of Mineworkers and the Durham Area NUM, with £10 million committed to the preliminary costs.

The new claim focuses on two knee conditions: osteoarthritis, in which cartilage is worn away, and damage to the menisci, cartilage tissue which acts as a shock absorber in the knee joint. The symptoms are pain, swelling, clicking and locking of the knee, and the conditions can be progressive and permanent.

Full story:,,2-1872043,00.html



Back to News Menu


Death of Hatfield Main octogenarian - Wally Parkin

Walter Parkin, was undermanager and then personnel manager at Hatfield Main in the 60's/70's.
Unfortunately he passed away yesterday (13th November 2005) age 87.
The funeral is 11.15 am on Friday 18 November 2005 at Willerby Crematorium at Hull (near Castle Hill Hospital at Cottingham).

If you or anyone you know wishes to attend the funeral, please contact Anne and Peter at Hull 01482 843569.


Back to News Menu


Claim for 'missing miners' money

On Wednesday the long-running issue of miners' compensation will go before the High Court in London
The Action Group for Miners (AGM), is a company which claims a proportion of former miners have not received all of the money owed to them.
Ex-miners and their families across the UK have already been paid more than £2.8bn in compensation.
The action is being lodged by Greene Wood & McLean on behalf of AGM, which is led by Lord Mackenzie.

The court case follows the biggest compensation claim schemes in British legal history.
Full story:


Back to News Menu


Death of comrade Burt Whittle

Doncaster pitman and veteran revolutionary socialist activist Burt Whittle has died. Burt had been in the thick of the struggles of the 1970's and earlier and was a well known socialist trade union militant. He began as a coalmining activist, on the left of the labour party but then like many true socialists got thoroughly sick of their betrayals and Tory policies. He joined the international socialists, and then the socialist workers party when they transformed from a group to a party.
Burt had been one of the activists around the 'collier' newspaper and was always one of the best most vociferous miners taking the num to the left and back to its roots.

In the strike of 84/85 Burt distinguished himself with both unofficial and official picketing operations among some of the most violent and dangerous conflicts. Ever a pitman humorist, at the picket ambush of Silver Hill colliery in Notts, he was chased by mounted police wielding batons. He ran down the side of a rather posh detached house and had the lady of the house come out to remonstrate with him and cry "my roses, do be careful of my roses" Burt replied "it's ok love, their going to get some horse manure in a minute !".

Burt supported every demonstration and picket line of other workers he was called upon to and was a well known activist in the antifascist movement.
Burt was a small man in stature but wherever there was a fight on for justice, in the middle of the crowd, you would always see Burt's flat cap, a determined look on his face and an inevitable roll up in the corner of his mouth. He was no mean fighter.

He was well loved by his children and grandchildren and was a happy thoughtful and kindly man. He was 77, and we all thought he would go on forever.
Burt will be buried in his native Armthorpe, the funeral service will take place at the church at the corner in Armthorpe village at 2 pm on Wednesday 21st Sept.

Burt will be well missed, a good comrade and solid num member and a loyal supporter of workers in struggle everywhere. They'll be standing you a round of drinks tonight Burt lad, when you get up yon, there's quite a few a few of your aud marra's waiting for you.

Dave Douglass.

Back to News Menu


Polish police lay into miners' protest

(Spotted in the Morning Star by Dave Edwards)

AT LEAST six police officers and two protesters were injured when a miners' demonstration outside Poland's parliament turned violent yesterday.

Some 8,000 miners marched on parliament demanding guarantees that their current pension plan would not be scrapped.

The clashes erupted when the miners, some of them wielding wooden sticks, overturned metal barriers and attacked police with lumps of coal, rocks, bottles and firecrackers.

Riot police responded with water cannon and tear gas after protesters refused to disperse.

"It has slipped out of control," said miner Miroslaw Rink from Myslowice in southern Poland, "All we wanted was to get our pension rights."

Police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said that six officers had been injured, one of them seriously, and a reporter at the scene saw two injured protesters lying under a tree.

