Pit closures began, 25 immediately following the end of the strike including the Yorkshire pit where the dispute had begun. The industry became a victim to ‘pit head bath syndrome’. If your pit suddenly found itself the proud owner of shiny new pithead baths, then it would swiftly be followed by closure.
In 2004 the BBC reported on ‘Watching the pits disappear ‘ :
One year later, on the day the year-long miners’ strike was called off, the NUM’s ever defiant president, Arthur Scargill, found a tiny glimmer of hope to offer his battered and broken union members.
“We regard the last 12 months as a tremendous achievement,” he told weary NUM delegates. “Five pits have been saved… at least on a temporary basis.”
I can’t say that at the time I felt inspired to change my opinions.
The same 2004 BBC report also detailed the closure of the pits by those left to dismantle them.
In the 1980s and 90s, mining engineers who had spent all their working lives keeping pits running safely were given the task of now closing them down with a dreadful finality.
“When a pit is shut it’s shut for good,” says engineer Bob Matthews who rode the last cage out of Cotgrave colliery in Nottinghamshire in 1993.
He described how he made a last inspection of the shaft before filling it with 6,000 cubic metres of concrete.
“It was a bit sad being the last men out of there but the worst part was when the time came to switch off the fans.
“Everything just fell silent and that’s when I knew it was absolutely dead.”
Cotgrave was a fairly new pit, only sunk in 1964. It had millions of tonnes in reserves but the coal was not of the highest quality.
We all knew there was still coal in the seams and occasionally there were reports that some pits would be reopened. It just seemed to add to the misery somehow.
My husband’s pit closed in 1989 taking with it the community that surrounded it. The pit itself was filled in and demolished leaving only a concrete footprint to show that it had ever been there. By the end of the 1990’s the village had fallen into decline, large areas of it abandoned and left to fall derelict. According to reports at the time the only residents were hordes of rats. Today much of it has been redeveloped as a smart new housing estate with only a faint echo of the community it once was.
In 1994 the Coal Industry with 170 pits remaining operational were put back into private hands. By 2007 only 8 remained.
My father’s pit was worked throughout 1984/5 and was finally closed in May 2010.
Margaret Thatcher held office until 1990 and was the longest serving Prime Minister Britain has ever known. Before her death in April 2013 she held a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. In 2002 she was diagnosed as having dementia
Ian McGregor retired from the NCB in 1986 and for time there were campaigns to appoint him Head of the National Health Service and British Gas, but they were unsuccessful. He died in 1998 of a heart attack and in his autobiography is reported as being less than complimentary about Margret Thatchers handling of the 1984 dispute.
Arthur Scargill held the post of the leader of the NUM for twenty years until 2002 before moving on to pursue a career in politics. He is still active politically; in addition to being leader of the Socialist Party (SLP) he holds the honorary position of leader of the NUM. In 2001 he and his wife Anne divorced with no love lost. Durung the strike Anne had formed the Women Agaisnt Pit Closures and played an active part in helping the families of the striking miners. After transporting pickets in Nottinghamshire early in the strike she was arrested, detained for hours and strip searched. Scargill, now retired and receiving a NUM pension, lives in a cottage in Worsborough near Barnsley close the village where he was born
Immediately after the strike the NUM imposed new rules on its membership. However, the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire miners voted not to accept the changes and formed a separate union, the Union of Democratic Mineworkers ( UDM). Like the farmer who ploughed up the Roman mosaic, Nottinghamshire miners have always had a reputation for keeping their hands on their ha’penny.