Film ID:
NEFA 13609

THE BLACKHILL CAMPAIGN

1963

Visitor Tabs

Description

A documentary film that follows the campaign organised by the miners and citizens of the villages of Blackhill and Scremerston in Northumberland to fight the National Coal Board's decision to close the Blackhill Colliery. Following their defeat the film then follows them in their efforts to open a private drift mine at Allerdean.

The film opens on the face of miner George Richardson, also known as Joiner, looking down at a slip of paper. He walks away from a building past a poster which reads “A secure job & big money! Coalmining”.

Over the opening credits, and to the accompaniment of Northumberland pipe music, George relaxes in his living room with his dog and a newspaper.

Title: The Blackhill Campaign by Jack Parsons.

Credit: Narrated by: George Richardson.

Credits: Photography by Gilbert Ingram, Joep Konigs, Julia James, Stephen Halliday, Norman Roundel.

Credit: Music courtesy of the BBC library.

A map focuses in on Berwick-on-Tweed with a drawn line towards London, then to Blackhill Colliery.

General views of Blackhill Colliery and of a lorry loaded with coal driving out of the pit yard. There is another view of the mine from a distance with the Cheviot Hills in the background.

Underground a miner checks a metal pit prop while another digs coal from the thin seam. Two miners bend over to walk past. A man looks over the mechanics of a water pump and pistons.

A group of miners come out from the pit cage into the daylight. Coal moves along a conveyor and is checked over by a number of men. Another man pulls two wagons of coal from a pit cage and then along a rail track.

General view of the village of Scremerston followed by the derelict pump and winding houses at Scremerston Colliery. A piece of rag blows in the wind of a broken window.

General views of new housing in Prince Charles Crescent and Prince Charles Road, Blackhill. There are views of traditional miner’s houses along Deputy Row, Electricians Row and The Sink at Scremerston.

A man in a beret and duffle coat walks past the derelict pump house at Scremerston Colliery. He looks through a gate and down into the pit shaft.

General view showing a service taking place in St. Peter’s church at Scremerston. A blacksmith works his forge and hammers a horse shoe on an anvil. The front page of the Berwick Advertiser reads “Salmon Galore! Tweed Nets Make Huge Hauls”.

Tommy Mason stands outside his pigeon coop feeding his birds. Inside his wife, Sally, talks with someone off camera.

Harry Gibson, the landlord of the Miners Arms in Scremerston, pulls a pint of beer. Joel Richard-Wood sits at a table in the pub drinking his pint of beer.

Joel Cole, a lay preacher, plays an organ.

Tom Richardson, a deputy in the pit, works his vegetable garden with a hoe. Inside their house Mrs Richardson cuts a slice of cake on the kitchen table. Muriel Richardson, their daughter, sits on floor in front of the living room fire drawing a picture of a miner in pencil.

Dick Thompson, who runs the local Welfare community centre, sits at a table speaking with Matt Lockes the caretaker. A woman carrying a baby walks out of the welfare building and places the child in a pram. Dick Thompson stands in the street talking with a man working from the top of a telegraph pole.

Tommy Gibson parks his car on Bridge Terrace in Berwick upon Tweed that overlooks the Royal Tweed Bridge. As he walks into his house he is greeted by a small dog which he picks up and carries inside. 

View of the outside of a terraced house. Inside is a man identified as Gavin Drummond.

General views of Palace Green and Scots Gate in Berwick. A metal sign attached to Scots Gate reads “To Elizabethan Ramparts”. A crowd stands outside the offices of the Berwick Advertiser.

General view of a nuclear power station. A mechanical digger shovels a large mound of coal.

A newspaper headline reads “Coal Chief Slashes the Target. Miners’ Leader Told 40,000,000 Tons are Off.”

A man takes a telephone call from the 'Newcastle Journal' newspaper informing him of the pit’s closure. Underground another telephone rings and is answered by a miner.

George Richardson sits in front of his television watching the news of the closures. He gets up, puts on his flat cap and leaves the house.

The front page of the Berwick Advertiser reads “Blackhill Colliery to Close Down”. General views of a group of men talking. Three women stand by a front garden gate talking; they are joined by a fourth. Another man leans against a wall talking.

Dick Thompson walks out of his house watched by his wife. Men and women leave their houses and walk into the Welfare building for a mass meeting. There are views of the meeting taking place.

Interview with local vicar in the churchyard about becoming part of the defence committee set up to save the pit. He walks into the Welfare building.

