NUM union  •  Party News

Colin Ward: miner and socialist (1957–1999)

21 September 1999

By Gen Doy

We were very sorry to hear of the recent death of Colin Ward, aged 41, who had been seriously ill for some time with advanced diabetes.

Colin was an active National Union of Mineworkers activist at Coventry colliery. He played a leading role in the union’s year-long struggle against pit closures during the great miners’ strike of 1984-5. Wherever there was action, wherever there was a picket line or demo n the thick of the fight with Thatcher’s cops, Colin was there.

He was a great speaker. He estimated he travelled 82,000 miles, often accompanied by his first wife Barbara, during the epic strike, talking to workers and students in Britain and abroad about the miners’ fight.

Colin’s committed leadership and political ideas enabled him to develop militant tactics in the day to day strike activities, but also led him to formulate a critique of the politics of the trade union leaders, even of militant leaders like Arthur Scargill.

Colin was always courageous in putting his ideas into practice, which at one point resulted in him getting his hands round Neil Kinnock’s throat and throwing him over a car bonnet, demanding that the Labour leader get his other sacked miners their jobs back if Labour came to power.

Colin became a supporter of Workers Power’s miners’ organisation and paper, Red Miner. He helped us organise meetings with up to thirty miners from around the country to discuss both the strike, the politics of the NUM and the trade unions in general and the struggle against capitalism. Colin was eloquent in explaining how and why the fight of the miners and their families was linked to the wider class struggle against exploitation and oppression.

He helped build the National Rank and File Miners’ Movement inside the NUM whose founding conference was attended by over 100 miners and representatives of the Women Against Pit Closures movement.

Colin, together with several other Coventry colliery NUM members was arrested on a trumped up charge and jailed for a month. They emerged to find letters from the Coal Board telling them they were sacked. Colin refused compensation and fought for an industrial tribunal ruling in his favour.

However, he was refused his old job and eked out a living on the £10,000 (less deductions) compensation he eventually received. He never claimed dole money on the principle that he was still fighting for his job. For the rest of his working life Colin struggled with terrible financial hardship and could only get low paid jobs.

During the latter part of the strike, Colin met Chris Connelly, who he later married. A delegation of striking miners arrived at a local school which a group of parents had occupied to protest at its threatened closure. Climbing in through the windows with the food parcel, Colin met Chirs, a class conscious fighter like himself, and eventually became stepdad to her two children. Their child, Katy, was born later.

Colin, supported tirelessly by Chris, struggled against failing health for many years but never lost his sense of humour or his will to see the world rid of injustice and poverty. He was a great laugh, a lovely man, a dedicated socialist. It was an honour to know and work with Colin Ward.

His friends and comrades will miss him and think of him often. His spirit lives on in the struggles and victories of workers everywhere. We send our sympathy to Chris, Katy, Tracy, and Christopher, and to Colin and Chris’ grandchildren.

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