Oral History: Political organisations – Mary Stratford

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Interview transcript: Mary Stratford

Date and place of birth: 1955, Peterlee, Co Durham

Interviewer: Elizabeth Burn

Date of interview: 14 April 2012

Location of interview recording: Durham County Archives


E: So, where were you born Mary?

M: I was born in Peterlee, Co. Durham.

E: When?

M: 1955…well I say I was born in Peterlee, it really didn’t exist, there was only one Estate at the time, it was a new town.

E: So was it a working-class area?

M: Very much so, it was….supposed to happen was all the surrounding mining villages were really supposed to die off and Peterlee would become the town. But it never worked out like that! People wouldn’t move from their communities, so we moved back to Easington a few years later.

E: So was your dad a miner?

M: Yes, my dad was a miner at Easington Colliery…

E: So did you go to school there?

M: No, I went to school in the neighbouring village of Hordon, because Peterlee didn’t have any Catholic schools and we were Catholic…..

E: When did you leave school?

M: I left school when I was 16. I went to Hartlepool for senior school. 1972 I think?

E: That’s quite a way to travel isn’t it?

M: yes. (on the bus) and they loved ‘miners’ or ‘pit-yackers’ as they called us (laughs)!

… They didn’t like miners in Hartlepool! No…There was quite a degree of animosity between Hartlepool and the colliery villages surrounding it!

E: So did you stand up for yourself?

M: Oh yes (we both laugh)

E: So what did you do when you left school?

M: ….I was a library assistant for a few years. Then I went into the Civil Service, the Department for National Savings and wasted 8 years of me life in there. I look back on that with horror! And then I left and I had me son in 1982 and….I was out of work…I wasn’t out of work, I was at home. I did all sorts of different things, but I worked as well, but I didn’t go back to sort of…permanent work, or even a proper (job) I did odd bits of things but never anything permanent. When me daughter was 5, so I was at home for about 8 and a half years…I’ve got 2 children, a son and a daughter and 2 grand-children now.

E: Congratulations! So when did you get active politically?                           2.32 mins.

M: Well…I joined the Labour Party, quite young, when I was about 16. My parents weren’t politically active, but staunch Labour, there was never any question! Labour. And me dad …wasn’t involved in the Union, but he was an active member. He attended all of his Union meetings, he took it very seriously and both my parents were interested in current affairs and things. So…and there were 5 kids, in a big family there was always like arguments, and discussions and things. Me dad shouting at the telly about this, that and the other! And I joined at about 16, it was the Women’s Section of the Labour Party…and I think me mam came along with me.

E: This was in Easington?

M: Yeah, well…the Labour Party then was…run by the NUM on the one hand; then, there was the Women’s Section who…and…it one or two families who (dominated that) and it was all linked into the Council, and they started the meeting with Jerusalem (the hymn) I always remember that!

E: Like the Woman’s Institute?

M: (yes) and I was thinking… ‘Why am I…I don’t want to sing hymns.’ And I went and…there wasn’t a young Socialists then. So I drifted back off out of it really and gor involved when I started work with the Civil Service. I became involved with the Union. Which was the ‘Civic and Public Services Association’ at the time. It was commonly known as the ‘Beirut’ of the Trade Union movement!

E: And were there many women involved?

M: Yes, there was quite a lot of women. There was an awful of men! There were far more men involved in the Union, then there were actually working. There were far more women employed, but men dominated the Union….There was a lot of vicious in fighting between the Right and the Left at that time! Very typical- but it was very vicious! I do remember.

But I liked my Union activism cause I liked…it taught me things like ‘public speaking’. They had very good training. They used to send you on a weekend course and they would teach you how to deliver a speech and stuff like that…it stood me in good stead over the years!


E: So, did you have to leave the Civil Service when you got married?

M: Oh no..there wasn’t anything like that by that time. But I chose to leave when I had me son.

(Mary discusses again how she hated the job, and despite going back for a week, she enjoyed being at home with her son and it now that Mary had the time to become more involved politically).                                                                                               5.53 mins.