Major Smear, owner of the Berwick Advertiser, sits at a desk dictating a message to a woman sitting across from him.

Gavin Drummond and another man come out of a terraced house. Tom Evans, the mayor of Berwick and a ship yard manager, speaks with another man in a shipyard. A group of workers in a smelter shop pull a steel beam from a furnace.

Colonel Davidson speaks with a shepherd in a field. Beside them a lamb feeding from a ewe and four lambs play beside a bale of hay.

Dick Thompson is seen working underground. General views of a defence committee meeting taking place in the Welfare building.

Smoke billows from the colliery chimney. Men load wooden planks onto a lorry, the name Allan Brothers Ltd is printed about the windshield.

A man shovels coal from a railway wagon into a sack. A man hangs from the door of a coal lorry as it drives along a street. He takes a sack of coal from the back of the lorry and drops the contents down the coal chute of a house.

Local MP Lord Lambton sits in an office. The headline of the Berwick Advertiser reads “Miners Await News of Deferment Appeal”. A car drives into the National Coal Board Northern Division Headquarters in Newcastle. There is a general view of a defence committee meeting.

Tommy Gibson sits in a chair at home working on new pit workings plans.

A page from a newspaper comes off a printing press. The front page of the Berwick Advertiser reads “Council Seek Talks with Coal Board”.

General views of Blackhill Colliery and two miners coming out of a pit cage. 

Two cars pull up outside a building. Two men are seen climbing the stone steps in front of the building and going inside. In an office the two men talk and read through a number of folders and letters. The front cover of one of the folders reads “Blackhill Colliery Closing Of”. One of the men switches on a dictation machine.

An article inside an edition of the Daily Mail dated February 3rd 1959 reads “We’ll Buy Mine – Mayor. He Plans £60,000 Fighting Fund to Run it Privately and Save a Village from ‘Murder’”. 

A woman takes notes while a man sitting nearby reads through a series of letters. She seals a letter into an envelope and passes the letter to Gavin Drummond. He is seen leaving his house and posts the letter into a letterbox.

Tommy Gibson walks up a paved embankment. He looks through a ledger of names and figures and makes a few ticks.

Gordon Ayre, an Economist, speaks with the defence committee at a meeting in the Welfare building. A sign outside another building reads “Greaves, West & Ayre Chartered Accountants”. Gordon Ayre speaks with Tommy Gibson on the telephone. The committee walk out of the Welfare building.

From inside a van Major Smear uses a bull horn. A Berwick News van drives along a street, the bull horn poking out of the passenger side window. An edition of the Berwick Advertiser comes off a printing press. An article in the paper reads “This is Your Problem”. A typesetter in a printers places metal letters into a composing stick. A leaflet is produced on a mechanical printer. It reads “Closure of Blackhill Colliery Special Protest Meeting”. A man hands out these leaflets in a Berwick street.  

General view of Berwick Town Hall at night. The clock tower reads 8.03pm. Crowds of people arrive and walk into the town hall. There is a view of the embossed emblem on the cover of the Gibson Plan. A crowd of men stand in the doorway of the town hall. An unseen hand turns the pages of the plan for the continued operation of Blackhill Colliery. The headline of the Berwick Advertiser reads “Pit Defence Committee Refuse to Accept Defeat”.

Tommy Gibson walks town a paved embankment with his dog.

A partially visible newspaper headline reads “.. Our Wages’ Plea by Miners. Men at Doomed Pit Draw up New Plan to Save Their Jobs.” Part of the article is highlighted which reads “It proposes that some men should work six weeks without pay, drastic wage cuts should be made to minimum rates and that the pit staff should be reduced from 211 to 125”.

General view of a statue of a coal miner. A man carrying a briefcase walks slowly down a road. Another man walks into Hobart House; the London headquarters of the National Coal Board.

A newspaper article reads “Save – Pit Plan is Tragic: NUM Chief”. The headline of the Berwick Advertiser reads “’We Have Been Let Down’ say Miners”. A Sunday Express newspaper headline reads “Pitmen Rap Union: ‘You Murder Us’”. Tommy Gibson and another man speak on the telephone. A Daily Mail article reads “We’re Ready to Save Pit Ourselves”.

General view of the exterior of Tyne Tees Television studios on City Road in Newcastle. A Tyne Tees Television presenter is seen on a television screen. General view of St Peter’s church and large house at dusk. Five people sitting in a room watch television; one of the women is knitting. A man comes into the room, closes the door behind him and joins the others in watching the television.

