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Jock Kane

John Kane first worked in the pits at Fouldshields colliery in West Lothianfrom the age of 14 in 1921. At the age of 15, he joined the Communist Party, an allegiance he was never to relinquish or conceal.

At 19, he was already deeply committed to the twin causes of better wages and better conditions and in 1922, he was well to the fore during a big strike. But his role at his local pit in the 1926 general strike and the long lock-out that followed ensured that there were no jobs for Jock and his brothers after the men went back and he was victimised for two years before obtaining work in the industry again.

This only came about since the Kanes came to Yorkshire for work. They were to live just off Broadway, near Hatfield Main, and beside the Broad­way Hotel. The miners of the family signed on at the pit. Though quickly sacked for his militancy, he moved to Shire Oaks near Work­sop. Inevitably the axe fell there too, as it did at Harworth, Staveley and Bolsover.

Jock’s brother, Mick Kane (see separate entry), was to become famed as the leader of a resurgent miners’ union in Nottingham pits in the early thirties, through his leadership in Harworth. 

This only toughened the victimisation that Jock sustained; he and his immediate family were evicted from their colliery-owned home, and even Jock's two brothers-in-law were sacked. His life long partner, Betty Kane (see separate entry) was a tower of strength in all this. 

But the Kanes managed to find a home with a Sal­vationist unbowed by the threats from the colliery management and there they stayed until the local coun­cil found a home for them.

In 1935, he was secretary of the Sheffield Communist Party. But then worked in the Derbyshire coalfield before moving to Yorkshire, where he began work at Armthorpe pit, near Doncaster, as 1936 turned into 1937, where he managed to get a job that lasted. He was to turn the pit into a veritable stronghold of Communism and the NUM. Over the next several decades, he never made any secret of his political convictions as he tramped the pit villages of South Yorkshiredeclar­ing them.

 

He was elected branch secretary in the Yorkshire miners’ union for Armthorpe in 1939. Then, a

t nationalisation of the mines, Jock was made Labour Relations Officer for the Doncasterarea but the transition was difficult for him and he only “stuck that for three and a half years", as he was to recall. He returned to the coal face at Armthorpe in 1950.

By 1955, Jock was president of Armthorpe NUM branch and played a leading role in the Doncaster Panel strike of that year, which pioneered flying pickets and was the spark that lit the fire that eventually engulfed Yorkshire miners and turned them into a focus for left-wing activism. As Jock recalled the strike "got for every pit in York­shirean extra 6d per ton and a guarantee that the deputies would have the freedom to make proper payments for work done."

 

In a highly significant development, Jock joined the Yorkshire Area NUM Executive as delegate for Armthorpe. After several defeats in elections for various union posts, he would win a significant place in the leadership of the Yorkshire NUM. 

In 1963 became the first Communist to be elected to a full time position of the Yorkshire NUM, when he was elected compensation agent of the Doncaster Panel, with a majority of 600 votes. It was said in a newspaper report at the time that was despite "attempts to keep Communists out of the top positions in the NUM".  In 1966, he topped the pithead ballot for Yorkshire Area Financial Secretary, a highly significant official position in the NUM, winning with a thumping 4,000 majority. In 1969, in a contest between 21 candidates, he was elected to the union’s national executive committee.  Jock held both the Yorkshiretreasurer and NEC role until his retirement.

His most decisive contribution came in Jock's last struggle as a full time union official, when he helped to organise the national miners' strikes of the early 1970s. He played a significant back room role in ensuring the success of picketing at Saltley Gate in 1972. 

Jock died at the age of 70 in 1977.

Sources: Morning Star undated cutting [??er 30th 1977 Morning Star]; `We were Rebels’ an oral history by Jock Kane (see elsewhere on this site).