For months preceding its closure, Kellingley Colliery had been in the news in Yorkshire and, when the date for closure came, I decided I’d go on the march the following day, along with my youngest son. I didn’t know what to expect: I’ve never been anywhere near a mine – would our presence be tolerated? We arrived at noon for a 1pm march and I’m glad we did, because we got to see the gathering of the crowd and to feel the atmosphere, which was surprisingly celebratory. Joe and I had a great time, mingling with the crowd and taking photos – it was a day when people didn’t seem to mind having a camera stuck in their face.
A brass band – the Knottingley Silver Band, whom I later photographed in rehearsal – arrived. They played a tune which riveted me to the spot. As I was so close, I could see the music: “Gresford: The Miners’ Hymn.” I didn’t understand the relevance of “Gresford“, but I do now.
Joe and I joined the march. I felt a little bit of a fraud but was enjoying myself too much to stand at the sidelines. After a short procession, the march turned left into the grounds of the Knottingley Social Club, where a couple of miners set light to the banners they were carrying, which made reference to the rift between the NUM and the UDM. I was on the opposite side to all the photographers, as you’ll see from my photos. What you won’t see is the woman behind me who complained loudly because I kept getting in front of her camera. If you look carefully in one of the shots, you’ll see Mrs Anne Scargill, who was married to the famous Arthur – now divorced.
After something to eat in the cafe of Morrison’s, Joe and I went home very satisfied with our day out – but I am always aware that, for the 400 men employed at the pit, this day represented a profound change in their lives.
Here’s a BBC news article about the march. I’m visible to the left-hand side of the second photo down, in the road with a camera round my neck.