And The There Were None

It has finally happened: the last deep pit has closed. Somewhat inevitably given the history of the coal industry its closure was bitter and its closure was political; government policies were directly responsible and the government refused to save it. Probably they are delighted as the Tories always did hate the coal industry and its radical workforce and hated it even more after the NUM helped to topple the Heath government in 1974.

Contrary to some media reports the closure of Kellingley Colliery does not actually mean that British coal production has ceased (there are opencast mines up and down the country and still something of a drift mining industry in South Wales) although it does mean that the last remnant of the old industry is gone.

Mixed feelings are sometimes the right feelings, and that is how we should feel about the coal industry. Environmental issues aside, it was horrible to work in and over the centuries it killed a staggeringly high proportion of its workforce – not through pit disasters as horrific as they were, but through pneumoconiosis – and yet it also provided secure, skilled and relatively well paid employment for generations. And did so because of the efforts of the miners themselves. The old pit communities had rich cultural lives and were essential to the development of trade unionism and socialist politics in this country.

A sad day.

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