Miners' strike recalled in peace

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A WELSH valley hillside last week became a focus for reconcilation between opposing forces in the bitter miners' strike of 1984.

More than 400 people gathered at Llwydcoed crematorium near Aberdare to pay their last respects to Emlyn Williams, president of the South Wales area of the National Union of Mineworkers during the traumatic strike year, who died earlier this month aged 74.

As the crowd lined up to await the arrival of the hearse, the NUM president, Arthur Scargill, and the former South Wales director of the National Coal Board, Philip Weekes, shook hands. Mr Weekes retired soon after the strike ended.

A tall, grey-haired man whose rapport with the Welsh miners is legendary, Mr Weekes said: "We shook hands at this memorable occasion recalling a man who ranks alongside other icons of the coal industry - men like William Paynter and Arthur Horner." Mr Scargill responded: "I'm glad to be here today."

Differences between Mr Scargill and Mr Williams led to some trenchant exchanges, but once the decision to strike was taken, South Wales and its president remained so solid that at many pits pickets were never mounted.

Mr Williams was South Wales president from 1973 until he retired in late 1985. He was the last but one man to hold an office once rated in Wales as one of the highest in the land.