In The Collie’s Shed, a multi-generation cast of actors portray the past and present lives of four men whose lives were fundamentally changed by the 1985 miners’ strike. Told from the perspective of those who stood proudly and defiantly on the picket lines and of those who walked past it, some reluctantly and others less so, the drama centres on the conflicting views of men whose strong decisions ultimately shaped their lives.
The play mentions in passing the Miners’ Strike Pardon Bill passed by MSPs at Holyrood in 2022 but focuses on scenes that took place during the strikes, with the older cast reminiscing on what took place, largely with bitterness and anger that reveals their still-open deep emotional wounds. Although the Bill pardoned miners, it did not go far enough to undo the years of pain caused by the blacklisting of miners who lost their jobs. Ultimately, they received no compensation and their convictions were not quashed. When Billy hears the pardon has been offered, he is delighted to have received an official apology, which is a small piece of closure on a damaging and brutal affair.
Themes of friendship, betrayal and sacrifice highlight the pain endured by miners, their families, and their community over the last 38 years. One character’s viscous beating at the hands of the Scottish police force demonstrated what the miners were up against. The eventual closure of the pit and the blighting of the local community is discussed without nostalgia by the older and no less angry ex-miners. The play is a strong, solid drama that gives a glimpse into the unease and pain felt by the ex-mining communities of Scotland.
C. Hourigan Rae