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Why pit villages turned to rave Young men had their heads turned by drink and drugs

Solidarity fragments in a place without purpose (PYMCA/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Solidarity fragments in a place without purpose (PYMCA/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)


May 16, 2022   8 mins


Certain dance tunes never fail to take me back to the area I grew up in. Stirlingshire, in Central Scotland, is a county whose gloomy beauty and dramatic ruins have made it enduringly popular with tourists and retirees alike. In the Nineties the area was served by a number of small radio stations, which fed a stream of intoxicating rave music to teenagers living in the many corners of the region scarred by urban deprivation. Growing up in an era of fewer distractions, it felt like everyone you knew was phoning in, tuning in; that the music was a common bond.

Between 1971 and 1981 Stirlingshire suffered a massive reduction in manufacturing jobs, but it was the eradication of coal-mining in the mid-Eighties that sealed the fate of many communities. The boredom and hopelessness which had taken hold in the previous decade had, by the Nineties, curdled into a detachment among adolescents, which was manifesting itself in violent disorder, substance abuse and criminality. In this period, before the false dawn of Britpop and Cool Britannia, rave culture was dominant. Radio-friendly tunes such as Let Me Be Your Fantasy by Baby D and Set You Free by N-Trance rang out in back bedrooms and chip shops, and blared from hatchbacks that raced the quiet lanes and waste grounds that once served local industry.

The village of Fallin lies three miles beyond the tourist trails of the city of Stirling. As a pit village, the miners’ strikes and subsequent closures had a profound effect on the community. Sunk in 1904, the pits at Fallin — Polmaise Colliery 3&4 — were in operation until 1987. Coalfields were not profitable and did not reflect the ruling Conservative Party’s vision for Britain, and so they went. The closure of the Fallin pits stripped the village of its purpose and ended four centuries of coal-mining in Stirlingshire. The mine there had once been record breaking in both its militancy and productivity; it was the first to go on strike in 1984, and it stayed out the longest — 56 weeks. It topped productivity ratings, excavating 1,400 tons of coal a day in 1976, and once removed 20,000 tons in a week. The bonuses earned at Fallin caused such embarrassment for the rest of the industry that Union leaders had to request that the men slow down.

The community was thriving within a few years of the coal seam’s discovery, and it produced successive generations of instinctual, red-blooded workers who were inured to danger and fanatical about coal: young men who were conditioned physically, mentally and socially by the work. Far from today’s view of mining as a kind of occupation of last resort, the men and boys of the village chose the toil and discipline of the pit over anything else. John McCormack ran a hotel and won the Scottish Cup with Falkirk F.C. as a footballer; he was offered four times his mining wage to go professional, but nothing could stop him working underground. “Many a person in my position would have gone to work in the hotel full time”, he wrote in his memoir. “But I was a miner all my days, and I couldn’t get away from the pit.”

The colliery became not just the anchor point of village identity, but a special, albeit unmystical, space, inaccessible to outsiders, where husbands and uncles and brothers lived out the prime of their lives. Its underground shafts were a stage, where death was taunted with poetry and jokes, and where songs were sung under a low black ceiling that constantly creaked. It must have seemed inconceivable that the site to which the village owed its existence might disappear, but the shafts were sealed and the winding gear dismantled and, before 1987 was out, a dismal new era for Fallin began. Industrial estates sprang up offering minimum wage roles, and welfare-to-work schemes tried to capture the imaginations of men who had already had their heads turned by drink and drugs. Families stripped of their livelihoods, their optimism and the bonds of shared experience were soon being pulverised by heroin.

My high school classmates came from those families. The intergenerational trauma caused by addiction and poverty had had, in the decade since the closures, a profound effect on my school; there were at least four suicides in my year, including a hanging and a self-immolation, and a kind of adolescent ultra-violence was rife. Classes were dominated and disrupted by pupils, many from mining families, who were in complete rebellion against a society that had ceased to encourage ambition in their lives, and a curriculum which reflected nothing of the dysfunctional intensity of life outside the classroom. It has to be assumed that, given the opportunity, the young men may have become as fearsome and focused as their fathers and grandfathers once were, but they certainly weren’t mourning the loss of an imagined future. The collective imagination had already been seized by rave culture. Every bedroom I remember had its own devotional, Blu-tacked patchwork of spacey-looking rave flyers, covered in names of locally-famous role-model DJs who offered up simple, euphoric tunes that seemed to go straight to whatever it was that ailed you.

