When I was a child, all of my father's family were miners, working at Crookhall
Colliery near Consett. Every year, from about the age of three, I was taken to the
Durham Miners' Gala. We would congregate in the village of Delves Lane, the
banner would be raised, and we would march behind the band and banner to the
railway station at Knitsley, to catch a special train to Durham.
At Durham we assembled again and marched with the other bands and banners to
the racecourse via the County Hotel, where all the current Labour Party leaders,
such as Clement Atlee, Ernest Bevin, Aneurin Bevan and the trade union officials
were on the balcony.
As a child it was a very exciting, noisy, happy occasion in the narrow city streets. At
that time Crookhall Colliery had one of the best bands in the country and we were
very proud of them. It took all morning for the bands to get into the city and then we
children spent the afternoon picnicking and playing on the racecourse and I
remember making quite a bit of pocket money collecting and returning pop bottles.
After tea the journey home began. This was a bit more lively, since the younger men
had had a few drinks, and there was a lot of dancing and jostling behind the bands.
The day had also been a time of meeting with families from other parts of the county
and now it was time for goodbyes. The journey home was always a bit of a blur
because I was usually fast asleep.
Looking back now I realize that Durham Miners' Gala, in those days, must have been
one of this country's great occasions.