Shifting Horizons by Lynn Beaton
On the Wednesday night the Yorkshire lads asked us if we'd go out for a drink with them. Because Pauline and I had been working we hadn’t had much chance to talk to them so it seemed like a good idea.
The six of us from the three houses in Thorny Abbey Road and the lads who were staying with us arranged to meet Margaret, Yorkie and the pickets that were staying with them at the Jolly Friar. The police were in and out of the pub much more than usual and each time they came in they seemed to have their eye on us. Our next door neighbour was in as well and one of the Yorkshire lads wanted to say something to him.
‘It'll only come back on us, if you do,’ we said. ‘He'll cause trouble for us later.’ Paul Thompson had come up to interview Yorkie and Dennis Browne for an article he was writing about the strike. He asked Yorkie what he thought of the policing. Yorkie had been in the army before he became a miner and he'd spent some of that time in Northern Ireland.
He said to Paul, ‘As far as I can see the police occupation here is exactly the same as what we were doing in Northern Ireland. The only thing that’s missing is house to house searches and I don’t think it'll be long before they start them.’
When the pub closed we all went back to Annette’s for coffee. I dropped in home to see how things were. David was looking after Mark and said he wanted to go to bed.
‘Go on then, but leave the back door open for Paul and Laggy, they're not in yet. We're just having a coffee at Annette’s, we won’t be long.’
At Annette’s one of the lads was on the phone to his wife in Yorkshire. The others were all larking about, shouting into the phone, that he was at an orgy. I knew how I'd feel in her situation so I took the phone to have a chat and reassure her.
‘Don’t take any notice, duck. He’s quite alright, we've just been out for a drink and now a few of us are having coffee.’ I went on to tell her how much we'd enjoyed having the lads down to stay and how much we were looking forward to coming up and meeting her and the other wives as soon as we could arrange it.
While this had been going on one of the lads went out to the tent on the back of our garden to fetch some bread. Just as we hung the phone up he came back and said,
‘Hey, we're snided out with coppers.’
We all just looked at him for a minute. Then he looked at me and said,
‘They're all over the place, I only got as far as the fence and I saw two standing on your back doorstep and another two coming out of the house. Then I looked down at the tent and there was two more coming out from behind it and one from inside. You better get off home, ’cause they're in your house.’
I went straight out of Annette’s and across the back way to our house. As I got to the middle of Pauline’s yard one of the coppers passed me. I didn’t speak neither did he, I just walked straight past him. Then I saw another two coming down our drive and turning towards our back door. I just went straight into the house to see if everything was alright.
David came downstairs when he heard me and said there'd been police in the house, he'd heard noises, looked out of the front window and seen a police van out the front and coppers walking down our drive. he'd been terrified and stayed upstairs.
When I got back to Annette’s everybody had come out of the house to see what was happening. They were all being edged up the drive towards the road by a load of coppers and Terry Dunne who was a Union Official in Yorkshire and one of the lads staying with us was near the top of the drive surrounded by about six or eight coppers. One of them was leaning on him and saying,
‘If you don’t get the Yorkshire pickets away from here and out of these houses by tomorrow, we'll arrest you, your wife and your neighbours.’
Terry said, ‘I think you've got the wrong bloke.’
We were all objecting and asking what it was about.
One of them said, ‘You lot have been creating a disturbance, we've had a complaint.’
They pushed Terry out onto the road and tried to grab him. He ran around the police van and tried to jump over the wall back into the front garden but about seven or eight coppers flew at him, pulling his arms up behind his back and then pushing his head down. Then they all started bashing him, all of them punching and kicking as they dragged him into the middle of the road. We could see blood all over him and then they bundled him into the back of the van. The rest of the cops all raced over to the van, the Yorkshire pickets following.
‘If you take him you take all of us.’
But the van drove away at top speed with the men running down the street after it. Chasing it was useless so they came back and we all stood around for a minute, flabbergasted. It had happened so quickly, none of us had been able to act, only to stand shocked and watch.
We were just about to go back inside when the bloke across the road came out of his house brandishing a great long knife and started ranting and raving about someone chucking stones at his lorry. He was quite crazy, he went on about all the noise upsetting his wife and children. His wife came out then and tried to calm him down, she was obviously embarrassed by the way he was carrying on. Pip went over and told him to calm down, that nobody had any interest in his lorry. He told him what had happened and said,
‘You'd better get back inside in case the coppers come back. You'll be in a right mess if they find you out here with that knife.’
Margaret and Yorkie’s teenage daughter was babysitting Pauline’s kids so they went in to see if she was alright. She was sitting on Pauline’s couch sobbing her heart out. Police had been to the door asking her where the Yorkshire pickets were and they'd terrified her. We tried to phone a solicitor from Annette’s but her phone was dead, you couldn’t get out at all. I went home and got through to Berry Hill and they said they'd send a solicitor out straight away. I also made a few more phone calls to people who might be able to help. The solicitor never got here. We don’t know what happened to him, someone said that he'd been picked up by police near Mansfield, but we never really found out.
It took a while for us to feel angry, we'd been so shocked at first, but by now we were furious. They'd come, they'd said, because of a disturbance, but the disturbance was so loud, they'd had to look in two houses before they could find us. They'd viciously bashed Terry in front of us all and then carted him off for absolutely nothing. Where to we didn’t know, for all we knew we might never see Terry again.