Is it possible to make a 16-year-old, fresh off a weekend of cheap stimulants and breakbeat hardcore, sit down on Monday morning and feel engaged or fulfilled by playing the theme from Steptoe & Son on a gut-string acoustic guitar? By piping meringues? By reading morality plays about people with moustaches? The kids of Fallin were travelling to enormous raves like Rezerection in Edinburgh, telling people they’d only just met that they loved them, forging their bonds above ground, in tents and fields. They were making money off drugs and burglary, racing banged-up Renaults under the moon, having casual sex in the woods that had begun to reclaim the rusting ruins of the pit machinery. Fallin was soon a warzone, scarred by graffiti, litter, fly tipping and dilapidation, and terrorised by youths whose energy couldn’t be harnessed by half-baked school and community initiatives which multiplied as uselessly as weeds.

This generation, whose parents had been told by Margaret Thatcher that there was “no such thing as society”, had the misfortune to hit their teens between the era of unionism and strong community their fathers had known, and the spread of the internet, which a decade later brought learning, friendship and lots of free entertainment to hollowed-out places like Fallin. In between they had to build their own networks; dance music on cassettes, phoned-in requests to radio stations, pool hall doorways and car meets in the dark. They responded to their abandonment with a single-mindedness that was no-doubt inherited, and an exuberance born of having nothing. It was a reclamation of sorts, full of undoubtedly violent and criminal behaviour, but perpetrated by characters for whom nothing existed but the immediate present, who had matured quickly and lived on their wits, who were smart, roguish, likeable and full of inimitable schemes and stories.

During the hardest times of the miners’ strikes, such was the solidarity that it felt as if Fallin — the housing stock, the community services, even the land itself — were under collective ownership of families who belonged to the village. But as successive generations grew up in a place without a purpose this solidarity fragmented quickly. For the new generation, which had become accustomed to unemployed role models, there were no positive shared values; they didn’t feel they had a stake in anything local. John McCormack, the miner footballer who observed the breakdown of the community, said: “The number one problem is work. The fortunes of the village were always tied up with the fortunes of the pit.”

McCormack was one of many miners still resident in Fallin who could remember a much less chaotic time. Mining stories too often leave out the cultural and social richness cultivated by miners; in Fallin, this richness revolved around the Gothenburg pub, so named because it ran on the Scandinavian system whereby the committee-run pub reinvested 95% of its profits in the local community. “The Goth” opened in 1910, and its profits helped build the village bowling club, fund a local pipe band, and hire a community nurse. Stars of the day, including Kathy Kirby, played at the miners’ social club. Supported by the mine, Fallin became a regional centre of achievement in dancing, football, athletics and dog racing. The Millhall Colliery Pipe Band became three-time World Champions, and no less than 34 world champions of one kind of another lived in Fallin in the inter-war years. One of these was Bob Starkey, a champion wrestler and Highland Games athlete, a coach at the Paris Olympics in 1924, a Policeman, a soldier and a miner at Polmaise Colliery. Starkey later modelled for the kilted and vested strongman on the Scott’s Porridge Oats box, an image that became emblematic of Scottish health and masculinity in the twentieth century.

Today mining has a different set of associations. Films, documentaries and works of literature have sought to portray the struggle of the miners’ strike, and that world — busses, soup kitchens, whipsmart wives, soggy-collared men waving placards in the rain — is ingrained on the British consciousness. But the impact of the mine closures went far beyond Thatcher and the miners and the families themselves, and the scale of the stories left untold is vast. Too often inhabitants of mining communities have been reduced to statistics by studies seeking to explore the negative consequences of pit closures: the health inequalities, social dislocation and unemployment, which were (and in some cases still are) rife in Stirlingshire and other areas where mining was once dominant. Far less has been written about how these communities prospered, how they kept going through a poverty that was enforced on them, the strength they found in music and culture, their humour, their warmth, their wisdom. In the case of Fallin, how a young village, sunk in one short decade, began to right itself.

