Revenge and the Winter of Discontent


Toton Primary School Nottinghamshire

An old school photograph showing my brother Patrick McGuiggan, (sitting in the centre holding the class identifying blackboard), always the most photogenic member of the McGuiggan family, at Toton Primary school in Nottinghamshire sparked a fond tale of revenge….’

In the rear of the photograph is the school Headmaster. Sutton. He was a fairly brutal sod. Fond of the cane, and often inflicted pain upon those in his care, including me.

In 1979 I was the Regional Organiser of the National Union of Public Employees and we were engaged in a bitter public sector strike, known to history as the Winter of Discontent. Amongst my varied responsibilities were the manual workers of Broxtowe District Council. They were, if I say it myself, particularly well organised. And they struck hard. They were out for the whole winter, including the motorway gritting teams which effectively shut down the M1. Also out for the winter were the binmen.  Rubbish piled up all over the Broxtowe. Nothing moved. It was a complete shutdown.

At the end of such disputes it was ordinary practice to negotiate a price for the binmen to pick up the accumulated back log of piled up rubbish. So it was that we entered into discussions with the elected politicians of Broxtowe Council about the price of our members carrying out such work. To my astonishment it turned out that the leader of Broxtowe Council was none other than the old Headmaster of Toton Primary, the dreadful, hated Sutton.  He did not recognise or identify me, sitting across the negotiating table, and in truth, it took a while for me to accurately identify him as the dreadful man I had known at Toton primary. He had often caned me. Perhaps if I had dropped my trousers and bared my arse he would finally have twigged who I was. In the event, I decided, somewhat maliciously, to set the price of our return to work particularly high.

Negotiations dragged on. Rubbish continued to pile up all over Broxtowe, from Eastwood to Chilwell.  No one knew of my malicious intent.  Eventually, in the Lord Mayor’s parlour, we settled on a particularly high price for our return to work.  We were possibly the last refuse crews to go back after the Winter of Discontent.  The great leader got out the municipal whisky and we drank to the successful conclusion of the negotiation. We drank heartily, me, my shop stewards from the refuse crews, and Sutton with his elected colleagues. The whisky got the better of me and late into the night, I told him, more probably burbled to him, in rather graphic terms, how pleased I was to have caned him back.. The bastard

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One thought on “Revenge and the Winter of Discontent

  1. I had a teacher as a child who would beat me- until my Dad saw the weals n my body! I was always respectful of my elders and for some unknown reason she took a dislike to me.Id done nothing to provoke. the viscious rap of the folding yard stick. She would call us to her front desk and in full view of the class would pull down our underwear and start thrashing.it still brings tears to my eyes whenever i remember. Dad went to his C\O When he saw the weals on my body ,and tolld him about the culprit Mrs Sheriff. I played with his children and his family took a liking to me and my sisters .He was very supportive and was as upset as my parents and I never saw her again.I had a lovely new teacher calledMrs Balotti,who introduced me into the mythicalegends of greeks and Romans and stories of Pompeii and Mt versuvious and the mitor and more…She was the opposite of Mrs Sheriff and a wonderful humanbeing.Godbless het!

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