The scheme, which allows miners to retire with pensions after 25 years of work, will expire in 2006 unless legislators pass a draft law which is currently before

Poland's ruling social democrats have encountered strong resistance to their effort to slash the country's benefit system in order to stabilise public finances and
meet conditions for joining the euro currency zone. Poland aspires to join by 2010.

Parliament speaker and presidential nominee Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told state radio that parliament will not consider the miners' suggestion for a draft law because it would cost the cash-strapped state 26 billion zlotys (£4.4 billion) over five years.

But Mr Cimoszewicz added that the lower house will consider a more conservative upper house amendment, making early retirement possible until 2008.

Back to News Menu


Somewhere in the region of 60,000 people attended a mass Durham Miners Gala today, July 9th amid blazing sunshine. It was the 121st. Over forty bands and countless NUM and other union banners jostled through the families and crowds of folk out to dance and cheer them on. Ian Lavery the National President of the NUM made the finest speech of his life and predicted a return to coal mining in Britain, even forecasting a new pit in Durham and another in Northumberland. Sadly we do not share Ian's
optimism and nothing in this governments stance would lead us to think along those lines but we welcome his drive and enthusiasm in pursuing that goal. Dennis Skinner socked it to them in customary fashion as did Bickerstaff. The Area officials Davie Guy and Davie Hopper both made tribute to the rescue and emergency teams in the recent bombing atrocity in London and extended their sympathies to all the families affected and likewise all the innocent people killed by 'the allies' in Iraq. Both men called for the immediate withdrawal of all British troops from Iraq.
Blair's ears must have been burning today (it ought to have been his backside !) as speaker after speaker condemned the whole 'new Labour' scheme and the treachery involved in it.

The police after last years provocation stayed well out of it this year and were hard to spot so obviously there was no bother anywhere in the town or on the field today.

We didnt take the Hatfield banner up this year because we couldn't get a firm commitment of former branch members to attend. As it was at least a dozen Hatfield men were present plus some partners so more than enough to have marched with the banner.

If people want the banner out next year they need to commit to being there. The gala next year is scheduled for 8th July.

Photograph from the event programme © Keith Potts

The gala goes from strength to strength, a political and industrial pageant of massive proportions carrying the old torch of socialism and militant trade unionism and community struggle. Being a thoroughly
working class event you could count the 'far left' politicos present on one hand. That team long ago abandoned the traditional working class in search for some shinny new form of radical element, possibly the clown army we seem on Princess Street in Edinburgh last week, a good laugh but that's all. This gala crowd, these ordinary working folk remain our main real constituency and it really doesn't matter if the self proclaimed leaders of the left don't know it.

Socially the beer flowed, the big hoppins are back on the top field and the number of little stalls, mining memorabilia tables, social local history groups, folk singers and book stalls just keeps blooming. Ice
cream and chips were the order of the day and everyone had a truly memorable day.

You really all must come next year, shit or bust.

Photographs from the big meet 2005. Many thanks to Dave Edwards:
Click on image to enlarge - each image will open in its own window




Back to News Menu

Police Riot Squads Run Amuck In Edinburgh

This week has seen mass protests by various groups in Edinburgh on the occasion of the meeting of the world’s rulers the G8. Saturday seen a minimum of 250,000 people march through the city centre pleading for the leaders of the rich and powerful nations of the world not to allow Africa to continually starve. I was invited to take part and speak on the multi-factional platforms which were to be convened on Monday 4th July evening, I was speaking for the Industrial Workers of The World, on the theme The Miners and The Law. Monday was planned by environmental and anarchist groups as a day of carnival and ‘happenings’ throughout the city. It is illustrative that there was no bother on Saturday when police numbers were minimal. The idea that ,that would be the case on Monday were quickly squashed as convoys of police trekked north from all over Britain. I got caught in a convoy of some 100 South Yorkshire police vehicles on their way up on Sunday, armies of cops from Manchester, the MET , Lincolnshire, Merseyside, Northumbria to name a few could be seen streaming into the city. It should be noted this was 24 hours before anybody had done anything, so they were tooling up for bother from the beginning.

