Shifting Horizons by Lynn Beaton
Since Pauline and I had stopped work our involvement in the Strike had become total. As the time went on we both became absorbed in different ways. Pauline was becoming more and more involved with the cooking and organising at the Centre itself whereas I was spending a great deal of time liasing with support groups, raising funds and other types of support as well. As a result of the siege and the Jolly Friar incident I had started to learn a little about the legal process and as a result I became the unofficial legal adviser in the village.
After we'd got the men back from Mansfield Police Station, Martin Walker rang and asked me what had happened. I told him and mentioned that I'd taken a note pad to court and written down everything that had happened. He said,
‘That’s good. Can you get everybody to make a statement about what happened during the siege.’
‘What do you mean, a statement?’
He said, ‘Just write each person’s account down as if it were a letter, but try to put as much into it as you can. If you can do that then we'll have something to go on.’
When they were all finished I sent them to Berry Hill to have them duplicated, but they weren’t right at all. I hadn’t included the right sort of information. Martin decided to hold a meeting of people from all the different villages around Notts to teach us how to write statements. He told us what it was necessary to put in and the form that they should take. When I went to our next Sunday morning meeting I talked about how important it was to have the information written down about exactly what had happened at any incident with the police. I suggested that we issue all the men with a small notepad and pencil so they could always write an account of any incident as soon as it happened. Then I would help them to form it into a proper statement.
It had been decided to make a video for the NUM about our experiences during the siege and the Jolly Friar incident. It was going to be made at the Edlington Miners Welfare, so several carloads of us went up. Martin had rung me saying that it was important that these things are publicised so people know what’s really going on. He also told me that Gareth, the solicitor who had helped us get the men released after the Jolly Friar incident would be there. I was really looking forward to meeting her.
When we first got there I was sitting chatting to Sue when a tall slender woman caught my eye walking through the double glass doors that were the entrance to the Lounge.
I said to Sue, ‘Bet you any money that’s that solicitor.’ She looked lost and seemed to be looking around for someone. I went over to her and said,
‘Are you a solicitor?’
‘Yes, I am, do I know you?’
‘I'm Doreen, you're Gareth aren’t you?’
‘Yes, how did you know?’
‘I don’t know, something just told me you were as you walked through the door. Are you looking for Martin? I don’t know where he is, come and sit with us, he'll be around soon.’
We went back to our table, I introduced Gareth to Sue and we all chatted about the strike, straight away I knew that we would form a strong friendship. We talked about the things that had happened to us and about the importance of writing everything down as we went along, especially statements about any contact we had with the police.
After they'd made the video, Pip and I drove home and stopped at the chippie when we got to Blidworth to take some supper home. As we walked into the shop two CID men followed us in. One of them said to Pip, ‘We've got reason to believe that you've got a torch that belongs to the police.’
‘No, we haven’t,’ Pip said.
‘Yes you have,’ the police went on, ‘we've followed your sons on their paper rounds and they're using it.’
‘What would they want to use the torch for, it’s daylight when they take the papers.’
‘Well, we've got reason to believe that you've got it and if you don’t hand it over we'll arrest you. You're stealing police property.’
I could feel anger starting to well up inside me. How dare they start questioning us in a public place like this.
I said, ‘You're joking aren’t you? The silly stupid cop dropped it in our tent, how can we steal it if he dropped it. You shouldn’t have dropped it in the first place, you shouldn’t have even been in our bloody tent.’
‘That don’t make any difference, we're going to arrest you.’
‘Well. we haven’t got it,’ said Pip, ‘we gave it to the Yorkshire NUM.’
‘We'll phone them to check, if they haven’t got it we'll be straight back to arrest you.’
The anger I'd been trying to contain, burst. I screamed,
‘Solicitor’s got the torch, in fact Martin Walker’s got it and he’s working with the Yorkshire NUM. Now piss off.’
Pip was embarrassed by my yelling at them, he said,
‘Calm down.’ I probably would have, but as the police started to turn around to leave, one of them said to me over his shoulder.
‘If you want to take that attitude, take it. But you'll soon find out, you can’t afford to take that attitude with us.’
I snapped, I started really yelling, ‘Do you know what’s been bloody going off, of course you know, but I'll remind you anyway. Is it any wonder I don’t bloody speak to you. First you enter our tent and house without our permission, then hundreds of you surround our houses, then you arrest and charge my son just because he’s mine, then you lock my husband up for three days without any cause at all and you even have the gall to admit you've been following my kids around on their paper rounds. And now you're intimidating us again, while we're only trying to get some fish n'chips for our supper. And then you talk about attitude. I'm telling you now, we've just about had enough, I'm sick and tired of the bloody lot of you, I'll never trust another one o'ya again.’
