North & South West Towers of Durham Cathedral
It's many years since I went to the Miners' Gala or rather the Big Meeting as we called it. I was just little and I remember my sister got lost amongst hundreds of people on the racecourse, she was 3 years old & I'm not sure we ever went back. However I do remember the procession leaving the the Miners' Institute with the brass band & the miners' banner every year and then going to watch them returning home with crowds following the band & the banner.
The event was a huge one in the life of the communities around the Durham coalfield celebrating their mining heritage and the miners' unions. The colliery bands marched from the villages early in the morning arriving in the city where the streets were closed to traffic. They paraded in their thousands to the old racecourse where political speeches were made. Afterwards new banners were taken to the Cathedral to be blessed in a special service.
Today I went along as I was working at the Cathedral, it was the 134th Big Meeting and the atmosphere was amazing. The weather was fantastic and it was great listening to the brass bands playing as they waited to go down the the old racecourse to hear the political speeches.
Sorry my photos are not brilliant had to take them with a phone on the hoof as I wound my way through the crowds on the paths up to the Cathedral. They were taken at 9.30am as the banners and bands were assembling with the banners and waiting to march to the old racecourse.
Unison (my union)
Thousands more came to the old racecourse there despite the fact that there are now no deep mines in Durham due to closure by the Thatcher government in the 'eighties. There's no racecourse now either but that wasn't her fault!
You can guess there were lots of things on the agenda today when Jeremy Corbyn the Labour leader spoke, education, the NHS, the importance of trade unions and yes Trump! I'm not a great Corbyn fan but I agree with what he said today, he reminded people that nobody gave us the right to vote or to be discriminated against. We had to fight for these things and the unions played a big part.
It's a hundred years since women (over 30) were given the right to vote!
I was on duty at the Cathedral this morning for tours of the North West Tower which you can see here in the photo above. Note the colour of the grass, yellow in contrast to the older photo at the top as we have had no rain for weeks now. It looks like sand.
The flowers are struggling to survive too in this heat.
After the tours were over I decided to stay for the service for the first time and it was wonderful. There were five new banners being blessed by the Bishop of Durham and were brought in with their local bands. Four were brass bands with lots of children in them and the fifth was a pipe band (which I'm not a great fan of) however it was great. The sound totally filled the Cathedral and the acoustics were absolutely wonderful.
The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler gave a wonderful sermon reminding us that the days of terrible conditions working in mines are still with us. Apparently in the Democratic Republic of Congo child labour is used to mine cobalt, the mineral used in our mobile phone, laptop & electric batteries in cars. You can see more here in this CNN report. What a nightmare for these children & all for our lifestyle!
It was quite an emotional service as many present remembered their husbands, fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers who had worked in the mines. All my male relations worked at Dawdon Pit a huge mine which had a massive output of coal. Both my granddad's & my husband's dad died due to pneumoconiosis. My Dad, all my uncles & my brother worked there as there were no other jobs to have in the town. Once the mines closed the effects were terrible, whole communities were devastated as there were so few jobs available.
It was great to see that community spirit is still thriving in these places and thousands turned up today to celebrate the Big Meeting. The atmosphere as I said was great as I walked back down from the Cathedral into the city the brass bands were still playing around the streets and some people were dancing to Is This the Way to Amarillo? Such fun!!!!!
The police were in great humour too chatting to everybody & apparently there were only two arrests of local men who were drunk & disorderly!
Roll on 2019 & the 135th Big Meeting.