In July 1988 the Stirling Central Regional Council opted for full clearance of the Polmaise Colliery site, to, “eradicate all traces of this failed industry”. The Goth still stands, having recently funded a defibrillator for the village, but of the pit itself only the bing — the huge mound of spoil accumulated during the mining process – is visible today. While there have been a number of suicides here, it has been successfully rebranded as “Fallin and Polmaise wood”, a nature reserve managed by the Woodland Trust. A small stone cairn was unveiled to mark where the shafts once were, and a memorial dedicated to miners who had lost their lives was installed in 1994. A memorial garden with some old pieces of machinery was opened in 2006. Numerous organisations have helped Fallin recover from the disorder of the Nineties, including Fallin Community Enterprises, a charity established in 2005 which aims to drive forward the social, economic and environmental regeneration of the village. It was unthinkable 30 years ago that anyone would want to move to Fallin, but the village continues to grow. In 2021, 400 new houses were approved for land to the East, but despite a 25% affordable housing requirement, it’s unlikely any of them will be within the budget of former mining families in the area.

Driving through on a recent Saturday evening the energy and turbulence is gone. A recent study described Fallin as a “non-place”, and at a glance it is hard to argue. Beyond the grey and brown houses, there’s nothing here: a row of half-shut shops, a flat-roofed library, a Tesco Express. It remains an austere village with no real centre. Some progress is evident — 72% of residents own at least one car, 33% have a degree — but below the surface are the same old community concerns. In May of last year residents of Fallin were asked what they felt the priority should be in any further regeneration of the village. Older respondents focussed on activities for young people (74%). The priority for younger respondents was school (67%) and they also mentioned things to do (64%). One respondent noted, “the people are our greatest asset”.

The new housing developments are bringing young families to the village, and the youth of Fallin today, raised on the same distractions as everyone else, are indoors — rightly unhaunted by the legacies of coal. Out on the streets, compared to the Fallin of 30 years ago the place looks nearly welcoming; some waste ground remains, but the graffiti and syringes are gone. Derelict sites have been converted to green spaces and sports facilities. On residential streets the hedges are square, the creosote fresh, SUVs are parked up at regular intervals. Looking up at the windows it’s hard not to wonder if any of the voices that could be heard requesting tunes on the radio all those years ago might be living here now, prospering somehow, with their own young ones. The odd hatchback whizzes past but the windows are up, the speed limit is observed. Rave seems about as relevant here as Kathy Kirby. There’s no music blaring anywhere.


Tom Newlands is a Scottish writer living in London. His work has most recently appeared in New Writing Scotland, the New Statesman and in the BBC Radio production Margins to Mainstream with actor Michael Sheen. His debut novel is forthcoming in spring 2024.

thomas_newlands

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Nell Clover
Nell Clover
2 years ago

