Anne Suddick obituary

Other lives: Activist who supported mineworkers’ families during the national strike in the 1980s

My friend Anne Suddick, who has died aged 72 of heart failure, was a passionate coordinator of support for miners’ families in County Durham during the 1984-85 national miners’ strike.

She worked hard to make sure families did not go hungry during the strike, was a founder member of Women Against Pit Closures in 1984, and was active in the National Justice for Mineworkers campaign for many years.

Anne was born in East Hedley Hope, County Durham, to John Suddick, a labourer, and his wife, Violet (nee Goodliff). Anne’s childhood was shaped by her father’s ill health from a respiratory illness. Cast as the main breadwinner, her mother became housekeeper to a GP in Cornsay Colliery, Durham. Living in the doctor’s home, with access to an extensive library, Anne developed a love of learning that stayed with her.

She left school at 15 and took a secretarial course at Durham Technical College. Initially she went to work as a clerk at a local garage but in 1969 she became PA to the union officials of the Durham Colliery Mechanics’ Association, part of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Following the death of her sister, Jean, after childbirth in 1983, Anne looked after Jean’s two children for several years until their father remarried.

When the miners’ strike began in March 1984, she decided to try to make sure no family in Durham’s former scattered mining communities was left without support. That May, Anne organised a meeting at Durham Miners’ Hall, Redhills, to bring together activists, launching the county-wide Miners’ Support Group. A powerhouse of an organiser and natural leader, she made an effective coordinator.

Anne drew people together and engendered feelings of solidarity. One of her many projects was a “toy and turkey” appeal, which provided the families of striking miners with food and a present that difficult Christmas. The support group became a well-oiled machine, raising and fairly distributing enormous amounts of money.

Following the strike Anne continued her activism locally and nationally, forming links with campaigners from a range of causes, including at the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common, which she visited frequently.

She remained in her job until made redundant in 1987. Following this, her health deteriorated but she acted as an informal welfare rights worker in her community.

She took a degree in sociology at Durham University, graduating in 1990. She was part of a local heritage group and visited schools encouraging children to understand the local mining heritage. She was also a member of the women and mining research group at Northumbria University, and wrote poetry. In 2007 she organised an exhibition in the village of Langley Park called Mining Memories, involving the local community and schools.

She is survived by her nephew, David, and niece, Helen.

Mary Stratford

The GuardianTramp

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