By David James
David James is a retired Welsh journalist whose father worked in the coal mines of South Wales in the middle 20th century. A version of this letter appeared in private correspondence between him and friends. It appears here with his permission to give a sense of the deep emotions that many who lived under former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s rule are experiencing in response to her death last week. It is edited to remove the outright profanity that the occasion has inspired among some British, and that James previously embraced in droves. For more on Thatcher’s legacy, click here.
I’m afraid I couldn’t face the “state” funeral of Margaret Thatcher on Wednesday. Not such a short time after the death of my dad, who was for the first half of his long and hardworking life a South Wales coal miner; a face-worker in a deep anthracite colliery “down the pit” in Cwmgrach, and one of the “enemies within,” according to Margaret Thatcher.
He was 87 years old at the time of his death—the same age as the saintly and ennobled Baroness Thatcher herself.
I realize how difficult it must be for Americans to really appreciate how completely personally repulsive the prospective occasion of this “state” funeral is for me, and just how much the working class of South Wales passionately despised this less-than-a-woman, subhuman abomination Thatcher.
There wasn’t a “state” funeral for my dad or for any other of the hundreds of thousands of courageous colliers of South Wales, and the rest of Britain, who risked everything, every single working day of their lives, in the most appalling working conditions and danger, for the sake of their families and the country, and by whose hard labor and raw courage—courage enough to face plunging down hundreds and hundreds of feet into the blackness of those subterranean hellholes every day in a “cage”—cut the very wealth, by their own hands, that funded the entire might and prosperity of industrial Britain, and won all the wealth that today funds the Tories’ own selfish inheritable privilege and advantage, as well as that of their erstwhile “British Empire,” over more than two centuries.
There were no TV crews from around the world in attendance, or pomp and ceremony, or glinting be-sworded regimental cavalrymen, or sickeningly fawning politicians, or kings, queens and heads of state at a Westminster Abbey for my dad’s funeral. Just a simple service and a pint or two, shared amongst loving old friends and family in a spare Welsh chapel and pub. But that man and his collier brothers were worth a thousand more than all the rich Tory bastards on earth put together.
No, there was no such memorial extravagance for either my dad, or all those countless and now historically “anonymous” and “insignificant” workers; the enemies within, who really did deserve such immoderate commemoration, as whole generations of now increasingly forgotten British coal miners and steelworkers surely did. The whole bloody lot of them.
The strength and bravery of those perfectly ordinary men and women of the British working class, summoned up day after relentless day for their whole lives, was brutally and savagely betrayed by that greedy, evil and wholly misbegotten Thatcher.
No, my wife and I just couldn’t face it. We couldn’t possibly endure the nauseating injustice, perversity and crude horror of it all. We couldn’t possibly be present for such a disgustingly ugly and grotesque spectacle. So we got a plane out of there. We left the Tory-governed, Daily Mail reading, fascist outhouse that is present-day Britain for the duration. Thanks to the generosity of my good Aussie cousin and his lovely wife from Melbourne, since Monday we’ve been in a little townhouse they rented for a couple of weeks in Ronda, Spain.
That’s Ernest Hemingway’s Ronda, the beautiful little pueblo blanco in the southern mountains of Andalucia, where that great American writer, the genuine hero and true hombre valiente, once lived and loved and went to his beloved bullfights, and celebrated his last, best birthday. It’s the town where he wrote of profound human decency and courage in the face of the European-wide onslaught of mindlessly cruel Thatcher-style fascism and anti-art in the 1930s.
Ronda in Andalucia. Where during the Spanish Civil War its noble citizens threw over 400 stinking fascist pigs to a gory death, chucking them alive off the cliff into the deep and plunging ravine that bisects that little mountain town; a town that boasted a number of Welsh coal miners then in Spain to fight fascism for the Republic. I do so hope they had a big hand in the chucking off ceremony.
An excessively merciful end for this kind of subhuman filth? Perhaps. But the good people of Andalucia have always been renowned for their generosity and humanity.
No. On Wednesday, as they deliver the rank and stenching corpse of Thatcher into the moldering earth, my wife and I, and cousin and his bride, shall be in Ronda, raising a glass in celebration of the death of that monstrous woman, as shall millions of righteous people everywhere, and in celebration of the life of my dad, and of the courageous lives of coal miners everywhere, and of the life and works of Ernest Miller Hemingway too.
Watt_Dabney (CC BY-SA 2.0)
A group of Welsh coal miners, date unknown.