open-cast sites employ perhaps 30 men - sometimes imported from Ireland — a similar number to Ayrshire’s few small private shafts. It is a moot point whether many of the areas redundant colliers will be employed in these enterprises — or anywhere else for that matter. There is more than a hint around south Ayrshire that blacklists could be in operation — a depressing ingredient of ‘the atmosphere‘. You can‘t strike against something as intangible as a blacklist.
The rumour machine adds inexorably to the prevalent mood of worry, quiet anger, and apprehension. In an industry which once boasted participatory management, little now seems to ﬁlter down from the office to the coal-face. Killoch will go west this summer — or maybe the bad news will break next week. Few know but many care. They care about what ploy may lie behind the complicated system of transfers from Killoch mine to the Barony shaft. They ask why the Barony tradesmen are ﬁnding it hard to obtain ‘the redundo’, while older production men can take the golden handshake any time they want. Does the NCB‘s recent intake of 15 teenage mining trainees indicate that there is a future for Barony? Or is it a publicity stunt to impress an uncritical media? ‘The atmosphere‘ is intensified by the hearsay and the nagging doubt.
Sam McCulloch and his wife Mary, for whom the strike was ‘a financial disaster’, talk of miners facing an indefinite period of ‘wait and see‘.
Reﬂective miﬁi}: in coarser ‘
They won’t move, but see little point in staying. As far as the local pits are concerned, the powers that be are just ‘killing time‘. Sam also used to revel in the humour and camaraderie of the pits. Now that it has gone, blunted by hard-line management and by the tensions between those who slogged the strike out to the end and those who rode the non-union bus through the bitter pickets, all you can do, Sam McCulloch shrugs, ‘is get yer heid doon‘.
The activists of Netherthird don’t see privatisation of their pits as an option. Cumnock is, after all, the area where the arch-champion of publicly-owned coal, James Keir Hardie, made his name. These pits won‘t sell anyway. They are played out.
‘never respect the polis’
Aslgn ottho put at Kllloch eclllory?
Within the gloomy shroud of ‘the atmosphere‘, there are flashes of a silver lining. You don't go through crisis without change. Billy Hodge is starting out on a computer course, looking out the meanwhile for a business opportunity to sink the redundancy cash in. He’s thinking of writing a book — and you get the feeling that he probably will. For some, the strike has brought — or forced — new opportunity.
Netherthird will never be the same again — nor will its women stand still. The Netherthird women’s support group has kept going since the strike. Women have learned a lot besides the grim art ofsurviving for a year on a weekly income of£15. 10, as Janis
Lightbody did. Mary McCulloch may worry about paying off £1000 of debt, and wryly admits that once upon a time she didn‘t know her ‘lett from her right‘. She now talks of joining the Labour Party. When she does, the dominant males ofthat party would be well advised to look to their laurels.
The children of Netherthird are unlikely to forget dad‘s year on strike either. Apart from the salutary lesson ofdiscovering that yer maw is every bit as tough a proposition as yer faither when a government throws down the gauntlet, they have taken in grimmer lessons. As the Netherthird women put it in their strike video, ‘Our weans will never respect the polis’. Cumnock‘s kids won’t forget that a ‘200 bus‘ is a motor conveyance full of policemen. Rightly or wrongly, south Ayrshire kids won’t grow to adulthood with
the illusion that the force is with them. §
On the first anniversary of Scargill’s strike, Ayrshire‘s pit humour may also be keeping its heid doon. But there is life in a good joke yet. Netherthirders cop a good giggle out of recalling that — by virtue of their local militancy and solidarity — the place will forever be known as ‘Indian territory‘. New Cumnock. five miles down the road and where the first scab in Ayrshire surfaced, will go dowri in history as ‘Little Nottingham‘.
It‘s sad to have to report that the funniest stories ofall, the tales destined to live for a long time in Cumnock‘s folk memory, cannot be set down here - lest halfofsouth
Ayrshire finds itself helping the constabulary with some deeply interesting enquiries. The ﬂavour can be gleaned from the doubtless apocryphal story of the shopkeeper who refused miners both tick and donation — ‘Heavens’ man. d‘ye ken whit happened — his front windaes just kept on fa‘en oot!‘
a ballot next time.
The mining community are crawling back on to their financial feet. Men. women and children have survived and they have learned lessons. There is, by and large, an acceptance that should battle lines be drawn again in the future. defensible foundations need to be dug. They won‘t make the mistake of not having a ballot next time.
If coal survives in and around Ayrshire — and there are huge reserves on the area‘s borders — the folk of Netherthird will make sure that they‘re around to hew it. What they will have gained (and what will outlive the present ‘atmosphere‘) includes political awareness. a growing strength among women — and the realisation that all that is printed or broadcast is not necessarily the truth.
The last entry in Billy llodge's treasured minutebook reads: ‘The business ofNetherthird Strike Centre was concluded on 4.3.85 at 12 noon. Here endeth a chapter in
A year after Netherthird went back to work, their history is just beginning.
Redundantulndlng goaratﬂlghhouu collluy. Cumnock
The List 7 — 20 Feb—3