This article reads like a pastiche. The reader would be better served with more research and less regurgitation.
The manifesting trend of [youth] violent disorder, substance abuse and criminality begins in the late 1950s and continued upwards until the 1990s irrespective of the economic ups and downs of those 4 decades. Whatever caused this, it was not local coal mines closing.
The coal fields apparently did not meet Labour’s vision either because when in government that party had commissioned an even faster pit closure programme. This rather suggests it was not a party political issue but a state decision based on the widely held (and perhaps self-fulfilling) expectation that demand was going to decline no matter what; de-industrialisation it was assumed was “just going to happen”.
When the author writes “Classes were dominated and disrupted by pupils, many from mining families, who were in complete rebellion against a society that had ceased to encourage ambition in their lives”, rebellion really isn’t the right word. There was no resistance, there was only a yielding to an imagined inevitability and because that sounds rather less cool than “rebellion” we get served up the trope that they were rebelling.
In the same sentence the author also concedes (“many from mining families“) that this was not just restricted to children from families affected by mass unemployment. Many weren’t from mining families. Many were from families like David Cameron’s. Something else had happened that simply coincided with the mass unemployment in places like Stirlingshire. Quite simply, easy availability – of drugs, of alcohol – fed a self-destructive streak in humans that’s been there from the beginning. Perhaps what was different this time was a greater sense of entitlement and an easier dimissiveness of the risks (not just health or wealth, but ostracism). The bigger the safety net, the bigger the risks.
Thatcher did sort of say there was “no such thing as society” but that omits the important context: “There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people“. A socialist could have easily said the same without any remark.
I could go on, but I will finish with this. The writer is dismissive of the new jobs that came when he writes “Industrial estates sprang up offering minimum wage roles”. Well, there wasn’t a minimum wage in 1970 but if there was it would have almost certainly been the same as the minimum NCB wage. Coal mining had terrible wages, that’s why miners felt the need to strike so often. The NCB minimum weekly wage in 1970 was £16 and male average earnings were £27, a worse ratio than the national living wage and average earnings in 2022. The important difference was and remains mass media and communications increase our awareness of material disadvantages like no time before in human history. And that is of bigger importance and effect than the coal mines closing.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nell Clover
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Exactly, thanks

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I think the author did his best with the article, but what is really magic are the comments. I learn so much from the comments. If the article was meant to be thought provoking, it worked. I see history writing itself, not delivered top down. Thank you, internet. As a P.S. Jeremy Paxman’s book “Black Gold” is a very informative read.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Well put. Here in the US, large cities known for manufacturing saw their factories close and jobs shipped to Mexico and overseas. Detroit was once a “blue collar paradise” where machinists could buy a nice house in the suburbs, raise a family on one salary, and send their kids to college. I invite you took look at what Detroit is now (but definitely not in person).
There are large areas all over New England once made prosperous by paper and fabric mills. The mills closed, and nothing came in to replace them. They turned into ghost towns populated by government-imposed welfare housing. Of course, generations of illegitimate births followed, right along with illicit drug use. What has happened in Appalachia is well known.
Government can’t (nor should it try) to swoop in and “rescue” 19th and 20th Century industries in this digital age. Only the private sector has the creativity and competence to do that, and it takes time. Those mill towns I mentioned? Because property is so cheap there, and many of the buildings are still standing, entrepreneurs are buying up land and real estate and starting businesses or fixing up the mills (they’re always on rivers, so it’s pretty), and opening restaurants, boutique malls, and office space. Young couples can afford to build first homes, too, which will cause them to get civically involved. Those places will be reborn, and government will have had nothing to do with it (until tax time).
One such example: https://www.winchester-nh.gov/about

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago

‘There are large areas all over New England once made prosperous by paper and fabric mills. The mills closed, and nothing came in to replace them. They turned into ghost towns populated by government-imposed welfare housing.’

This is a half truth at best. Between the 70s and 90s there were several computer companies in the area. In fact one of the headquarters was in a building known as The Mill.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dermot O'Sullivan
Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

You write as if people had many more choices than they did (or, for some) do.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago

Oh for heaven sake, not another paean to the happy days of the pit village.

No mention here of the stultifying conformity of such narrow, inward looking places. No mention of the ongoing battles between the temperance people, the Presbyterian people, and those who liked to get to drunk on a Saturday, and beat the wife.

Of course when it is all swept away, the whole thing falls down a hole of drunken, drug ridden lawlessness. Well not, actually. The sons of the ones that used to beat their wives, probably lost the community discipline that might of kept them on the rails. The overwhelming majority no doubt had lesser lives, but got on with the things that teenagers do – rebel, get drunk, fight and try to have s e x. As with every society, only a proportion took that to extremes, the majority just grew up.

Of course the old, out of context, “no such thing as society,” has to come trotted out, because what would such an article be without it?

Of all the cataclysmic changes that globalisation brought about, has any been more romanticised than the loss of the pit village?

