'I will be a scab for the rest of my days', says north Wales mineworker 40 years on

  • John Wiltshire says he "will always be a scab" for the "rest of his days" as he reacts to the 40th anniversary of the miners' strike.

A miner at Point of Ayr colliery in Flintshire, the only pit in Wales to remain open throughout the miner's strike says "he will always be a scab for the rest of his life."

Like the majority of men at Point of Ayr Colliery near Prestatyn, John Wiltshire crossed the picket line and went to work.

He is 79 now but the wounds of the strike run deep.

He said: "I am a scab. I don't want to be a scab but I am a scab and I will be a scab for the rest of my days."

The pit dominated the skyline near the Prestatyn coast and whilst the view has changed, the memories have not.

John Wiltshire told ITV Wales' Joanne Gallacher that he was "for industrial action" but "he went with the majority." Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Whilst the Point of Ayr Colliery continued to mine, workers in Bersham Colliery around 20 miles away in Wrexham walked out in solidarity with coal workers across the UK.

John Wiltshire said he was "for industrial action" but "he went with the majority."

He said: "We had a vote in Point of Ayr and I voted to go on strike but the majority wanted to carry on working so I carried on working.

"We had to walk through the pickets and it was gut wrenching because I knew all these lads.

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

"When I was going through the picket line I had my cousin on one side and he was on strike and very militant. He was saying 'come on John, come back' and I had a cousin on the other side who was management saying 'come on John' and I'm thinking 'what the flippin heck do I do."

John, a married father who worked in Point of Ayr for 20 years said "it was intimidating seeing miners from other parts of the UK coming to the colliery to try and stop them working."

  • John Wiltshire said walking through the pickets was gut wrenching because he knew all these lads.

He added: "It was really bad but then the buses started going through the picket lines and even though I was on that bus and I was protected I just felt so terrible, really, really terrible."

Communities were ripped apart with both sides arguing their point, some families still have not recovered 40 years on.

John said he still faces some animosity and said: "Some of the lads are coming around and I'm talking to them but it's a polite conversation."

Idwal Poole, 81, worked at Point of Ayr for more than three years but he was in Bersham Colliery near Wrexham when the strike broke out in 1984.

He refused to work and got by with his wife's wages and they cancelled their life insurance policies.

He picketed the Point of Ayr Colliery.

Mr Poole said: "I was confronting old pals of mine. They were going to work - alright, but I made sure they saw me there and they went through."

Keith Hett stood by his side and recalls those working "putting £10 notes in the window at the pickets". He believes they were trying to upset them as they had wages whilst the strikers had nothing.

Mr Poole, believes there are many ex miners who still do not speak. He added: "I don't think it'll ever be sorted, tolerated yes but never forgiven."

Bersham colliery closed in 1986 and Point of Ayr ten years later in 1996.

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