M: I joined the Labour Party again when Thatcher was ….elected…. I was at home so I was able to go to meetings. I went on the Parrish Council…and I became a School Governor as well, at that time, so I was active…when there was an election, I used to do all the… forms and fill things in by hand and sit at the Polling Station. And I used to love doing things like that actually. I used to leaflet and canvas and… wheel the bairn round in the pram and deliver leaflets, so I was active within the Village. By that time I had moved to Lumley …we moved to Great Lumley and…it was a different sort of Labour Party, it wasn’t quite as insular…

E: And what happened during the Miner’s Strike?                                             6.55 mins

M: Well, obviously that was…huge… politicising really! Paul (her husband) went on strike…he was a mechanic at the Pit… It was obvious really…we’d known that the strike was coming. There was never any doubt that it was going to happen at some point and we’d become very politicised… We’d gone to Easington Welfare to listen to Macgarky and then Scargill (miner’s leaders).

And it was interesting because I think I was one of… 3or 4 women in the entire Miner’s Welfare listening to those speeches! And there were hundreds of people there and I could tell you who the women were: Heather Wood was there, who was a political activist. I think her mam was there and one other, and me and my mam were there… Me mam went to one of them she didn’t go to the other one. So I knew it was going to happen, so it was ‘what do I do when it does start?’ And the first few weeks were really Paul picketing! I wasn’t particularly involved. Peter was about 18 months/2? When the strike started, so he was still young, he was a still a little’un. But I wasn’t working in a formal way….and after about four weeks when it became apparent that things were going to start to happen and people needed to organise, I sort of got involved.

There was a meeting through at Easington I know, about setting up…there was already an organisation in Easington called: ‘Save Easington Area Mines’! …But the difficulty was I was 10 or 11miles away and knew I wouldn’t to be able to afford to get there…lots of different people were sort of sitting in their communities thinking ‘what’s going to happen here?’ ….Paul was involved with the Union at this time, he was on the Executive of the Union. And me brother was the Union Secretary of the Mechanics and me other brother’s the Treasurer of the Miner’s Lodge- so I’ve got an active Union family and ironically enough we were sitting round and me brother over the road said to me ‘We need to have a miner’s support group in Lumley. So shall we set up a meeting?’ So, he got the names of all of the miners that lived in Great Lumley and Little Lumley and Burn Moor I think it was, and we went round and put leaflets out though the village. And then our Michael chaired the Meeting and…

E: Did you get a good turn-out?

M: A very good turn-out, but a lot of suspicion – ‘Who were we and why did we think we had the right to do this?’ (laughs) and we just said ‘well’ and our Michael took the lead ironically, but he didn’t want to become involved in the longer turn….and it was handed to me by association (laughs again) you know- whose wife you were, or whose partner you were, or whose sister you were! I took the Secretary’s job on, me sister-in-law took the treasurer’s job on….it was a miner who Chaired!

E: It was a mixture of women and men?

M: Oh yes! We were very adamant- because we were so few, there were 80 odd/ 90 odd families- we couldn’t afford to say it was only going to be the women! I think that’s one of the MYTHS of the Strike- that it was ALL women in the Support groups- it wasn’t! There were a lot of men involved! But women DID take a lead, but there were lots of men, who for one reason or another weren’t involved in picketing or they were retired miners, or there were other men who wanted to help out. And I can could name you loads of them…they were very active- helped out a lot. And the women wouldn’t have been able to do it without them… it was both, it was joint and that’s how it SHOULD BE you know.

