[1994:] All that remains of Mardy Colliery is a huge black scar on the floor of a South Wales valley. When, with impeccable timing, British Coal shut Mardy down in Christmas week 1990, it shut down more than the jobs of its 600 miners. These were among the most militant in Britain, earning Mardy its nickname of `Little Moscow`. When the colliery shut, the brass band played the Internationale and the people vowed they would not be beaten down. 'We're people who look after each other,' says Barbara Williams, a pillar of the women's group which supported the miners during the strike. Mrs Williams is now a member of Rhondda Borough Council. Her husband, Gordon, with more than 25 years down the pit, is still looking for a job. 'They say you're too old at 35 ... so what chance is there for people like me?' he asked. Unemployment in Mardy runs at nearly 40 per cent. There are no employers of any size among the 2,000-strong community. Barclays shut the village's only bank. It's now a video shop
Less than 30 miles away, a few miners are preparing to go back to work. Betws Colliery has been taken over in the first management buyout and 1,000 men have applied for 92 jobs. The men of Betws were the first in South Wales on strike in 1984. Anthony Jones, the NUM lodge secretary, who has applied for a job, shrugs: "We have to accept that we lost the strike. In an ideal world, we would have wanted to remain part of British Coal. But we had to consider what was best for the men and the local community. The alternative is the colliery buildings being bulldozed or a private company moving in.
At Mardy, the bulldozers have been and gone and the men are hunting for what they can. Ivor England and Gary Mason found mining jobs of a sort; they were taken on as guides at the Rhondda Heritage Park, a tourist attraction ten miles down the valley where open-mouthed visitors learn something of the 150-year history of a valley once home to fifty-three collieries. When the pit closed in 1990, Rhondda Council published a commemorative book. David Simmons, then aged 10, wrote this verse:
One day the people of the valley will simply stand and stare
And they will tell their grandchildren that Mardy pit stood there
To some that may be mere doggerel; to others, remembering the long struggle and its aftermath, it has a ring beyond the mere words. (Tony Heath/Michael Prestage, Observer, 6 March)