Paul and Laggy had come home soon after the police had left and Paul went out and looked around the tents. He came back with a police torch he found in the tent. We were quite pleased, at least it was evidence that they'd been on our property searching the tents without a warrant. Pip took the torch and went and hid it in our house.
All this couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes, then, thirteen transit vans came back up the street and parked one after another across the road. Twelve cops got out of each one and lined up along our front walls. They were all calling out to us to come out onto the street. We told them to get off the drive, that we weren’t coming outside our yards. Pip said to them,
‘I know what you've come back for, you've come back for your torch and I'm not going to give it to you.’
‘If you don’t give it to us, you're stealing police property.’
‘I'm not stealing anything, you shouldn’t have been stupid enough to have dropped it. You were in my tent on my property and I'm keeping that torch for evidence.’
I raced around to our drive to shut the gates and they were all on the street saying to me, ‘Come out here and talk to us.’
‘What! Do you think I'm balmy? I'm not coming out there, we saw what you did to last ’un that came out.’
Yorkie started to talk to their gaffer. He asked what was going on and they told him that they'd had a report of a police van being attacked and there was an expected riot.
We were really terrified, there were so many of them and we'd just seen what they'd done to Terry. I went down home to phone Mal Howarth. When I told him what was going off he said he'd come up. Then he looked out of his window, he said, ‘Doreen, there’s hundreds of ’em marching up the street now, headed towards your place.’
I went outside again, then him from next door came out with a few policemen that had been in his house with him. I started to scream and shout.
‘Look who you're protecting, them who leave their poor little kid alone in the house at night while they go out drinking. And you're supporting the likes of him.’
Then he started coming for me and the coppers stopped him. They all stood there looking straight at us, hundreds of them. You couldn’t see across the road for helmets, Mal and Pip Browne arrived and asked them what they were doing. They told them about the disturbance. Mal and Pip came inside, they were quite shaken as well, they'd had to walk through hundreds of police to get here. Later we heard that there was another dozen vanloads just around the other corner. The street was blocked off, there were police everywhere, you couldn’t tell how many or where they were coming from. But one thing we knew. they were Notts. coppers and it wasn’t Notts. coppers they had up at the pit on picket duty, so they must have come into the village especially for whatever they wanted to do that night.
Then as quickly as they'd come, they disappeared. But still we were petrified. Pauline and Margaret decided to walk down to Margaret’s. There were a couple of Yorkshire pickets staying there who hadn’t come out with us and also Margaret’s kids, she wanted to check that they were alright. They took Goldie, Pauline’s labrador for protection.
They seemed to have been gone ages, so Pip and Yorkie decided to go looking for them. I broke then and started creating.
‘Please don’t go Pip, what if they come back, what'll I do?’
He said, ‘I've got to, I've got to go and look for Pauline.’
‘But I daren’t stay here on my own, I'm petrified.’
‘Look, we've got to go, stay here and lock the doors and don’t open them to anybody. I shan’t be long, I'll come straight back.’
I sat in the kitchen terrified, I couldn’t even keep a limb still. I daren’t even go next door, I just sat here, smoking one after the other and kept getting up and looking out of the window to see if they'd come back. I was convinced Pip would never come back. But he did, he wasn’t really away very long at all. We went to bed, but we didn’t sleep, we lay in bed all night listening to police vans going up and down the street.
All the Yorkshire lads slept in Annette’s lounge-room, none of them were prepared to sleep in the tents or caravan.
The next morning all of our men and just two of the Yorkshire lads went up to the picket line, we wanted to see if they'd be arrested, but they weren’t. Everybody was prepared for anything to happen, but it was very quiet.
I was just getting dressed when some newspaper reporters arrived and wanted to do an interview and take some photos. The night before I'd made a few phone calls to people I thought might be able to help, someone must have phoned the press because as soon as the newspaper reporters left a television crew arrived. They asked us to tell them what we felt about what had happened, we were still very amazed and upset.
I said, ‘What the police did here last night was really out of order. We'd done nothing wrong at all, all we'd done was to put Yorkshire pickets up and the police had no business going through my house and all through the tents. It really brings home to me the extent that they will go to just to frighten and intimidate us. If they think that we'll back down so easily they've got another thing coming. We believe in what we're fighting for and we've a right to our beliefs and to have anyone we want stay in our houses. I'm really beginning to see just how far they're prepared to go to stop us from standing up and saying what we believe in, in a peaceful manner.’ I went on for a while like that and the interviewer said to me.
‘I agree with you completely, I'm a trade unionist and behind this strike all the way, but there’s no way we can put that sort of speech on. We just want you to tell us exactly what happened last night.’
So that’s what we did, and I said that we were going to put an official complaint in to the police.
At about one o'clock we went to Pauline’s to watch ourselves on the television news, it had just started when Terry walked in. He looked a sight, his face was black and blue and he showed us how cracked and swollen his ribs were from the bashing he'd had. They'd driven him down one of the country lanes on the way to Mansfield and then transferred him to another van which took him to Mansfield where they kept him overnight. As they handed him over he heard someone say,
‘We've got to go back and get some more, we haven’t done yet.’
He'd been charged that morning and told to make sure he was out of the county within the hour. So he'd come back here to collect his things and then drove back to Yorkshire with one of the other lads.