And no, I don’t deny there are huge grains of truth in it but, as with all this sort of writing, it’s unbalanced and romanticised.

The left has spent 40 years trashing every social more and moral code. Why does it persist in eulogising communities that enforced those moral codes with a rod of iron. Where’s their sympathy for all the Billy Elliots whose dads didn’t come round?

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Bollis
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

Good article and very heartfelt.

But…
If the coalfields were unprofitable, would it really have been better to continue to prop them up … for how long? Or let them fade away gradually? Survive to be shut down by net zero fanatics? Did the Union really have the miners’ interests at heart or their own power? What was their solution apart from bringing down the government.

These questions bugged me at the time and still do.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

Perhaps you should ask Arthur Scargill Esq, I gather he is still ‘ticking’.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago

Like Corbyn and Benn, Thatcher would never let the facts get in the way of ideology. Out went the Engineering baby with the communist bathwater. Ironicallyall she had to do was listed to other Volk. ( Her favourite word, afterall) Herr Kohl ran a country with profitable mines and Unions on their board. Pretty simple balance – Mine owners don’t get to kill for profit with poor safety. Miners don’t get to go to the Bierkellar, get all riled up and take on Elected Government. Thems the laws east of the Rhine.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Postwar German unions were and are nothing like UK unions.

For couple of things, the german unions see the success and profit of their employers’ business as mutually beneficial, and they’re not on a mission to bring down their government.

You can hardly accuse the owners of UK mines- the people in the form of the UK government – of “killing for profit” since they weren’t even breaking even.

Last edited 2 years ago by Brendan O'Leary
Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Perhaps you would like to back your claim that the injury/fatality rate in UK mining was higher than in Germany with some facts. Or that it was worse between 1979 to 1991 (Thatcher) than the preceding decades.
I can’t easily find the stats here, but I would be surprised if hte UK safety record was out of line with the rest of the world or suddenly got worse after 1979.
Please share your data.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

Returning to the mining towns and pit villages some years ago, after about two decades away, what most struck me was the loss of ‘agency’ – doing things for yourself – the clubs, the bands, the gardens, the competitions, the pride. It felt as if everything was zombified, always waiting for the council, or the state to do things. Be it for money, or permission to breathe or go out – the leaden hands of ‘the council’ and petty officials could be felt smothering any self-help or community action with policies and paperwork. I don’t know if it’s as true now, but towns that were traditionally full of ‘doers’ started wasting away to become fragmented towns of ‘donters’.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago

It’s not just the Tories vision of modern Britain to shut the pits. A few years back a group of ex-miners wanted to re-open a drift overlooking Ebbw Vale (The head of my valley.) The local council (Labour) would have none of it – they didn’t want the dust and dirt associated with minework spoiling their nice clean town.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

How anybody wanted a job in a mine is beyond my comprehension. My father and his father were Yorkshire miners and my father was determined that I did not follow him into the pit, and I didn’t.

Ian McKellar
Ian McKellar
2 years ago

When I was born, my father was senior constable at Fallin and we lived there for another year or so before moving into Stirling.As it was he would on occasion have to go down the pit to investigate a fatality and prepare a report for the Procurator Fiscal.
I can remember him commenting at the time of the 1974 strike (by that time a Chief Superintendent) about Fallin pit. that in 1948 the Coal Board had opened a new face, I think called “Western Drift” with the comment that “this should give some 40-50 year’s work”. So bear in mind in the intervening years, methods of winning coal had improved so it was likely that the pit would have had to close in the mid 80s/early 90s- which it did

The Stirling coalfield was an old field and pits like Pirnall, Manor Powiis and Plean had gone by the early 1960s
Now there was one other employer in the area and that was the Royal Navy at Bandeath some three miles away at Throsk. That depot closed with the ending of the Cold War and that employed some 40-50 men.
What’s its future. Well the Carse is quite pleasant. There are some wonderful views over the river to the Ochils Basically it should be allowed to extend as a commuter village for Stirling and Falkirk/Grangemouth

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

This is a rehash of a lot of lefty shouting about something that was inevitable and merely accelerated by the NUM. Let’s move on.