But it was always a fight to make sure that women were at the forefront! That was the danger, cause after a few weeks we were operating locally and that’s how I meet Kath (Connolly) actually. I had a phone call, cause the Labour Party were doing a collection. Every member put 50 pence in and I was going round and I was part of the Labour Party then. I was going to CLP meetings and things…and I got to know other people, politically Labour Party people- through the Strike. That’s when I met Cath… Dave and a number of other active people who I still know today. I’ve retained contact with all those years- it was a big influence on me politically!                                                                                                                 12.06

The more you got involved… Chester-le-Street came together, so there were meetings there and then the big Durham group. So that was an interesting one, because Durham Miners Support Groups were set-up. It was Billy Herrington, who was the Secretary of the Durham Mechanics Union, (who) recognised there was a need for all the little Support Groups to come together and he sort of ‘pushed it’. And he ‘gave’ his female secretary – basically ‘donated’ her to us (we both laugh). But she was very much a political activist as well, Ann Suddick. And she organised it and…all the Support Groups came centrally together in the Miners Hall in Durham… and, I have to say that’s where my passed in a trade union, was helpful to me, cause I could pick up immediately the nuances of who was vying for power and what the agenda was! And it was very very interesting because the Durham Miners Union agenda was to have the wife of the General Secretary lead the support groups. The Sunderland Miners Union were adamant that they wanted the meetings brought through to them in Sunderland, cause they were the ‘broad left’- they wanted to retain control of it. And…I picked up and thought; ‘Ah no! I’m not having this…I’m not having Kitty Callen coming and telling us what to do’! There were all sort of shenanigans going on!…By then I think we’d meet together 4 or 5 times and it was ‘what should we have? Should we have a secretary, should we have this? Should we replicate the Union?’ And I was thinking if we replicate the Union we’ll be just as…you know, we’ll be cow-towing to them…so I went and spoke to people that I thought might feel the same as me, sussed a few out and said ‘we don’t want this to happen. We’ve got to stop this from happening’. So we talked to ourselves and then there was a big meeting called where…they wanted to set up a delegate system and the last thing I wanted was a delegate system cause that’s what I didn’t like about the Labour Party, I didn’t want! We wanted people to be participating and it to be OURS- so you know I did a lot of phoning around and got little groups- who were looking and thinking ‘are they going to take us over?’ And with a few like-minded people we managed to fight that off and just had this sort of ‘loose’ (group) with Ann as the sort-of figure head, but a loose set of people. And ANYBODY could get involved, and ANYBODY could help out and ANYBODY could be involved actively in it. And…I probably feel that was one of the SIGNIFICANT achievements…to stop the Union in ergo MEN from dominating the whole thing!

And it caused us problems in some ways, but it also meant it was a very ‘loose’ and very motivating…I used to love going to those meetings, we used to meet…I think it was once a week at first and later it became less. But people used to do ANYTHING to go to those meetings, because anybody could turn up and everybody had a voice. You had your VOICE, you could vote! You know, we went with the majority and I think that was the best thing that ever happened because it stopped the Trade Union Leaders or those who were, you know, going to be their figure head, over-taking us. And they DIDN’T LIKE IT, I have to be honest there were some fraught relationships with the NUM through that, but what it meant was that those meetings were very politicised and people came in and stood up and spoke and it was brilliant you know!

It was really good and I think obviously by then I was becoming much more getting into organising we were raising funds, but you had to go out and speak and things and I got opportunities. I visited London, to meet with people opposing the London Docklands Development Corporation. I stayed in a place called West Silver Town for a week and I have to say (laughs) I find it ironic that…the perception of people in London…we were struggling…but their perception of ‘miners’ was … you know ‘they lived in little 2 by 2 colliery houses and had fires and you know, trips to the Pit in their pit boots and things’. It was like 60 years out-of-date, you know. And going down there- I went to this place called West Silver Town and thought ‘well…I’d never want to live…it’s so deprived I’d NEVER seen deprivation like it! See there was deprivation in the mining communities at that time, but they were COMMUNITIES and they support one another. They still had that sense of what a community is and you’re all in it together- joint sort of support network and families.

E: Was the Co-op involved in any of this?                                                     17. 30 mins.

M: Yes, the Co-op was very active in supporting us. Fantastically! (Mary discusses how the Co-operative Society provided discounted vouchers for food as the food parcels they were originally given were difficult to administer. The Co-op also allowed collections and did a great deal to support the miners and their families during this time. Mary then describes how her particular Support Group was distinctive).                                      6. 19 mins.