On Monday the police took the decision in the early morning to close Princess Street to traffic for the rest of the day, the main thoroughfare through Edinburgh. The Anarcho’s were still in bed when this decision was made, when they emerged they found the whole city centre had been left as a pedestrian precinct for their carnival. We were entertained by troops of people dressed as clowns, and hundreds in fancy dress, bands, drummers, dancers, and people marching up and down the road or just playing with Frisbees, skateboarding or cycling. Hundreds of people, tourists and Edinburgh folk out shopping, at the shops which were all still open along Princess Street, stood and cheered or crowded the pavements to watch and take photos of the carnival. Yes there were small groups of anarchists with their faces masked carrying black flags marching up and down, no more than a dozen or so, mostly young adolescents of about 14 or 15 but nothing whatever was happening which could be called trouble. Besides which it was clear this was the group the press had come to see and each young rebel had his/her own press member tagged alongside all day, a veritable army of camera men and photographers outnumbered them looking for exciting shots, despite this you wont find a single image of these kids actually doing anything.

Throughout the morning the police pestered all the shops on the street to close, for their own safety. Nothing whatever was happening in the shops, customers were not interfered with in any way, in fact despite their being two MacDonalds, open and serving on the street and just round the corner from this street, nothing whatever was done by means of protest let alone threatening to these favourite targets of the anarchists. Oddly, these were not urged to close. One wonders if a provocation hadn't been responded to. Suddenly and for no reason whatsoever columns of riot police, looking like armies of Robocops started to march into the road, preceded by mounted police who formed a road block and started to push the crowd back down the road. The crowds at the other side of this road were left mainly standing on the pavement, about two thirds of whom were tourists and shoppers watching the events. Next police with riot shields started to form up all round the crowds and shout that for their own safety everyone should disperse. The crowd asked why? And asked where this danger was coming from, nothing was happening. An old bloke asked was he not allowed to stand on the pavement in his own city now and the muffled shout from the helmeted and masked up cop was ‘not unless you want to get hurt’. With that they started pushing the crowds along the pavement and at the same time from the roads, this was done with utmost force, and many old people in the crowd were clearly upset, tearful and terrified. The police took absolutely no notice of their frailty and fear and carried on pushing forward relentlessly. Some of the young people tried pushing back and tried to stop the crush and panic, they were treated to kicked ankles and heads smacked with riot shields. Now I should explain, I had resolved that today I was just an observer, I had come to speak, that was my role, I hadn't come for a fight, but its very hard to keep you patience when some brain dead moron is ramming his riot shield into you back and stamping on your heels. I managed with extreme difficulty to keep my temper. The point of all this ? To get rid of the onlookers, the witnesses. With the pavements cleared, and the press and shoppers pushed up side streets, the bulk of the armoured force now charged into the totally unarmed, defenceless and unsuspecting youth still dancing and clowning about. I have never in all my experience seen such cold blooded and wanton use of excessive force against an unarmed group of people. This new brand of light long shield is picked up and smashed horizontally into the heads and faces of the people in front of them, or it is brought crashing down with two hands, with the edge like a cutting blade onto legs and arms. It was utterly fearful uncontrolled violence. The crowd who by en large are not pacifists but why should that be an excuse to attack someone, were little prepared to resist this assault. There isn't a stone the size of a pebble in Princess Street or in the surrounding park, people threw clumps of flowers at the police in frustration, until two strong lads picked up a park bench to try and mount a barricade, but were clobbered before they could manage it. A few people used their little flagpoles and poster sticks to try and ward off the fully armoured and tooled up cops in a brave but pathetic effort to defend themselves. 100 folk were arrested within minutes and dozens upon dozens injured. The Press ? The Celebes ? What do you think ? The press and radio and TV all focused on ‘violent anarchists’ attacking the police -What ? Midge Uur came on TV to condemn these violent mobs who just tag along to cause trouble where ever they go ! ‘We don't want you’! He suggested , without being there, without questioning the police version of events, just automatically condemned the protesters. Who gave him the right to speak for the protest in any case ? He with his luxury lifestyle and millionaire status is part of the problem. He is not our leader and if anyone isn't wanted its him and his ilk. This was our protest. If we expected something a bit more balanced from Saint Bob himself we were to be disappointed as he landed with his entourage in the city on Tuesday evening. He condemned the demonstrators without a word of criticism for the police who were the perpetrators of the violence. His reputation suddenly took a nose dive as he made it clear which side of the argument he is on between rich and poor in this country. The press made much of the fact that half of people detained were from abroad ! Em, but the G8 leaders are all from abroad except Tony, these are the people who think they can and should run the world, not just Britain, the whole point of the protest is that it is international but who would expect the British press with its screaming ‘violent thug ‘ headlines to tell the truth about any of this, let along the issues involved.