Just after they'd left the police came back again. About three van loads pulled up outside the houses. We were all in Annette’s and when we came out, they started pushing and shoving us in Annette’s drive, they were really nasty and aggressive, and were even pushing the kids around.
We said, ‘Get out of here, this is private property, you're not allowed to come on this drive.’
‘We're staying until we see every document that those Yorkshire pickets have got, we want their car documents, their licences, everything.’
Annette said, ‘Get off this drive, it’s my drive it’s not yours and I haven’t given you permission to come onto it. You're trespassing.’
‘Have you got proof lady, that you are the occupier of this house, we don’t know who you are. We want to see your rate book and your mortgage book to prove that you're the legal occupant of this property.’
While Annette went inside other police ordered the lads from Yorkshire up to the top of the drive to account for their cars. They were told to produce all their driving documents and stand by their cars to prove legal ownership. They stopped Alan and asked him for his name, address, date and place of birth. Pauline passed word around that all the Yorkshire lads should go into her front room and lock the doors. At the back of her house, there are double glass patio doors, the police started banging on the doors asking if they could come in. No-one moved to unlock the doors so they said,
‘We'll go and fetch a warrant.’
‘You do that’ Pauline said.
I went into my house to try and ring Mal again, I'd just got onto him at the club when I heard loud banging on my front door. It was the police and they were banging so hard I thought they were going to smash the door down.
As I opened the door, I said, ‘What the bloody hell do you want now?’
‘Who owns that car out there?’ They were really horrible, their attitude was very aggressive and bombastic.
‘We want to see all your papers.’
‘I'm busy right now, I'm on the phone, you'll get the papers when I can find them.’
‘How long you had it?’
Then he grinned a really sickly grin and said, ‘I want every document for it and I want them now.’
‘You can have ’em when I find ’em.’
And he said, ‘I'll be back.’
As they got to the top of the drive Pip was coming back from the Strike Centre. The copper said to him. ‘Hello Phillip, what are you doing around this end of town?’
By calling him Phillip they made it obvious they had checked up on who the owners of our house were because no-one ever calls him Phillip.
Pip said, ‘I'm coming home.’
‘Why, where do you live?’
‘I live there, anyway how do you know my name?’
‘Oh, come on, Phillip, you don’t live there.’
‘All those weeks you've been on that picket line, you've caused no trouble yet. We've had a lot of trouble with these people in these houses. It couldn’t be you, you wouldn’t cause any trouble.’
‘No, I've never caused any trouble, but I'll tell you sommat. I never believed in violence, I believe in this strike and I've always believed in peaceful picketing and standing up for my beliefs, but after meeting you bastards I'm beginning to turn, because all you are is bastards, the lot of you. There’s no way I'll be right with you again, the lot of you, you've really turned me.’
‘Oh come on, Phillip, don’t be like that, what are you Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?’
At that point Mal Howarth came up the street and the TV crew who'd been here that morning were with him. The cops started to walk away.
I yelled after them, ‘What’s up, afraid somebody might find out what you're really like?’
We all stood on the street talking with the television crew. We'd been hearing lots on the news about the intimidation of working miners by striking miners and so we asked the TV crew why they didn’t show the other side. They agreed to take some film of a car which belonged to one of our lads which had been ruined. It had been smashed up and covered with brake fluid which had wrecked the paintwork. We got the car up here and parked it in the street. The TV crew took film of it and interviewed the owner and a few other striking men. They said it'd be shown on BBC News at 6 o'clock.
All the while the TV cameras were filming the car, the police were walking up and down at either end of the street, but they weren’t coming too close. The Yorkshire pickets came out of Pauline’s house and said they'd decided to leave because they were causing us so much trouble. Then a solicitor arrived from Yorkshire and went inside Annette’s house to talk to them all. It was too much for the police, they walked down the road and said,
‘There’s too many cars in this street, some of them will have to be moved.’
The solicitor came out and told the police that he was taking the Yorkshire lads back to Yorkshire in convoy.
‘They are not to be stopped, they're coming with me. And you're to leave these people alone, they've broken no laws.’
So the Yorkshire lads packed up their things and drove off all together, we all stood in the street and waved them off with the TV cameras whirling. The departure of the Yorkshire pickets was shown on the News that night but the ruined car wasn’t. The TV crew came back again that afternoon and told us that their editor had cut it out. We were all sad to see the Yorkshire lads leave and especially under the circumstances, in their short stay they'd become great friends. But we had made arrangements to visit them very soon and we all looked forward to it.
The next day I was up at the Centre sitting and talking to two journalists from the left-wing press. There weren’t many people there, we'd just had dinner and most of the men had gone. The old age pensioners were in, so there were just a few of us sitting in the back room. As I was talking I saw a van load of police go by. The van stopped and two police got out and stood on the corner just opposite where we were. One of the newsmen said he was going.
I said, ‘No, don’t go now, them two are here to cause trouble and I want step by step photographs.’
One of the men, John Fletcher, walked out of the Centre to go and visit his Grandma down the street. He lived in Mansfield and used to ride into the Centre each day on his bike, so he took his bike and started to pedal down the road. As he got to the bottom of the street he saw a scab who said something to him. This same scab had waved his pay packet in Fletch’s face that morning as he walked past the official picket. Some words were exchanged between them and the next thing the scab had kicked Fletch off his bike. The two coppers standing opposite the Centre saw it too and they started straight away down the street. Pip Browne and someone else from the Centre followed them down and said,
‘We'll be witnesses to this one.’
