Saturday, 14 July 2007

Durham Big Meeting 2007



There was always a certain inevitability that I would find myself attending the 123rd Durham Miners' Gala today (that's 'gay-la', by the way, not 'ga-la': it pays to get the pronunciation right when you're in this neck of the woods).

After waxing lyrical on the exhibition of paintings and photographs at Bishop Auckland Town Hall, my daughter Barbara had insisted it was only right that I make the journey north to sample the 'real thing'. I'm glad I did.

The people of Durham are a sociable lot, who have never let the fact there are no longer any mines in the county stand in their way of enjoying their annual 'Big Meeting'. The event has, instead, become a celebration of the heritage of the Durham Coalfield, of which local people are justifiably proud. There's a certain sadness attached to the nostalgia: the closure of the coal mines brought tremendous social dislocation, unemployment and community upheaval to the area.


And yet, the resilient north-easterners have bounced back. It's not a bad place to live, by all accounts, and Barbara seems to have settled there well. Today was a chance to sample all that is good about the sense of community: families enjoying themselves on a day out, having a picnic on the racecourse, or watching the seemingly endless parade of banners and brass bands; meeting old friends and acquaintances or simply wandering the streets and enjoying sun and the music.

A previous British Prime Minister tried to tell us there was 'no such thing as society' by which, so many commentators told us, Margaret Thatcher meant 'community'. I'm glad to say she was wrong then, and she'd be wrong now. Community may have disappeared in whole swathes of our land, but it can still be found, alive and kicking, if you look for it.

Listening to Thornley Colliery Band playing the miner's anthem, Gresford, fair brought a tear to my eye. It's as well that we are reminded, occasionally, of the price that has been paid for our communities, however fragile they may now be.

,

13 comments:

Enumerator said...

People might want to take advantage of this link to a brief exerpt of the Lanchester Brass Band playing Gresford:

http://www.lanchesterbrassband.org.uk/sounds/gresford.wav

and to read more about the Gresford Disater here:

http://www.pitwork.net/rlgresf.htm

and here:

http://riseuplikethesun.tripod.com/id17.html

jafabrit said...

I enjoyed reading about Durham and your thoughts on it. Many of my family are from Durham and Hetton-le-Hole.

Bill Blunt said...

Thank you for such an illuminating link, enumerator. It's at times like this that one really appreciates the role of historians in life.

You are welcome, jafabrit. From Hetton-le-Hole to Yellow Springs would be a good title for an album by an up-and-coming indie band, I would think. That's always supposing Prefab Sprout hadn't done the Langley Park to Memphis trip first, of course.

Daddy Papersurfer said...

Blimey, you were lucky with the weather.

Bill Blunt said...

I don't think I was the only one there wearing a raincoat and carrying an umbrella, 'just in case' dp! After a month of rain every day, it was something of a surprise to see the sun!

jafabrit said...

or maybe a painting title eh! yep I hadn't thought of that, good one :)

Miss Trashahassee said...

Over here, at least where I live, we say "gay-lah," too. Don't sound right the other way.

How do y'all say tomato? Potato?

Looks like a lovely time was had by all.

BFF,
Miss T

AEIB said...

Fabulous photos Bill, everyone looks so sunny and enjoying the day .....

soz but is Garrla where I come from & tom ar toe & pot ate toe, 'scon' not scowne... and definately garage not gararge or barth instead of bath :-)

the domestic minx said...

Looks thoroughly festive and rather jolly, Bill.

I love such things.
I've been to Durham too.
However, it always reminds me of a truly lamentable joke my father once told...
I won't bother to repeat it..
Shouldn't have mentioned it at all, really.
Sorry about that...

xx

Bill Blunt said...

Well, Miss T - we'll have to stick together against all those who deliberately mispronounce things! Even those (AEIB) who go for garr-la!

Now, your father's joke, DM ... we're waiting!

archie said...

There may have been a certain inevitability in your attendance at the 123rd celebration. I would also suggest that there is a certain inevitability in your non attendance at the 234th celebration.

For some reason that depresses me!

Anonymous said...

Very confused about the pronunciation of gala. The university people all say gay-la but the locals (Durham, Gateshead) say Garr-la.

Bill Blunt said...

Sorry, Anonymous - but the locals always plump for 'gay-la'...