Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Memories Mayor Will Never Forget

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Memories Mayor Will Never Forget

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor

LAST night the Mayor of South Tyneside carried out an official engagement which transported him back 30 years.

It was not a pleasant trip. Coun Ernest Gibson attended the preview of an exhibition at South Shields Museum to mark the 30th anniversary of the miners' strike.

As a 19-year-old miner at Westoe Colliery in South Shields, Ernest Gibson watched and experienced the bitter dispute at first hand.

South Shields born and bred, Ernest went straight from school at 16 into mining.

Nine months later, after training, he was working underground at Westoe.

His grandfather and father had worked down the pit and Ernest grew up in a mining community in the Whiteleas area of South Shields.

He has boyhood memories of walking home from church on a Sunday with his grandfather and the friendly greetings and banter they received from mining neighbours on the way home.

"Everyone was friendly. It was the sort of community where, if you were out and it started to rain, somebody would bring your washing in and iron it for you," says Ernest.

"There were collections for injured miners. People in that community helped each other."

Then came the strike. Ernest was lucky in that, as a teenager, he was still living at home, although he had to give up his Cortina car, which was his pride and joy.

"Every miner can tell a different story about the strike," he says.

"It was a devastating time for miners with families. At Christmas they had nothing to give the children. Marriages were on the line because of money problems.

"The hardship was terrible. Kids went without."

He believes the miners had no other option but to come out in an effort to save their jobs and communities.

"We were fighting for our communities, for the 2,500 underground jobs at Westoe, and the millions of tonnes of coal which would have lasted well into the future and provided the country with its own energy. …

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