A BLAST of the controversial top ten song Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead signalled the start of a party at Danderhall Miners’ Welfare and Social Club in Midlothian yesterday afternoon to celebrate the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
With celebrations set to go on until midnight, the event which was expected to attract up to 300 people, began with a number of former miners, who had been on strike during the bitter 1984 dispute, marking the day with their own private toasts.
Among them was Eric Bunyan, 57, from Danderhall, who poured a dram for himself and his friend Jock Jones, 66, before they raised their glasses with the toast “Good Riddance” to Mrs Thatcher.
Mr Bunyan, who had worked at the former Monktonhall Colliery, said: “I bought this 30-year-old Macallan on the day I was made redundant and I said to myself that day “I’m keeping it for the day Thatcher dies.”
Nearby, a group of women, sitting at a table festooned with buffet plates, cracked open a bottle of champagne.
An ex-miner, hearing the “bang” as the cork shot out of the bottle, remarked: “Pity it wasn’t a gun for Maggie.”
One of the women celebrating was Margo Russell, 68, Labour councillor for Dalkeith whose late husband Bill was on strike during the 1984 dispute.
Ms Russell said she had donned her red trouser suit, red shoes and red necklace especially for the day, the colours to represent the Labour Party.
“We’re having this party to mark the occasion of Thatcher’s death. It’s something we’ve waited a long time to see. We’re here among comrades to celebrate among comrades. I worked in soup kitchens in Dalkeith during the 1984 strike and we fed quite a lot of the guys who came in. One of the worst things was not being able to buy new shoes for the children. I’ll always remember that,” she said.
Among those making speeches before the festivities - which were to include bands and a comedian - started up, was 80-year-old Eric Clarke, former Labour MP for Midlothian.
Speaking from the stage Mr Clarke said: “The sooner this country wakes up and gets rid of the Tories the better...these b******s which are in (government) now are actually taking the country along Thatcher’s scheme...”
Mr Clarke received cheers when he added that the only difference between Hitler and Mussolini and Mrs Thatcher was that the two dictators had “declared themselves as fascists.”
Folk singer Dick Gaughan had emailed the club saying “thanks a million for the invite” but sent his regrets saying he was unable to attend because he was on tour in Ireland.
“But I’ll raise a glass in memory of those who are gone and hope it all goes well,” the singer had written.
Earlier in the day around 50 people attending the party had gathered at Newton cemetery in Danderhall to raise a toast to “absent friends”.
With television and radio crews present, they raised a glass of champagne and said “Bless Them”. A few also added “Maggie’s in Hell.”
Drinks such as Bacardi and coke, and tributes including a commemorative porcelain plate from the 1984 strike, had been placed on the graves of a number of dead miners by their wives and friends.
Sina Peacock, 69, from Danderhall, who had raised a toast to her late husband Cranston Peacock, said: “I’m here to remember the solidarity during the strike. I’m also wanting to say good riddance to Margaret Thatcher. I just think she was a very evil person.”
The “absent friends” toasts were followed by a wreath-laying ceremony and a minute’s silence at a memorial in Danderhall village in memory of miners who had died in accidents at former Monktonhall Colliery and elsewhere down mines.
Alex Bennett, Labour councillor for Dalkeith and Danderhall and former chair of the National Union of Mineworkers at the former Monktonhall Colliery, said the ceremony was just “one of many being held all over Scotland.”
“It is fit and proper to celebrate with our people”, he said.
Pipe Major Tom Wilson of the former Lady Victoria Colliery then played the lament “Flowers of the Forest” while a number of wreaths, including one from the NUM were laid in front of the memorial.
Television coverage of Baroness Thatcher’s funeral which was playing in a corner of the Dean Tavern in Newtongrange was ignored by former miners who had gathered for a quiet drink.
The pub had been decorated with balloons with “I love Newtongrange” embossed on them.
Coverage of former Newtongrange miners’ reaction to Mrs Thatcher’s death, which had appeared in The Scotsman last week, had been framed and put up on the wall.
John Falconer, 79, from Newtongrange, an ex-miner at the former Lady Victoria and Bilston Glen collieries, said the village had never fully recovered from the Thatcher era.
“Thatcher never did this village any good. People in this village committed suicide because of what she did. Others got divorced or lost their houses. There was a lot of hardship during the strike with people taking a pick and shovel and going out to dig coal down the side of the River Esk to heat their homes and to give to pensioners.
“I’m not watching Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. No danger, there’s enough torture in the world.”
John McGuire, 62, an ex-miner from the former Bilston Glen Colliery, who was drinking near a table in the tavern where the mining helmet he wore on his last shift down the mine in 1989 is on display, said: “It’s ridiculous spending all that money on her funeral when all she did was take money off us