On the 20th anniversary of the end of the miners strike, the scenes of utter carnage launched by police on pit communities, Edinburgh got its shocking first hand experience of what it was like. It has been a rude eye opener for many.

It is pointless to expect the police to admit that this was all planned, they had set this assembly up to give the young anarchists a good kicking and they didnt care how many ordinary folk they brutalised in the process. They came armed and ready and barely could contain their enthusiasm at hurting people.

The situation continued to deteriorate as the demonstrators moved off to Gleneagles the scene of world rulers summit. Making it plain demonstrators would not be allowed within eye sight or ear shot of the meeting the police had told the media demonstrations would be allowed. This was proved as more lies when on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning police attacked any demonstrator trying to move out the containment's areas where the police held them trapped. It is becoming quite clear, this government does not like public demonstrations, particularly by people who wish to actually challenge the system .

This was a heartily sickening experience made worse by the blatant lies of the news media and the compliance of the super rich celebrities not one of whom condemned the police violence. Only the Morning Star on July 5th carried a truthful presentation of the events with its headline ‘Police Batter G8 protesters’ and photos of wounded demonstrators and rampaging police. The paper carried eye witness statements from local Edinburgh people who confirmed that there was no disorder of any sort before the police launched the attack.

Dave Douglass

Back to News Menu


Death Of Tommy Preskey

One of the best loved Hatfield Main pit characters Tommy Preskey has died. He passed away 25 June at his home in Stainforth overlooking the Colliery, where he spent his strength and energies, and working life.

Tommy was best loved for his ever present humour, and endless supply of jokes. His face was always just suppressing a grin with a permanent twinkle in his eye, he knew he had a tale that would crease you up. Often he would tell his story matter of fact, as if this was just normal chatter about real events and then hit you with his punch line. Tommy laughed in the face of adversity and authority, his wit and sense of fun were unsurpressable. Always a strong union man, stood with the union without complaint and was proud to do so, one of the old guard sluggers who cut their teeth on their knees in water hand filling mountainous stone caunches and hard coal stints. We will greatly miss him . Our sympathies go out to his family his friends and comrades.

His funeral is 6th July (Wed) Rose Hill Crem’ 3pm.


Back to News Menu

Big TIMES revelation on UDM under the title of FRAUD
See The Times Tues. June 28th Wed June 29th

The Fraud squad are investigating the operation of the UDM its leaders, its legal persona Vendside and a related firm run independently by its operators Indiclaim Ltd. The paper reveals the vast fortunes made by the UDM officials and the directors of its legal and marketing services organisations. The paper concludes


Round two of the report deals with the strange secret arrangement by which New Labour granted the scab organisation the unprecedented legal status of a handling agreement. This meant the anti-strike organisation set up by Thatcher and the leading scabs from 1984/85 could financially benefit from the ground breaking claims spearheaded by the NUM and our solicitors. They could operate directly and make money directly from the DTI and government compensation. The NUM was denied this right, we were not allowed to be part of the handling agreement despite the fact we applied for this provision before or no later than the UDM. £41 billion is government payback for breaking the miners strike and breaking the back of the NUM. The papers revelations have given members of Blair's former cabinet the chance to break cover and start talking. Brian Wilson Energy Minister from 2001 to 2003 said he discovered that the DTI had signed this deal which greatly favoured the UDM but couldn't find out under whose authority or why. He calls for all past correspondence on the subject now to be made public.

