Gordon MacPherson (1928-99) was born in County Durham in 1928. His father
died when he was only four years old; when Gordon's mother re-married some years later, the family moved to Easington,
where Gordon spent the rest of his life. He started work early, taking people's dirty washing before school and giving it
to his mother, and returning it later on in the day. Gordon grew up during World War II, and did his National Service in Burma
before returning home and marrying Myrtle Welsh. He had two children, and spent most of his working days down
the pit, working extremely hard to ensure his family would have a comfortable lifestyle.
Gordon's life has been chronicled in a book - Fight to the Finish -
written by his daughter Heather. This podcast comprised a shortened version read by Heather, interspersed with Gordon's
poems read by Heather's brother (also called Gordon). What was most evident from her reading was how the ordinary was actually
extra-ordinary: Gordon spent his entire life working to support his loved ones. He laboured for long hours down
the mine, often in dangerous conditions; sometimes he would work a seven-day week. His limited leisure hours were
spent remodelling the various houses where the family lived, cultivating his allotment and re-designing the garden (when he
at last acquired one). Gordon's final years following his retirement were spent
happily, even though he was plagued by ill-health.
Gordon's life was also a piece of living history, depicting what it was like to live
in a close-knit community in the north-east of England, where most of the men went down the mine for a living. Despite the
harsh conditions, they forged a mutual loyalty and concern for one another that sadly no longer exists. As I listened to Heather's
reading, I understood the full implications of what happened during the mid-1980s, when the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
authorized pit-closures. She might have had the satisfaction of vanquishing Arthur Scargill, but she ripped the heart out
of many communities which had been established in mining towns and villages. One could understand Gordon's desire to protest;
he was not a political radical, but simply wanting to preserve his way of life.
The podcast was full of moments like this, where I understood the potential of individual
histories to recreate a way of life that, alas, no longer exists. I applaud Heather's efforts in writing her father's life;
hopefully the book will gain a wide readership.