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Monday 11 December

Selby

Sandra Widdrington from Selby visits Cambridge to thank her Supporters for their gift of  baby clothes

There was hardly a TUC affiliated trade union during the strike which did not have members voluntarily organising collections for the miners at their individual places of work. NALGO (The National and Local Government Officers' Association which combined with two other unions to form unison in 1993) was the largest of the white collar unions at the time. 

Marie Thompson was then working as a handicraft instructor at the Cambridge Social Services office at Regis House in Hamilton Road which was subsequently converted into university accommodation. Marie grew up in a mining area of the West Riding, lived in the same street as miners, and came home from school each day on a bus filled with miners coming off their shift at the Roundwood colliery.

She was particularly inspired by the courage of the women in Yorkshire when the strike broke out. Because of her Yorkshire roots she had wanted to support a Yorkshire pit rather than one in Nottinghamshire, but the Old Roundwood Colliery which she knew best had been closed to make way for the M1 at Ossett, otherwise she would have sent money directly there. Instead Marie and her friend, Cheryl Hodgson, sadly now deceased, who was the workplace representative for NALGO, decided to set up a miners’ families support fund in their office and when they made enquiries were put in touch with the Selby Miners’ Support Group by Lucy Munby.

In August the Queen Edith’s ward of the Labour Party also started supporting Selby and from November collections of baby clothes were organised. The Cambridge Miners’ Support Group decided to split money between Selby and Gwent once the needs of Rainworth and Blidworth had been met and sent a total of £1,365 to Yorkshire.

Selby, known as the Selby ‘super pit’, represented the last major development in the Britain coal industry and investment in new capacity made this one of the most ambitious deep mining projects in the world. Started by the Labour government of 1974 after the 1973 oil crisis the showcase Selby complex had cost £100 million pounds, spanned twenty miles, and consisted of the five  deep pits at North Selby, Ricall, Stillingfield, Whitemoor and  Wistow all  surfacing at Gascoigne Wood to feed the electric power stations in the Aire valley. Miners on strike in 1984 had migrated from pits all over the country to work at Selby where investment in new technology augured well for the future and appeared to assure them a job for life. 

In Cambridge Marie and Cheryl collected from the staff in their office weekly as well as ‘one off’ payments from a small number of their workmates in the last four months of the strike. The collection sheets show them raising £10 per week and sometimes far more. They also sent knitting wool for baby garments on at least one occasion. All the money collected was sent to Sandra Widdrington who lived at North Duffield near Selby.

Marie Thompson with her official NALGO collection sheet

Coal production from the rich seam at Selby reached its height in 1993–4 at 12 million tonnes.  But the coal field ran into trouble after the privatisation of the coal industry in 1997 when what had been heralded as the country’s most advanced coalfield was faced with a combination of deteriorating geological conditions and falling coal prices. Closure was announced in 2002 and production finally came to an end in 2004.

Sandra presented Marie and Cheryl jointly with a glass goblet engraved with the NUM offices in Barnsley in thanks for their fundraising efforts. Marie joined the Labour Party in 1985 as a direct result of her involvement in the miners’ strike and in 1986 became a City Councillor for Arbury Ward where she still lives.  She took a qualification in Women’s Studies from Ruskin College, Oxford, with a major project (dissertation) on the roles played by women in local government. She has proudly retained her glass goblet for over thirty years as well as an exercise book and some sheets that were provided by NALGO to record her weekly collections.

Marie with 1984 kitchens appeal press cutting
Miners' Fmailies Support Fund account book The weekly collection sheet Flyer for meeting to be addressed by Ian McGregor (cancelled due to heavy opposition) align=
Kitchens appeal press cutting Presentation Goblet Inscribed by the Yorkshire area NUM

Images:

(i) Sandra Widdrington from Selby visits Cambridge to thank her Supporters for their gift of baby clothes

(ii) Marie Thompson with her official NALGO collection sheet

(iii) Marie with her presentation goblet

(iv) Marie with the 1984 Yorkshirekitchens appeal press cutting

(v) The weekly collection sheet

(vi) Flyer for meeting to be addressed by Ian McGregor (cancelled due to heavy opposition)

(vii) Kitchens appeal press cutting close up

(viii) Presentation Goblet Inscribed by the Yorkshire area NUM