George Richardson and other miners collect their final pay packets from the colliery pay office. He opens the envelope and reads the 14 day notice slip inside. He walks away from a building past a poster which reads “A secure job & big money! Coalmining”.

General views of some of the men from the defence committee leaving various buildings and houses; some drive away in cars. The Vicar walk along a path in front of the church. General view of the defence committee meeting taking place in the Welfare building.

Sacks are loaded onto a railway train and carriage doors are closed by a railway Guard. General view of the Royal Border Bridge. A steam train pulls out of a railway station and crosses the Royal Border Bridge.

In the Welfare two women sit with babies on their knees. A small boy stands beside them. A number of women play cards while a group of old men play dominos. A young man plays snooker.

Lord Lambton paces around a room and writes a letter. General view of the Houses of Parliament in London. Lord Lambton holds up a copy of the Gibson Report and recreates a speech given in the House of Lords on why the Gibson Plan should work. A flag flies from the roof of The Victoria Tower. The front page of the Berwick Advertiser reads “Lord Mills to See NCB Chief on Pit”. General view of the exterior of the Board of Trade Building along the river Thames. Traffic moves around Trafalgar Square.

General views of Spital and Berwick as seen from a moving steam train. There is a view of the Tweed Bridge as the train crossing the Royal Border Bridge.

A car drives slowly along Woolmarket past Hepworth’s store. General view of winding gear and pithead at Blackhill Colliery. Coal travels along a conveyor

An old woman picks up a bottle of milk from her doorstep. A newspaper headline reads "No Word from London - Pit Prepares for the End".

A National Coal Board bus comes to a stop. Miners climb off and walk across the pit yard. Miners climb into the pit cage and descend into the mine. 

A newspaper headline reads "Village Prepares to Die". Another headline reads "NCB Boss Answers Plea Today".

Below ground two miners shovel coal from the pit face. There are views of the working of the winding gear and a cage coming to the surface. Tubs of coal arrive at the surface and are pushed along rails before being tipped. Miners sort the coal on a conveyor which is then seen being poured into wagons.  

A pit cage comes to the surface and four miners walk through the yard. A bus leaves the pit yard and drives away from the mine. General views of the surrounding countryside around the mine that shows a fire burning in the pit yard.

General views of the village of Scremerston and of the parish church of St Peter’s. People leave the church following a service.

Tommy Gibson and his crew arriving at the mine to begin demolition.

Tommy Richardson climbs of a bus and is seen being interviewed. Groups of men stand around outside a Ministry of Labour and National Service building.

Harry Hope works at a bench in a shed drilling a hole into a piece of metal. A woman looks at a display of meat in the window of a butchers shop. A man walks out of a railway station carrying a suite case and walks into town. He is interviewed for the film.

General views of Tommy Gibson and his demolition crew at work underground. They pull down a pit prop using chains causing the roof to collapse. Tommy sets a demolition charge. There are a series of explosions causing parts of the mine to collapse.

Double exposure shot showing the exterior of the Welfare building and a public meeting taking place inside.

George Richardson walks along the road leading to the mine. He looks at a sign that reads “NCB property – trespassers will be prosecuted” and continues walking. General views of George walking around the now deserted colliery. He looks through a crack in a door at an empty workshop. George wipes the mud from a sign lying on the ground. He picks up an abandoned miners helmet and throws it into a puddle of water.

General view of the Welfare building with two prams and a bicycle parked outside. Inside four women play cards around a table. Outside two boys play in the street. A man removes the hub cap from the rear wheel of his car and starts to unscrew the nuts.

A man sitting at table writes a letter. Next to him is a copy of the “National Coal Board Quarterly Statistical Statement, Third Quarter 1958”. A newspaper headline reads “Blackhill Miners are PEOPLE and Must be Treated as People”. The headline on the front page of the Berwick Advertiser reads “Drift Mine Answer Brings Hope to Pitmen”.

On the edge of a ploughed field Tommy Gibson and another man look over the flooded Allerdean drift mine. General view of the exterior of the National Coal Board Northern Division Headquarters in Newcastle. A front page headline in the Berwick Advertiser reads “Miners Go it Alone on the Drift Mine Project. Capital of at Least £10,000 Will be Needed to Start”. Another headline reads “Colliery Company say They Could Give Jobs to Nearly 40 at Drift”.

Tommy Gibson speaks to the defence committee in the Welfare building. A headline from The Scotsman newspaper reads “Flooding May Doom Miners’ Drift Project. But Jobless Men are Still Hopeful”. 