And Mr Newlands perhaps ought to stick to fiction unless he can improve his research

R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago

It’s been forty years.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

Nearly a century if you count 1926.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

Great article especially as it’s published in the same Unherd issue as Gary Gerstle’s article on the end of neoliberalism.
Neoliberalism was supposed to replace the old manufacturing industries, and jobs depending on physical labor, with higher value jobs requiring education. Didn’t really happen. More and more young people went to university and graduated with degrees for which there was no demand. Only the IT and engineering-minded kids benefited. Communities like Fallin proliferated throughout the developed world.
Now there’s a suggestion that the post-neoliberal world will provide lots of good jobs by on-shoring (or is it re-on-shoring) jobs making microchips, PPE, and other goods deemed essential for national security and welfare. It would be a good thing if it happened, but I remain skeptical. I expect there will be a vigorous campaign to court developing Asian countries not yet under Beijing’s sway. They have the potential to do our essential manufacturing and at a fraction of the cost of western workers. Plus ça change…

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

It’s fine for Capitalism to outsource our essential industries until the political scene changes. Look what’s happening in Europe with gas, oil, coal, etc and elsewhere re “chips”. The UK must keep alive a core of essential industries to prevent us from being blackmailed/held-over-a-barrel by our “friends” all over the world. In the past the NUM said that they would ‘black’ an anthracite mine planned for the Swansea area and the eco-freaks are against a coking-coal mine in the NW of England. I know we can make steel using ‘Electric Arc’ but how many windmills does that method need, even for a modest plant? The Government must set aside certain industrial plant which cannot be exported. Even things like ‘artificial’ food production (Quorn) has been sold to a Scandinavian Country without any ban on exporting the factory or method. If, in the future, we have to eat non-farmed foods then I would prefer “Quorn” burgers to Insect burgers. Even TVP is better than Insects.

Last edited 2 years ago by Doug Pingel
AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago

The closure of the pits was undoubtedly traumatic to the communities that depended on them for employment (and by extension, meaning).
But the world changes and nostalgia can often be a corrosive emotion that slows adjustment to new circumstances.

polidori redux
polidori redux
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Surely the point is that the communities were left to rot. Even coalmining is better than rotting. I sometimes visit old industrial places that have been turned into theme parks and “museums”. Depressing places. The people have simply vanished. Not prospered in this new progressive world – just vanished.

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I agree, but you make my point for me. As long as people chew over and over the assertion that ‘something should have been done’ the sense of drift and rot will continue.
A town near me, founded on coal mining, built and ran a Science Museum reflecting the past history after the pits closed. The town, pining for the past perhaps, struggled. Eventually the Science Museum closed through lack of attendance.
The town started to redevelop the run down shopping centre. The Science Museum has been relaunched as a Discovery Centre and Country Park.
Could the transformation happened sooner without being hobbled by nostalgia?

polidori redux
polidori redux
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

“The town started to redevelop the run down shopping centre. The Science Museum has been relaunched as a Discovery Centre and Country Park.”
Essentially unproductive activities. This at heart is what bothers me about modern Britain – A theme park.

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  polidori redux

If you think modern Britain is a theme park, you should visit France…

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

Or Ireland.

poli redux
poli redux
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

This cannot end well

Rob Cameron
Rob Cameron
2 years ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I have a second-hand view having visited a former pit community a few times over the past 15 years or so. The pits closed. The miners got very favourable redundancy terms – lots of cash in the bank. They were allowed to purchase their homes at knock-down prices. They were in a position to ‘invest’ in themselves. Some did, taking themselves off to college but, many did not. Whose fault is that?

