I am grateful to Dominik Jaeck, a wonderful and generous photographer for permission to use this striking image.
I came across a rare novel called Lost in the Mine by Alfred Fletcher when I was researching The Evergreen in red and white. It had some intriguing story lines in it, and some nice passages, but on the whole it did not hang together as well as a novel should and some of the plot was weak. It perhaps read better in the late Victorian era when it was written - but was perhaps not something that would go down well with a modern reader. As months went by ideas for how to re-work the story started to form in my mind, so I set about researching additional aspects of the 1893 miners' strike, around which the original plot turned. The result is a genuine 50:50 collaboration between me and Alfred. If I have succeeded it will be hard for you to tell where one ends and the other begins.
Fletcher wrote of the 1893 strike as “a disastrous battle… that will leave its scars on the trade of the United Kingdom for generations – perhaps for all time. The lesson of 1893 will have been in vain if men do not avoid such a mistake as the great Coal War in the future.”
Having witnessed the 1984 miners’ strike, I couldn’t help but put a different slant on it. Fletcher said he tried to “give a fair, unbiased opinion concerning the great struggle between Capital and Labour that disgraced the world of commerce in 1893.” From a 21st century perspective it is not possible to be quite so open-minded given the evidence of the subsequent years. I’d like to think that Fletcher, if around today would understand that, and agree that the balance of power was still as far from equal as ever, that: “washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful.”
Alfred H Fletcher 1859-1929