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Margaret Thatcher death a 'great day' for coal miners

THE death of Margaret Thatcher was a "great day" for coal miners, David Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners' Association said today.

The ex-miner, who turned 70 today, spent all of his working life at Wearmouth Colliery.


He said: "It looks like one of the best birthdays I have ever had.


"There's no sympathy from me for what she did to our community. She destroyed our community, our villages and our people.


"For the union this could not come soon enough and I'm pleased that I have outlived her.


"It's a great day for all the miners, I imagine we will have a counter demonstration when they have her funeral.


"Our children have got no jobs and the community is full of problems. There's no work and no money and it's very sad the legacy she has left behind.


"She absolutely hated working people and I have got very bitter memories of what she did. She turned all the nation against us and the violence that was meted out on us was terrible.


"I would say to those people who want to mourn her that they're lucky she did not treat them like she treated us."


Darren Vaines, 47, a former miner who worked at Ackton Hall Colliery near Pontefract, West Yorkshire, and was on strike for the entire 12 months of the dispute, said: "It's a very strange emotional feeling because her death brings back a lot of memories and opens up a wound that has never really healed.


"The cut went so deep people have never been able to forget about it. It's something they can never get out of their system."


Mr Vaines, whose friend and colleague David Jones was killed aged 24 when violence erupted on a picket line at Ollerton, Nottinghamshire in 1984, said many communities have never come to terms with Mrs Thatcher's actions.


"I was only a kid at the time of the strike really. It hurt but not as much as some of the older guys who had families and mortgages. It split communities and it split families," he said.


"The people who went back into work were subjected to extreme brutality from their colleagues. When you look back it's hard to think what they went through. But that's the situation they put us in and you're talking about people's livelihood."


Mr Vaines, who was at the infamous Battle of Orgreave where police and protesters clashed in 1984, added: "She used miners as a political springboard. She knew what she was doing and it was a horrible way to go about it. They did it without any concern and we were just collateral damage.


"She left communities with nothing. It wasn't just the miners who were affected but everyone who supplied the pit and the community as well."


Mr Vaines, who went on to work at Britain's biggest pit - the Prince of Wales near Pontefract before it closed 10 years ago with the loss of 450 jobs - added that while his political opinions have changed over the years, he will never be able to forgive Mrs Thatcher for her actions during the strike.


"I'm quite liberal about things now," he said. "I've gone into management positions and take a more global view, but I still feel as strongly now about things as I did when they happened."


Mick Dickinson, 47, who worked at Fryston Colliery near Castleford, West Yorkshire, said Mrs Thatcher will inevitably be remembered as a great leader by many - but they are unlikely to hail from West Yorkshire's former mining communities.


The former pit electrician, who picketed throughout the 1984-85 strike, said: "She will go down in history as one of the greatest post-war prime ministers thanks to the privatisation she was driving the country into, and some of the nationalised industries did need to change.


"But I think she took the miners' strike too personally and it became a personal crusade.


"We went into a battle with our unions and we never won. She devastated the industry and devastated people's lives.


"We have hate and resentment for what she did to the industry. Featherstone, where I was born and bred, never recovered from the closure of the pits, neither did areas around Castleford and Barnsley.


"She did fight for what she believed in and in hindsight some of what she said was right. My view on some things she stood for has changed over the years, but I still resent her for what she did to mining."


Fryston pit shut in 1985 - one of around a dozen Yorkshire collieries to close that year - and has been entirely demolished.


Irvin Dickinson, a former mine worker at Acton Hall Colliery between 1968 and 1980, said: "From a personal point of view, her politics were an absolute disaster for the north of England.


"She started off with the steel works, taking on the unions and closing steel works down, and it was the same with the coal mines, which was predominantly a northern industry.


"There's still such strength of feeling among certain generations in the north and in places that have simply never recovered from her policies.


"She was just so alien to my political and social views, but those who saw her point of view would say she was the saviour of Britain."

Online Editors