The police say, ‘You can piss off, we don’t need you as witness to anything.’
Fletch was getting up off the ground by this time and was pulling his bike up and one of the policemen grabbed him. They started to walk him up the street towards the Centre when Eddie Rhodes, another of the strikers came walking up behind them.
He said, ‘What have you got him for, what’s he done?’
One of the police said to him, ‘You can shut up or you're nicked too.’
Eddie said, ‘Oh stop getting so aeriated.’
The other cop grabbed him and said, ‘Right, you're nicked.’
As the little party neared the top of the road my step-son, David, was standing on the corner, he said,
‘You lot got nought better to do, what you arrested them for?’
The copper let go of Fletch and grabbed hold of David and said, ‘This is Doreen Humber’s son, we've got him.’
Fletch ran off, we all ran outside the Centre then and I went for one of the coppers. I was going to punch him I was so mad and sick of it all.
I said, ‘Here I'll give you something to arrest me for, let him alone.’
The cop brushed me aside and said, ‘Oh clear off.’
David said, ‘I'll be alright, leave it, leave it, let ’em take me.’
They took Eddie and David and put them in the van parked up the street, then they drove them up to the pit and put Eddie and David in the cell van. After that the van came back to the Centre. Two coppers got out of it and started towards the Village Hall. One of the journalists was outside the hall and he overheard one say to the other, ‘We'd better drop this one there are too many witnesses.’
They came into the hall and tried to push their way in. But we all stood in the doorway trying to stop them. They were too strong for us and eventually pushed their way in. We were all yelling at them to get out.
I said, ‘Are you happy, you've got my son, you only took him because he was mine.’
I was really angry and screaming at them.
‘Oh go and make yourself a cup of tea,’ they said, ‘you're hysterical.’
Later that day, they picked Fletch up at his house. The three of them appeared in court and were charged. David was charged with obstructing a Police Officer and Breach of the Peace. When the charges were being laid, the police said,
‘This lad has been harbouring Yorkshire pickets on his back garden.’
The meeting we'd organised about twinning took place that Sunday. It was very successful. We'd sent out a lot of leaflets, it had been very well publicised. Annette was on the door and everyone had to identify themselves as they came in. We didn’t want to take any risks that the police would try to sneak in, we'd learned our lesson. The response to our leaflets was much better than we'd expected, there were at least 200 there. People came from different support groups and from other groups like ours and from the Nottingham Strike Centre which had been set up. A lot of other people came too, because they'd seen the leaflets and were interested. I chaired the meeting and started out by welcoming everybody. I talked about the siege and the arrests of the previous Friday. I also talked about how we'd set up and how successful we'd been with twinning. A few other people spoke some more about the strike and about twinning. Then a woman stood up and said,
‘My husband is on the Nottingham Strike Committee and they're opposed to twinning. They want all funds to be given centrally and distributed equally between groups. If you insist on carrying on with this twinning lark, then the Strike Committee won’t give you anything at all and will discard you completely.’
Then I got up and said, ‘We have been going for six weeks now and we've invited everybody here today to see how successful we are, and the reason for our success is because we are twinning. If we'd relied on the Nottingham Centre to keep us going, these men'd be back at work before they even came out ’cause we haven’t had a penny or a tin of beans from this Centre you keep talking about. People need feeding now, not in six months time. Twinning works in Nottinghamshire because we aren’t united and the number of strikers in each village differs enormously. You can have thirty men in one village like in Cotgrave, and then somewhere like Blidworth has seven hundred. There’s no way we could feed that many on what’s we'd get from a Central Group. Apart from that lots of supporters want to give their money direct to miners’ wives, they want that guarantee that the money will definitely be used for food. If you expect us to cut back on what we've worked hard for, well then, we won’t and we know that we can manage quite well if we keep on going the way we are. We've already helped other groups set up, and helped them to find twinnings and we'll continue to do so, because we started early, we've got a lot of contacts now. We think that there’s plenty of support for every pit in Notts. to twin with a community somewhere in the country and be looked after.’
There was a lot of discussion after that and we met a lot of new people and made a lot of new contacts. We were very pleased with ourselves, the meeting had been a great success and we felt that we'd put our case in favour of twinning and most of the people there had agreed with us.
We started to settle into a new routine, every morning we'd go up to the Centre and have breakfast. Then the kids would go off to school and we'd start about the work that needed to be done each day. Just running the Centre took a lot of work, there was the cooking, shopping, planning, organizing and cleaning to take care of as well as a never ending number of visitors to entertain. I had taken on the job of Chairperson and I'd said that I was confident about raising money, but that I'd leave the running of the Centre to others. I saw that as my role, but I was also seen as the Spokesperson for the women so any problems any of the men had they tended to bring to me. As well as that I became the main liaison between us and other groups. I was run off my feet. As soon as I walked into the Centre someone would come to me to ask something.
There were about twenty women coming up to the Centre regularly by this time and a lot more who dropped in every so often. Most of the men came to eat at this stage and we were feeding up to five hundred people a day and serving three meals a day. Pauline and I were still working, but it was becoming more and more difficult to get there.
