Harold started work in the coal mines at the age of 13, took part in every single battle that the miners engaged in and continued working in the industry until he was 65 years old. Harold was a life-long Communist from the youngest age. His father was an enthusiastic supporter of the Russian Revolution, which occurred as Harold was about eleven years old. When he was only 14, his father took him to meetings addressed by Communist leaders such as Willie Gallagher, Isobel Brown and at the age of 18, he shared a platform with Harry Pollitt. (See separate entries for all three.)
During the run up and the course of the Strike and subsequent miners’ lock-out, Harold was especially fired and inspired by the barnstorming style of leadership of A J Cook, as he is invariably known to history, or Arthur as friends and family called him. Harold’s son, Arthur, also to become a President of the NUM was later often compared with, or accused of aping, Cook’s leadership example.
Harold worked at Wombwell pit for a very long time, though it entailed a daily five mile walk to work each way. Conscripted during the Second World War, he served in the RAF in West Africa. He was an active supporter of the working men’s club movement, the Club and Institute Union and was interested in the life of the community of Worsborough Dale, his home village, where he helped build a Youth Centre.
A highly literate and witty man, Harold – and for that matter his young son, Arthur – was dealt a terrible blow by the untimely death of his wife, Alice Scargill (née Pickering) in 1956. Throughout the 1950s, Harold was publicly active in peace campaigns. In the NUM, he was firmly opposed to the Coal Board’s incentive bonus scheme. Despite the fact that miners, in a pit head ballot, democratically rejected the scheme, the then NUM leadership imposed it on the men. Undoubtedly, Harold’s principled and stubborn hostility to this (he called the leadership “class collaborators and hypocrites” must have had a profound effect on his young son. Harold died on 12th January 1989, aged 82.
Sources: Funeral Oration by Frank Watters – 19th January 1989; GS personal knowledge
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