Shotton, 1984: How Thatcher destroyed our town

It’s easy for some to say, now she is dead, that they had nothing personal against Thatcher. For my family and neighbours it doesn't get more personal

Yvonne Redfern
Wednesday 10 April 2013 15:32
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A safety exercise takes place at the Shotton steel works, around ten years before its closure. The author's father-in-law, Norman, is on the far left of the frame.
A safety exercise takes place at the Shotton steel works, around ten years before its closure. The author's father-in-law, Norman, is on the far left of the frame.

By the time I came I moved to Shotton, North Wales, the town Margaret Thatcher killed in 1980, you could already tell that it would never recover.

By the time I met my father in law, a man Margaret Thatcher destroyed in 1980, you could already tell that he would never work again. The heart had left the town: the heart had left him. He died soon after. Not at the age of 87 and living in the Ritz but at the age of 59 in the council house that he had too much sense of solidarity to even think of trying to own for himself.

It’s easy for some to say, now she is dead, that they had nothing personal against Thatcher. It was just her policies. As she once said, no, no, no. When someone sends one of your family in to a depression that pushes them in to their grave it is personal. It doesn’t get more personal. This is why I despise her. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t.

When I first moved to Shotton in 1984 you could see what it had once been. The steel works lay on the one side of the river Dee; the town that supplied its work force of once 12,000 men on the other. The town had twenty pubs, almost ten working men’s clubs. On Saturday nights it was standing room only after 7 o’clock. Nearby Connah’s Quay had a town hall that boasted a neat set of 50s offices, a swimming pool and an always in use ballroom.

By the time I arrived the first flush of redundancy monies had been spent. Already the new car or caravan that had been bought seemed no compensation for having no job to go to. Already the children of the (mainly) men who’d been laid off were turning to drugs.

Already anyone with a red rosette was guaranteed to win any election provided they mentioned how great the steel works had been and kept quiet about how little their party had done to stop its closure

Thirty years on I would like to say something sunny about the place. When I see pictures on the telly of people who seem to be genuinely upset at the death of Thatcher I seem to be living in another country to theirs. I see squat men who seem to have made a few quid on their council house or shares in British Telecom or any other company that used to belong to all of us.

Or a misty-eyed woman from Maidstone who looks as if she once painted her face with a union flag and cheered a lot for Tim Henman. Maybe she has a small chain of beauty salons that specialize in dubious practises. They've done well from the Tories. Still are. They will be following her funeral next week. People in Shotton will not. There are people who will never forgive Thatcher for destroying their town, their family.

I am one of them.

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