Having granted this huge commercial and legal concession to the UDM which represented a tiny minority of the miners of Britain, they would then go on to allow their leaders to fill in their own noughts on their salaries, and to pay obscene bonuses to their legal executives and marketing people. The paper tells us about the sickening salaries, big ranches and huge cars enjoyed by these people. However the ability to do that was granted by THE GOVERNMENT and granted for entirely political reasons to fund the strike breakers, to allow them to continue to break the unity of the miners, to stop any united fight back against the slaughter of the industry and perhaps most importantly to prevent the NUM taking any credit, and any organisational prestige from the fact that it represented the miners, and it had done the ground work for the claims. Neither Thatcher nor Major nor Blair wanted the NUM or Arthur Scargill getting any credit for winning for the miners the vast sums of compensation (overall) paid out to the crippled miners and our crippled communities. Andrew Norfolk who wrote the piece and ought to be congratulated has however up to now failed to draw out this essential reasoning behind the deal. The Thatcher government was advised by The Lord Chancellor to continue the assault on the NUM after the defeat of 1984/85 and continue its featherbedding of the UDM. The NCB/British Coal switched all negotiations to the UDM from the NUM and derecognised the NUM at national level tearing up the conciliation machinery which had been in place since the industry was nationalised in 1947. It was essential to the Tory scheme of privitising the coal industry that the NUM be bled to death. It was clear to them the NUM was still too healthy and alive following the strike and the vast majority of miners were still in the NUM. The UDM on the other hand was a totally breach birth and sickly child, as one would expect given the parents it was conceived by. A massive ongoing cash injection from the government was clearly necessary in order to keep it in existence, particularly after John Major started round two of the pit closure slaughter in 1993/94. What will be surprising to many is that this spoon feeding of the UDM continued under Blair's New Labour Governments, and continues yet.

The paper goes on to site Beresfords as one of the companies lined up with the UDM to make fortunes from the scheme. Closer inspection of their report reveals little to get too excited about. Beresfords handled some claims for the UDM .Something like 10% of Beresfords mining claim cases were passed from the UDM. The bulk of Beresfords miners claims were however obtained without any assistance or reference to or payment to the UDM, but handled on their own behalf in the same way as all the other solicitors in the field did. Beresfords like all the other solicitors in the field at the time, were charging a percentage to run their claims from successful cases on a non win no fee basis. After representation from us, they firstly dropped this charge by half, and then soon afterwards not only abolished the charge altogether, they also refunded the payments made by the former miners for their claims. The Times seems not to know this fact, or in fact that all the other legal firms in Britain raked in money from this disaster, most charged additions on top of their DTI money and never paid back a penny. The legal establishment as a whole has made fortunes and many moved into big new offices on the back of the miners health claims.

What matters to us is justice for mineworkers, does Beresfords take money from miners to run their claims ? No it doesn't, 90% of its mining claimants will not pay a penny piece out of their compensation, but the UDM take money from the UDM's members claims handled by Beresfords on their behalf. That is exactly the same relationship it seems Raley's has with the NUM and Thompsons has with other sections of the NUM. The difference here is the UDM officials salaries and incomes and bonuses and life styles is directly linked to the legal charges because they also operate the Vendside operation. The paper thinks it fraud, we don't know, that its corrupt and immoral is clear but we have to say what would you expect from the bloody UDM and many of our miners will say 'serves you right for suppin' with the devil'.

For our part we campaigned along with others in the NUM to have a cap on the level of Limited Membership fees paid to the NUM from miners compensation, they were already paying 5% from the lump sum, this meant a disproportion of money was extracted from the miners compensation for the Union. Although we succeeded in getting a cap on the lump sum of 5%, we never were able to cap the Limited Membership fees which could add up to more deductions than the compensation ! An understanding was made not to deduct more than 20% of the claim we understand, but this is 'an understanding' many of the former miners still do not understand, and many of us heartily disagree with.
We welcome the details and revelation, we hope the next focus will be political and on the governments, Tory and Labour who copper bottomed the UDM strike breakers, knighted their leaders, gave them obscene amounts of money and wealth and power, transferred all negotiation rights to them, all in an effort to bury Arthur Scargill and the NUM. It must be said the Times was one of those papers which heartily supported such actions and motives at the time, and went on to attack the unions within their own paper in scenes as violent as those in our strike.


Back to News Menu


Mining Community Advice Centre -Office to close ?