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
2 years ago

Remember agriculture? Went mechanical and decimated rural communities. I used to live in a village in South Wales. A hundred years ago there were 120 kids in a village school. Long gone. Economic change involves upheaval. Always did. Always will. The alternative? Pol Pot.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

Or the great railway workshops in the “middle of nowhere”, in this Woodford Halse, a veritable Mecca for steam enthusiasts of the 1950’s.
Now returned to grass, and even HS2 avoided it.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
2 years ago

You lost me at “Coalfields were not profitable…….., and so they went”. 
Why on earth – or under it – would you run a dangerous, dirty industry full of angry militants that loses money? Just to give young men “something to do”? Sounds like Mrs. Thatcher did the country yet another great service.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

Why are we not investing in in robots to dig this ‘black gold’ out of the ground?
Billions were spent on the Selby Coalfield, for example, even involving the diversion of the East Coat Mainline, yet it remains idle in the face greatest energy fiasco since the closure of the Suez Canal in 1973.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Mainly because the viable coal has been extracted. The seams are heavy with dangerous faults

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Does that go for all the UK’s coalfields? Thus ‘robots’ would be useless?

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

I believe all the workings in my valley were flooded, in some places knocked through to the nextdoor levels, and would probably cost-the-earth to reopen. I live high on the valley side but new houses have been built in areas where, according to some mineworkers in my village, they would be swept away if the pressure gets too high and the water makes its way out (as water will). There are places where new shafts could be sunk but even ‘opencast’ has been stopped due to dust (black gold indeed, more like black death.) We must keep our options open or we might end up like the Germans – losing Nuclear and having to replace it with brown coal. As for stopping tne use of gas – The people advocating that (most of them without any accountability or responsibility to the citizens) need to be firmly put in their place.

Paul Ashley
Paul Ashley
2 years ago

Not to worry. The WEF’s Fourth Industrial Revolution will turn every city and town into a pit town filed with depressed people with no incentive to live.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago

Not much about the rave scene in that piece! Sure there were drugs in the UK rust belt but Es were just added on to the existing menu of dope, speed, downers and junk. I remember the midlands mining areas in the 70s when face workers, “mechanics of the mine” and NACODs men had good enough money to afford drugs alongside imported cars and foreign holidays. Trouble is the jobs were stopped brutally and irrationally by Thatcher & Co, but many people carried on with the drugs. Though they did quit their Tony Iommi mustaches and Kevin Keegan perms. Other areas too, Myrthyr and Barnsley had massive drug markets that survived the worst of the destruction by, er, selling drugs!

Gerald Brown
Gerald Brown
2 years ago

At nationalisation there were 1000 pits employing 1m. By the start of MTs premiership there were 75% less. So what happened to the 750 “pit villages” closed by previous administrations? Harold Wilson “closed” more mines than MT. At the time of the miners UNOFFICIAL strike the government was investing £millions to open up the Selby coalfield – including diverting the main line from England to Scotland!

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

There’s still coal-seam gas or coalbed methane potential in the Forth Valley. Gas seeped from the spongy ground anyway. Fields of Fire indeed if you lit a BBQ on a warm summer’s day. I worked briefly on some service jobs at the first project mentioned here, near Airth, 30 years ago. https://www.gov.scot/publications/expert-scientific-panel-report-unconventional-oil-gas/pages/6/
Locals loved us then, bringing a bit of life and revenue to the village.
Now the opposition is organised before any projects are even announced.
The current residents (if the objectors are actually residents) it seems would rather be nostalgic for industry past than have any industry present.
It wasn’t all sweetness and light. I was also told of bluenose villages where Papish names wouldn’t be welcome, but I went there anyway.

Last edited 2 years ago by Brendan O'Leary
Philip Stott
Philip Stott
2 years ago

Tl;Dr

Read Trainspotting instead of this low rent knock off

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
2 years ago

The imbibing of rave music to any group of youngsters anywhere, almost always leads to zombification..booze&drugs finishes the job..

Steve Wiggins
Steve Wiggins
2 years ago

Thanks, Tom. Well written & thought-provoking. It hadn’t occurred to me how the internet could be such a boon to people in small places like Fallin.

Chuck Pergiel
Chuck Pergiel
1 year ago

community initiatives which multiplied as uselessly as weeds”. What a fine line.