Diary of a Flying Picket

Silverwood miner Bruce Wilson kept a diary of his time as a flying picket that was turned into a book in 2004 for the strike’s 20th anniversary.

He spent the year picketing collieries up and down the country, flying about with a band of brothers in his trusty ‘battlebus’ a battered Triumph 2.5 TC.

Bruce and his Battlebus

With Bruce in the driver’s seat, he was joined by younger brother Bob Wilson as co-pilot, two fellow Silverwood miners Shaun Bisby and Daz Goulty, and a Cortonwood miner ‘Captain’ Bob Taylor.

The escapades of these thirty-somethings were meticulously documented by Bruce in both his diary and on camera. His diary was an honest account of the trials, tribulations and tricks that the flying picketers went through during that long year.

“I never held back. If I threw a brick, I said I did. We got sucked into dirty tactics as we were so fed up of getting a beating. I have no regrets for what I did. I’m the same person now as I was then. Adversity was water off a duck’s back.”

Bruce and his fellow flying pickets in 2004 – the Deed of the Day medal at NCMM

He wrote of the wonderful highs, the comical comradeship he and his fellow flying pickets endured together. They had a Deed of the Day medal, an old breaststroke medal that they covered with an NUM sticker, that was awarded for bravery or stupidity. 

Captain Bob won it the most times for deeds like losing his trusty flat cap when trying to evade police, or having to sit in his purple nylon pants on the way home from picketing after getting soaked jumping in a ditch. He donated the medal to the National Coal Mining Museum and it is now part of their collection.

But there were also unbelievable low points. Bruce’s brother Bob once had his house burgled while picketing. They didn’t take the TV or anything of value, but they did nick his NUM issued food hamper.

Bruce at the Humber bridge July 1984

One standout memory is of getting arrested in Scunthorpe for obstructing the highways after stopping traffic on the motorway. It was a hot summer’s day and the convoy were playing football to pass some time when a coach full of old ladies was trying to get through.

“Me being me, I pulled out of the blockade to let them through. I used to put paper over my reg plate but it never stayed on. The old ladies must have given the police my reg number as the next thing we knew, a van load of riot police turned up looking like Darth Vader with the full visors on. They kicked the van doors open and came charging at us with truncheons blazing. I accelerated and set off. I wasn’t intimidated by them. It was just a bit of fun to us.”

Bruce and the rest of the lads were eventually arrested and found themselves 30 to a cell in what he says was like the Black Hole of Calcutta. Despite the cramped and sweaty conditions, they did get a good meal out of it – stew and chips!

He also made a list of all the picket line police personalities – those who were alright, those who were half and half, and those who were hellbent on ruling the strike. He remembers one officer he really took offence to ramming a brand new police Range Rover into a snowman that the miners had built around a concrete bollard at Kilnhurst pit.

Bruce’s book has been given another print run by publishers Pen and Sword for the strike’s 40th anniversary.

Yorkshire’s Flying Pickets, edited by historian Brian Elliott, is available to order for £11.99 from www.pen-and-sword.co.uk