Henry's Songbook

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  • (Dave Rogers)

       Oh Mardy oh Mardy
       The last pit in the Rhondda

    There's mist down in the valley and the snow lies on the hill
    No men walk through the empty street the pit lies quiet and still
    There's a keen wind down the valley road that bites into your skin
    But the people of the Rhondda will keep fighting till they win

    When I was small I used to sit down by the fireside
    To hear the tales of struggle that would fill my heart with pride
    I heard of the evictions back in nineteen thirty-two
    When the people of the Rhondda wouldn't let the bailiffs through

    They told me of a valley that we'll never see again
    When the coalmines found employment for forty thousand men
    The anthracite was plentiful down in the Rhondda seam
    But the owners wanted closures and economizing schemes

    My father had to fight to earn a living from the mine
    If he was here today he'd join us on the picket line
    His lungs were full of Mardy dust for that's the price of coal
    The dust it took his body but the union gained his soul

    The women of the Rhondda are out on the picket line
    To stop the Coal Board's closure plan and save the Mardy mine
    Fighting for our children and the town where we belong
    You'll hear their voices singing, We are women we are strong

    I marched with men from Corkinwood (?) and with the Kirsley wives
    I've joined the Durham miners like us fighting for their lives
    I've stood with lads from Nottingham down on that Orgreave field
    And faced the dogs and truncheons and the bloody riot shields

    Repeat 1

    (as sung by Dave Burns)

    Orgreave - place of a bloody clash between police and miners in Yorkshire during the 1984/85 coalfields strike

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1986:] On 30th June 1986 the last dram of coal mined in the Rhondda Valley came to the surface at Mardy Colliery. The last pit in the Rhondda was the inspiration for this song written during the 1984/85 strike by Dave Rogers of the Banner Theatre Company based in Birmingham. (Notes Dave Burns, 'Last Pit In the Rhondda')

  • [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)

Quelle: Wales

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