Militant Thistles

polemical poetry to prickle the politics of "permanent austerity"

atos Poor Doors Sheriff Stars spikes

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle bedroom tax Disrupt and Upset

Wendy Young

Blue Scars

on the faces of miners are sometimes also caused by mine explosions – a terrible reminder of the hard working conditions in the mines



Julie tells me her granddad

Worked on his hands and knees

In the mine ‘not high enough to stand in’

Picks to break the face

From the age of eleven between the coal and his tools

This was the Miner’s drudgery


Julie tells me when her son

Drives her to where she grew up

Next to the pit now levelled

Since the 1980s Strike


She can’t believe that replacing it

Is a Stepford Wife estate

With a high metal wall

And I cynically say

‘To keep the low life out?’

‘They’ve made us into a shanty town and after all that slog

My granddad did for all those years seems to have been for nowt!

It’s like they’ve closed us down!’


And I Mmm and Arghhh

And we’re angry together

‘cause when we grew up

Almost everyone was tethered

And had links to Woolley Mine

And a certain Mr Scargill


I met a woman in Barcelona

A descendant of the original owner

Before Nationalisation

My great grandfather being a farmer

At High House farm - Woolley Edge

I said ‘they may have know each other

Isn’t it strange how times have changed

and now their blood has brought us together?’

From down below the Miners

Grew into a brotherhood

Formed a Union, strong as blood

Health and Safety was secured

Leaders got them better pay

They watched each other’s backs because

‘you had to or you could be injured,

or even die in an incident’


A camaraderie that’s been blown

By governmental policy

Like the coal dust far beyond

The cleanliness of modernity


‘you learnt to take cover when you felt a little soot

falling like talcum powder, signaling imminent collapse’


From down below the lift cage raised Miners into light

Like escapees tunnelled from capture

But the afters shift took them into

Midnight blue sky

Dotted with stars


From down below where no toilets were

They ‘did it’ where they could

Found a private place to squat and

 ‘you bare arsed ‘n’ got on wi’ it

‘n’ buried it, and guess you’d call it

toileting down t’pit’

Some did it on a shovel and threw it on a conveyor

Ate their snap and drank their liquids

Now that sounds like Hecate’s lair


So high metal walls now divide

A community that once was there

True Blues are triumphant

The common herd are done

Reverted to the olden days

Squeezed out like comedones

Stamped out like worms of the earth

Pawns in a political mission  

Spurned into oblivion

As if no life was lived there

Just stories to pass down

By faithful descendants

Or hangers on to

Our past industrialisation


About people who strived, lived and loved

(As much as was possible in a severed world)

Gardened and dug

(Well it was like a drug  - a Face Worker just couldn’t stop!)  


Made the most of the fresh air

Before re-entry in the Underworld

From beery nights to early shift hango’ers

Good night with the ‘Turn’

In the Working Men’s Club

Gone with the hub

Of life that built

A society

And fascination of kids

Like us


O’er coal wounds ground

In the skin of their backs

A result of particles

Of coal dust trapped

Under the skin

All the older miners had


A visible reminder

Of a dangerous occupation

Her granddads and my granddad

Most father’s and mine

Backs gouged inimitably with the familiar pit

Blue Scars



[Italics are from interviews on internet with ex-miners]

Wendy Young reviews for Disability Arts Online. She has had a sequence published with Natterjack Press (after reviewing Rite of Passage for DAO and being encouraged by Peter Street) and has also been published in South Bank Poetry. She blogs for DAO and performs quite often (Survivors, Shuffle Festival, Liberty, Together 2012 etc). She also has a page on Creative Future's website. Her most recent collection is The Dream of Somewhere Else (Survivors' Poetry).