After months of just clinging on, and living on donations and with the kind and unconditional support of Beresfords Solicitors who made a free donation to our operating funds, Dave, the advice and welfare worker has had to try and seek a proper job. At present he is undergoing a testing probationary period which could well result in his obtaining a use for his talents elsewhere in the Trade Union movement. This will require closing the office.

We intend to open as usual Mondays and Wednesdays 10-30 / 2pm for the next couple of months or as long as we can keep going. The number is still 01302 841 365.

We anticipate that if all this comes off the office will close by September this year. However it is our intention to maintain the web site and the e-mail advice service which is well utilised by enquiries from all over the world after the closure of the office. We will operate a phone answer service (but just when we can get round to it) and this will likely be 01302 842 652. That will not be operational though until the office closes. From time to time informal consultation with claimants and former miners on matters of concern will be dealt with in the evenings or possibly weekends, when and where appropriate. Additionally, we shall continue to try and organise social and political and historic events around the mining industry and our culture and working class heritage.

The next one of these coming up is July 9th Durham Miners Gala, some of us are already committed to going up, off our own bats.

We are very grateful to the St John’s Ambulance Brigade at Stainforth who have allowed us to use their office and their hall free of charge for the last ten years.

We may well mark the closure of the office- if that comes to pass- with a get together for a drink and folky social and crack. Watch This Space For Further Developments.

Back to News Menu


By the minerswebsite correspondent

The brief review of miner's protest actions in Ukraine for March - May,

Besides action already known to you on mine <Nikanor-Nova> (Lugansk
region), spring of the current year of strike and protests passed:

1) On mine of a name of Artem (town Perevalsk, Lugansk region). The duty
under the salary made 1 million 381 thousand grivnas (more than 200 thousand
US dollars). With the help of strike miners have achieved payment of 47 % of
the debt.

2) Three strikes have passed on mine <Miusinskaya> (town Krasny Looch,
Lugansk region). Miners payment of a debt on wages for some months have
achieved, some times carried out picketing.

3) The monthly miners' strike of company <Energougol> (town Alexandria,
Kirovograd region) has ended with failure. Owners of the company owe wages
for half-year. On May, 2 2005 22 active workers of trade union of the
company have declared hunger-strike.

Edition of the newspaper " Working action "



Back to News Menu

Blood and coal: the human cost of cheap Chinese goods

Jonathan Watts in Miaowan, Sha'anxi province
Monday March 14, 2005
The Guardian

"Someone has snitched. The security men are coming. Shut the door, close the
curtains and stay quiet."
Moments later, footsteps outside. A rap on the door. A mother squeezes her
child tightly to her breast to muffle his cries. An older woman holds back
sobs, her eyes red with tears. Two others sit on a bed, exchanging anxious
glances. It is my fault the security are here, bringing trouble to people
who have already suffered too much. But why is a meeting between four
middle-aged women and a foreign journalist considered such a threat?

The women are not subversives, they are widows and bereaved daughters. Their
husbands and fathers were among the 166 men killed in an explosion at the
Chenjiashan colliery in Miaowan, a mining community in north-west China's
Sha'anxi province, last November. Such accidents are so common in China that
their plight and that of tens of thousands of other mining widows has become
one of the most sensitive issues facing the communist government.

More than 5,000 Chinese miners are killed each year, 75% of the global
total, even though the country produces only a third of the world's coal.
Working under appalling safety conditions, they are sacrificed to fuel the
factories that make the cheap goods snapped up by consumers in Britain and
other wealthy nations.

Faced with energy shortages this winter, the government has stepped up the
pressure on mine operators to raise output. This has contributed to a spate
of the worst disasters in the country's history. Last month, 216 miners were
killed at Sunjiawan mine in north-east China in the most deadly accident in
50 years. Last October, another gas explosion killed 148. Last Thursday, a
cave-in at a mine in Sha'anxi province killed 16 miners and left another 11
trapped underground.

Countless other accidents at small unregistered mines go unreported because
the owners - often in collusion with local officials - buy off or threaten
the victims' families. There is widespread anger that miners' lives are
being sacrificed for economic growth. "It's said there is blood on every
piece of coal in China," says one of the widows, Mrs Wang. "My husband used
to talk about the danger all the time. But we are very poor. We have
children. What else could we do?"

