Shropshire Star

Miners' strike 40 years on: A tale of two coalminers

In March, 1984, Alan and Patrick were both youngish miners at Littleton Colliery, near Cannock. Both were members of the NUM, but from thereon their lives would take very different paths.

Patrick McLoughlin seen at the end of his shift at Littleton Colliery in 1982

Alan needed little persuading to join the action, and was out for the duration, struggling to make ends meet over 12 bitter months. Patrick took the view that his own union branch had voted against the strike, and that there was no democratic mandate for a walk-out. Friendships were broken and he was shunned by his neighbours for crossing the picket lines.

Alan Pearson, centre, during the strike

Alan, now 70, is Alan Pearson, now a Labour councillor and chairman of Cannock Chase District Council. Patrick is now Lord McLoughlin, a former chairman of the Conservative Party, and a Cabinet minister in David Cameron's government.

Forty years on, their memories of the dispute are very different.

"What do you think it was like?" retorts Councillor Pearson when asked about his experiences during the dispute.

"How would you have found it, being on strike for a year, with no money coming in and having a mortgage to pay?"

Alan Pearson

The hardships endured by miners who took part in the strike are well documented, but it seems crossing the picket lines was never a consideration.

"Wouldn't you do what you could for someone who needed your help?" he says. "People faced losing their livelihoods, and we were out to support them.

"At the end of the strike, when we came back to work, the ones that had been working clapped us on our return. What does that tell you?"

Did he have any friends who crossed him on the picket line?

"I had colleagues who went to work, but there's a difference between friends and colleagues," he says, carefully.

Was it not possible to be friends with miners who worked during the dispute? His demeanour softens, slightly.

"I've got friends who went to work during the strike," he says. "We all had to do what we thought was right given our circumstances.

"It went on for a year, and some of them couldn't hold out, they had to go back to work. I stayed to the end, but there were those who felt they couldn't go on."

There seems little doubt, though, that if he had his time again, he would do exactly the same.