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Britain In Old Photographs series
The Yorkshire Miners
Brian Elliott

Brian Elliott is a well known and accomplished photo journalist and photo historian, with a passion for the miners, and Yorkshire miners in particular. Its impossible to do justice in words, to a photo collection like this, which is so absolutely striking in visual impact. They run from the end of the nineteenth century and sometimes before that, to the present day. Amasing old photos from the beginnings of a massive industry which touched the lives of millions and generations.
We see here the men, of the pits, at work, women and children of the pit communities. Men in their muck, at work and en route home, years before most pits had baths, when coal mining was the common occupation of much of the countries industry. There are some classic pictures here of work underground, I particularly liked the one of the props and link bars face, a feature I have often struggled to describe to non miners.

A sample of the collection of photos from the traditionally hand filled 16 inch faces of Emley Moor, images otherwise unimaginable to surface folks.
There is a chapter dedicated to struggle, the years of lock outs, evictions, strikes and scrabbling for coal, evocative scenes of families thrown onto the streets rather than submit, and troops called in to shoot them down.

There are scenes here too from the countless disasters, which robbed whole families and communities of members and friends. Together with those from strike and pickets, like the one of Freddy Matthews our Hatfield comrade killed in the strike of 72. The scenes from the 84/85 strike will be all too familiar, but in the context of the continuation of struggle from centuries previous are all the more evocative.

The scenes from galas and demonstrations will bring back memories to many, and include a rare photo of the Thorne banner in action, the first time I for one have ever seen.
There is too a most splendid photo of the Hatfield banner, with all the branch stalwarts on the 1985 parade, Banty Hardy the Hatfield veteran militant is forefront in the photo.

There are excellent photos of Goldthorpe banner and activists which are especially noteworthy.

In a book of this size it is inevitable perhaps that mistakes will be made, I have found two. One describes Sammy Thompson as the Yorkshire Area Secretary, instead of Owen Briscoe, Sammy was Area Vice President. The other accredits Lawrence Daly our National Secretary with having been a leader of the Welsh miners, when in fact he was a passionate Scot.

If I had a criticism of the book, it is that all the photos are black and white, well into the age of colour photography. It appears to have been an artistic choice rather than a one born of necessity, of course on the other hand, black and white does carry a certain power and renders a consistent set of images throughout.

I have spent hours looking at this book, the old maxim that a picture tells a thousand stories is so obviously shown to be true here. Your imagination carries you into the photo, the characters, the place, the time. A magical and nostalgic if painful journey.

The book is published by Sutton

Phoenix Mill. Thrupp. Stroud. Gloucestershire. GL5 2BU
at £11.99.