‘You never put any complaints in, if you'd put a complaint in we'd check it out.’
‘You're joking aren’t you? Right then next time I get a complaint I'll bring it straight to you.’
‘Well, do it, I'll leave you my card.’
They left and we bought our fish n'chips. Pip said, when we were back in the car. ‘Why did you have to go and lose your temper with them, it don’t help any.’
‘Well, it’s bloody time somebody told them, bloody pigs, they think they can walk all over us and I'm not gonna lerrum.’
‘I know, but I still don’t think it does any good to do your block wi’ ’em.’
‘Well, that’s the way I am, I'm sick and tired of ’em annoying us. I know one thing for sure, there’s no way I'd take a complaint to them, if they think I'll ever trust ’em with anything they can sing.’
The next morning when I woke up I was worried about having told the cops that Martin had the torch. I rang him straight up, he wasn’t there so I left a message. When he rang back a couple of days later he said,
‘It doesn’t matter, I've given the torch to someone else anyway.’
He went on to ask me if I could go to a meeting at Ollerton on the following Friday night to help set up a Legal Centre for the Notts. region. Setting up the Centre was very important. Going to the meetings about it, I learned a lot about the law and the right way to go about organising defence. A lot of London solicitors came up to work in the Centre and I got to know them. Martin always seemed to have a lot of faith in me and trusted that I was capable of doing things I didn’t think I was capable of doing, mind you I always did them; he gave me confidence.
Once the Centre at Ollerton was set up I often went there with people who had been arrested. I became our own on-the-spot legal adviser. I don’t mean that I gave advice, but I always helped people write their statements and went with them to the Legal Centre to see solicitors and went to court to give moral support. This legal work became a large part of my responsibility in our group.
At that first meeting about the Centre, Martin told me that Gareth had taken an injunction order out on the police to keep them away from me and Pip.
‘Does that mean they can’t intimidate us any more?’ I asked.
‘Oh great. Can you do that?’
‘In some circumstances you can, yes.’
The following Monday I arrived home from the Centre, tired and looking forward to leaving the strike behind for half an hour while I watched the taped episode of my favourite TV serial, ‘Sons and Daughters.’ As I walked into the house Karen said to me, ‘The police have been looking for you.’
‘I thought they were supposed to be keeping away from us, what the bloody hell do they want now?’
Nearly every day for the next fortnight the same thing happened. The police must have known I was at the Strike Centre, but they never went there, they continued to call at the house.
The Monday fortnight, I got home, no-one else was in, I'd just settled down by the fire with a cup of coffee and there was a brisk knock on the front door. When I opened it, there were two plain clothes coppers there,
‘We're CID can we come in?’
‘No, I'm sorry you can’t.’
‘You Doreen Humber?’
‘Yes, I am.’
‘Well, we want to come in.’
‘I'm sorry, you're not coming in.’
‘We've got reason to believe that you want to make an official complaint against the police for entering your house.’
‘Oh do I?’
‘Well, that’s what we've got reason to believe.’
‘Where did you pick this piece of information up.’
‘We read it,’ they hesitated and said, ‘In the Morning Star.’
‘Oh did you?’
‘Yes, can we come in and talk about it.’
‘No, you can’t come in.’
‘Well this is our job, how can we talk about it if you won’t let us come in.’
I said, ‘I'm talking to nobody but my solicitor.’
‘Who’s your solicitor?’
‘That’s none of your business.’
‘You're not being very co-operative are you?’
‘No, I'm not.’
‘Do you realise we've been chasing you round for a fortnight?’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘You've been wasting you bloody time then haven’t you. Piss off.’
And they did. Soon after this, Gareth came to the house to have a talk to me about things. She'd agreed to act as our solicitor. When I told her what I'd said to them, she was amazed and asked me where I got my strength from. I've no idea where I got it from really but if anything it came from talking to Martin and Gareth about what my rights were.
