You very kindly invited us to take part in the May Day celebrations with our radical, not to say revolutionary miners banner from Wardley, the pit I worked at following my Da and Granda into that same mine, the banner was from their period, but I had sworn to resurrect it after it was defaced and went missing sometime in the 50’s.
Obviously coming over with a huge banner by road and ferry limited the numbers who could come over with me, so I invited men from the last pit in Britain, Hatfield Main, who I worked with most of my adult life underground. The lads were good solid union men, socialists, strong pickets and militants but had never really had a deal of understanding on what the Irish war was about, despite my constant beating of the republican drum, and furious arguments underground and in the NUM branch halls. The strike of 84’5 had changed some of that.
As it was it took a quick double take at those streets of Belfast and Derry, the scenes of riot and police charges, and listening to ordinary working class lads like themselves and meeting normal working class families, with aspirations and goals of freedom like ours had been to understand the truth of what it was all about. It didn’t take long before they fitted right in and could see in an instant where this Irish war of resistance fitted into their own war against the British state for our identity and culture and way of life.
But boy did we knock around some diverse topics over the kitchen table and bar rooms. I think its true to say they were knocked out by the warmth and hospitality and they have never stopped talking about it since, pledged to bring the banner over for Easter next year to Dublin and hopefully bring the Hatfield Main NUM banner over too. Many thanks for the invite, but try and sort the weather better next time , carrying the banner in the gale was like a shift on the coalface. Yours Sincerely Dave Douglass.
Thank you for inviting me to share with you the May Day rally, with the Durham miner’s banner, in Belfast in the north of Ireland. I have to say I was very apprehensive at first bearing in mind the history we have seen on our TV screens over the years. I thought long and hard about this and eventually concluded, why shouldn’t I go to join other working men, I may not get the best reception being from England, however my logic was the Irish men are just working men as I am and there is a peace process under way, and I couldn’t have you being braver than I, could I now? lol.
Well that was a few days back now, I have had time to sit quietly gather my thoughts and reflect upon my time in Belfast. I am more than happy to return to Belfast for any celebration or even a few days just for a pint and re-new the friendships I made. I could not have been treated better in a 5 star hotel; in fact I was spoiled a bit by our host’s. What a lovely man and a lovely family we stayed with, which was mirrored in all the other people we met. Although we miner’s often feel we have been dealt with harshly down the generations, here I discovered a large population that had never been dealt a fair hand either which instilled a fellow feeling deep inside of me, I quickly realized the problems were not with me being from England, but basically the same as us miners facing a mindset set against us by the ruling classes and a lack of a opportunity to lead a productive and fulfilling life (unemployment).
I enjoyed looking at the murals on the gable ends of buildings, all the colors and themes told a story, real people’s art work. I enjoyed going around Belfast city itself, it was in opposition to walking around the corporate shopping centers found stamped alike identical in every town just about in England. The pubs and people are special as they deal with their problems and have been gifted with a smile to help cope.
I look forward to the day Ireland is fully healed and the peace wall removed unneeded forever, which I realize will be a long hard road with no time limits on a recovery, no doubt there will be the odd setbacks every now and again which I am confident will have in place a method of easing the tensions so that all the good work is not wasted allowing men to live as men should, in the words of President Kennedy, FREE & INDEPENDANT.
Your good friend Leslie Moore