Formation of National Union of Mineworkers at Nottingham: Seventy-Fifth Anniversary.

Seventy-Five years ago on 16th August 1944, the founding Conference of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) took place at the Black Boy Hotel, Nottingham. Delegates from the Miners Federation of Great Britain (MFGB) met to decide on the reorganisation of the MFGB into one miners union.

The Special Conference was hosted by the ‘Nottingham and District Miners Federated Union’ (NMFU), founded in 1937, an amalgamation of the ‘Notts Miners Association’  (NMA) and the ‘Nottingham Miners Industrial Union’ (NMIU), more commonly known as the ‘Spencer Union’. The separate county miners unions existed from 1926 – 1937 following a split in the NMA during the latter part of the 1926 Miners Lockout. Amalgamation of the two unions took place following the Harworth Colliery disturbances 1936-37.

George Spencer, President of the NMFU, (right) welcomed delegates to the historic meeting in Nottingham. Dr Alan Griffin, leading authority on the history of the Nottinghamshire miners quoted, “it was not without significance that Nottingham should have been chosen as a meeting place”! – The Miners of Nottinghamshire 1914-1944, Allen and Unwin, (1962), p.304-3016. No doubt that the events of 1926 were still fresh in mind when the Special Conference was called.

The newly formed NUM was made up on twenty-one district / craft unions (right), who became Constituent Associations, and like its predecessor, the MFGB, it was a federally based trade-union. In the subsequent October formation ballot, 430,630 (91.6%) voted in favour of forming a new national miners union, with 39,464 (8.4%) being against. The rules of the new union were registered with Registrar of Friendly Societies and the NUM came into being on 1st January 1945.

Demolition of the Black Boy Hotel commenced in 1969 (above) and the site on Long Row is now occupied by a Primark store (right). A Nottingham Civic Society plaque marks the spot of the former hotel (right).  As for the NUM, it was a great irony that the founding Conference was in Nottingham and it was here, forty-years later during the 1984-85 miners strike, that it would split, resulting in the formation of the Nottinghamshire based Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) in 1985.

Photo Credits: Nottingham Central Library (Local Studies), Union of Democratic Mineworkers (Mansfield) and the D Amos collection.

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