Further ephemeral treasures from my archive shoebox. This being a check list of the NUPE officers strike levy collected for the Nottinghamshire Miners during the 1984 strike. The levy, £23.00 a week, was mandatory and was in addition to countless irregular payments, contributions and collections that were a constant feature of the period. No doubt there were similar levy’s in dozens of workplaces and offices throughout the strike and it is a pity more of them were not kept. The check list is a summary of arrears owing on the levy. Everyone in fact paid up, it was just a case of chasing them across the five counties of the East Midlands!
The money we collected was quite substantial and was used primarily to support the families of miners out on strike. They had no strike pay and all their usual allowances such as coal from the pit and so on had been stopped. The support work in the field was organised by branch officers of the various pits and very significantly by the women’s support groups. It was made much more difficult by the fact that most Nottinghamshire miners did not in fact strike and there was widespread resentment about those who actually did walk out.
There was a young woman organising the women’s support group, or more correctly she was one of the organisers. I can’t quite recall her name. It has been so many years now. Cecelia, I think it was. Anyway, she was an absolute comrade. You would stand beside her in any struggle at all, and be proud to say you knew her. She came up to my office once, on Sherwood Rise, looking for money. She said she needed to buy some chainsaws so they could cut and distribute wood to the families no longer getting their coal allowance from the pits. To be honest we never looked for reasons as why the money should be given out. If they were bona fide involved in the struggle then we didn’t need reasons. She had brochures and price lists for the chain saws and we gave her enough to buy four of the things. About a week later the local paper reported that all the telegraph poles along the railway line from one of the pits supplying coal to the power stations had been cut through I rang her up and asked her if she needed any more chainsaws!
There was other means of supporting the miners as well. Part of my union organising brief was Nottinghamshire County Council Leisure Services Dept. They ran adventure training for youths, took them up to the Lake District or to Wales for camping and so on. I persuaded them to lend me some tents and a couple of tea-urns. Can’t recall the pretext used but they didn’t ask too many questions. Tents and tea urns appeared at the 24 hour picket lines in Cotgrave and Ollerton. Never did get them back. And to be fair to Leisure Services, they were not too bothered about it.
Towards the end of the strike young Cecilia, if that was her name, committed suicide. I was asked, along with others, mostly women, to speak at her wake which if I remember was in the co-op rooms on George Street. We were all in a bit of shellshock over her death. She was such a strong woman. Such a young activist. If she had lived she would have made the most outstanding contributions to her causes. She already had. I told the story of the chainsaws. There was a lot of tears that afternoon.