Miners strike 40 years on meeting in Lancashire. Photo: Jenny Hurley
Miners strike 40 years on meeting in Lancashire. Photo: Jenny Hurley

Greg Challis, Lancashire

Veterans from the epic 1984-85 miners’ strike marked its 40th anniversary at an exhibition and rally, with speakers from the former coalfield and National Women Against Pit Closures in Coppull, Lancashire. Organised by Chorley TUC, they shared experiences with activists locally about their role in sustaining the year-long struggle.

Miners from the area had refused to cross picket lines in the St Helens area, set up by striking miners from Yorkshire. They were resisting the threatened closure of pits, and consequent devastation of local communities.

Arthur Lowe, who was a shunter on the pit top at Parkside Colliery, told the meeting: “I was born into a mining family, my Dad was a miner, and he taught me the golden rule: never cross a picket line. So on day one, when pickets were on the gate, I turned back.

“Parkside was solid at first, but hardship started to kick in the longer we stayed out. So that was how we started, collecting money and food, going to meetings to speak to other union members.”

As the strike entered its third month nationally, trade unionists and Labour Party women in Chorley initiated a support group, which raised funds and helped sustain strikers’ families with weekly food parcels.

Dave Beale on behalf of Chorley TUC recalled how, in the face of increasing hardship, the support group raised £26,000 to help stave off hunger. A weekly food parcel was delivered to the 90 striking miners and their families and enabled them to picket and bolster the strike locally.

At a closing discussion on the importance of the 1984-85 miners’ strike for today, many spoke of enduring pride at their part in fighting for future generations to have jobs with decent pay and trade union rights.

There was general agreement about the need for the labour movement to get back to the principles of working-class solidarity, which the miners’ strike embodied.

Arthur Lowe said: “We’ve got Rishi Sunak, a multimillionaire, who has never done a day’s work in his life, telling us we can’t go to the doctor’s for a sick note. We need shot of the Tories.”

Socialist Party member Dave Beale said it was clear that the trade union movement needed a political voice, but “the answer won’t come from Labour under Starmer”, so there was a pressing need for socialist representation.

Ginny Jones, NHS trade unionist and a long-time campaigner for Chorley Hospital, said: “It was a privilege to be a part of it all, and I would not change anything. We just didn’t get enough support from the Labour Party and trade unions nationally. For us the fight goes on.”