At about this time, we had a set-back that none of us expected. Margaret Groves had been getting more and more involved in the welfare rights issues. She had started a course at the Nottingham Polytechnic to learn more about it. She was also going to a series of films they were showing at the local library about all sorts of issues. One night she went to see a film about Women’s Health and it went into some detail about cervical cancer. Margaret recognised all the symptoms. She was suffering herself. After a few visits to her doctor and lots of tests, it was confirmed that she had cervical cancer and she was rushed into hospital for an operation. The first operation wasn’t completely successful so she had to have another one. Of course it put Margaret out of action and sent a shock through all of us. Margaret had been with us from the start, she was one of the most active members of our group and so apart from feeling for her and her family we were also made brutally aware that the normal pressures of life were still with us and had to be dealt with on top of the pressures of the strike.
The support we were getting from outside was increasing all the time, it had started to come from all around the country. In Nottingham a Central Women’s Group had started. It was called the Notts. Women’s Support Groups, every Monday night delegates from all the Notts. pits met and discussed their problems and planned and co-ordinated activities and support. The Notts. Branch of NUPE gave them use of an office, a phone and all of the facilities in NUPE. We attended these meetings, at first we had a difference of opinion with some of the women there about twinning, they seemed to want all groups to give all the money they raised to the Central Group and then have it all distributed equally among the groups. I argued against that.
Our experience with Cambridge had been very successful, we were increasingly learning all sorts of things from them and they felt very involved with our struggle and were learning from us. The exchange between the two communities was a very rich one and I think it benefited everyone in many more ways than just the material support we got from it. Of course that was important, but the friendships that were developing between people were important too. I thought that arranging all the money through a central fund would destroy that.
We managed to reach an understanding with the group and continued to be part of it. At times there were tensions of course, but they were always overcome. We were better off than some groups, but we were always prepared to help out if any group was desperate.
thought that we worked hard for the support we got and that it had been a good experience for us.
In the last few weeks I'd made some important contacts with two groups in London and they'd both become regular supporters. The Thursday after Strawberry Fair, Pip and I were sitting at home watching television and relaxing when there was a knock on the front door. One of the miners from Ollerton had brought three men from the National Graphics, Association in London. They said that they supported the strike and would like to help, could they come in and talk to me about it. We talked for about two hours, they told me that their union branch would be able to raise quite a bit of money and asked if I'd distribute it to groups who needed it. They'd been referred to me by a Kent miner they'd met in London. They weren’t prepared to give the money to a Central Group, they wanted to know exactly where it was going. I said that I wasn’t sure I had the time because I was always busy fund raising for Blidworth and that they should give the money to the Notts. Women’s Support Group because I knew they were doing a good job. They asked if I knew of any pits that were especially badly off. A few days before that Pip had been on the picket line with a bloke from Harworth and he'd come home saying that they were really struggling. I gave them the Harworth telephone number and they left saying that they'd think about things and let me know what they'd decided to do.
They rang me back a couple of weeks later, just before a London rally and told me they'd raised six hundred pound and that they wanted to hand it over to someone at the demonstration and have it distributed. They asked me if I'd do that and ensure that the money was distributed to groups that needed it and make sure that Harworth got a hundred quid. I agreed and kept a hundred pound for Blidworth, gave a hundred pound to Harworth and the other four hundred to four other groups that I knew needed the money.
I asked each group if they'd make sure they wrote to Doug Shaw of the NGA thanking him and his union branch for the support. That was a check for me too, because he would know that I was passing the money on and where it was going. We formed a trusting relationship. He became a regular supporter and used to ring every so often and say, ‘We're coming at such and such a time.’ And he'd tell me who he was bringing with him.
One week, at the end of June, Doug phoned and said he was bringing two carloads up on Sunday, the 1st of July. He said they had so much money and asked if there was anything we particularly wanted him to bring up. I said,
‘Yes, we do need baby food badly.’
‘Righto, I'll get some and bring it up to you and there'll be some money as well. We should be there at about three on Sunday afternoon.’
Five of them arrived on Sunday in two cars and unloaded the baby food. We had a cup of tea at the Centre and then some of them went for a walk around the village. When they came back, Doug said to me.
‘I can’t believe it, every time we've been here before you couldn’t move for cops, the place has been covered with them, but we didn’t see a single one today, is it because it’s a weekend?’
‘Oh no, they're there somewhere, don’t you worry.’ As I said it two policemen walked past the Centre.
