Salute to NUM's 'King Arthur' at 70

HE was one of the most hated - and loved - men in Britain.

A man at the heart of one of the most divisive and damaging industrial battles of the 20th century.

A man who provoked an opinion in everyone, about whom it was impossible to be impartial.

And this Friday Arthur Scargill, son of Barnsley and former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, turns 70.

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Arthur has been distrustful of the media for years, rarely giving in-depth interviews or reflecting at length on his colourful career.

But to mark his landmark birthday, he is to appear in a My Yorkshire television special on YTV on Thursday night.

Arthur will talk about how the county where he was born shaped his life and his thinking, in conversation with presenter Ian Clayton.

He discusses his childhood, his parents and his early career, and how he became a miner after leaving school at Woolley Colliery back in the early 1950s.

Arthur became determined to improve miners' working conditions and was soon involved in the NUM, also becoming a political activist joining the Young Communist League when he was just 16.

He was a miner for more than 20 years but increasingly became involved in union activity, helping to pioneer the use of 'flying pickets' in the 1972 Saltley coke works dispute.

Arthur Scargill's career in pictures. Watch our slideshow. Click the green play icon.

A Labour Party member for 34 years, Arthur rose to become Yorkshire NUM leader from 1973, finally becoming national president in 1981.

Three years later he found himself and his members locked in a bitter struggle with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the year-long strike which polarised the nation.

Ian said the two of them had revisited Arthur's childhood by walking around the estate in Worsbrough where he had been brought up.

"He had a strong bond with both his mother and his father, who was a miner, a member of the Communist party and a great believer in the power of words," Ian said.

"We retraced the walk Arthur took with his dad from home to work at the Wombwell Main Colliery, and we also visited St Mary's Parish Church in Worsbrough which his mother often attended."

Arthur also takes Ian to the NUM offices in Barnsley, and to the impressive council chamber.

"Here he relives the first time he stood up to speak as a union delegate in the NUM council chamber- and how he was told to sit down in no uncertain terms," Ian said.

The film also sees Arthur visiting colliery sites which played a key part in his career such as Sharlston Colliery near Wakefield, Barnsley Main - and of course the Orgreave Coking Plant on the Sheffield-Rotherham border.

It was here that some of the most violent battles took place between police and striking miners - and where Arthur was injured by a police shield and later arrested for obstruction.


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Main news index "Looking back on the strike, Arthur believes that the miners didn't lose and that the importance lay in the struggle itself," Ian said.

"Arthur still believes coal is a viable resource for further power and that there is hundreds of years' worth of untapped reserves," he added.

Arthur Scargill's Yorkshire is broadcast on ITV1 on Thursday January 10 at 7.30pm.FACTFILE

Arthur Scargill (born January 11, 1938) led the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) from 1981 to 2000. He founded the Socialist Labour Party in 1996 and is currently the party's leader.

Scargill was born in Worsbrough Dale, near Barnsley, Yorkshire. His father, Harold Scargill, was a miner and a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Scargill became a miner after leaving school, working at Woolley Colliery from 1953.

He soon became a left-wing political activist, joining the Young Communist League from 1955 to 1962. Later, he became a member of the Labour Party between 1962 and 1996. Then he became the leader of the Yorkshire division of the NUM 1973-1981. In 1973, he was instrumental in organising the miners' strike that brought down Edward Heath's Government in March 1974. Scargill became president of the NUM in 1981, with Mick McGahey as vice-president.