The five-mile deep pit at Chenjiashan had a particularly bad reputation.
Four years ago, 38 men died in a gas explosion. Five days before the latest
accident a fire broke out underground. "We came up, but the bosses told us
to go back. We didn't want to, but we had to," says one miner, Li, who lost
his brother in the explosion. "We all needed the money and there is a
penalty of 100 yuan (around £6) for refusing to go down."

The managers, who had reportedly been promised a hefty bonus to increase
production, ordered the men to keep working even though it had become hard
to breathe underground. On the morning of the accident, Li was preparing to
start his shift, when workers came running out of the shaft, saying they had
seen thick fog and smoke. "Every miner knows that means there's been an
explosion," he said.

Last week the bereaved were supposed to hold ceremonies to mark the end of
the 100-day mourning period, but many widows say they are still unable to
grieve properly because their husbands' bodies have yet to be recovered.
"Our husbands' bodies are still underground," said Mrs Zhang. "But when we
went to ask the mine supervisor for action, the security men beat us. One
woman was hurt so badly she is still in hospital."

Economics are a major factor in the death rate. Life is cheap, while coal is
increasingly dear.

In calculating compensation for the victims of the Chenjiashan blast, the
state estimated the value of a miner's life at 51,000 yuan (£3,200). An
extra 20,000 yuan was paid as a widow's allowance and another 20,000 yuan
for an unrecovered body. By contrast, mine operators were reportedly
promised a 400,000 yuan bonus if they could raise output by 400,000 tonnes
in the last two months of the year. They could afford at least three deaths
and still come out with a profit. Providing 75% of the country's energy
needs, coal output must more than match the near 10% annual growth of the
economy. There have been no reports of punishments for any of the mine
operators who forced their men into the burning pit.

"The government won't make real inroads into the mining death toll until it
increases compensation and signals that managers will go to jail for putting
people's lives at risk," said Robin Munro of Labour Action Bulletin. "Why
haven't they arrested any of the men who perpetrated crimes that led to more
than 100 deaths?"

The government has closed many of the most dangerous illegal pits, but the
death rate remains alarmingly high at big state-owned collieries.

China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao, has gone further than any previous
Chinese leader to tackle the problem and in a rare show of solidarity, he
visited Miaowan at new year and attended a memorial service for the dead.
But the widows of Chenjiashan say Wen's visit earlier this year was a
clumsily staged propaganda exercise.

"We weren't allowed anywhere near him," said Mrs Zhang. "We heard he
personally donated money to the victims' relatives, but none of it came to
us or anyone we know."

There was no way to check the allegations. After leaving the widow's house,
I was spotted by mine security personnel, and taken to the police station
for a four-hour interrogation. "You shouldn't be here without permission," a
local police officer said. "Something very unfortunate happened here. You
should not make more trouble for the local people."

· All names in this report have been changed to protect their identities


Back to News Menu

More Slaughter In The Chinese Mines

More than 200 of our fellow miners have been blown to kingdom come in China, at least 12 are trapped, many more are badly burned, and everyone knows why it happens, every miner in the world knows why it happens. Its Firedamp, a gas we have known about since we started working in these damn holes, hundreds of years ago. But we also discovered they key to stop it happening, at least so regularly. One, we built independent trade unions under the control of the miners, not the bosses or the government, two we discovered and employed safety lamps to test the amount of explosive gas in the air , three we won the right of independent workers inspections with sanctions to shut down any place too dangerous to work in, without anyone else's approval or otherwise. These are the measures needed in China if the annual slaughter down the ‘peoples mines’ is to stop. No doubt the ‘peoples government’ and their left supporters around the world will weep crocodile tears and say they are investigating it. Like the other 10,000 miners deaths every year we suppose. What if anything will the very costly and much travelled International Miners and Energy Organisation say or better still do about this disgusting situation ? Watch this space.


Back to News Menu



Legal challenge on colliery closure?