We went back to our house to look at the videos of the news broadcasts of the siege which none of them had seen. After that, at about ten to six, they started to get ready to leave. Doug was going on to Harworth with some more baby food and the rest were going straight back to London. After he'd left our house, Doug turned left at the bottom of the street to get onto the A614 which would take him straight to Harworth. He was only about 200 yards up the road when two police cars pulled out. The first one waved him down and told him to follow them, the second one followed him so he was sandwiched between the two. They drove up the road to a roundabout and proceeded to drive round and round it. By this time it was dark and Doug’s sense of direction was confused by the continual circles they'd been taking. Then the coppers took him up a country lane and eventually stopped the cars. The coppers came up and opened the doors of Doug’s car asking him who he was and whether he supported the miners.
He said, ‘Yes, I am supporting the miners, I'm from the National Graphical Association and I've brought some baby food up.’
The police said, ‘Oh, so you're in a union, are you?’
‘Get out and go and stand over by that wall.’
Doug walked over and stood facing a brick wall which was just beside where the cars were parked. The police searched him and then they searched his car. Then they got hold of his head and dragged At down the wall so his face was grazed, next he felt a truncheon hitting him on the elbow and he felt something hitting his legs. They really roughed him up, when they'd finished he was so dazed he didn’t know what day it was. Then they told him to get back into his car, that they were going to escort him to the AI and he must get back to London and if he ever showed his face in Nottinghamshire again ;they'd lock him up. They took him to the A1 but they pointed him in the wrong direction. It took him ages to work that out because he was so dazed. Eventually he did get back to London. The first I knew about it was a phone call from Doug. He rang a few hours after he'd left here and asked me if I'd ring Harworth and let them know that he wouldn’t be able to make it tonight.
‘What’s up Doug, what’s happened? You left here to go to Harworth.’
‘Yeah, well I had a bit of trouble with the police, they wouldn’t let me through, but tell Harworth that their baby food will be there soon. Don’t worry about it, it'll be alright.’
I was quite worried about it, it was very strange, Doug hadn’t sounded like himself at all. Anyway I rang Harworth, they were worried too, they'd been waiting for him. Almost as soon as I hung up the phone, it rang again. It was Mike Green, Doug’s friend in London. He said,
‘Doreen, has Doug phoned you?’
‘Yes, what’s up, he didn’t say much.’
‘No, he wouldn’t want to upset you, he was badly beat up by coppers just after he left your place. They picked him up just by the Jolly Friar. They wouldn’t let him get through to Harworth, he’s quite badly shocked and shaken. It happened just after he left your place. But don’t worry about it, we're printing it in all the papers, it’s already been on the television news. He had photos taken of himself as soon as he got back to London. He’s still with solicitors now, he’s going to take the police to court about it.’
A few days later Doug phoned me again and we talked about it, he knew that my phone was tapped but he said,
‘Listen, you bastards, I'll be back, there'll be loads and loads of us with loads and loads of food, you can’t stop us.’
We'd also been contacted by the National Union of Journalists’ Book Branch, they had asked if they could raise money and send it to us. Towards the end of July we arranged to speak at an NUJ Book Branch meeting in London. We had been receiving quite a lot of money from them and I wanted a chance to thank them for it in person and to meet all the members who'd been donating from their weekly pay cheques. I asked the Treasurer of the branch several times if he could try and arrange it. In London on Saturday the 28th July there was to be a large women’s rally in support of the strike. The NUJ arranged a meeting for the Friday night before and six of us went down on the train. A coach was bringing people down on the Saturday to the March, so we were going to stay overnight and meet the others the next day.
It was the first time some of the women had been to London during the strike and I suppose because there were six of us, we left Nottingham on the train in very high spirits, laughing and joking about everything around us. I had been a few times to speak at various meetings but each trip had just been for a day at a time.
As soon as we got on the train Ann Penny started to take things out of her bag. Most of the work Ann had done for the strike up to now had been in the Centre. She'd become one of the mainstays of the Centre. She was a very hard worker and was always somewhere busily taking care of some chore. As we watched the things she was dragging out of her bag, we all started teasing her and killing ourselves laughing. She had curling tongs and a complete change of clothes which she'd brought to change into on the train. Our teasing didn’t stop her spending half of the journey in the toilet getting changed and curling her hair. She still has to live that down, it’s become a standing joke now, whenever we want to tease her we say that when
she dies she'll have her hair in curling tongs, to make sure she looks beautiful in the coffin.
The train pulled into King’s Cross station and we started to get off. The great high curved glass roof makes the place feel very grand and we felt very important arriving there, with a busy timetable in ,front of us. Claire, the branch President and Mike, the Treasurer met us. We weren’t hard to recognise, six of us, looking around and wearing badges. They'd arranged for us to have a meal before the meeting.
