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Mines of information
Weekly Worker 520 Thursday March 18 2004


Of the Miners Advice links page (www.minersadvice.co.uk/links.htm), I observed that “readers looking for miners’ material on the web should bypass the mainstream search engines and head straight here” (Weekly Worker March 11). Taking my own advice, I followed some of the links.

Focusing on mining sites in Britain, the first in the list is ‘Alan and Geoff’s Old Merthyr Tydfil’ pages. This well designed site is a collection of old photography from the town and the surrounding environs. Of interest here are the 14 photos featured on the Merthyr Colliery page, which amply illustrate the symbiotic geographical relationship between a pit and the community that serves it.

The MyMarras page (www.mymarras.co.uk) is fairly similar, choosing as its topic mining villages and pits in the Durham area. The subject matter covers a lot of history prior to 1945, and indeed some of it is incredibly detailed - such as the domestic routines of late 19th century miners’ wives. Unfortunately I could not find anything on the impact of the strike, other than a scrolling message noting how none of the featured villages are pit communities any longer.

Where photo collections are concerned though, Martin Shakeshaft’s pictorial narrative of the strike is certainly impressive (www.strike84.co.uk). Judging from the introduction provided, like many others Shakeshaft found the struggle to be a radicalising experience: “At a time when the overriding philosophy was to look after number one, here were mining communities and millions of other people saying there was more to life than profit.” Clicking on the ‘Gallery’ link brings up a rolling slide show of 30 images, taking in aspects of the strike. Here we have a varied collection of pickets, women’s support groups, cops and Tories. Also included is a short biography and a frequently asked questions page containing photographic tips and links.

The Underground Miner’s Website, run by the Official Pennsylvania Abandoned Coal Mine Explorers (www.undergroundminers.com), is good for providing an insight into the types of conditions in which miners have laboured. This should be viewed in conjunction with the Pit Work site (www.pitwork.net), which carries dozens of pictures, accounts of working conditions, colliery histories and much more.

A few of Dave Douglass’s anarcho-type political links are included, such as Class War (www.classwaruk.org) and Direct Action magazine (www.direct-action.org.uk), but a couple of political sites for miners and their supporters do get a look in too. The National Justice for Mineworkers Campaign (www.justiceformineworkers.org.uk) runs a series of pages in support of victimised miners and their families. Its introductory section pulls no punches, clearly identifying the anti-working class strategic objectives of Thatcher and condemns the failure of the TUC to deliver official support. Its history of the strike goes into greater depth, and unashamedly calls for socialist solutions to the ongoing problems stemming from the struggle (comrades tempted to approach ex-miners as prospective Respect candidates, please note). The women’s support page discusses the hardships faced by many mining families, but also celebrates the tremendous amount of energy the strike unlocked, with the miners’ wives “writing a new chapter in the history of women’s struggle”.

What is especially welcoming throughout are the pictures accompanying the text, and snapshots of the victimisation meted out. For instance, the home page breaks down the number of victimised men by NUM area, and the introductory page carries a few absurd examples of the lengths the NCB sometime went to sack striking miners. The worst has to be the case of a Notts miner convicted for throwing a stone on a picket line he was five miles away from at the time!

The North Staffs Miners Wives Action Group (www.geocities.com/nswag) is useful for showing that not all women’s support groups have withered away over the last 20 years. Though confined to just a single page, as much information as possible has been packed in here. Its small sections tell the history of the group from its inception, and its continuing involvement in picket line solidarity, music and drama projects, and anti-war activity. There are also short accounts of their detention by the police during a trip to Belfast and their occupation of Trentham pit.

The site of UK Coal (www.rjb.co.uk), which cannot even be bothered to change its web address from its RJB Mining former name, is truly ghastly. The information available is the usual corporate horseshit, the design is blocky and gaudy and, even worse, it has not been updated since the end of last year. If UK Coal cannot even manage their web space properly, is it any wonder the coal industry over which it presides is being put out to pasture?

Phil Hamilton

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