Some of my earliest musical memories are of brass band music from the annual Nottinghamshire Miners’ Rally in Mansfield; there was a procession to Berry Hill Park which went past the end of our street. From the corner I was allowed to watch the miners ‘marching’ up the hill coming from collieries from all over the country, but I would guess predominantly from the Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire coalfields. Many came with their brass bands; it was part of the tradition. Mining is part of our family history too – my paternal grandmother’s side of the family had come down to the Nottinghamshire coalfield in the late 19th century from that in County Durham, parts of the family having originated from the coalfield north of Newcastle. My middle name is even from one of the pits the family worked at in Northumberland.
The Youtube video below is sadly silent as it is gleaned from old cine-flims, but evokes the era
I assume the annual rally came to an end after the 1984-85 strike when Nottinghamshire miners carried on working – not that it did them much good, Thatcher’s Government closed the pits there and everywhere else in the country. Most of the Nottinghamshire mines had been closed before the 1990s were out – of the 24 pits in the county in 1984, 19 had been shut before the end of the millennium; the last, Thoresby, had its final shift in July 2015. Leaving Kellingley, near Pontefract, as the country’s last remaining coal pit – but that is due to close before 2015 is out.
The Clipstone headstocks (source)
I’ve no idea whether I saw Grimethorpe Colliery Band play whilst they walked up Berry Hill Lane towards the park, but they may well have done – they came to prominence in the early 1970s, winning the Granada TV Brass Band of the Year competition in 1972, which the footage below is from. The excellent film ‘Brassed Off’, with the sadly missed Pete Postletwaite, gave a semi-fictionalised account of Grimethorpe’s unsuccessful struggle against closure. 1972 would probably have been one of the last Notts. Miners Rallies that I saw – we moved from the house I had grown up in, opposite the brickworks and quarry, a year or so later. Hearing brass band music always makes me feel quite nostalgic both in terms of my own childhood but also of a lost industry and the heritage that went with it.