Dave Douglass Writes from the National Union of Mineworkers Yorkshire Area Campaigning Committee

By Dave Douglass

I was very disheartened to hear belatedly of the death of my old comrade Philip Donnellan. I should dearly have liked to have been at his funeral to have paid my respects.

The last time I saw Philip was at a dedication bop down in the Staffordshire coalfield, where the central library had unveiled a wonderful memorial to Joe Green and Davie Jones, two of the men killed in picket operations during the great coal dispute of ’84/’85. Philip was up doing that strange skip jive of his, which I think came from some primeval Jazz era rather than the technobeat he was performing to. He wore cord shoes and corduroy trousers, which were the certain mark that he was a film producer, though one totally immersed in the life and rhythms of the proletariat.

At that time he had moved to Ireland, I think to be closer to a struggle which had the British state by the bollocks more firmly than any other.

Our paths had first crossed in the heady days of 1970, “In the beginning,’’ as someone once said, “when we were winning.” I was editor of a revolutionary miners’ journal, The Mineworker, he was making a series of ground-breaking in-depth fly-on-the-wall documentaries about life, labour and attitude in Britain called Where do I Stand? He had been put onto me by our mutual friends Ewan Maccoll and Peggy Seeger, themselves ground-breaking artists of theatrical song and performance.

His focus on me and my wife of the time, Maureen, and the red caucus of revolutionary mining folk, was to become so hot he was forced by the BBC to make two additional programmes on moderate conservative workers to compensate. The first piece remains a classic statement of our collective optimism in the certain victory of long downtrodden humanity. Philip’s path crossed mine again and again, as he kept in tune with the pulse of rising class anger and fightback through the ’70s and ’80s. God knows, we can scarce afford to lose someone of his vision, principle and cinematic skills. The pit communities who came to know and respect Philip, along with many other groups, will sorely miss Phil I’m sure. I wish him God speed and thanks for his irrepressible contribution.