The restaurant they took us to was just near Covent Garden, it seemed very select with dark plush curtains at the windows and lots of dark polished wood. It was in a wine bar and there were loads and loads of bottles of wine around. Some tables in one of the corners had already been booked for us and as we sat down and ordered pints we looked at the wine bottles around us, some of which had prices of more than sixty pound. We laughed amongst ourselves about who would pay that price for a bottle of wine, Pauline said,
‘I bet it’s horrible wine anyway.’
We all laughed and then Claire and Mike came back with our drinks and we all looked at the menus.
My eyes were drawn straight to the steaks, I could have murdered a steak, the thought of one was driving me mad, but because I knew that Claire and Mike would pay the bill I thought it would be rude to order the most expensive thing and so I ordered seafood. Later we all admitted that we would have liked steak and Claire said,
‘Oh, you should have had whatever you wanted, you all deserve a treat.’
The meeting was just around the corner, in another pub, but this time in the upstairs room. The room reminded me a bit of an old Church hall, it had dark wood panelling on all the walls and the seats at the back were old pews. I sat at the table in the front of the room with Claire. The others all sat in one of the corners at the back of the room. We were the first ones there and I wondered if anyone was coming but gradually people started to arrive and by the time we started the meeting there were about sixty there. I talked about the strike, explained how we'd set up the Strike Centre and about the heavy policing we'd been getting and I thanked everybody for their generous support. The discussion afterwards centred around twinning and politics and at the end of the meeting everybody agreed that the branch should adopt us which was wonderful for us, it would mean some more regular money coming in. I'd talked about the refusal of our Labour Councillor to support us over the Youth Club and they asked me what I was going to do about it.
‘I'm going to have his job,’ I said. ‘We've all joined the Labour Party.’
That led to a discussion about the Labour Party and what was wrong with it and what we wanted from it.
After the meeting we were all offered accommodation at various people’s houses. I'd arranged with a London solicitor who I'd become friendly with when she was working at the Ollerton Legal Centre to go to a party at her house after the meeting, so I said, ‘I'm sorry, but we've been invited to a party.’
It seemed to make things quite complicated but eventually it was arranged that we took the telephone numbers of the people who were offering us beds and that we'd ring if we needed the accommodation.
The party was in a big three storey house. It was a bit of an eye opener to us because the whole house was full of women and lots of them were cuddling and stroking each other. We'd never seen lesbians being so open before and we carried on a bit like a bunch of school kids, running about with our eyes nearly failing out of our heads and then running back and reporting to each other about what we'd seen. We met lots of women and everyone was really nice to us. There was a great buffet laid out which really caught Pauline’s eye. She put some smoked fish on her plate and said to someone.
‘Look at this, smoked salmon, I've never had real smoked salmon before.’
But it turned out that it wasn’t salmon at all, it was smoked mackerel. Still Pauline enjoyed it enormously and enjoyed laughing and laughing And telling everyone that she'd make a fool of herself by mistaking smoked mackerel for smoked salmon.
There were lots of people there who'd been up to Blidworth at different times and it was interesting to see them, at home, among their own friends. Lots of people asked all of us lots of questions. The last time I was in London I'd stood on the picket line of the South London Women’s Hospital, the day it was officially closed. I'd said then that I'd come back with some more miners’ wives and support them by doing a lie-in. The hospital was the only one in London where women could guarantee that they'd be treated by women and lots of women were really angry that it was being closed down. I suggested to the others that we go over there and do a lie-in that night and they were all enthusiastic so it was agreed. At about one o'clock people started offering us accommodation for the night.
I said, ‘We've already been offered accommodation by NUJ people and we don’t want to offend anyone, but we'd like to stay the night at the South London Women’s Hospital. We want to support them, we believe in what they're doing.’
Louise drove us to the hospital and dropped us off. From the outside, so late at night the hospital had a certain daunting air about it. As we approached the two women who were on the door, we all noticed that they broke an embrace to talk to us. We all looked at each other, already feeling wise about these things, but some of us still smirked. We were directed up to the wards. The first one we went into was nearly full and we asked if there was another one we could sleep in. The second ward was nearly empty and as we walked in Pauline spied a water bed.
‘That’s mine,’ she said. Then she jumped onto it. ‘Oh, look how lovely and soft and warm it is.’
The women who showed us to the ward told us about an intruder who'd come in drunk a couple of times and assaulted some of the women, he'd been nicknamed ‘Twine.’ They told us that a teapot had been balanced on the door he used to get in, so that if the door was opened it would fall and set off an alarm, everybody was to run to an appointed place when the alarm went off.