We had organised our trip to Yorkshire for the following weekend. About a dozen of us were going. We set off on Saturday afternoon, all very excited about having a week-end away from everything. The last ten days had been very hectic and we hadn’t really had time to take in all that had happened. We were also looking forward to seeing the pickets from Yorkshire again, and meeting their wives and families. Something about the link with Yorkshire was very important for us, after all that was where the strike started and that was where it was solid. Yorkshire, to us, had the ring of the centre of things, we admired and respected the Yorkshire miners and their area Union which had always been very strong. Somehow being isolated in Notts. and surrounded by scabs, we needed to feel the strength that we knew was in Yorkshire and to feel part of it. That had happened a bit by them coming to us, but now that we were going there we knew that would increase our feeling of belonging to something big and very powerful.
We arrived at the Welfare in Edlington, where we had arranged to meet everyone and where we were to find out where we were staying. Mark and Pip and I were staying with Ralph, and his wife Maureen. Ralph had stayed in a van in Pauline’s drive during all the trouble. We all went back to their house where we were made very welcome and began to feel at home at once.
That night we all went out, it was absolutely marvellous. We started off at the Welfare, or the Welly as they called it. When we were all there they announced from the platform that they were privileged to have among them a bunch of Notts. Striking Miners and their wives. Everybody cheered and people fell over themselves to make us feel welcome and to let us know how much they appreciated what we were doing. Of course they all knew about the police trouble we'd had and everybody made us feel as if they were really proud to know us. We never bought a drink or anything the whole time we were there. We were given free tickets to get drinks at the Welfare and at the pubs we went into because the pubs there support the strike, it was so different from Blidworth. They had so much organised for us that we were skipping from one social event to another, staying at each one for about an hour.
We were made to feel like kings and queens. People even gave up their own beds for us. Ralph and Maureen gave up their bed so Pip and I could have it and they made a big fuss of Mark. They fed us and treated us as though we were very special. It made us feel a little hypocritical, all we'd done when they'd been to Blidworth was to let them use our tent on the back garden, but they kept talking about all we'd done for them and how much bother we'd had because of them and how we'd stuck by them against real hell from the police.
Maureen doesn’t normally go out but just because we were there she came with us. It seems a funny thing to say but it was like going home, it was just as if that house was ours. We've been back up there since and every time I walk into the house I feel so at home I can just put the kettle on and I know where everything is, where the biscuit barrel is and can have a biscuit or get bread and butter if I want it. I could set the table and sit down. If I didn’t have any fags I could just take one of Maureen’s from her packet on the shelf, we feel so at ease with each other, and yet they're strangers in a way, we don’t really know them that well. I think it was because we'd all been through the siege at Blidworth and also because Yorkshire people are very friendly.
Another really good thing for me, was that I was able to talk to Maureen about my daughter Karen, who had just become pregnant. Maureen’s daughter had been pregnant at fifteen, and had gone back to school after the baby was born and Maureen had looked after it as if it was her own. It was lovely to see them all together and it helped to increase my confidence that Karen and I could work it out too. We'd always been quite close and I knew it would be all right but even so, these things take some getting used to and it was good to see how well they'd worked it out. It was also good to talk about it. Karen had only had her pregnancy confirmed a couple of weeks before and I had little chance to talk to anyone about anything except the strike. Although I was quite prepared to stand by Karen and quite happy for her to have the baby if she wanted I did find the situation a little difficult. The father was the son of my very best friend who had died just a few weeks earlier. He didn’t want to know about the baby and that put me in a difficult situation.
After we'd been out on the Sunday night we came home to a fantastic spread that Maureen and her daughter-in-law had organised earlier. They had salad, pork pies, cakes and gateaux, they'd got some beer in and we had our own party, which we just walked into when it was all done and ready. It was a lovely surprise, I've no idea how they managed to prepare it all without my knowing anything about it but it was really wonderful.
We left Edlington the following morning, they all tried to talk us into staying longer but we had to get back to Blidworth where there were things waiting for us to do. While we were there we'd talked to the women about what we were doing and they were all very surprised. They had a soup kitchen, but none of the women that we spoke to ever went up to it. Apparently about four women did all the cooking there but it was really only to feed the men, the women and kids never went up. It was much more like the soup kitchen that we had in ’72. They all received food parcels and the men were paid a small amount of picketing money which we weren’t getting at all at that stage. They were getting just enough to manage, but we weren’t getting anything at all and so we just had to throw ourselves into it.
When we got back we went straight up to the Strike Centre and the first thing we found was that one of our men, Chris, was locked up in Lincoln. He'd been in a pub on Saturday night and a scab had come at him and started a fight, then the scab’s wife had come for him wanting to slit his throat with a Stanley knife. Chris was picked up. They couldn’t make the charge until the Tuesday because it was bank holiday, but when it did come up he got seven days in Lincoln. When his trial came up much later, he was cleared.
