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The Collieries of Wales




The Freedom to Roam without Fear

Bryan Robson

£4-50 post Paid

From the author at 2 Wykegate Grove
Moorends, Doncaster DN85PH

A cheerful and highly polite autobiography by the one time Hatfield Main NUM President  Bryan Robson, unlike my own record of my early years in Geordies Wa Mental I doubt that Bryan’s book will shock or embarrass anyone. Mark you the tales of his early childhood running wild across the moors and glens of Moorends and Thorne wastes will strike a chord with many. I like too his tale of the village kids trekking off to the cinema in Stainforth, for the afternoon matinee and watching ‘She Wore A Yellow Ribbon’. Their re-enactment later seen one of the lads wooden coal bunker substituting as the fort and Bryan and his mate relegated to being Indians, that is until in true Indian fashion he and the braves collect up all the bracken and dry grass and lay it against the ‘fort’ before setting it ablaze. The coal shed burned to a crisp the cavalry retreated.

Bryan after retirement got struck by the genealogy bug and went in quest of his family ancestry, tracing them like all good men and true to the Durham coalfield. The first half of the books deals with all his many family members and ever widening extended family and interlocking and overlapping families and clans. My first impression was that this will be of interest to few outside of the Robson family but having seen the extent of families ties many of the residents of Stainforth, Dunscroft , Thorne and Moorends will be getting a mention.

He titles his book in celebration of the love of freedom and nature and the way in which the two were given full license in childhood in contrast to the lock-down short rein which today’s kids have to endure. Bryan doesn’t comment on how much  this is  actually necessary and how much is a reaction to media panic and public over reaction, though it is a fact per capita there are no more crimes against children today than there have been over the last hundred plus years, people have just been convinced there are and see hidden dangers everywhere. The only thing which has actually changed is peoples perceptions.

The ‘meat’ of the book is though Bryans underground life, his work as a collier, his awakening political development and subsequent joining of the Thorne Branch of the Communist Party of Great Britain. It tells of the honour he experienced as the elected section 123 (workmen’s) inspector of the mine, and his subsequent election as Branch Chairman. His descriptions of struggles and features of the great coal strike of 84/5 and his perceptions of what was happening will be a useful guide to future historians as to attitudes among the miners and their communities, not just to this strike, and industrial relations but to social attitudes and relationships in general. I think your average punter will be surprised at just how conservative (with a small ‘c’ of course) Bryan like many miners and their families are, with a respect for elders and teachers and authority, discipline and social responsibility.  Bryan is a nice bloke, anyone who reads this book cant help but be struck by that fact and his passionate sincerity. I’m sure all his old comrades and workmates will be delighted to read it. Like most of us aud pit lads with a tale to tell, he paid for the publication himself so you wont find it anywhere except direct from Bryan, which is a bonus because I’m sure he will sign it for you if you ask.

The illustration of the front cover shows Bryan standing before the magnificent old Hatfield Main Branch banner with the sole painting of J.K.Hardie on it which was designed by Hatfield Branch Secretary and long time left wing MP Dick Kelly and served us until the new 1980 banner was commissioned, although it is more often than not still used today rather than the ‘new’ one which took such a battering over the decade of struggle of between 1983-93.