General views showing the defence committee holding various meetings in the Welfare building and visiting the Allerdean mine. A newspaper headline reads “Colliery Company says Men’s Plan Only a Waste of Time. Entry to Drift Refused”.

A man seated at a desk writes a letter. Four men stand beside a wall talking. The Vicar opens and reads a letter on his doorstep.

A number of miners walk past a bus that is parked in the road. Standing beside them is television reporter holding a microphone.

General view of a pithead with a sign in the yard that reads “National Coal Board Shilbottle Colliery”. Two Blackhill miners are interviewed about working at Shillbottle. Interview with Mr Evans of the Shillbottle Lodge about having miners from Blackhill working at Shillbottle.

A removal lorry is parked in a Shillbottle street of newly constructed terraced houses. A woman leans out of a window. A family unload their belongings from the back of the lorry and carry them into their new home. A woman pours cups of tea in the living room and a man drinks one.

A front page headline in the Berwick Advertiser reads “Blackhill Men Want Drift Mine Speed-Up. Many Lose Redundancy Pay Within Next Few Days”. Another front page headline in the Berwick Advertiser reads “Coun. Drummond Still Holds onto Licence. Pit Committee Delegation to Meet NCB Chairman”.

Two men in a room stand and talk. Major Smears sits at a desk dictating a message to a woman sitting across from him. A front page headline in the Berwick Advertiser reads “Ninety Miners say Hand it Over. Overwhelming reply to ‘Advertiser’ Quiz”. There is another headline that reads “Mr Drummond Hands Over Drift Mine Licence” which is inter-cut with shots of an edition of a newspaper being printed.

Another newspaper headline reads “One Killed, 6 Hurt by Careening Pit Tubs”. There is a close up a picture in the paper showing Thomas (Tommy) Mason who was killed in the accident. 

At Allerdean workers plant new wooden posts and pour concrete. A cat plays on a plank of wood. General view of suspended electric cables and transformers. Miners look over the “Allerdean Colliery Blackhill Seam Electrical Plan”. A front page headline in the Berwick Advertiser reads “Over 20 Men Work at Drift Mine. Ex-Blackhill Miners Get Ready for Pumping”.

Water is pumped out of the mine through hosepipes. Tommy Gibson holds two hoses which is pumping water into a constructed pond beside the mine. There is a view of the modern diesel pumps. A front page headline in the Berwick Advertiser reads “Miners Work 40 Yards into Drift. Good Progress Being Made at Allerdean”. Tommy Gibson is seen working inside the mine. He is carrying a Davy lamp and is testing the wooden props with a knife.

A man on a ladder attached a large sign to a post. The sign reads “The Elsdon Colliery Co. Ltd Allerdean Drift, Allerdean, Berwick upon Tweed”.

Two coal tubs are sent down into Allerdean mine via a cabled railway track controlled by a man in a small shed. Underground a miner hammers a metal pit prop into place and a mechanical digger loads coal into a tub. At the seam a miner digs while a colleague attaches another metal prop to the ceiling. A miner uses his shovel to push coal past him. Two miners push a tub of coal up a small incline. The tubs are pulled back to the entrance of the mine by winch which is controlled by the man seen previously. The coal in emptied onto a conveyor where the larger pieces are broken up and shovelled into sacks. A lorry containing the coal drives away from the mine.

 Two more tubs of coal appear from the mine followed by a number of miners; one of whom doffs his helmet to the camera. The next shift of miners walks into the drift. Thomas Gibson walks out of the mine and through the pit yard carrying a Davy lamp.

Over the credits the defence committee hold a meeting in the Welfare building.

Title: This film is dedicated to the miners of Blackhill Colliery and their fellow-citizens whose kindness and co-operation made it possible. It took four years voluntary work to make.

Title:  These organisations gave substantial help.

End Credit: The British Film Institute Experimental Fund, which made completion possible.

End Credit:  Derrick Knight and Partners.

End Credit: The BBC (London and Newcastle).

End Credit:  Tyne Tees Television.

End Credit:  The Shell Film Unit.

End Credit:  The Berwick Advertiser.

The film ends on George Richardson relaxing in his living room with his dog and a newspaper.

Title: Individuals who helped include:

End Credit: David Andrew, Alice Ellis, Jack Armstrong, Nick Faith, Mike Avel, John Hands, Barbara Barker, Fred Goodland, Dudley Buckle, Viscount Lambton MP, Owen Carter, Hans Lobstein, Terry Devereaux, Peter de Normanville, Paula Weldon.