From the Souvenir Programme of the 116th Durham
The Durham Spirit Marches On
The Durham Miners' Gala is safe for the New
This is the verdict of the people of Durham and our many
friends throughout the Trade Union Movement who have rallied to save this
precious institution. There were those who thought that the Big Meeting had no
relevance once Durham's deep mines had been destroyed, but they have been
proved wrong. By raising the finance to continue the Gala the communities have
demonstrated that our 'Day in Durham' means more than just mines. The Durham
Miners' Gala is not so much about the 'hewing of coal' as the 'hewing of a
It was of course the exploitation of coal in Durham that
gave rise to Durham's communities. But it was the exploitation of the miners
and their families which gave rise to a community spirit much more precious and
lasting than the coal.
This spirit formed the first trade unions, the first death
and accident funds, libraries and schools, welfare organisations, cooperative
stores, clubs, Brass Bands, football and athletic clubs. All founded,
administered and financed, by working men and women. In the face of adversity
Durham people constructed their own compassionate society.
This spirit of mutual dependence sustained us in the darkest
hours when the selfish pursuit of profit maimed and destroyed thousands of
miners and blighted their families. Lock-outs and strikes, which established
our right to justice could only be endured by a collective responsibility for
the welfare of the individual. It is a spirit which has proclaimed that
ultimately the future depends upon ourselves. This is as true and as necessary
today as it ever was.
The decades of neglect and then the final destruction of the
mining industry have created many problems.
Unemployment and low pay has left their mark on three
generations. Drugs abuse, once only associated with inner city deprivation, has
invaded our villages. Depopulation leads to empty housing stock, the target of
slum landlords. All these problems have to be addressed and to address them we
need our history. We need that spirit and those values with which our
forefathers fought for a freedom, justice and a better life.
Many of our banners have faded and decayed, as banners made
of cotton or silk do in the course of time, but in the face of new problems new
banners are being made, in more and more communities. Banners are not cheap but
committees have been set up, old comrades have rallied to raise thousands of
pounds to ensure that this Gala will see again banners once laid to rest when
the mine closed. More will follow next year.
This activity is not pure nostalgia harking back
to a bygone age but a living movement. Testimony to the unfailing
spirit that makes the Durham Miners' Gala a force for change in the