MINEWORKERS' Union leaders are in talks with a law team over a possible legal challenge against the Ellington Colliery closure amid claims that coal bosses are failing to follow proper redundancy procedures.
NUM Chairman Ian Lavery said a series of meetings was taking place with solicitors in the wake of last week's shutdown announcement by pit owner UK Coal.
He claims that the coal giant is winding up operations at the Castle Morpeth deep mine the last in the North East 'unlawfully' by failing to honour a three-month statutory consultation period.
Under rules set down by the Department of Trade and Industry, employers must consult with workers through trade unions for at least 90 days after a redundancy announcement, if they intend to pay off more than 100 people from a single site. The legal requirement ensures all workers are given adequate notice to seek re-employment, and is recognised in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act and the updated Employment Rights Act 1996.
Decommissioning the 95-year-old Ellington pit will leave 340 miners paid off but the NUM claims UK Coal's decision to close was made without warning and that redundancies will take effect before the 90 day ceiling.
Mr Lavery, a former Ellington miner, said: "UK Coal is duty bound to undertake meaningful consultation with the workforce for 90 days and that is not happening. We feel we may be able to challenge them on that.
"The NUM is taking ongoing legal advice because we think redundancies are going to happen straight away and we also feel that payments on the table for miners are a pittance."
He added: "It seems like UK Coal think they can do whatever they want with no questions asked but we're going to ask questions. The way they have gone about closing Ellington pit has been all wrong."
But UK Coal says that all statutory obligations are being met and that attempts are being made to secure miners with new jobs.
Spokesman Stuart Oliver said: "We will not be breaching any of the workers' legal rights and we intend to fully honour the 90-day consultation period. No-one is seeking to remove those rights.
"We are trying to utilise all the workers we can at the pit and those that we can't are on fully paid home leave. We have already had miners coming to us saying they have had other job offers and we wouldn't stand in their way. Our priority is to help these workers who are losing their jobs through no fault of their own, and we will do that in the correct way."
He added: "These are very difficult circumstances and we are helping the miners in every way we can."


Back to News Menu




Back to News Menu


The Grand Social and Rally The Old Club, from around 5-30 p.m.

Marking THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE END OF THE MINERS STRIKE AND RETURN TO WORK MARCH 1985 & the closure of Hatfield Main NUM Branch after 87 years of struggle and service is going from strength to strength. Firstly we have the confirmation of Banner Theatre who will come to do their 90 minute programme marking the miners struggle through the last forty / fifty years. Then we have confirmation of our old pals Toe’In’The Dark who many will have seen at the Fox last year, at our 20th anniversary marking the start of the strike. We have confirmation of Jeremy Deller, winner of this years Tate Britain Award For Art who will be attending and we hope will compare. Now we have just had announced that a new Hatfield Main NUM Branch with the inscription March 5 1985- 2005 has been struck and a select few will be on sale that evening. It is all going to plan so far. The Buffet has yet to be organised but will be meat as well as Veggie food Dave promises. Admission is free but on the strict understanding people give good order to the guest speakers and singers and theatre group, we expect the club room bar to be closed during their 90 minute performance which is only showing respect actually and people can stock up their tables before hand if they cant go that long without a drink ! See you on the night.


Back to News Menu



Dave turns in last duty as Union Delegate for Hatfield.

This Monday 20th Dec, at the NUM Yorkshire Area NUM Council meeting, David Douglass attended as Union Delegate for the Hatfield Main Branch of the union for the last time. The branch will close entirely in March of next year, it will bring satisfaction to no-one except perhaps those employers who fought to kill the militant branch and ceased recognition of it back in 1994. The Branch fought on another ten years following this and finally just before Budge went bankrupt the coal owner had conceded our long running recognition fight and agreed to recognise the union and Dave as its senior official. Dave has been NUM delegate for the last 25 years and seen the branch through its stormiest years. We will not retell the story here, we are planning a major social and rally to mark the closure of the branch in March. Details follow. The Council expressed its unanimous congratulations for the efforts he made over the years, despite many stormy years via-a-vis of battles within the union fighting first the right wing and moderate tendencies and then for rank and file democracy.


Back to News Menu



Back to News Menu



Return to top of page