That night we all decided to go out for a drink, we had a lot to tell all those that hadn’t been to Edlington. Whenever we went out at night we usually arranged it during the day at the Strike Centre and went out in a group. We did that partly because we felt safer in a group. There was always scabs drinking in the pubs and there'd been a few nasty incidents and lots of minor ones. But I think we also arranged to go out together because we were really just getting to know each other and enjoying that enormously, it was good to let a bit of the tension of the strike off together. I was becoming particularly close to one woman, Sue Petney. Her husband Ken had been on strike from the beginning but Sue had only started coming up to the Centre in the last couple of weeks. She worked full-time as an agricultural labourer so she didn’t have much time but she was eager to be involved as much as she could. I remember the first day she came up to the Centre. She walked in one Saturday morning looking a little lost and a little shy. There were always people coming and going at the Centre and everybody was always very busy so there wasn’t always someone to welcome strange faces. I was talking to someone about something and I saw Sue take her coat off and start to get a fag out of her bag. Betty Savage said to her,
‘Here have one of these.’ She handed Sue a packet of cigarettes that one of our supporters had left for us. ‘No, its alright,’ Sue said, ‘I'm working, I can afford my own, leave them for whoever’s got none.’
Someone distracted Betty’s attention and Sue stood for a minute and then looked into the kitchen where her daughter Ann was washing pots. Sue walked into the kitchen and picked up a cloth and started drying the pots and talking to Ann. After that Sue was one of us, she couldn’t get up to the Centre on week days but wanted to do whatever she could. She started coming out to meetings with us at night. She didn’t have a car and lived quite close to me so I'd often pick her up and we'd drive off to a meeting somewhere together. The two of us started to become quite close friends.
Sue seemed to understand things quite clearly even though she hadn’t been involved in a lot of the action. When she heard about the Siege she told me that she wasn’t surprised at all, that she'd had some dealings with the police and would never trust them again. Ken’s brother had been in some trouble once and he'd visited their house. Just after he'd left the police came asking for him. Sue and Ken said that he wasn’t home but the police didn’t believe them and just pushed their way into the house and looked through it.
Another time Ken had been picked up for receiving and held for three days. While he was locked up the cops had threatened to arrest Sue as well and put the kids in a home and then they told Ken that if he'd sign certain statements they'd leave his wife and kids alone. Ken ended up signing for a burglary he hadn’t committed as well as receiving.
Sue said to me, ‘I'll never trust them again and neither will Ken, you should have seen the state he was in when he finally got out after those three days, he was in a right state. I think when they forced their way into my house was really when I began to realize that this isn’t a free country at all.’
I used to enjoy the conversations with Sue, I respected her opinions on things.
The night after we got back from Yorkshire we all met as arranged at the Jolly Friar. At first we sat around a table in the middle of the room and then a back corner became available so we moved over to it. The Jolly Friar is a fairly new pub, and the back half of it is divided into two with built-in lounges going all the way around each section which makes it like quite a private part of the pub. We liked to keep to ourselves and there were quite a lot of us so we usually tried to sit around one of these corners. We were all talking and laughing and passing around a poem that Sue had written, which she'd called ‘A Question of Loyalty.’
Why do you cross the picket line?
Answer me, every one,
I've searched for the reason,
But answers I had none,
Will you keep on crossing the picket lines
Till all the pits are gone?
There are people on this picket line,
Who have thought their reasons through,
They are fighting for a future,
For me, for themselves and you.
There are men who've stood on picket lines,
They gave their all and died.
We've lost only money,
But you have lost your pride.
So why keep crossing picket lines?
Valid answers have you none.
Will you keep on crossing picket lines
Till all the pits are gone?
We were enjoying ourselves and were quite oblivious to everyone else; before we knew it, it was drinking up time. Because we'd all been talking so much we were a bit tardy with our drinks and continued to sit and finish them when most people around were getting ready to leave. I was sitting next to Ken so I didn’t actually see what happened, but Sue saw it all and she told us later.
‘I saw this bloke taking his coat off, which seemed strange because everyone else was putting theirs on. But I didn’t take any notice, just sort of saw it out of the corner of my eye, you know how you do. Then I saw this same bloke come over and say something to Ken and I thought he must have been a friend of Ken’s and wondered who he was. Then I knew something was going to happen, I just knew. He gripped Ken a bit tighter and said something about “outside” or “on your own” or something and next thing he was dragging Ken and his chair back. Then the chair tipped and both men fell, Ken and the chair on top of this bloke.’
As soon as the chair fell another bloke started to leap over tables and chairs towards Ken, on the way he picked up a chair and started laying into Ken with it, Ken was lying spread eagled on the floor, he’s a very big bloke Ken is and he was trying to get up but this second man just kept bashing him with the chair. It all happened so quickly, it wasn’t like real life it was like a movie, but it was worse because the chair was solid like real chairs are and didn’t splinter up into pieces like they do in the movies. Everybody just froze for a minute.
Sue said, ‘He’s hitting Ken with a chair,’ and although we could see it, we were all shocked into just watching and Sue’s voice broke through the shock and we all jumped up. There was blood on Ken’s head and Sue started to try and help him get up. As she did a woman with a crazy look on her face came up with another chair. Later we found out it was the first man’s wife, for a minute her and Sue just stared into each other’s eyes, but she didn’t see Sue, her eyes were blank. Then she started hitting down with the chair and Sue managed to move Ken out of the way and this woman was hitting down on her own husband and she kept on hitting and hitting.