M: We had a slightly different approach in Lumley, because we felt…we had to help ourselves and that what we wanted was everybody to find some way to make a contribution. So people had to go out and find links you know- somebody knew somebody who worked somewhere and they would collect for us…we organised collections on the street and some of the women would help out with that.

E: So everyone had a role?

M: Everyone played some (role)…they didn’t have to be actively involved but they had to do something! They didn’t just have to ‘take’! …They had to come to the meeting to get the parcel or the money, they had to say to the meeting and they had to do something, contribute something. And I think that leads to a blossoming of people’s perceptions- there were women there who hadn’t done much at all, and (they) would go out onto the street, some of them didn’t want to do that but they would go and do something else, you know. And some of them would go and speak (at) places you know. So it developed them politically as well…

Some of them didn’t support the strike, but would come along and we never said they had to, we just said ‘we’re there because we want to support each other and make sure that families and the single miners in particular, at least have something to get by on.’ …by then it had developed County wide, so we were able to link in with the Welfare Support Organisations, the Local Authority… there were lots of Voluntary, sort of CABs and things with different names! We used to link into them, and I would go along sometimes and act as an advocate or some of the women would do that…

E: So how long did it go on for?

M: The Strike? A year…12 months, yeah.

E: Did it seem longer?

M: …Sometimes it felt like forever and sometimes it felt like 5 minutes…like it just went ‘like that’! I always say that …the first 9 months were probably the best time of my life; the last 3 months were probably amongst the worst of my life- watching it unravel! And watching people that I’d become very close to, as the trickle went back to work, I knew I was never going to have a relationship with them again. And that was fairly devastating!

We were a solid group towards the end, there were only about 15 families left at the end because, the travelling miners, in particular, were much more vulnerable to going back. But we were very close knit by the end…it was almost feeling like baton down the hatches! And how much longer can people go on-cause they couldn’t have gone on any longer and that was the only time I’ve disagreed with me brother and me husband through the Strike- cause my argument was: when the conference was on at the end –the vote- that the vote had to be to go back. Because the only other option was to decimate the whole thing…because my family would have split …cause nobody could go on any longer! Families did split- ours didn’t, we all stayed out. But I have to say if it had gone on any longer-we couldn’t have gone on much longer and Paul wouldn’t have gone back but you know…we would have slowly seen…well, a split, you know, without a shadow of a doubt…

21.57 mins.

I realised by the end of it, I was SO actively involved, by the end of it : ‘what do I do now?’ I was actually pregnant at the end of it…with me daughter, the ‘strike baby’!

E: So what did your husband do after the Strike?

M: He went back to work.

E: In the mines?

M: Oh yes, there was no other option but to go back! But he had a tough time, along with a lot of the other union ‘activists’- cause of course, the management were pinning them down and threatening them and things- but he went back to work and I was like ‘God having gone from virtually…because by the end I was doing more than he was, because he picketed all over the country in the initial stages, but by then end there wasn’t even the money to go and pay them to picket…there wasn’t even the petrol money for them to go and picket. He was picketing along at an Opencast, just along the road, but he would picket on a morning and I was out all day doing all sorts of things, you know! But it was getting more and more difficult cause, we had…no phones, you were reliant on phone boxes and things. I had a phone in the house, but it was cut off after so many months…we had no car by the end cause that had done and everything had gone! We sold everything we had! But it was just getting more and more difficult you know as time went on.

E: So you found yourself at home with the children…and how long did you stay at home for with the second child?

M: I started formal work when she was five, as soon as she started school.

E: And what did you do?

M: …I stacked shelves (laughs) in a supermarket, late night shift. I did that before she went back to school, actually, three nights a week.

E: To get some money?

M: I’d do anything to get money. I was never averse- I did anything. I cleaned for people, I delivered Yellow Pages, just the odd little thing – because we were destitute after the strike.

