Mary Brown (fmr. Jones) and her two miner daughters. Credit: Mary Brown

Four decades ago the Miners’ Strike of 1984 divided friends and families from coalfield communities across the county.

Many families felt the effects of the year-long strike action, leaving countless people out of work and angered by the injustice of the situation.

The year marked the beginning of the miners’ strikes in the United Kingdom, which pitched the suggested closure of collieries by the Conservative government against the unions and its members.

The fight against the closure was led by trade unionist Arthur Scargill, the President of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Banded after the Coal Nationalisation Act of 1946, the National Coal Board was a government run organisation who went head-to head against the unions.

The Prime Minister of the time, Margaret Thatcher, led the closure campaign.

Areas with great numbers of pits, such as the North East, the Midlands and South Wales felt the effects of the closures.

It was in Yorkshire where the strikes began, as one of most proficient mining areas, which caused an impact on many Yorkshire families.

But it was in Nottinghamshire where the real divide stood as many miners chose to work amidst the major strike which created a breakaway union and caused huge divisions in the industry and its communities.

Mary Brown, formerly Jones, 72, was born in Blaydon, Tyne and Wear but she transferred with her family to Nottinghamshire, where John worked through the 1984-85 strikes.

Mary Brown (fmr. Jones) and her two miner daughters. Credit: Mary Brown

Her late husband, John Jones, was a miner working at the Usworth Colliery in the Washington parish of Tyne and Wear.

John took his role as a miner at the age of just 15, with his father and his grandfather both working at Washington collieries also.

John died from pneumoconiosis at the age of 54, but not before himself and Mary had two daughters, Michelle and Amanda Jones.

“I was a miner’s wife, and I went through the strikes with my family.

“My late husband, his dad, and his grandad were all miners. They all passed away with miner’s lung disease,” said Mary.

During the year between 1984 and 1985, Mary and her husband were active in the fight against closure of the pits.

For her husband, the mines were his livelihood, as it was for generations in the Jones’ family.

Mary said: “You don’t have to go back that far in time to when thousands of men across Nottinghamshire were employed down the county’s pits.

“It was much more than just a job. It was a way of life and identity that many loved, but it is sadly no longer with us.”

The vast majority of coal mines were closed during the Conservative action of 1984, with very few still in existence today and none in Nottinghamshire.

The Clipstone Collieries. Credit: Thomas Spencer

The Clipstone Colliery headstocks, in the Nottinghamshire former mining village of Clipstone, are the largest in Europe and are still standing today as a reminder of the area’s mining past.

“The huge headstocks and buildings that once towered over parts of Nottinghamshire no longer remain, with a handful of notable exceptions,” said Mary.

“Many mines in Nottinghamshire spawned huge housing estates now, in places such as Calverton, Clipstone and Cotgrave.”

Mary supported her husband and his mining family through the strikes by appearing on the picket lines side by side.

“As their wives, we stood on many picket lines throughout the strikes. Our daughters were looked after by our Mam.

“I am 72 years old now, but my parents always taught us all to be kind to anyone in need,” added Mary.

The term “scabs” was given to Nottinghamshire miners who decided still to work despite the strikes.

Decades on, this term is still used by those who feel passionate about their past, and some pubs in former mining towns are rumoured to disallow those they consider as such.

The solidarity of the miners lives on, with organisations such as the Notts Ex and Retired Miners’ Association.

Chaired by former coal miner Eric Eaton, he hoped that the group would allow past miners to come together.

Eric said: “I was an ex-miner. I was on strike for a whole year, against the government and the police. We started striking because they wanted to close the pits.

“I now run the Retired Miners’ Association. We have a lot of members, who are all retired miners. I run the group, and we do a lot of things, like competitions and journals.”

Four decades on, the wounds of the battle are still fresh for many members of the community, but the importance of solidarity remains.