Former miners ‘still have battles to fight’ hears Doncaster memorial service

Hundreds turned out to remember Doncaster miners killed in accidents – and were told former pitmen still have battles to fight.

By David Kessen
Friday, 19th July 2019, 2:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd July 2019, 12:28 pm

Last year the Yorkshire Main Heritage Trust memorial service did not go ahead because of illness to two of its senior organisers – but today the tradition returned, 34 years after the colliery in Edlington was closed.

The service, which usually happens each year, remembers the 144 miners who died at the colliery during its 65 years of operation.

It does not have a fixed day each year, as there is no single date on which there was a major disaster – the miners who lost their lives at the pit lost them in many separate incidents.

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The Yorkshire Main Heritage Trust 2019 miners memorial service

Trust chairman Frank Arrowsmith, himself one of the former miners, said: “For us, this has the same feeling of deference as Remembrance Sunday.”

In a speech, Yorkshire NUM chairman Mr Skidmore said miners still had battles to fight.

He said: “That there has been blood spilt in winning the coal is well known. The loss of 144 men and boys during the colliery’s lifetime is a damning statistic that cannot be denied. Neither can the fact that miners who worked there have succumbed to industrial disease since the closure. It is a sad fact that these sacrifices often get forgotten about, and it takes people like the Yorkshire main Heritage Trust to remind us all that the mining community here today exists thanks to the efforts of the miners who built that community up from the fargone days of 1907.

He said communities centres like the miners’ welfares had been bought with miners’ money, and that many clubs and societies locally still owed an allegiance to the pit men.

Fr Steven Edmonds says prayers at the Yorkshire Main Heritage Trust 2019 miners memorial service

He added: “The union still exists today due to the efforts of our predecessors and we have a duty to remember and build up on what they did. There are a great many battles still to fight, before the wars are over.

“We’re all well aware of the issue surrounding the theft, as we see it, from the miners’ pension scheme, and the role the Government played in the miners strike in 1985 and must make sure the justice that is long battled for is not forgotten. This garden remaining in the public eye means the memory does not fade away. Neither does the constant campaign to ensure that the if people become ill because of their workplace environment, the compensation is claimed whoever meagre that may be.”

Miners are currently fighting to change the share of the miners' pension scheme’s surplus that goes to Government funds. At present, the Government claims 50 per cent, but campaigners want it to be changed to 70-30 in favour of the miners. The Government brought the current arrangement in when the collieries were privatised, in exchange for a guarantee of the pension scheme payments.

But the Government has not had to pay any money into the scheme in since the arrangement was started in 1994, but has taken out around £4 billion from the surpluses.

Chris Skidmore of the NUM with Frank Arrowsmith of the Yorkshire Main Heritage Trust

Miners are also fighting for a public inquiry into the so-called Battle of Orgreave, which saw confrontations between miners and police.

Pupils from Edlington’s Victoria Primary School attended the service.