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‘“Broken Men” and “Thatcher’s Children”: memory and legacy in the Scottish coalfields : Paper to the Working Class Studies Association Conference, Chicago

Perchard, Andrew (2011) ‘“Broken Men” and “Thatcher’s Children”: memory and legacy in the Scottish coalfields : Paper to the Working Class Studies Association Conference, Chicago. In: Working Class Studies Association Conference 2011, 2011-06-22. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

In 1939, Scottish deep coal-mining employed 90,000 workers. Nationalization of the British coal industry in 1947 renewed hope for the future of coal, and new developments a sense of optimism in the industry’s permanence on the economic landscape of post-war Scotland. Over the next four decades the industry shed 70,000 jobs, over a third of these lost between the mid-1950s and 1964 (Knox 1999; Perchard 2007). What remained of the industry was subject to stringent and far-reaching cuts over the next twenty years, with Scotland’s last deep coal mine closing in 2002. As a recent review of the activities of the principal regeneration body for the coalfields observed, the contraction of this industry continues to cast a long shadow over former coalfield communities across Scotland (EKOS 2009). The two characterisations of the legacy of the contraction, and disappearance, of Scotland’s deep coal-mining industry – ‘broken men’ and ‘Thatcher’s children’ – are indicative of a number of dominant narratives, capturing its contested legacy. Redolent in these testimonies are the scars of past conflict and occupational injuries and disease, and the ambivalence and powerlessness over the loss of a workplace and culture, so evident in other areas affected by industrial closures (e.g. Strangleman 2001; Linkon and Russo 2002), suffusing personal and collective narratives. This paper will examine the long-term legacy of the contraction of the industry, with a particular emphasis on how this has been experienced alongside the construction of group and individual memories, as well as its effect on Scottish national consciousness.