Paying our respects to those who lost their lives in the Oaks Disaster.


 12th – 13th December 1866 saw the largest loss of life in an English Colliery -“the Oaks” whereby 361 souls lost their lives. Following a marvellous fund raising effort the money was raised to erect the “Oaks Memorial” in Barnsley,in 2016, the occasion was marked by a full Memorial Service, to coincide with the timing of the explosion, organised by the Yorkshire Area NUM and the “People & Mining” group.

 This year due to Government restrictions that event cannot take place as we would have liked, however the occasion was marked by the laying of wreaths and respects were paid in an act of remembrance led by Father Stephen Race (St Marys Church Barnsley) supported by a limited number of people from the above named Organisations.

 Whilst the current situation constrains the attendance, it would be remiss to not recognise the occasion in some format. No disrespect is intended to anyone who usually attends. Hopefully the usual format will take place next year where everyone will be able to attend.





Frickley Miners Welfare Trust Fund, Assistance and Grants to local community groups.

At a time when it seems “bad news” is the “watch word of the day” it is nice to be able for a change, to be able to report something positive.

The Trustees of the Frickley / South Elmsall Miners Welfare Trust are to be congratulated for actually helping organisations in their community in these austere times, rather than just paying “lip service” to the aims and ideals set out on the Charity Commissioner’s Registered Website. With the help of former Frickley Colliery Miner Jeff Johnson MBE (awarded for his devotion to his community and charity work), who produced an action plan to enable the following Organisations all to benefit from the generosity of the Frickley Miners Welfare Trustees: Upton Rugby Club, Frickley Athletic Community Foundation & Football Club, Frickley Colliery Welfare Cricket Club, Carlton “Crotchets” (Junior Band) Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band & Upton United Juniors Community Sports Club & Friends of Frickley Park, all of the named groups make an invaluable contribution to the local community of South Elmsall, Upton, Moorthorpe & Frickley.

Following an emergency Trustees Meeting chaired by John “Chick” Pickin, it was decided that all the named organisations would be given a dispensation with regards to the rent paid by them to the Trust Fund, in that this would be waived this year in recognition of the impact Covid-19 virus is having on Sporting and Recreational activities. The Trustees also decided, unanimously to award a grant to each organisation to enable improvements to their facilities and to attempt to plan to secure a future going forward. This generous gesture will make a real difference within the community and the NUM believe that the Frickley Miners Welfare Trust are to be congratulated for their actions.

Meanwhile it was also discussed that the Allotment Society, whilst not desirous of any grant finding, would however benefit from the same “rent arrangement benefit”. Mr Pickin agreed that he would arrange this assistance after discussions with the Allotment holders.

The NUM (Yorkshire Area) would like to take this opportunity to thank Frank Clarke (Secretary & Trustee Member) of the South Kirkby & Hemsworth Miners Welfare Fund & Trustees of that Trust Fund who recently wound up the Fund after being in existence since 1964. Throughout that time they have diligently provided assistance to the sick, convalescents, disabled and infirm former employees of Hemsworth & South Kirkby Collieries. They have generously decided to divide the remaining funds up between local Hospices, Miners Holiday Homes at Scarborough & Scalby. These gestures from these near neighbours really does epitomise the True Mining Community spirit of providing help where it is truly needed.

INDEPENDENT REVIEW – Impact on communities of the policing of the miners’ strike 1984-85. FINAL REPORT.

