No flash message
Some of the content and features delivered by this site requires JavaScript to be enabled in your browser
 
Monday 11 December
My.Anglia > Faculties > Alss > Miners strike > A Special Friendship

A Special Friendship

Lore Burgess, Wynona Reeson, and Support for the Miners in Derbyshire

Lore and Alan Burgess with their son, Neil

Without the miners’ strike, Wynona Reeson from Chesterfield and Lore Burgess from Cambridge would never have met. But a caché of letters discovered by Gina, Lore’s daughter, revealed the story of a forgotten friendship that started when Lore responded to a letter from Wynona and her sister, Phyllis Bradley, in The Guardian. Lore sent them a  cheque for £5.00 and a request for more stories of hardship as ‘they will make people understand and give more to the fund’.

She then began fundraising, inviting friends in the Newnham area and the local peace group to lunch and collecting money and good quality clothes for families in Derbyshire while ladling out hot soup. £40 was raised at one event: ‘Thank you for the sweatshirt, wrote Wynona, ‘My son and my sister’s son wanted it. It was too small for them and went to a lad whose mother is in the action group:  She has four sons’.

Wynona’s letters to Lore with vivid accounts of her life are in large clearly formed handwriting: Lore’s to Wynona are typed (luckily she kept carbon copies). They met in person when Wynona  visited Cambridge in 1985.  In 1984 Wynona was married to Allan Reeson, a former miner (‘once a miner’s wife always a miners’ wife’).  She was active in Clowne and Barlborough Women’s Action Group, CND, and Chesterfield Labour Party.

Lore was a well-known  Cambridge artist and a trilingual Blue Badge tourist  guide (‘the only guide out of about 70 odd  who always wears a CND badge and there’s an NUM sticker on my handbag’). She was married to Cambridge physicist, Dr Alan Burgess, originally from Oldham, and himself a strong supporter of the strike. 

Wynona and Phyllis were getting up at 3.30 am every day to join the picket line and go to the Strike Centre to cook breakfast for 200 miners on three calor gas picnic stoves. A sympathetic local baker contributed free bread rolls but the butcher withstood all requests for bacon and sausages.  They had no electricity.

Gina, who was then working in Paris, was interviewed for a French radio programme on the miners’ strike assisted by Frances Connelly from Cambridge, who had gone to France to help. Wynona and Allan’s son attended a free holiday provided by supporters in Spain. Sadly, Lore’s health was rapidly deteriorating, although she found cycling easier than walking, but she and Alan nevertheless managed to go on a memorable cycling holiday to the Welsh mining areas.

Wynona and her friends attended the women’s gala in London in August. She was also a delegate at a national Women Against Pit Closures conference. She and Phyllis watched anxiously as the drift back to work started with the miners returning to their pits in buses with wire meshing across the windows. They started taking soup out in the evenings. The miners’ favourite was oxtail.

At Christmas Lore took charge of present-buying for 53 named children in Rainworth while Wynona’s Women’s Action Group shopped for and wrapped 200 presents for children in their own pits using money donated by supporters. At the Chesterfield children’s Christmas party a striking miner was Father Christmas.

The women started visiting the wives and partners of imprisoned miners from the Shirebrook colliery to raise their morale. When the strike ended Wynona was up at 4.00 am to march with the miners back to the Markham pit at 5.00 am, writing to Lore that this experience was ‘great to say, the least’, but that all the women felt dejected as it was not the settlement they wanted.

After the strike Lore and Wynona kept in touch by letter.  Wynona, by now a grandmother, went back to study, obtained two A-Level equivalents and became involved with the newly opened women’s refuge in Chesterfield. In 1987, a Christmas card for Lore, who was terminally ill in the Arthur Rank hospice in Cambridge, was signed by miners and friends in  Derbyshire and by Chesterfield MP Tony Benn.

In April 1988, a letter was sent to Alan from the Derbyshire Area NUM offices: ‘In recognition of all the help you both gave us during the strike we are sending you a commemorative plate together with our greetings.  The Reeson and Bradley families also ask us to pass on their condolences.’

One message sent to Lore and Alan Burgess on a Christmas Card read: 'I thank you for your kindness and understanding of our cause. The food and hospitality you gave us will stay in my memory for the rest of my life. One thing I am sorry about is that I never had the time to take up your offer to show us around the university… But most of all for a Professor to listen to a miner, that was the high-light of my strike’.

Strike cartoon by TC Bray 'The Derbyshire Miners' by J.E.Williams Markham Colliery commemorative badge

Images:

(i) Lore and Alan Burgess with their son, Neil.

(ii) Satirical Christmas card by TC Bray. Message inside reads: ‘I thank you for your kindness and understanding of our cause. The food and hospitality you gave us will stay in my memory for the rest of my life. One thing I am sorry about is that l never had the time to take up your offer to show us around the university … But most of all for a Professor to listen to a miner, that was the high-light of my strike.’

(iii) The Derbyshire Miners by J. E. Williams

(iv) Markham Colliery commemorative badge