On one day sometime around 1957, Frank Watters (see separate entry) was selling the Daily Worker outside Armthorpe pit gate; it could not have been a more inauspicious period. Yet it was Eric Browne who chirped up: “I’ll have one mate and send this half crown to the fighting fund.” He (born 17th September 1928) and his life long chum from school, Ted Hall, were Lancastrians who had traversed the border to work in Yorkshire and who were then living in huts for incoming labour.
Very soon they had become deeply involved in the militant direction that their pit now took; firstly after a strike over allocation of housing, then came the famous 1955 Armthorpe strike. Eric and Ted were practically a pair, becoming neighbours as well as best friends, and the stalwarts upon which the Communist Party�s once strong formal strength in the locality mutated into a generalised militancy; even their wives joined in the act too, especially Eric�s wife, Dot, who was a diminutive, chirpy Lancastrian of indominitable spirit.
In the late 1950s, both had became part of an elite bunch of men, who dominated the village and led it to its special role of the `spark that lit the prairie fire� in Yorkshire, changing the entire political orientation of the coalfield. Jock Kane (see separate entry) was their leader but there was also Owen Briscoe and Sammy Thompson, all of whom became senior figures in the increasingly leftward bound Yorkshire NUM. Oddly, Arthur Scargill was somewhat distant from this clique.
He was a tie to the old days during the 1972 and 1974 miner�s strikes, when he played an important role in communicating lessons on how to conduct struggle. Very much in the spirit of being an organic part of the community, Eric became secretary of the Death Benefit Fund, being particularly pleased at how he had provided enormous financial relief to elderly pit widows, when the state would not do so.
All of the Halls and the Browne’s were solid supporters of the miner�s strike of 1984-5; indeed there was no stronger village in all of Yorkshire. Eric was personally responsible for organising the distribution of logs and ensured that children of the village had hot water in the community and sports complex by siphoning off the massive quantities of sawdust that arose as a by-product, utilising it for the boilers. As the NUM began to wind down, Eric took on the role of branch secretary, mainly helping widows to obtain their true entitlements; Eric Browne died on 26th June 1998.