RECOMMENDATION We received a number of complaints about State misconduct, including wrongful arrest, miscarriage of justice and unfair dismissal. In particular, the National Coal Board management in Scotland did not appear to be fair or consistent in its policy of dismissal, with many miners being dismissed for relatively minor offences, only some reinstated and some not re-instated despite industrial tribunals finding in their favour.
The complaints included those who said that they were arrested for no reason. In relation to complaints of miscarriage of justice, there were various examples, some men describing trials involving evidence given by police officers they had never seen before and yet who claimed to have been involved in their arrest and subsequent police procedures. As will be seen from the figures above in chapter 3, some men were also acquitted. Naturally, different men dealt with by different police officers and tried or sentenced before different Sheriffs received different outcomes but, in comparing their own cases, many have formed the view that some of the differences were a result of inconsistent application of the law as opposed to merely reflecting the factual differences in each case. This perceived inconsistency is part of the general picture of unfairness.
Even from a policing perspective, some of these perceived inconsistencies were the subject of comment, for example, in the Fife Constabulary Debrief Report:
“The other area where problems obviously arose was where different Sheriffs even sitting in the same court had totally different views on what they termed the seriousness of picketing offences and this was never more clearly reflected than in the totally different levels of sentence administered in virtually identical situations. While it might reasonable be argued that this problem does not pertain solely to picketing offences it can also be argued that it appeared to be more pronounced in trials in the picketing connection.”
Partly as a result of the “totally different levels of sentence administered in virtually identical situations” as well as the claims of miscarriage of justice, there has been discussion by some of the need for a pardon of those convicted during, or related to, the Strike, most recently at the start of 2019162. Among others who offered evidence and opinions, we heard this suggestion from former First Minister Henry McLeish who was Leader of Fife Council at the time of the Strike.
Some of what we heard suggests that the application of the criminal law by police, prosecutor and Sheriffs appears to have had an element of arbitrary application, for reasons outlined in more detail in chapter 3. While involving only a single member of the judiciary, the appeal case also casts a large shadow. While none of this establishes that any individual conviction is unsound, it represents a troubling part of the legacy of the Strike. Many men who had been in no trouble before and none since, burdened still by the loss of their jobs and good names, believe that the justice system and State as a whole punished them in a grossly excessive manner. It is hard to disagree, especially having regard to the dismissals which followed arrest or conviction. This conclusion applies even to cases in which a miner pled guilty in circumstances where he believed that such a course of action would be in his best interests.

However, what sets these cases apart in our view is the disproportionality of cumulative impacts caused by dismissal following on from dealings with some aspect of the justice systems, especially convictions. No one has suggested to us that dismissal was an appropriate, reasonable or measured response to what were commonly relatively minor acts of public disorder punished by modest financial penalties imposed by a court. We consider that it was disproportionate, excessive and unreasonable. For reasons outlined above in chapter 3, we thought it appropriate to consider these circumstances and, although policing and the justice system were only part of what led to the totality of disproportionate impacts, they appear to us to have been a significant part, even if, to some extent, their role in the totality of impacts was unwitting. This has drawn us back to thinking about pardons, especially as our remit precludes the making of any recommendations about reinstatement, compensation or the like, which, in any event, would have needed a wider inquiry than this review.
One problem with any suggestion of blanket pardons is the range of behaviour involved in cases from the Strike, including in terms of gravity. Unlike, for example, the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Act 2018 which allows for pardons for same sex sexual activity which is now legal, much of the behaviour underlying convictions from the Strike would still be criminal if it happened today. Without greater scrutiny of individual cases, it is not possible on the basis of what we know to suggest that the context of the Strike trumps all criminality, regardless of gravity.
On the other hand, we have considered the position of many men described above – no previous convictions; no subsequent convictions; never in any other trouble; convicted on summary complaint for breach of the peace or breach of bail; fined anything between perhaps £80 and £400.
Today, leaving aside context, it is unlikely that the underlying behaviour in these cases would be the subject of prosecution at all. At most, some sort of diversion from prosecution might follow, perhaps a Fiscal fine. Context is, of course, crucial but so is some consideration of the actual behaviour.
While it is impossible now to undo all of the disproportionate consequences of such a conviction, and the SCCRC route is not a practical or realistic option, it appears to us that some positive steps should be taken towards recognising the totality of impacts as a wrong, having regard to the evidence we have considered and the background circumstances recognised by the Scottish Government when this review was announced.
Accordingly, it is our recommendation that, subject to establishing suitable criteria, the Scottish Government should introduce legislation to pardon men convicted for matters related to the Strike.

It is now unsustainable for the UK Government to continue to refuse to hold a similar inquiry to cover England and Wales. The outcome of such a review would undoubtedly be the same as the Scottish Review.

If the Home Secretary Priti Patel has any decency she must now “U Turn” on past decisions not to hold an inquiry.

Government must support jobs in local lockdown areas to prevent mass unemployment says the TUC.

We know that the least well off in the UK and those suffering underlying health issues are being disproportionately affected by Covid-19. This includes many former Miners and mining communities. We need to get on top of the Coronavirus pandemic and where tougher restrictions are needed there must be additional help from the Government to mitigate the effects and protect jobs in affected areas.