But I started as a temporary ‘Housing Officer’ with the local Council…by that time because of the Strike, I had so much knowledge about benefits, welfare rights and all of that and I was doing some volunteering. at Sacriston Miners Community Centre- that was around when the Poll Tax started- I used to do that. So I got on because I had a knowledge of Housing Benefit and how it worked. And I went there (I knew I wasn’t going to stay there) but it was a job and it paid money and I stayed there about a year.

Then I saw a job advertised with the Probation Service…it was what was called a ‘probation service assistant’….I always remember it was in the Northern Echo and it was this tiny little job advert, that said: ‘do you like working with people? Are you actively involved in the community?…if so would you like to work with the probation service?’ It was a part-time post and I thought, ‘oh! That sounds alright!’… I had a vague notion of the probation service, cause I knew somebody, through the Labour party, who was involved and I had an understanding of it and I thought ‘I quite like that’ so I rang the person that I knew and said ‘tell me about what this job is?’ And he said ‘I can’t I’m the manager’! And I said ‘ah! Bloody hell!’ …so I did some reading around it and I went for interview and I didn’t get it actually! They said it was between me and a… former teacher. And they said because she had educational qualifications! But they said ‘would I stay in touch with them and would I become a volunteer with the probation service.’ And I said ‘yes, I would be interested in doing that.’ But she only lasted 6 weeks in the job, she left very quickly, she didn’t like it! And they rang me up and said ‘would I re-apply?’ So I re-applied -I was in competition and interviewed and I got it that time!

E: Excellent, and did they support you studying?                                           26. 21 mins.

Mary then discusses how she eventually decided to study, full-time at Northumbria University (1993/5) to become a qualified Probation Officer. She gave up her paid job and received a grant of £6,000 (half of her previous salary). She still had young children at home, but as the Pit had now closed, her husband’s redundancy money allowed them enough to live on. All through her studies Mary worked part-time, for a learning disability team. When qualified, Mary found that Michael Howard (Conservative Home Secretary) was closing down the Probation Service; so as her husband had found employment again, she decided to continue her studies and gain a full degree. However 3 months later, Mary was offered a temporary Probation Officer job in Durham and accepted. Throughout this time Mary had also continued to be politically active:                                                             30.14 mins.

M: …all through those years (1985-1995) I’d become much more active in the Labour Party. I was very active in the Poll Tax campaign-speaking at public meetings about that, and more and more involved with the Labour Party, because at the end of the Strike, when I was trying to ‘make sense’ really of what was going on within Society and how that Strike had panned out and what it was all about…I became very involved with… a political group within the Labour Party: The Independent Labour Publications! And I became much more active with them and that was ….another political education. It was the days when you used to go out and sit round and have political meetings in your home you know… and from…1984 really till around 1990, because Paul (her husband) was actively involved in the Anti-Apartheid (movement) and other political campaigns…

E: So it was part of your life?

M: Yes very much, we were very active, going on marches…Paul did the Free Nelson Mandela March, we were involved in lots of campaigns and 1990 was: the (Berlin) Wall came down, then shortly after Nelson Mandela being released- it was a huge political time!

E: Did you ever consider going into politics yourself?

M: No.

E: Why not?   ( pause in reply) With all that experience ?

M: I can’t say I ever did. It wasn’t for me…it just wasn’t for me. Maybe it is something about upbringing and …you know feeling…I just wouldn’t have been comfortable in that environment at all! …I was active within the Labour Party, I liked being active- I was very pressurised into become a Councillor when I was at home… but I resisted that! I didn’t want to be, that wasn’t my forte! Although I liked my volunteering and welfare rights work- the Council for me-you get ‘sucked into it’ and then…it was a barren desert politically- you know my politics while I was in the Labour Party were: trying to change the Labour Party. I wanted the Labour Party to be an organisation where its members actually had a voice and participated!                                                                                                       32.47 mins

I was actively supporting ‘one-member-one vote’ but I didn’t want the sort of ‘one-member-one vote’ that Tony Blair wanted! I wanted the sort of ‘one-member-one vote’ where you participated and it WAS democratic!