I was absolutely shattered and all I really wanted to do was to go to sleep but the others, who'd never been to the hospital before, were keen to explore. I started to get ready to go to bed, and they all started teasing me.
‘You going to bed now, don’t you want to explore?’
‘Oh, leave Grandma she needs her sleep.’
‘Are you going to stay here on your own, better take your stilettoes to bed to hit Twine if he comes.’
I thought they were joking but they insisted that I take my shoes into bed with me. Then they went off like five girls on a big adventure. For ages I could hear them wandering around, laughing and giggling.
Eventually I must have dozed off, but I was woken up by an enormous clatter followed by the pounding of running footsteps above me. Bang bang bang, it was like an earthquake, the whole place was shaking. The next thing the five of them came running in, slightly white in the face but giggling at the same time.
They plonked themselves on the beds all breaking up with laughing, and they all started talking at once, telling me what had happened.
‘Doreen, you should have seen us. It was so scary out there, so empty, just like one of those horror films, where the bombs dropped and everybody’s just left everything. The baby incubators are there.’
‘And the babies’ food in the fridges, all going sour and out of date.’
‘Oooh, it’s so weird, everything’s here just no people.’
‘Shurrup and get into bed and go to sleep. I've seen it before.’
‘But listen, do you think they'll be cross with us for knocking the tea pot off.’
‘How do I know, we've got to get up early. Get to sleep.’
‘We were just walking along these corridors, switching lights on as we went. We walked around looking through doors and working out what things were. Then we came to this door, pulled the handle down and then there was this great clatter ......
‘I know, I heard, now go to sleep.’ I was irritable with tiredness. But the others were still very excited after their adventure.
‘But then, when we started to run downstairs, we got to this lift and it was coming up and somebody was in it, whistling. That freaked us right out, we just ran and ran until we got back here.
They kept on talking to each other about it, then Pauline got onto the water bed and gave everybody a running commentary on how terrific it was. It must have been four o'clock before anyone got to sleep.
Next morning I was woken by Sue, moving about opposite me, she was getting dressed.
I said, ‘Sue what time is it?’
‘What are you getting dressed for, get back to bloody bed. I'm shattered we can have another hour before we need to get up.’
‘I can’t sleep, Doreen, there’s too many noises and too many funny things happening.’
‘Why, what’s happening.’
‘Well, there’s aeroplanes going over, I can’t sleep for the noise they make.’
‘You're dreaming, there aren’t any aeroplanes.’
‘There is and there’s women running about naked.’
‘Don’t be silly and go back to sleep.’
‘Doreen, I can’t sleep here, it’s strange and eerie and there are noises coming from all over the place.’
I eventually drifted back to sleep, when I got up an hour later Sue was already dressed and sitting in the day room where we all made ourselves coffee and toast after we'd showered and dressed. Ann Penny was still getting ready when we were ready to go, so we sat talking to some of the other women. They had all heard the teapot fall, but from the giggles and pounding footsteps that followed they'd known it was our women and also that they'd scared themselves half to death. We talked about the strike and they told us about the hospital and the battle to save it. We also talked about the connections between different groups of women like us and Greenham Common Women. It was always quite inspiring to meet other women who were involved in different things. It gave us a sense of being involved in something much bigger than the Miners’ Strike. The fight was taking place on a lot of fronts. The women at the hospital were all very supportive to our struggle. They gave us fifty pound donation and the ward we'd all slept in was afterwards known as the Miners’ Ward.
After we had breakfast we met the bus from Blidworth, some of the kids had gone to a creche which had been arranged by the march organisers. I was worried about that, I wasn’t sure how Mark would fit in because he doesn’t normally mix very well. But I soon stopped worrying because the march was so demanding itself. There were thousands and thousands of people there, lots of women, lots of miners’ wives and miners. Everybody was singing and chanting and we really felt very powerful, as we walked past the houses of Parliament we talked about taking them over because there was so many of us. As we walked past Downing Street, somebody took a wreath and put it outside of No. 10. and we all observed silence as we walked past, we were mourning the passing of democracy in this country. I was really surprised and very pleased to notice that Louise who was marching with us, really enjoyed the singing, she sang out at the top of her voice. ‘You can shove a National Ballot up your arse.’
