Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

The Vital Role Played by Mining Communities

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

The Vital Role Played by Mining Communities

Article excerpt

FOR Heather Wood it's a good day. She's talking 10 to the dozen and sounds full of beans, still a life force who 30 years ago helped lead the inspirational Save Easington Area Mine group.

Tomorrow, she says, could be different.

"Some days I just can't speak because I'm in such pain."

She has fibromyalgia, a debilitating condition which causes widespread pain, tenderness in the joints and disturbs sleep, leading to inevitable fatigue and psychological distress.

About 15 years ago, as a probation officer in Peterlee, she collapsed at work and has never been back since.

Since the strike ended in March, 1985, Heather suffered a series of illnesses culminating in her collapse at work. "After it ended I was so sad. I felt like I'd given my all and it had not been good enough. I cried at nights and kept crying.

"My husband John thinks my collapse and illness has something to do with the strike because of the shock."

So it's a bit of a worry when she says she remembers the miners' strike "as if it was yesterday". However, Heather adds quickly: "It was one of the best times of my life. It was happy, it was sad, it was good, it was bad."

With a great deal of foresight, Heather helped set up SEAM around a year before the strike began, with her husband, who wasn't a miner. "When the strike came I was chairman of the committee and I decided to do something to help the miners, who were coming out to fight for their jobs.

"I wondered if we should do it individually and said we should give PS5 a week. We quickly realised that wasn't enough so wrote to all the women in Easington District to decide what to do next."

A meeting of about 200 women took place in the local council chamber who decided to form separate support groups in their own individual areas.

"In the meantime, someone came in with a load of vegetables which were distributed among the striking miners' families."

From there, Heather said, things snowballed, thanks to the help of a growing number of volunteers and help from people in the community as well as local business donations.

"We started off with food parcels, then it was food parcels and meals," said Heather. …

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