E: Like you did in the Miner’s Strike?

M: Yes. I wanted to see that ‘living’ democracy as I saw it! Because I think without that, you’ve got to have leaders I have no issue with that: you’ve got to have a vanguard, whatever you call it- but if you don’t have at the grass-roots ‘active political engagement’ you get the creeping conservatism of society coming in.

E: And do you think that more women are getting involved now…?

M:…that’s a really difficult question, because the ‘politics’ that I was part of and the ‘politics’ I’ve lived my life, I don’t think is any more. The Labour Party as such is moribund at a local level…there are very few…

….When I came into the Labour Party in Great Lumley, I moved here in 1982 I think, and I joined in 82, I couldn’t get a seat at the Constituency Labour Party Meeting- cause you used to have to be elected, because so many people wanted to do it! And they were very ‘who is this woman coming in?’ Now! Well you don’t even need to have an election to get in, you can go…because… there are so few activists – Well why would you be active, when Tony Blair told people ‘you can have one-member-one vote- but it doesn’t matter if you don’t go to a meeting’? … And they removed the idea that constituents would have any influence on…

E: So, do you think it’s changed since Tony Blair left?

M: No, no.

E: And you are still politically campaigning?                                                    34 Mins.

M: Well I am technically not part of the Labour party now. I’ve let it lapse. I just got to the point when I realised, it was something I used to be involved in. My work has taken over a lot…I’m a Senior Probation Officer now, so I have to manage a team of Probation Officers. And…me grand-son lives with us and I had a lot of family stuff and …I DO get involved in things! If there was a campaign I was out! The last election I got involved with (the): HOPE NOT HATE campaign.

E: What was that about?

M: That was about…the BNP had established some strong-holds in some of the x-mining communities in County Durham, they were quite active. And the HOPE NOT HATE was a national campaign to combat the BNP…and put a positive front on multi-cultural things. I mean the Daily Mirror did a good newspaper for the HOPE NOT HATE campaign- it was actually excellent, you know- calling on people to reject the politics of the BNP…it was a very successful campaign and they didn’t get any candidates elected…but they’ve got a foot-hold in various communities and I wanted to show them that there were equally people prepared to stand up and say ‘you’re not getting in here. You don’t represent what were former mining communities’!

I know what they were keying into and I understood, but…to me they were keying into the vacuum left by the Labour Party. And if I can tell you how much of a ‘vacuum’ there is: we offered (the Hope not Hate people) offered to come and leaflet in Chester-le-Street and Chester-le-Street Labour Party declined on the basis that ‘they didn’t have an issue’ in their area. Now I did some leafleting here in Great Lumley and various other parts of the constituency, but …and I think that for me was the final straw! That they couldn’t even see beyond narrow party politics and that’s where its changed, cause young people now, I think if they are politically active- what’s the Labour Party got to offer THEM? So, they get involved in more… broader political stuff. It’s still political and I understand that and you know the Wall Street Movement and all of that, I think it’s absolutely fascinating but it’s not community based, so…I don’t know if there are more people politically active…

‘Are there more women active?’ I think women are freer to become more active, but I think …politics is becoming more personalised and people don’t connect together…

Mary then reflects on how ‘communities’ are no longer like they were when she was a child, and recalls her own mining up-bringing:                                              37.45 mins.              

M: You were a community because everybody worked in the same place…I loved my up-bringing but I don’t view it through rose-coloured specs. You know mining communities had a lot of positive things, the sense of family, the sense of supporting one another, taking care of one another. But, by God, if you be something ‘different’ in a mining community and you paid the price! And …as a woman I was acutely conscious of…if you were a ‘bolshy’ woman, you know- you’re slapped down very very quickly!

E: But you overcame that?

