Miners to celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s death

George Cameron raises a glass. Picture: Ian Rutherford
George Cameron raises a glass. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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ON a usual Wednesday night, Danderhall 
Miners Club might play host to a few drinkers enjoying a quiet pint and a game of bingo.

Next week, however, the club is expecting a full house, as more than 600 former miners and their families gather to mark the passing of Baroness Thatcher at what’s been billed as their “biggest party yet”.

Club bosses said a band had already been booked and the bingo sets will be packed away, while large TV screens around the club are expected to show reports of the funeral.

Staff at renowned miners haunt The Dean Tavern in nearby Newtongrange are also expecting a large turnout on the day, with some regulars even booking the day off to watch TV coverage of the funeral in the club.

Lady Thatcher will be laid to rest following a ceremonial funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral next Wednesday, April 17.

Former miner George Cameron, 76, secretary of the 600-strong Danderhall Miners Welfare and Social Club, who spent a year on strike from Bilston Glen Colliery in 1984, is looking forward to what many regulars are regarding as a major celebration.

He said of Lady Thatcher’s funeral: “The club will be full of ex-miners and their families on the night. We’ll all be out in force – it could be the biggest party yet.

“It couldn’t be better, she was a hateful woman to the miners. A lot of young people just don’t understand what went on back then. Miners and their families had no food, no rent. She was an evil, evil woman. To be honest, I wish it had happened 30 years ago so I could enjoy the night more.”

A party atmosphere is also expected at The Dean Tavern.

Manager John Byrn said: “The feeling is very positive amongst our drinkers, it’s the end of an era.

“We haven’t anything definite planned but I’m sure we’ll be full on the night with ex-miners and their families.”

Dean Tavern regular and ex-miner Alan Kierzkowski, 52, from Newtongrange, said: “I’m going to put in for a day off so that I can sit here and celebrate. This place will be full of ex-miners celebrating.”

Long-held resentment against Lady Thatcher has been further flamed this week after it emerged her funeral will cost an estimated £10 million, with the taxpayer expected to foot a large proportion of the bill.

Lothians Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who is campaigning to overturn criminal convictions against miners during the bitter 1984 strike, said: “When her heirs apparent, Cameron and Osborne, are introducing the bedroom tax for the poor and low-paid and tax cuts for millionaires, news that her funeral will cost £10m is the final insult to the communities and people’s lives she destroyed.”

But former Conservative MSP Brian Monteith believes the miners’ celebrations to be “distasteful”.

He said: “Harold Wilson closed far more pits than Margaret Thatcher ever did, but I don’t remember miners clubs throwing parties when he died. It’s all very distasteful.

“People seem to forget the miners were offered a deal and they didn’t accept because internally the unions were at each other’s throats.”

Midlothian Labour MP David Hamilton, a former miner who spent two months in jail for his part in the strikes in 1984-85, said he could “fully understand” why some members of his community would wish to celebrate her passing. He said: “Thatcher didn’t just close the pits, she ripped up families and relationships, her policies devastated this region and she will never be forgotten for it. Not only the mines, but Ferranti and numerous textile factories were also closed and the micro companies which were set up in their place took years to build up.

“People of a certain age were just thrown on the slag heap with no job and no prospects.

“There will not be many tears shed in Midlothian for her passing. She never shed a tear for the thousands of families she affected, the only tear she ever shed was when her party stabbed her in the back.

“She irreparably changed society by denationalising so many companies and selling off the family silver. Britain was changed from a stakeholder society to a shareholder society and once those shareholders sold those shares the foreign companies moved in.

“Gas and electricity bills continue to rise and there’s very little we can do because the companies are French and 
German-owned.”

Mr Hamilton was held for alleged assault in 1984 but was later acquitted at trial.

He said of his plans for Wednesday: “I’ll be in chambers with, I expect, many other MPs conducting parliamentary business and representing the interests of my constituents.”