Public Enquiry into the policing of the Miners Strike.

The Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign (OTJC) and the NUM welcome the outcome of the enquiry into the policing of the Miners Strike in Scotland.

It shows why the Westminster Government and current Home Secretary The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP and her predecessors have refused to hold an enquiry in England and Wales. We need to keep up the pressure, please follow the link to the OTJC site to see what you can do to help.

National Miners’ Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Chase Arts for Public Spaces (CHAPS) supported by the NUM in the original application and subsequent appeal have been successful in gaining permission to erect a National Miners’ Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas Staffordshire home to over 350 national memorials.

Its purpose is to remember all those men, women and children who have worked in the coal industry in the UK, to recognise their bravery and the sacrifices they made. Also to remember all those miners who fought in both World Wars, 45 of whom received the Victoria Cross for their actions.

In order to make this a reality CHAPS need to raise £100,000 to build and maintain the memorial. More information on the National Miners’ Memorial and information on how you could make a donation can be found on the CHAPS website


Pneumoconiosis during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

During the Coronavirus Pandemic the NUM, like many other organisations, has had to close its offices and suspend its surgeries because of the lockdown and social distancing rules. This does not mean that we are no longer available to help and assist members, former members and their families throughout this crisis.

Some staff and NUM Officials have been doing what they can from home to assist those getting in touch for help and advice and this will continue to be the case until things can return to normal. It is not an ideal situation and means that things take longer to do but it is the best that we can do in the current circumstances.

At the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic the NUM recognised that due to the nature of the virus our members and former members would be more at risk, because of their underlying health conditions caused from working in the nation’s mines, of a less favourable outcome should they contract Covid19. It is sad to say that from the reports we are getting back that this fear was not unfounded.

Coal miners (and their families) can access various schemes to receive compensation if as a result of their working down the out they suffer from pneumoconiosis. Some of these schemes can be accessed as a posthumous claim by the family upon the death of a former mineworker if there is official evidence that the person suffered from the disease. The main way to do this is if pneumoconiosis is recorded on the death certificate or if the person was in receipt of an award for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) for pneumoconiosis while alive.

The NUM has had a long running campaign to ensure that where there is evidence that the person suffered from pneumoconiosis it is recorded on the death certificate so that the surviving family can access the compensation. The use as a general term “Industrial Disease” on death certificates, without specifying which disease, is not enough to access the compensation available through the DWP, 1974 Scheme, 1979 Act or the £1,500 grant from the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO).

We have also had issues where an individual has been diagnosed as suffering from pneumoconiosis by the DWP and given a low assessment of disability which has been shown to be incorrect upon post-mortem examination. This would normally allow the family to claim an uplift of the benefits in payment before the person passed away. Because of the issues we have seen in the past the Union was concerned that during the Coronavirus Pandemic, Covid19 would be recorded on the death certificate with no reference to the pre-existing health conditions like pneumoconiosis or COPD and that “Industrial Disease” would be used as a general term so as not to have to identify which industrial disease it was.

The NUM’s concerns, of increased risk of death from Covid19 due to underlying conditions present in former mineworkers, the failure to record pneumoconiosis on death certificates and the refusal to perform a post-mortem in these cases has been taken up by a group of MP’s in coalmining / former coalmining constituencies who have co-signed a letter written by Stephanie Peacock MP for Barnsley East to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock MP. The NUM would like to thank them for their support.

A Joint letter signed by Chris Kitchen on behalf of the NUM and Conor McGinn MP for St Helens North and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Coalfield Communities has been sent to Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP Secretary of State for Justice. The NUM would like to thank Conor and the MP’s of the APPG Coalfield Communities for their support on this issue.

Much of the above would equally apply to Mesothelioma, Asbestosis and Pleural Thickening where the DWP have refused to allow claims for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit on the grounds that Mineworkers and former Mineworkers do not meet the prescription for these Industrial Diseases. This is being challenged on an individual case by case basis and has been raised with the DWP and the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) as it is wrong to say that there was no exposure to silicon (Sandstone) dust and asbestos in the pits. The NUM will continue to object to these decisions and gain support from MP’s in former Mining Constituencies to address these issues.

The NUM will continue to push for the accurate recording of all Industrial Diseases on death certificates in order that the families can claim the compensation that they are entitled to.