The miner and the copper
February 24, 2009 10:08 AM   Subscribe

It is one of the abiding images of the 1984 coal strike - Guardian photographer Don McPhee's picture of a picketing miner facing up to an officer. But what happened to the two protagonists?
posted by fearfulsymmetry (14 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting read. The strike ended 24 years ago, and it's still not over in a lot of places in West and South Yorkshire.
posted by Grrlscout at 10:22 AM on February 24, 2009

Knowing nothing about the subject, what struck me most about the article is the assumption that anyone looking at that picture would sense a "rapport" between the miner and the officer. I see barely restrained aggression, but nothing in the image suggests that the "sneers are becoming smiles".
posted by Shepherd at 10:42 AM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just read that linked elsewhere; somehow wasn't shocked to read that the miner had died too young.
posted by Abiezer at 10:46 AM on February 24, 2009

Sharpened coins? Is this a British thing?
posted by pracowity at 10:53 AM on February 24, 2009

Those guys totally look like they're about to make out.
posted by dersins at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2009

Interesting story. The miners strike seem a long away now, but the impact of it can still be easily felt today.

Here's the later picture of the 4 mentioned at the end of the article, where you can clearly see they did turn to smiles, not snarls.

Also sharpened coins are a european thing, though they're probably more popular in the UK than anywhere else; they're an easily carried (concealed) missile. They used to be staple of football hooliganism.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:55 AM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by mwhybark at 12:16 PM on February 24, 2009

I’m eternally disappointed that Blakes Seven was not, as I had assumed, based on the Miners Strike.
posted by Artw at 12:47 PM on February 24, 2009

I’m eternally disappointed that Blakes Seven was not, as I had assumed, based on the Miners Strike.

No, it just predicted it...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:25 PM on February 24, 2009

As a Yank, I must sheepishly admit that the first time I encountered a reference to the UK miners' strikes of the 1980s was in the lyrics to Hippychick by Soho, although I originally thought the line said "I stopped loving you since the morning strife," not "since the miner's strike." Until I knew the context, I had no idea how sardonic that lyric really was.
posted by jonp72 at 5:29 PM on February 24, 2009

and it's still not over

I was a teenager in the area during the strike and remember people who wouldn't acknowledge family members who had scabbed in 1921.

I also remember being stunned by what a mounted horse charge does to people (on both sides).
posted by mdoar at 10:14 AM on February 25, 2009

According to the local fishwrapper newspaper I picked up in Hemsworth today, local councils, the NUM and miners welfare/heritage groups throughout the north are planning events in March to commemorate the strike. Given Mr. Grrlscout's dad and granddad were both down the pit (Grimethorpe and Nostell), it's pretty much a given that we're going to at least the one in Grimey. If anyone's interested, I'll post what pics I get on this thread.

Despite all the stories I'd heard at the family table, the full devastation of the strike in human cost didn't really hit me until I saw this plate on the NUM site. Of the collieries listed around the edges in South and West Yorkshire, only four haven't been officially shut (though they are mothballed or under administration). In roughly a 10 year period, mind. I read somewhere that the miners strikes were the closest thing that England's come to a civil war in 300 years. That sounds like hyperbole, but given the bitterness and passion that stories about the strike can evoke even now, I think it's probably not wrong as an assessment.

I'd be really curious to hear more of what you have to say about this all, mdoar... and anyone else who was there. I was on a different continent and of a slightly different generation to be able to speak from direct experience .
posted by Grrlscout at 2:38 PM on February 25, 2009

I wasn't directly involved but where I was living at time was used as a garrison town for some of the hundreds of police involved... the pubs flooded with coppers going on about 'sticking the boot in' the next day. Not a great time.

I don't want to sound too right on but Thatcher set out, and succeeded, in effectively destroying organised labour in this country and it's never been the same place since.

I'd recommend GB84 by David Peace, it's fiction, but meticulously researched and is completely devastating.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:58 PM on February 25, 2009

I was a teenager and not living in a mining area but got involved in the support effort. Grrlscout - not disagreeing with your assessment as such from the tales I've heard other than to say, in the way of popular history vs official, we've had a fair few other periods of domestic strife over the past three centuries that were also tense enough but largely forgotten now - they had tanks in Glasgow just after WWI during Red Clydside, for one example.
One then NUM branch secretary who still writes and speaks on the pit struggle (he's interviewed on the BBC's current retrospective three-parter) is Dave Douglass, who I've had the pleasure of meeting and hearing speak - this is the pamphlet he wrote on the policing of the strike.
posted by Abiezer at 10:24 PM on February 25, 2009

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