June 1981: That night. The night we made love in desperation. So much emotion, so much need. But now I’m sure of one thing. It’s rapid cell division rather than stress that has been messing with my biology. Dallas is on the telly, Abba are number one, Starsky and Hutch are on her bedroom wall – and Janet is falling in love for the first time. In the warm ..Read More
Anne Scargill and Betty Cook met at the beginning of the miners’ strike. Betty was a proud miner’s daughter, wife and mother, who was determined to support her family and community. Anne happened to be married to Arthur Scargill, the president of the miners’ union. She too was steeped in the history of coalfield culture. Together they helped to create perhaps the greatest thing to come out of the strike, the Women Against Pit Closures movement. Inspired by the working-class values that raised them, they put their arms around those who needed support, fed the hungry, and stood firm against those whose intent was to destroy their way of life. Once the strike was over, through education and direct action, they stepped over the threshold to support working people in struggle both at home and abroad, changing not only the direction of their own lives, but many other women too.
Here for the first time in print, Anne and Betty tell their own story in their own voices. Told with humour and conviction, this is an indispensable slice of social history. It reveals the vitality of two remarkable women who possess the strength and resolve to stand up for what they believe in and how, no matter what, they never give in.
'The Struggle' is, of course, the miners’ strike of 1984 to 85, in which they were both deeply involved through Women Against Pit Closures. As a child Betty was urged to study and taken to C&A in Leeds twice a year for clothes, while Anne resolutely pedalled the secondhand tricycle that she loved to the Co-op and back in Barnsley. The young miner called Arthur, who she married, introduced her to the music of Big Bill Broonzy and debates on socialism v capitalism. Betty became a shop steward and was a member of the Labour party. The two women met through the mass movement of women in the mining communities in support of the strike. The miners were defeated – but their friendship and their political and social commitment carried on through the decades, Their warmth, thoughtfulness and humour resound on every page.
Sue Turner, Morning Star
An eloquent and engaging dual autobiography that gives background and depth as well as putting in context lifetimes of militancy and activism. The effect on the reader is one of being in a room with them, listening to their voices as they pass the microphone back and forth, speaking now passionately, now quietly and seriously, but always finding a good laugh somewhere.
Anne and Betty are a constant inspiration to me. They are two beacons of hope that show that we are all capable of affecting change, tackling life face on and having a bloody good laugh along the way. I salute you both, my heroes.
At once politically powerful, genuinely funny and personally moving.
John Chruch, Camden New Journal
Girls from the black stuff – the fascinating stories of two women, from lock-ins at pits offices (underground and surface) to commanding the pavement outside Tory headquarters and the Board of Trade. The indignity of arrest and strip searches are peppered with comedy and humour, testimony to their ability in making these harrowing experiences an enjoyable read. Not only do they project both strength and energy, but also a mischievous side.
A must read about two women with extraordinary courage and a commitment to their community that has never faltered.
In this extract from Anne & Betty, on a march in London during the 1984/85 miners' strike, a letter to the Queen from the women of the mining communities is handed in at Buckingham Palace.
One of the women at our soup kitchen idolised the Queen and couldn’t understand why she hadn’t stepped in to stop her policemen beating up ordinary working folk. I sat with her one day after half a dozen of our lads had come back from picketing badly knocked about with cuts and bruises all over their faces.
‘I wonder if the Queen knows what they are doing to our sons and husbands?’ she asked. ‘They might be keeping it from her. I think I’m going to write and tell her.’
She wrote a beautiful letter and came into Barnsley day after day asking people to sign it.
From the women of the mining communities
to HM Queen Elizabeth II.
We, the women of the British mining communities, appeal for your support in our struggle to defend an industry which is crucial to the future well-being of all.
Our husbands, our sons, our fathers – and indeed many of ourselves, have been on strike for nearly five months. Ours is a campaign to save the British coal industry, to preserve the jobs that should be passed on to our children and grandchildren, and to hold together the very lives of our communities.
We are proud of the determination and courage of our men. We support them wholeheartedly. We have, over recent years, seen the horrors of mass unemployment cripple other industries; we have witnessed the slow death of communities dependent on them, and the tragedies that fall upon families and individuals.
We also share with them the intimidation and intense hardship levied against us by those who oppose our fight for pits and jobs. As loyal and law-abiding citizens of this country, we never thought the violence, the denial of civil liberties, the day-and-night harassment employed by police forces from around the nation against us would enter our lives.
But we are determined people with a strong sense of justice.
On the picket lines, in the streets of our villages, and indeed in our own homes, the police have been used to terrify us and try to silence our opposition to pit closures.
Our children go without proper nourishment; indeed, they often go hungry. We care for them and comfort them, but their distress is a constant reminder that this dispute must be settled quickly.
We ask you, Your Majesty, to speak up on our behalf and help us to defend our families, our communities and a source of energy which can only grow in importance as oil and gas reserves diminish over the years to come.
We the undersigned support the above statement.
That letter and petition got over 100,000 signatures in less than a month. On the day of a big rally in London, me and Betty Heathfield marched up to the gates of Buckingham Palace to deliver it to the queen. They put us in a room that wanted a good clean and took it off us. I don’t know whether the queen got to see it. If she did she never bothered to write back. It was a sad day for me in a lot of ways. When I got back home our Margaret told me that Ginger our lovely Airedale had died that afternoon.
When Anne and Betty Heathfield handed the petition in at Buckingham Palace, we wanted to march past there, but the police wouldn’t let us, saying that there were too many of us for that area. On that rally we remembered Joe Green and Davy Jones, the two lads who had lost their lives on the picket lines early in the strike. A lot of the women wore black armbands and Ann Musgrave made loads of black petals.
Some of the women had never been to London before. Everybody was singing and chanting. We got a few funny looks but most of the people on the route were cheering and clapping us. As we came past Downing Street we went silent. The women took their black armbands off and chucked them down in the road along with Ann Musgrave’s black petals.
We had a forwarding address for Women Against Pit Closures at a little mews house in the middle of London. Jean McCrindle took us there to pick up some cheques. I have never seen as much mail, all in sacks from the GPO. We sat there for ages opening envelopes. Every one had a cheque in and some of the letters were heart rending. There were letters from old-age pensioners on tight budgets who apologised for only being able to send just a few coppers; letters from single-parent families who said things like, ‘We can manage on beans on toast for a few days, use this to buy a chicken.’ There were letters from people in Cambridgeshire, folk who had done well in life but remembered coming from mining families and, of course, ones from political people on the left. But most of all the letters were from ordinary working-class people who knew that we had a just cause, because though they might have been in a different industry, they were in the same boat as us.
Fryston Colliery’s Pursuit of the West Riding County FA Challenge Cup On 22 May 1963, a group of men representing Fryston Colliery Welfare ran out against the much-vaunted Bradford team, Thackley AFC, to contest the final of the West Riding County FA Challenge Cup, the ‘ultimate prize’ for local amateur teams. Captaining the Fryston side that day was Pete..Read More