From left to right: Steve Minney, Froggy, Eric Eton and Keith Stanley at Durham Miners' Gala 2002
From left to right: Steve Minney, Froggy, Eric Eton and Keith Stanley at Durham Miners' Gala 2002

Wendy and Stephen Minney, Nottingham Socialist Party members and striking family during the 1984-85 miners’ strike

Sherwood portrays the two murders that took place in Annesley Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire in 2004. The opening disclaimer informs the viewer that characters and events have been fictionalised. I suppose this is to excuse the writer from using two traumatic real-life events, and making their own adaptation for TV. This is an entertaining drama but far from accurate.

The opening sequence shows news footage of one of Arthur Scargill’s speeches from the 1984 miners’ strike. Like a flip of a switch, we’re back there, in 1984, when we, the strikers and their families, were hungry for information from Arthur to keep us strong.

In real life the murdered 1984 striking miner was Keith Frogson, known to his friends as Froggy. He was not killed by a deranged youth who locked himself in a garage as shown in the series. He was murdered by a 1984 scab miner, Robert Boyer who was a member of the UDM, a breakaway scab union, formed in Notts. Froggy was not only attacked by a crossbow, but also hacked to death on his doorstep with a knife.

This was deep seated resentment that had not gone away because the strike had ended. Lives had changed course forever, some families on opposite sides of the battle have never spoken to each other again. After the strike Froggy, like most strikers, continued to call the 1984 betrayers of the working class by the only label they deserved: scab.

Annesley Woodhouse, like most mining communities, had been torn apart by the strike. The feeling was still raw in 2004, when the real events happened; the mining jobs had not been replaced. The scene where the fictitious Sparrow family bag up Class A drugs on the kitchen table is a realistic nod to how some miners turned to drugs after the strike to deal with their depression or a way to pay the bills.

It was difficult to watch the scene when some striking miners arrived from Barnsley to pay their respects to Gary Jackson, the character based on Froggy in the series. The drama implies they were not welcome by the family or the staff at the ‘clubby’. The club is the Annesley Woodhouse Working Mens Club and would not have turned away any National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) strikers. In 2004, the club was managed by Keith Stanley, who was Notts NUM general secretary. Keith gave a reading at Froggy’s funeral. To suggest the NUM would not have been welcomed is insulting.

The most accurate part of the storyline for me so far, is the animosity still felt towards the Metropolitan Police by both strikers and the local police force. In 1984 police forces from other areas were sent into mining communities in the hope that the police would not have any divided allegiances.

Some police forces sent to our local area in Notts tried to build up a friendly relationship, but this all stopped when the Met were sent in. They behaved like animals, always looking to raise their batons, wrongfully arresting strikers on trumped-up charges, and were brutal on the picket lines.

The intrigue of discovering who the Spycop is in the fictionalised village is interesting. I guess we’ll not be given a character’s name and the community will be left looking at their neighbours with distrust. The state did use many undermining tactics in the 1984 strike, some very clumsily: tapping house phones that sometimes replayed your last conversation when you picked up the phone, for example.

I don’t recognise any connection between the second murder of the newly-wed with what actually happened. It’s a shame the true story wasn’t depicted instead of the fictional father-in-law next door scenario. The actual bride was murdered by her own father, who allegedly had a history of being violent to his family. This could have been an opportunity to explore how the events developed, from walking his daughter down the church aisle two weeks before murdering her.

I look forward to viewing the final two episodes, and hope they accurately depict Froggy’s funeral. On that very sad day, the main street of Annesley Woodhouse was thronged with hundreds of NUM supporters who came to pay their respects. The church was full to capacity, with a tannoy used outside for the crowds who listened to the service.

I personally remember Froggy at the Durham Miners’ Gala where we walked with pride with the NUM banners. He was like his character portrayed in the series, a warm-hearted gentleman who could always make you smile. Rest in peace Froggy.

  • Sherwood is are available on BBC iPlayer