I said , ‘Come on, let’s get out of here.’ I grabbed Ken and Sue to help them up and get them out. The whole thing had happened so quickly, none of us had seen it early enough to stop it or even to help Ken. Now he was safe, all any of us could think about was to get out as quickly as possible, because we knew we'd get blamed for what had happened if the police came. All the trouble we'd had with them, this would give them the opportunity they were looking for to lay something on us.
As we got to the door, the scab with the chair started to come after Ken again and tried to push him. Ken turned and said, ‘Stop now. Can’t you see what you've done, look at that man on the floor, you ought to be ashamed of yussen.’ A neighbour of ours came up and started mouthing off at us but we continued to walk out and left him talking to himself. We got into the car with Sue and Ken and drove back to our place. Ken was in a bad way so we bathed his head and then he and Sue went home. Ken was quite shocked, he couldn’t walk properly and he couldn’t remember getting home from the Friar, so he must have had a bit of concussion as well.
A couple of hours later, Pip and I were lying in bed talking about it all when David and Paul came into our room and said,
‘Police are here.’
It must have been about two in the morning when they banged on the door. Pip went down and when he opened the door they said,
‘We're arresting you on suspicion of assault.’
‘Who me? Why me? I've done nought?’
‘We've heard different, come on, you're coming with us.’
‘Well, I'm going to get on the phone to the union then.’
‘No you're not, you're not getting on the phone to nobody.’ I came downstairs then and said,
‘What’s up with you lot now?’
This copper said to me, ‘We're arresting him on suspicion of assault.’
‘Go to them that should be bloody arrested, not us, we didn’t do anything, why don’t you arrest them that did?’
‘That’s not what we've heard, come on, we're not standing here all night.’
I snapped then, I said,
‘Why don’t you just arrest the whole family at once, it'd save you petrol instead of coming for us one by one. You'll get the lot of us one way or another, why not just take us all now and be done with it.’
‘Don’t come with your sharp talk here, that'll get you nowhere.’
‘You make me bloody sick, who else are you taking?’
‘Next door neighbour and next door but one and him around the corner.’
Pip said to me, ‘They won’t let me make a phone call.’
‘I'll see about a phone call’ I said as I walked straight to the phone and picked it up.
After they'd left, I went into Pauline’s and then her and I went into Annette’s. We phoned Pip Browne and told him what had happened then phoned Sue to see if she wanted to come around and sit with us. She said that she'd stay in her own house until morning, because the kids were there, but she'd come around as soon as they woke up in the morning.
The three of us sat up most of the night talking and comforting each other. We were very scared, we'd heard all sorts of stories by now, we were fully acquainted with the lack of justice available to us as striking miners. We had been shocked by events so many times that we almost felt as if anything were possible and we were worried about what was happening to the men. On the other hand we were very angry about the injustices we were having forced on us. We were learning more about our rights as we were having them infringed. Unless someone attacks your civil liberties, you don’t really need to know what they are, so their attack on ours was a double-edged sword.
At about four we all decided to try and go to bed, but Pauline and I came into my house and sat and had another fag and cup of coffee. Neither of us could go to bed, we were too churned up. We heard a knocking on the back door. We were absolutely terrified, we thought either that it was scabs who knew our husbands had been taken, or the police. We looked through the back window and couldn’t see anybody so we started getting even more worried. Pauline picked up the poker and went upstairs to see if she could see anybody from the landing window. She couldn’t so she crept back downstairs and then went through to the back door. I was still looking to see if I could see anybody. Pauline put her hand on the door handle and was just about to open the door when we heard a little voice say, ‘Mummy, Mummy.’ It was Amanda, she'd woken up and come to find Pauline.
At about six Sue and her kids came around. As they'd left their house, there was a copper stood outside and he followed them around ,here and then stood outside our house looking in through the windows. We rang the police station in Mansfield and they said the men weren’t in court yet and that we should ring every two hours for information. I rang Martin Walker, we'd met him just after the siege, he was in Yorkshire at that time helping Yorkshire NUM, and he'd been once with Susan Miller to do interviews in Blidworth. Martin had a lot of experience in dealing with the police and so I thought he might be able to help. He wasn’t there so I left a message for him to ring back.
We went up to the Centre, there seemed nothing else to do and that was where our friends were. Everybody was shocked, nobody really believed that the four men had all been taken. We tried to get on with chores at the Centre as usual but everybody was preoccupied by the events of the night before and we did a lot of sitting around talking. Close to lunch time somebody suggested getting some booze that they had left over from Christmas, then a few more remembered they had some too. We ended up with half a bottle of sherry and some Babychams and a few other bits and pieces that people had in their houses. We all had a couple of drinks, I remember Sue saying, ‘There’s nought we can do, so we might as well wash it all out of our minds.’ She was speaking for all of us. It was too awful to think about, it was just like a nightmare but it had the added horror of being real and we were beginning to wonder if this nightmare would ever end.
We kept phoning up the police but they kept saying the same thing, that they weren’t in court. They'd say terrifying things like, ‘Oh yes, they're with the anti-intimidation squad now, but they haven’t been charged yet. We have no further information.’
Dennis and Mal went into Mansfield to the police station, but they wouldn’t let them see them. Annette had arranged to go to speak in Cambridge with Margaret and Yorkie, they'd been invited to go down there for a couple of days to raise support. She decided to go ahead with her plans because there was really nothing any of us could do just hanging around Blidworth. Later that afternoon Pauline, Sue and I went back to my house and we hadn’t been there long when the phone rang. It was Pip.