M: Well, you know, I didn’t have a husband like…his dad was like in the Dark Ages, but me dad wasn’t! My dad…encouraged discussion and I never felt as a woman in the house that I was at any disadvantage but I would see elsewhere how women were …for example… the woman two doors up from me in-laws, she never had children and she used to go to the Club every Sunday lunch time. And I always remember…Alice, me mother-in-law would say, ‘Eh! There she is again off to the Club, I mean’ (said in a censorious voice)…it was that community disapproval!

There were very active political women. There were…the Welshes, Myrtle Welsh…big Labour Party family, Heather Wood, all active politically…but you did pay a price- and even moving just a few miles up the road…freed me up to be more confident in being active politically and getting involved in things. I didn’t feel that I had to worry about ‘was I showing me dad up?’ Or anybody else up. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but it’s…a strange sort of ‘community’ when I look back…

It was very matriarchal in the sense that my mother and my grandmother, they all took care of the money in our family. There was never any idea of ‘housekeeping’. My mam collected the wages, I remember that- took all the responsibility, you know and ‘nurse-fed’ the men. But the ‘power’ lay in the hands of men, outside of the home. The ‘home’ was the women’s domain…but outside of that- The Labour Party, the Women’s Section, had to defer to the NUM quite a lot. I have no issue with the Union having influence, of course it would have influence, but I didn’t see why they had to dominate to that extent! And that’s where I differ from… my parents, who saw the Union as ‘everything good’ and I saw the good of the Union but I also saw the negatives- how they were replicating the most extreme conservative elements of society- and how that would impact on you as a women!

…I can give you a clear example of that: I remember Heather Wood, who was running the SAVE THE AREA MINES campaign and she’d said something…I can’t remember what it was, but she was ‘summoned’ to a meeting of the Miners Lodge to ‘answer’ to the Committee for her actions! Now they had NO power over her whatsoever- but she went and I went with her to support her, and they wouldn’t let me in. I had to sit and wait while she was given a dressing-down.

E: This is in the Strike?

M: Yes, this is in the Strike (laughs) I mean Heather’s recollection might be slightly different but I remember that. And I just remember thinking: ‘my God! You know, what the hell is this’ you know! It was interesting actually cause there was a strange dynamic. My brother was the Treasurer of the Miners Lodge, my brother’s view was ‘give the women the money and let them go and do what they want. Why do I want to be involved in that.’ Contrast that with Sacriston Miners Lodge who I was very much involved in- they wanted to run it and when we wouldn’t let them, they would ‘spit their dummy out’ and they would be really awkward, and very vindictive in terms of how they would denigrate some of the women…Because as a women you were always involved in ‘what you look like… how old you were!’ I remember one man in a meeting saying to a woman: ‘well, you’re no spring chicken are you!’ There was World War 3 mind! But that was how those sort of attitudes were challenged….

Politically, probably the 90s were the time I was involved in such a lot of things…the Poll Tax, there was such a lot of things going on. Up to 97 and then with the onset of Tony Blair…it was an interesting time, I remember celebrating the night of the election and going to bed at 5 o’clock…and going to work and skipping around- it didn’t last very long! (laughs) I have to say that Labour Government were utterly disastrous- I mean as a Public Servant, and I still regard myself as a Public Servant, they pumped billions in to no effect whatsoever!

When I looked at what they did in the Probation Service …they just had more and more ‘consultants’- people at the top! Paying them millions on millions and screwing the people at the bottom. And putting all these constraints on us, to the point where Probation Officers were spending 84% of their time at computers, writing up – cause we had to say: what we had done! Where we were going to do it! Meet the targets- they were obsessed with ‘targets’ in the whole Public Sector! To the detriment of the ‘work’ and it’s…sad to say it , cause it’s an appalling government that we’ve got, but in actual fact (laughs) from my perspective as a Manager in the Probation Service, they’re actually going back, freeing us up to do the work we should have been doing!

E: Thank you very much indeed Mary.                                                    43.52 mins.


Interviewed by Dr. E Burn in Mary’s friend’s house in Co. Durham.