During the NUM strike, I was at mine engineer school in Doncaster learning the mysteries of winning and working minerals. Every Sunday night I'd drive from my Suffolk home up the A1 and every Friday afternoon come back down South the same way. During the week I lived in a small mining village some 3,000' above the galleries of the Yorkshire Main and when they were shotblasting downstairs your pint on the pub table quivered slightly. I really do remember the people there – the ex pit deputies and NCB engineers who taught me, the ex miners and Sheffield steelworkers with whom I drank and bantered, and the kindness of ordinary Yorkshire folk with great affection. They had great qualities in spades – tenacity, toughness, humour in the face of adversity, loyalty and selflessness.
I don't think any of them thought the strike would succeed, but they did it nonetheless out of pride and bloody-minded stubbornness. They were up for violence, conflict, damage and with a real hatred for 'scab' drivers and workers, who were at very real risk of death or serious injury. In the event the police, equally up for violence, soaked up much of the anger.
My sympathies are for the humiliation of families of strikers for whom all benefit payments were suspended – we watched the charitable handout of loaves of mothers pride and tins of beans to women with tears running down their faces from the humiliation of it but with heads up and eyes open daring any to challenge them. You won't believe how broke they were – really really broke.
My contempt to this day, my loathing, is still reserved for the scum who travelled in to the area to buy the miners' cars for a fraction of their value. The sellers didn't have the money to fill the tanks, and they drove them until they were empty then sold them. To reptiles with a wad of notes and a 5 gallon can.
It was all a sort of Ragnarok. For the miners, the end of 200 years of industry and employment. For plod, the end of mass unaccountable violence; that police charge at Orgreave marked the ending of cop thuggery just as Omdurman marked the last serious use of cavalry in war. The old Friday night rituals of drunk fighting miners being given a good kicking in the van by plod – nothing personal – in a traditional Yorkshire way was ending.
It was a willing fight on both sides. There's no point in an enquiry.