She’s got a fantastic house and is very well spoken and good with words, it was wonderful to see that she obviously felt the meaning in the songs just as we did. We heard Arthur speak at the rally, then picked up the kids. They'd had a ball, I need not have worried about Mark, he came back very excited and painted like a spider man, he'd thoroughly enjoyed his day too. I was exhausted and not really sorry that tonight I'd be sleeping at home, and could relax and hopefully get a good nights sleep. It had all been very tiring but also enjoyable, we felt very tired but fulfilled as we sat back in our coach seats on the way home.
Our mail increased dramatically, both our personal mail and mail to the Group. Most of it was letters of support and encouragement usually with a cheque as well. The messages were often very touching and would bring tears to my eyes. Pensioners who had nothing themselves would write and say they believed in what we were doing and wanted to help. People described us as courageous, spirited, brave, and our struggle as vital, momentous, essential, critical.
Sometimes I felt very humble in the face of all this praise but at other times I felt very proud. In some ways I just seemed to be the same old me, and it was hard to realise that all these people from all over the country, many of whom I'd never even met were using these words to describe our struggle. In another way I knew that what we were doing was of the utmost importance, not just for ourselves but for the whole country, somewhere inside I felt the gravity of the situation and a sense that our struggle had vital implications for the future.
Letters of support often confirmed these feelings, it was clear that lots of other people felt the same. When I felt low these letters would pick me up, they'd give me the strength to continue by reminding me of the importance of our fight. The problems that were making me feel low would shrink to apparent insignificance. Some of the mail would arrive opened and we suspected that the police were reading it.
Other letters brought information about things that were happening in other areas and other villages, letters from other groups like our Central Groups or Groups of Supporters. Dealing with the mail became a major part of the work. Our Committee had appointed a new Secretary, Chris Tucker. She had a difficult job just answering the correspondence that came in and sending receipts and thank you letters for all the money that was received.
One morning a letter arrived from some women in Yorkshire. It was very short, it just said, ‘We're coming to Calverton to do a picket on Wednesday night, could you please try and support it.’ As always in these situations, I felt that if women were coming all the way from Yorkshire to help us here in Notts., then it was important that we give our support too. I brought it up at our next Committee Meeting, stressing the importance of supporting it. About eight of us decided to go.
Calverton is only a few minutes drive from Blidworth and we got there half an hour early. The most sensible thing to do seemed to be to have a drink in a pub and then leave the cars in the pub car-park when we went to the picket. We were all decorated with our badges and it must have been a scab-pub because they didn’t like it. We stayed to have our drinks and as we left they all came out shouting abuse at us.
When we got to pit lane we met up with some of the women from Yorkshire and decided to start picketing straight away because some of the men were coming off the afternoon shift. There were only about twenty of us and we stood opposite the canteen on the pavement. A bus load of scabs went past us and they all pulled their trousers down and bared their bums at us through the windows. We felt disgusted and then the police came up. It’s funny because despite all that we'd been through as the police approached old habitual expectations flashed into my mind. I actually thought for a second or two that the police would try to stop the scabs from being so disgusting, but of course, it was us they were coming for. They asked us to move. We said, ‘No, we're not moving, we're staying here.’
Twenty minutes later bus loads of Notts. coppers, identifiable by what we called their ‘tit-hats’ with their silver nipples shining on top of their helmets, started to arrive. They were standing across the road from us and then one of their gaffers came over and said to us,
‘Come on Ladies, you'll have to move.’
‘Where do you want us to go.’
‘Up the other end of the lane there.’
We all chorused, ‘No, why?’
‘We're not doing any harm here, we'll stay.’
‘We can’t shout at people going to work from up there.’ He tried to keep it all friendly, he said, ‘Sorry Ladies, you've got to move, we're not gonna let you stay here.’
‘We are staying here, if you want us moved, you'll have to move us. We re not breaking any laws.’
‘If you don’t move we will move you.’ There was no pretence at friendliness any more.
We all started singing, ‘We shall not be moved.’
He went over the other side of the road, talked for a moment to the coppers lined up along the edge of the pavement and then they all came marching across towards us.
There were still only thirty of us and we linked arms and watched them marching towards us. They positioned themselves right around us. A line about three deep and then they started to push. We heard one of them say,
‘Treat ’em just like men.’
Another woman heard one say, ‘Go for their noses, women don’t like to get their noses broken.’
They pushed and pushed and we tried to stand our ground but we had little chance, we were just thrust ahead by their pushing and the only way to keep your balance was to lurch forward every so often.
