| || ||
| YOU ARE VIEWING ARTICLE - ID:20040711003 |
|Title:||Remember The Miners Strike|
|Author:||Ron Richardson |
|ID & Publication:||20040711003 ~ The-Villager.co.uk |
We have already seen the battle of Orgreaves in June and the trouble at Rossington Colliery in July and by the end of August, we were to witness some of the worst scenes of violence in the Doncaster area, in what became known as the 'Siege of Armthorpe'.
August 22nd 1984, will always be remembered by the mining community of Armthorpe and to be honest with you, I will never forget what I saw that day. For the first time in my life, I became afraid of the police. I had never seen police on foot, use such long batons before and I will always remember the police leading away a young miner with blood pouring from his head and down one side of his face and onto his already bloodstained shirt. I was told that this young man had to wait, for almost an hour before he was taken to the Doncaster Royal Infirmary by ambulance, for medical treatment. An N.U.M. branch official at the time, made the comment, that the police had told him that 'no ambulances will be coming to help them'.
Buses and other vehicles were stopped from entering the village and as I stood on the top of the bus shelter opposite the pit gates, I saw dozens of police transit vans race into the village from the direction of Doncaster. They came to a halt in the colliery entrance and hundreds of police emerged, with visors over their faces, truncheons or batons in one hand and shields over the other arm and they began to chase the miners through the streets of Armthorpe. The police shouted at me and told me to get down off the bus shelter, but I continued to take photographs, of what was happening around me.
On the 21st August, three miners had returned to work at Armthorpe, their faces hidden by masks, as they drove through a small picket line at the pit entrance.
The following day, according to a police statement made at the time, they said that they were making plans, to deal with a 'dangerous and sinister' hit squad, fifty strong, dressed in paramilitary uniforms and balaclavas who had attacked the pit yards at Armthorpe and Bentley in the early hours of the morning.
This squad according to the police, was possibly led by a thin-faced woman. Although, later it was said that 'at 4 am it is difficult to decide who is a man and who is a woman'. Public relations with the police certainly broke down, as people could not get in or out of the village for some considerable time.
An old woman of 59 years of age, who was, at that time, living in George Street, accused the police of trying to force their way into her house in search of pickets and in the fracas that followed the police trapped her head in the door. It was then that the police lost all of their credibility. Later she received an apology from the police.
There was a similar incident at Stainforth, where it was alleged that police with truncheons terrified an 85 year old, partially blind woman in her bed. A local councillor in Stainforth at the time said, 'this was an atrocity. I just cannot believe it could happen'. The old lady had been accused of hiding pickets in her home. This incident was reported to a senior police officer at the time.
The Armthorpe branch banner and the N.U.M. officials were always at the forefront of any national or local trade union demonstrations and they were able to make good friends with many international trade union organisations. I recall attending one meeting in the Miners Welfare Club, where there were a number of representatives from unions in Europe and also one lady, all the way from Australia. We should never forget, the help that the international trade union movement gave us.
Allow me to conclude this month's contribution, with another humorous but nevertheless, true story.
I went to Gelding colliery in Nottingham, with some pickets from Rossington and other pits in the Doncaster area. We must have been acting as the decoy that day, because only about 20 pickets were on duty. We were told to stand on some grass opposite the pit entrance.
After a while and before the Notts miners came to work on the afternoon shift, a police officer emerged from out of the colliery offices and walked towards us. He was at least six foot tall, immaculate in his uniform, highly polished boots, spotlessly clean white gloves, and a crease in his trousers, that a Guards officer would have been proud of.
'Good morning gentlemen', was his opening remark.
'That makes a pleasant change,' I said.
He continued, 'this morning, we will have no trouble. I don't want to hear any swearing or foul language as the miners go to work, you must not use such obscenities, as blackleg or scab and if you do, you will be arrested and charged with a breach of the peace'.
I said, 'It is almost a tradition in the trade union movement to use the words blackleg or scab if a fellow trade unionist crosses a picket line', and then I said 'if we cannot use words such as blackleg or scab, what words can we use, to try and persuade the miners not to go to work?'
'Now that is a good question', said the police officer. After a while he said, 'if you wish, you may use the words cad or bounder, but that is all.' By this time the few pickets who were present could not withhold their laughter. But as the officer left us, he said 'You have been warned, any obscenities and you will be arrested.' And he was deadly serious. At first, as the miners came to work, some pickets started to shout, 'Go home you cads, go home you bounders', and everyone was laughing their socks off. Then all at once, one Scottish picket spoke up, in a loud voice saying, 'Don't be so bloody daft, tell them what you think about them', and he then let forth a string of obscenities that left the working miners in no doubt. Before he could get his second breath, for another tirade of abuse, two burly policemen emerged from the pit yard and he was arrested.
After the miners went to work and the pickets started to disperse, I walked over to the pit gates and spoke to the police officer and asked him what he was going to do with the picket he had arrested. I was told that we had already been warned about the use of bad language. However, I pleaded with the officer, to let the young man go home. Eventually he told me that if I could give him assurances that the arrested picket would not travel to Nottingham again, he would let him go and no charges would be made. I gave him such an assurance immediately even though I did not know the picket or the name of the colliery he worked. As the young man left the pit yard to join he makes, he said 'Thank you', and I have never seen him from that day to this.
Text & Photographs Copyright Ron Richardson 1995.
This article first appeared in September 1995 in both the Rossington and Armthorpe Villager newspapers
Hover over each picture for a description, or click to load larger image.
| Search Villager Archives for similar articles||[Top..]|| |