Miners' strike at 40: Life on the picket line from the people who were there

Rachel Bullock speaks to the people who were on the front line during the miners' strike of 1984-5

It was the strike that defined a decade. The miners' strike. Its impact long lasting.

Some 23,000 of the North East's men were on the picket line 40 years ago in what was the biggest industrial action the country has ever seen.

They were fighting to save their pits, their jobs, their livelihoods.

Dave Temple was 40 in March 1984. A Durham miner, married with children.

"I knew there was no alternative," he said. "We came out on strike first.

"The first thing that we did was to go down Woods Terrace. There were several butcher shops there and we begged food. We were going to make sheep's head broth and they collected all the bones and everything like that and made some broth.

Former miner Dave Temple said miners had to fight. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"I had a mortgage. I'd bought a pit house. I had no money. Nothing.

"There was two main forces in this strike. The young lads."And there was the women. They were tremendous because they fed us."

Charlie Bell was a miner for 20 years. He told ITV Tyne Tees: "We didn't even think it would last months, let alone a year. It was going to be difficult. And was it difficult.

"Retired miners were still around to help and support. You could walk down the street and everybody faced the same problems. It's quite a beautiful thing. We're all in it together."

On the 99th day of strike action the scale of the fight was laid bare. The Battle of Orgreave in Rotherham has gone down as one of the most violent clashes in history and involved picketers and police.

There were violent clashes during the strike. Credit: Keith Pattison

Miners have long said police were used above and beyond their duties to control picketing and for Alan Mardghum, of Wearmouth Colliery, actions of the authorities are "unforgivable".

He said: "I can't forgive them even to this day. It's 40 years on and they've got a lot of questions to answer."

The miners played a long game and fought a hard fight but in August 1984, the first North East miner - 'a scab'- crossed the picket line in Easington.

Mr Temple explained: "We used to say we're poor, but we won't always be poor. You're a scab and you'll always be a scab."

But it was not long before other workers would follow. The turn of winter brought a new offer - a £650 bonus for every miner who would return to work. Almost £3,000 today.

For some it was enough, for others it was just 30 pieces of silver.

Mr Bell explained: "I spoke to them before they went back, I said to them 'I thought they were making a mistake'. I thought it was coming to an end anyway.

Men on strike, captured by Keith Pattison from the time. Credit: Keith Pattison

"They were beat but they didn't stop believing we were right."

The miners voted to return to work in March 1985 - almost a year after they walked out- and it was that return that marked the beginning of the end of centuries of coal mining in the region.

Dozens of miners marched into the pit in tears - their bitterness at losing their war.

But all of them stand by their reasons for striking.

Mr Bell said: "I would have stayed on strike forever.

"Since I finished coal mining, I've got a degree, I built a business. I identify as being a coal miner. I'm very very proud of it. It's who I am."

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