‘They're not charging me, but they're going to keep me because they've still some more enquiries they want to make.’
‘They can’t keep you if they're not charging you.’
‘Well, they say they can, anyway I'm gasping for a fag.’
‘If I send some down, will they let you have them?’
He asked someone standing next to him and they agreed. So I arranged to send some down to him. Then the phone rang again and it was Ken. He said they were charging him. Sue spoke to him and when she came off the phone she was very upset.
Straight after Sue hung up, we had yet another phone call from Alan. The police had asked why they were all ringing the same number, so the men told them that we were all together comforting each other, as if they didn’t know, they had police here watching our every movement. Alan told Pauline that they were keeping him and Pip but not charging them.
Pauline, who was very angry said, ‘What the bloody hell are they keeping you for, what you supposed to have done?’
Alan said, ‘Pauline, this is a serious matter, there’s a man lying critically ill in hospital and if he dies we could be charged with murder.’
‘Alan, that’s a load of shit they're filling you up with, the man supposed to be in hospital is home sitting with his foot on a stool in his back garden, someone saw him this afternoon. They're trying to intimidate you, take no notice.’
Alan said, ‘Well who hit him? They keep on at us about who hit him and I don’t know.’
‘I'll tell you who hit him, his own bloody silly wife, that’s who hit him.’
Of course, when Alan told the police that, they just laughed and said, ‘This gets better this does.’
It did sound ridiculous we knew, but it was perfectly true. That night we went to bed and the next morning phoned up the police station again.
This time they said, ‘Is it to do with the strike?’
‘No, it’s an assault, one of them was assaulted in a pub on Monday night.’
As far as we were concerned it wasn’t anything to do with the strike, it hadn’t happened on picket lines and the strike had never been mentioned.
They went away for ages, then they came back and said,
‘Sorry, we can’t give you any information, you'll have to ring Nottingham Police Station and ask to be put through to Strike Headquarters.
‘How come today I have to ring Nottingham, yesterday you gave me information there, why suddenly do I have to ring Nottingham?’
The woman on the other end of the phone just repeated that she couldn’t give me any information. So we rang Nottingham. Then we had to wait ages while they got through to Mansfield to find out what was happening and all the while my phone bill was mounting up, Nottingham is in a different area code. Eventually they said, ‘No, sorry, no information, they're not in court yet. You'd better ring later tonight or early tomorrow morning, we won’t know anything until then.’
I just about went crazy then, ‘This is ridiculous, they've done nothing, what are you doing with them, you've got no right to have them in the first place.’
She said, ‘We don’t hold people for nothing.’
‘Well, you've got my husband for nothing. Go and shit.’ I shouted as I slammed the phone down.
Just as I put the receiver down, the phone rang. It was Martin Walker returning my call. I told him what was happening and he said,
‘Hang up your phone, I'm going to get you the best solicitor I know and you should start to organise a picket of the Police Station.’
The phone rang again a few minutes later and a woman’s voice said, ‘You don’t know me, I'm a solicitor. I've just had a call from Martin, can you tell me what’s happening?’
I told her the story and she said, ‘Don’t go out for a bit, I'll get back to you.’
While we were waiting for her to phone back we decided to get as many women and kids together as we could and go and demonstrate outside Mansfield Police station. Pauline had found some cardboard and felt pens and we'd made placards to hang around the kids’ necks saying, ‘We want our Daddy.’
It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes when the phone rang again. It was Pip, he said,
‘They're letting me and Alan go, can you come and fetch us?’
We started to get our coats on to go when the solicitor rang back and asked what was happening now. I told her we were on our way to fetch Pip and Alan and she said that the other two were going to be in court at two o'clock that afternoon and I should go with a pen and paper and write down everything that happened.
‘How’s this come about then?’ I asked.
‘I don’t really know, I just phoned and told them who I was, they checked up on me and phoned me straight back and said they were letting two of them go and the other two would be in court at two this afternoon. So you get down there and make sure you write down everything that happens.’
We went to fetch Pip and Alan and Sue kept ringing the court, but they kept telling her that they knew nothing about a case at two.
After dinner we got three carloads together and went to Mansfield Police Station for about quarter to two. We went in and I said,
‘Which court are Ken Petney and John Holroyd in at two?’
‘No, they're not in court this afternoon.’
‘You're bloody liars, I know they are.’
We went over to the court and at two o'clock they came in. Both Ken and John were charged with malicious wounding and causing grievous bodily harm. They wanted to deny them bail and send them straight to Lincoln Prison. As the police put the case to the magistrate for denying the two men bail they described them as vicious thugs who had terrorised the whole village. It took us all a while to realize that they were talking about Ken and John and when we did a few of us just couldn’t hold our tongues.
‘Rubbish,’ we said and the magistrate threatened to throw us out if we weren’t quiet and they obviously weren’t very happy to have me sitting writing notes all the time, but there was nothing they could do about it. The solicitor from the NUM who was representing Ken and John said that owing to family circumstances it would be wrong for them to be taken to Lincoln, but that they would abide by any bail conditions set. So they were released with bail conditions that they couldn’t drink in any of the pubs in either Blidworth or Rainworth and that they were to keep away from the two scabs who'd assaulted Ken in the Friar.