18th June 1984 was the most violent day of the year-long miners’ strike, with around 6,000 police facing National Union of Mineworkers pickets at what was dubbed The Battle of Orgreave.
Miner Kevin Horne was one of 95 pickets who were arrested and charged, but their trials later collapsed because of unreliable police evidence. Here, Kevin and fellow striker Barbara Jackson remember that day in June ’84 and describe their campaign to get a public inquiry into what really happened at Orgreave colliery.
“We’d been picketing Orgreave for six weeks, but there was a different atmosphere that day. When we heard that the police were escorting people from the motorway to Orgreave, we should have realised that it was a trap.
I was walking along a road covered in stones from a broken wall. A police officer asked me to give him a hand to clear the road so that ambulances for pickets could get through. Me and a couple of lads helped him move the boulders. But unfortunately, we’d cleared the way for horses, not ambulances.
I ran for my life through a field, horses chasing me. I came to a green where I shouted at the coal wagons and then had a shove in the back – I think from a plain clothes officer – right into the arms of the police.
At Rotherham police station, lads were bleeding and broken – arms, legs, even a broken skull. We tried to bandage them up with our t-shirts.
When the first trial collapsed, I didn’t think my trial would get to court. My family needed a holiday so we went to North Wales. I was having a quiet pint in a bar when on the news I saw the lads I should have been on trial with leaving court. I panicked and rang my lawyer, who explained that the charges had been dropped. I sat there, feeling like people should be coming up and congratulating me – but I was just a stranger in a bar.
Back home in Yorkshire, people used to avoid me in the pub, so I stopped talking about Orgreave. Then in 2012 I read about the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign and I went along to a meeting. It felt good to meet people who understood. For me, the target is to get South Yorkshire police respected again. It’s too late for my sons, but I’d like my grandchildren to have the same respectful relationship with the police that I had when I was a kid.”
“I was picketing my office [the National Coal Board in Sheffield] that day so I first heard about Orgreave when I got home and turned on the teatime news. I was absolutely shocked by the footage. It was a red-hot summer’s day, so the miners were in t-shirts, jeans and trainers. The police were there with riot gear and dogs, and 40 officers on horseback. They were fully prepared. The power balance – both in terms of resources and organisation – was totally in the police’s favour. It was brutal.
In 2012 I was a founding member of The Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign. We’re trying to overturn the narrative that’s been in the public domain all these years: that the miners were to blame.
We’ve been putting pressure on the government to open a public inquiry into Orgreave, like the one that vindicated the fans at Hillsborough. The signs looked good, so in October 2016, when the Tories announced there was no need for an inquiry, we felt complete and utter shock. But we’ll carry on – it’s in our DNA.
The campaign has recaptured that life-affirming sense of solidarity we felt during the strike. We’ve had so many people offering to help. They’re printing t-shirts, managing the website, making films, giving us bill-board space – all free of charge. They believe in the integrity of the campaign and they believe in our call for a public inquiry. We’ll keep challenging the government until the huge injustice that happened at Orgreave gets the hearing it deserves.”