- Thursday, 12 July 2012
- Written by Socialist Appeal
This weekend (14 July) is the Durham Miners Gala. A big turnout is expected and Socialist Appeal will be there! Look for our stall and comrades selling the current issue with the Gala wraparound (inside all copies of this month's issue).
Here is a link to the Gala facebook group giving details.
Here is the text of an article by Phil Metcalfe reviewing a book about the Gala - The Big Meeting!
Reproduced with authors permission from UNITE Works magazine July/August 2012
Former miner Dave Temple has done a fine job in bringing to life the spirit of the Durham Miners’ Gala, which was first organised in 1871.
Held on the second Saturday in July, last year’s brought 130,000 people onto the cobbled streets of the historic City. Durham’s magnificent castle and cathedral always provides the perfect backdrop for an impressive display of banners, accompanied by dozens of brass bands as marchers make their way to the Racecourse grounds next to River Wear to listen to speeches from distinguished trade union and labour movement figures.
Later, there’s a chance to relax, enjoy a few beers, have a chat with old friends and take a trip on the showground attractions. If you’ve never been before, then you really have missed a treat.
Temple has tapped into the atmosphere and the sense of belonging felt by the many hundreds of thousands who have over the years taken part in the Gala. The first pioneers were after ‘a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work’ and over the years the miners had to fight tooth and nail against their employers and various governments to get it.
Nationalisation, once seen as providing permanent employment and improved pay and working conditions, may have been welcomed in 1947 but few were happy that the hated coal owners got massive payouts for handing over mines that lacked up-to-date technology. Temple is thus left to chart the pit closures of the post war years that impacted harshly on Gala attendances.
Speaking at the 1980 Gala, Arthur Scargill warned that closure numbers were going to get even worse, but not even he realised by how much! For having successfully stood up to former Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath’s wage restraint policies, Margaret Thatcher’s Government was determined to destroy the National Union of Mineworkers. It tockpiled coal and created a national police force before Ian McGregor, head of the National Coal Board, announced the decimation of mining communities across Britain.
All of this meant that the holding of the 1984 Gala was in the middle of a year long strike and for the first time it drew on the support of the wider trade union movement, which again marched in large numbers in 1992 when the Tories, under Michael Heseltine’s closure programme, provided the final nail in the coffin for an energy source that could still – with development of clean coal technology – provide much of Britain’s energy needs. As such Durham no longer has any mines, but it still has a fighting trade union spirit and joining former miners at last year’s Gala were plenty of Unite members from different parts of the country.
As Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said from the speakers platform: ‘The Durham Miners’ Gala is the most important event in the whole of the labour movement and I salute the Durham Miners and their communities for continuing to give all of us so much inspiration.”
The Big Meeting is 244 pages long and is packed with photographs and illustrations.
The Big Meeting is not available in book shops and can only be obtained from the Durham Miners’ Association - The Durham Miners’ Association, PO Box 6, Red
Hill, Durham, DH1 4BB, making a cheque or postal order to: The Durham Miners Gala Book Project.
A hard back copy will cost £19.50 + £4 p&p (£23.50) Softcover