1984/85 Miners Strike - an overview

Coal mining in the UK has had a turbulent history, with many labour disputes - harsh conditions underground bred a solidarity among the workforce that has rarely been matched. There have been many strikes, such as the 1926 general strike, and after WW 2 when the industry was shrinking. The strike in 1984 was in many ways the swansong of the UK deep mining industry - within 10 years of it being lost the industry was a shadow of its former self - by 2004 there were only 5 deep mines left in the entire UK (in 1987 there were 17 in the Yorks area alone).

It does have a special place in UK labour history too, as it was used by Margaret Thatchers Conservative government to severly weaken the trades union movement.

And of course, as it was 'only' 28 years ago there are many alive who remember it, including me. It can raise strong feelings to this day. A brief timeline of the strike is:

To this day in the coalfields there is residual emnity in the coalfields between those that went out on strike and those that worked. .

There are many dramatic photos of strikers and police, but for most strikers, most of the time, it was a tedious struggle to keep their heads above water, get food and fuel, and pay the rent/mortgage, as the photo below shows.

miners strike

Strikers wheeling tree trunks across the fields for fuel

The formation of the management backed UDM was an important event in the strike. In 2010 I got this email from a nottm miner:

hi tommy you have made a mistake in your J31 site saying that the NUM pickets objective was to prevent miners in the breakaway union of democratic mineworkers UDM in the Nottinghamshire coalfield from attending work UNTRUE, the NUM Nottinghamshire miners, voted in July 1985 to break away from the National Union four months after the strike had ended On the 6th of December 1985 there was an amalgamation of the derbyshire and notts breakaways to for the UDM HOW DO I KNOW I WAS THERE regards Rusty Johnson( the last NUM branch secretary Cotgrave colliery south nottinghamshire)

In response a NUM member replied in 2012:

Sadly I was also there An active picket from Manvers colliery. I'm not sure about the details in the message I was At The Mansfield Rally early in the strike (before the Orgreave picket) where the Nottinghamshire NUM attempted to stop the breakaway of Nottinghamshire and South Derbyshire miners. They failed and that was the start of "Official" picketing of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfields by South Yorkshire, Lancashire, Welsh and even Kent Miners (A number of which Stayed with me in Kilnhurst). This Rally was later represented in the media and papers as "bullying by the Yorkshire miners " and Used by the so called "Silver Fox" as grounds for the breakaway Union of Democratic mineworkers (sic). The Same Silver Fox used to break the unions at Cowley body plant and employed during the overtime ban by Nottinghamshire coal board. One can only assume to do the same as he had done previously at Cowley. In my recollection the UDM was formed During the strike. (before xmas [1984] as we on the picket lines were taunted by the working UDM miners waving payslips and chiding us with wasting our union subs where they did not have to pay them.

I also worked within the Nottinghamshire coalfields with the striking miners there. Giving information and help due to the Goverment Issuing guidelines that they were not entitled to any form of financial help due to it not being an "official" strike in that area. and also refusing to help family's with the nationally available " Family Income Supplement " Implemented under the Tory government and again withdrawn because the family's were intentionally depriving themselves of income. I and others worked closely with Jack Taylor (he was in my labour party ward and an active member) (Also the president of Manvers NUM befor being voted to the Yorkshire Presidency) and was regularly present at our union meetings and picketing planning meetings.;


It looks like the UDM officially formed in July 1985 (after the strike was over), but was unofficially in existance in the summer of 1984. Either way after the strike was lost the pit closure program went ahead at speed. By 1993 only the rump of a deep mining indistry remained, and the Notts pits were not spared the axe.