The Miners’ Strike: Communities reflect on year that 'changed Wales forever'

40 years ago, thousands of colliers in Wales downed tools and rose up.  The Miners’ Strike spanned twelve bitter, brutal months.  

At the heart of the dispute was a fight to stop pit closures and save jobs.

In a special ITV Wales programme Stories from the Strike, men and women from across Wales reflect on the conflict that changed their lives forever.

Paul Davies worked in Blaenant Colliery, and became an active picketer during the strike.

He was one of many men arrested after he climbed a crane in Port Talbot to prevent coal leaving the dock.

“We had no choice but to fight at that time," he said. "We tried our best to save our jobs. We failed.

“Things like the stockpiling of coal was all planned by the government and it was planned well. They were well ahead of the game. 

"But In my heart I’ll always be a miner, and I’m proud of it too.”

Wayne Thomas worked in Abernant Colliery, and his wife Debra gave birth to their daughter Danielle during the strike.

"At the time, as a married man, I didn't realise what the implications were, I don't think my friends did either.

"We certainly didn't think it would last a year.

"Come the May, when Danielle was born, it was a case of 'how do we provide something when we have nothing?'

"The food parcels were a lifeline, we have never forgotten what that meant. The solidarity shown within mining communities is something that leaves a legacy."

Kay Bowen was the coordinator for the Neath District Miners Support group, which included the communities of Banwen, Onllwyn and Ystradgynlais.

"I found inside me something that I didn't know was there.

"It totally took over my life. I was extremely shy before the strike, I had no confidence, but the confidence I gained from doing that altered my life tremendously.

“Without the little army of people who helped, the miners would have had to give up on the strike. 

“They wouldn’t have had enough food to go on.” 

Christine Powell was treasurer of the Group, which supported 1,000 families a week during the strike.

"We had support from trade unions in France, Sweden, Germany and across Europe.

"At Christmas, we managed to get presents for all the children and every striking family had a turkey.

"It wasn't about pay, it wasn't about conditions, it was about livelihoods.

"The pit was the mother of the village, and when that went it was a domino effect."

John Wilshire was a miner at Point of Ayr colliery in Flintshire, the only pit in Wales to remain open throughout the strike.

"I voted to go on strike, but the majority at the pit didn't.

"I'm a democrat, so it was like being trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea.

"It used to knot my stomach going in each day. Lads were calling me a scab, which I will be for the rest of my days.

"Until my last breath I will be a scab. There's still that feeling now in this community."

Jayne Headon-Francis is the daughter of Hefina Headon, the activist who was immortalised by Imelda Staunton in the film PRIDE.

Jayne believes the strike was a critical moment for the lives of women across Wales.

"Women were rising up, coming out of their houses, and they weren't going back.

"It was the year of my O-Levels. I was shy, I was bullied because of a birthmark on my face.

"Everything changed for me when the LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) came up from London.

"It made me realise people believe in you if you believe in a cause.

"The legacy for me is that realisation that you can do what you need to do."

Wynne Phillips was a police sergeant during the strike, working across the South Wales Valleys.

He found himself policing people from within the very community he called home.

"It was a difficult time, I had sympathy for the mining community, their jobs were going they had to stand up and fight for that.

"We were policing good people, who we had respect for, who were friends of ours.

"We were seen as the force preventing them keeping their jobs, but I had a uniform on and I had a job to do."

Roger Tiley, a photographer embedded in the mining communities of the Rhondda Valley during the strike, believes the dispute changed the very way we define community. 

"I never thought, 40 years on, that that bustling pit at Maerdy, where I loved coming to to take photos, would ever disappear. But it did, and it disappeared quickly."

“When a pit closed, that culture, that camaraderie disappeared,” he said. “It’s not the same place now.

“I felt part of the strike. I’m not a miner, but I felt part of something that would go down in history."

Watch Stories from the Strike at 9pm on Thursday, February 29 on ITV Wales. Catch up afterwards on ITVX.