We kept singing and singing, they didn’t like that at all, it unnerved them. Annette fell down and they wouldn’t stop pushing to let her get up so women were being forced to walk over her. Eventually a couple of us pushed police out of the way for a bit so Annette could get up. The police had determined and vicious looks on their faces and just kept shoving us along as if we were herded animals.
One of our women, Mary, had managed to stay behind the fence, I looked around to see if she was still there and saw two coppers marching her off. Eventually we were pushed right over to the other side of the road and we thought that was it. But they kept pushing us. We started complaining all over again.
They said, ‘We want you up the end of the lane.’
It was about two or three hundred yards away from the pit. They said two of us could stay at the end near the pit, as a sort of official picket. We still refused to go voluntarily so they started pushing again. They pushed us, kicked us, thumped us and elbowed us. They did everything they could to hurt us while trying not to be too blatant about it.
Eventually they got us where they wanted us and circled around us. Then another van load of women arrived and we all started singing, ‘There'll be more, there'll be more, there'll be more.’ More van loads started to arrive and each time we'd sing. In the end there must have been a hundred of us.
They'd put Mary in a van and we were all shouting to her, ‘Can you hear us Mary? Are you orright Mary?’
At about nine-thirty some of the women were desperate to go to the loo. The police said,
‘Sorry you can’t go.’
We were hemmed in and couldn’t go anywhere, they explained that they were desperate and so police said,
‘All right, we'll take you two at a time.’
The first two set off with two police, but they never came back, then another two went and they never came back either and we realised then that they were being put in the van with Mary. At a later picket at Calverton, because we knew what happened when the police took people to the loo, some women squatted behind a hedge and were arrested for indecent exposure. It was disgusting, the scabs were dropping their trousers and exposing themselves at us from the buses, but no-one arrested them.
That picket went on till about eleven. The whole experience had been horrific. Later when we saw Mary after she'd been released she told us that while she was in the van, the cops that were there with her, tried to embarrass her by telling revolting jokes about parts of women’s bodies. At one time she wanted to go to the loo, and asked them if she could. At first they told her that she'd have to wait for a woman police officer to arrive, time passed and she'd asked again because she was getting desperate, they'd tell her the same thing. Eventually the woman copper did arrive, Mary asked her if she would take her to the loo and she said to Mary,
‘Piss on the floor that’s all you're good for.’
When they got her to the station, they asked her hundreds of questions, about the Centre, who runs it, how much money we've got, who supplies the money, who were spokespersons and so on.
After the Calverton picket the Notts. Women’s Central Support Group decided to start organising mass women’s pickets at different pits around Notts. We decided to hold one at Blidworth. The organisation was kept as secret as possible, so in Blidworth even the men didn’t know it was going to happen. Most of the scabs went in the main gates of the pit by the canteen and so there were always six official pickets next to those, either standing or sitting on the wall, and then there were two at each other gate. The men were always very choosy about who the official pickets were going to be and quite jealous of the privilege.
This morning we women all turned up, we went up to the men on the gate and said,
‘This is a women’s picket.’
They said, ‘Ya what?’
‘This is a women’s picket, so will you all demonstrate over on the green please. We're taking over the gates.’
They sort of looked baffled and mumbled, but they did as we asked. I think they must have known we were determined, we'd never asked before to be among the official pickets. They seemed to know we were serious and that we had our reasons so they moved over to the green and six of us took our places along the wall. Lots of women turned up from all over the place. One group arrived in a blue Bedford van just like the police ones. They'd not been stopped once on a road block they just sailed past them. We thought they were police when we saw the van driving up and then when a bunch of women got out we all cheered.
Standing at the gate was interesting too, you'd get some chat from some of the scabs, they'd say,
‘Get off back to washing pots, get oil back to the kitchen. You're not an NUM member.’
I'd say, ‘I'm more of an NUM member than you are. You're a bloody scab.’
Others said, ‘What you doing here, you've no right to be stood here picketing?’
‘We've every right to be stood here, you're taking food out of our kids’ mouths.’
One guy took a hand rolled fag out of his pocket as he walked towards us and started to light it.
I said, ‘That’s right, light your fag, you need some courage to walk past us.’
He said, trying to be smart, ‘Why, do you want a drag.’
‘No thanks, I needn’t take one of your crumby rollies, I've got real cigarettes here that our supporters give us.’
Whatever they said, we had an answer for them and we actually succeeded in turning a few back. Overall it was a very good picket and the men were pleased too, they kept asking us when we were going to have another one.