There were strikes and all. I was very active with the Unions, yes, from about 16 I went to union meetings. And I never missed a meeting. Trimdon Grange Miners Lodge, I have always said there wasn’t a better Miners’ Lodge in the County, there wasn’t. It was carried on right in our union meeting. When 7 o’clock come the Chairman would have a little hammer, he would say ‘Well gentlemen stand, the meeting is open, we have the report from the Secretary,’ and after the Secretary the Treasurer would report, then after the Treasurer, the Delegates’ report, see. I was never afraid to get up and speak. And I was on about four or five committees in my time, yes. I kept this up throughout my life. Course I’m talking about the coal owners, not the NCB, the NCB wasn’t then.
There was a very bad relationship with the coal owners and the workers, the men were slaves. The coal owners lived in big houses. One coal owner used to sit in his armchair and for every coal truck that passed his land he got sixpence. That’s the truth. I never went to the coal owners’ houses. The bosses used to come to the pit. They never came to our houses. They wore fancy clothes, it was like a General coming, everybody was at attention when he came. They never gave us any gifts, not even at Christmas. The atmosphere at Trimdon was very good for all the conditions were bad. It was like a community spirit, all the men together. The community spirit down the pit was good.
I remember the General Strike, I supported it. In my young days our pit was out on strike.
It was called the Houses’ strike. We were the only pit on strike in the County, we got no money. I tell you what happened.
Quite a few of the men used to get a pony and trap and go to different places. The people used to know that Trimdon Grange was on strike and they used to pile the cart with things, sugar, flour, everything and at the end of the week you used to go to the miners’ hall. There was six in our family then, you had to take your union card and you got the equivalent food for each person, each child got a certain amount, and that’s how we lived. I can’t remember how long. We used to go to the soup kitchen. You could see the men coming back from the miners’ hall with pillow slips full of stuff.
The men won that strike. After that, if you came to Trimdon Grange pit and you were married, you signed on and they would put your name down for a house. You would get a single house for a start but when a house came empty the Secretary would tell you that there was a house empty, it’s yours.
The Miners’ Lodge used to dish the houses out in them days. They were all colliery houses then.
I was involved with the union during the General Strike. Trimdon Grange Miners’ Lodge was 100% union, everybody had to pay up there or else he was out. During the strike, there was plenty of shouting and bawling but I can’t say that there were any clashes between the men and the coalowners. The police were always present at the meetings. When the Tory M. P .’s used to come up they used to get heckled, but nothing wrong. I was not militant, I was never militant but I was a union man. I was a member of the Labour Party all my life. We felt no better off after the General Strike finished and we had to go back to work, we were worse off but we had to get back to work because there was no money coming in.


Banners band together;
Banners bind;
Bind the muscle And the mind.
Wind the way Along the Wear;
Wending, To the Sea.

Bands of Brass, Bands of Steel, Blaze with passion, Ablaze with Sun.
Cut a path Across the City;
Calling out, For change.

Keith Armstrong