We’d come on a picket before break of day,
Opposing pit closures, protesting for pay,
Our union is solid, our rights long since won,
But the new laws deny us our place in the sun.
I’d take your number if it could be read,
Instead of the blows that you’ve rained on my head;
So many companions like me in the mud,
While the charge passes over, lie spilling their blood.
Though you don’t learn politeness miles down in the mine,
We’re containing our anger on our picket line.
When the lorries approach they’re turned back to a cheer,
It’s then the green buses in convoy appear.
And then there’s an army dressed up as police,
With helmets and batons, disturbing our peace,
They’d come to confront us, as we quickly found,
Turned the works entrance to a battle ground.
They charged us with truncheons, their faces well hid;
We threw down our banners and most of us fled,
Some stayed defiant and they’re swiftly downed,
Then arrested for riot, for standing their ground.
Oh yes, it’s a riot and we get the blame,
Our strike is defeated, to the press we’re fair game,
Though no-one’s convicted the damage is done,
For some compensation, but justice for none.
Such vindication, too little, too late!
It’s only a footnote, won’t alter our fate,
And it isn’t just pitmen they broke on their wheel,
Everyone in a union is now brought to heel.
This is a contemporary song about Yorkshire.
The National Union of Mineworkers, led by Arthur Scargill, organized a mass picket of the British Steel coking plant at Orgreave, South Yorkshire, June 18th 1984, with the intention of blockading the plant and forcing its temporary closure. The events took place during the 1984/5 Miners’ Strike when it became clear that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was planning to close the vast majority of UK pits. The NUM was represented by some five-to-six-thousand pickets from across the UK. The police had some four-to-eight-thousand officers from ten counties. The result was to become known as The Battle of Orgreave.
The miners had not brought any weapons with them and, as usual in civil unrest, felt intimidated by such police presence with their shields, truncheons and mounted police.
This song was written by Henry Clements and recorded by him in 1994. The song graphically expresses the miners’ feelings and relates their version of the events of the day. Unfortunately we haven’t managed to uncover any songs that tell of the police version of events. Henry was a staunch Trade Unionist and, although he was not a miner, he was deeply affected by these events as were many around the world.