Honour from the Queen for Sunderland pensioner Terence

A Sunderland pensioner has been honoured by the Queen for his lifelong devotion to the trade union movement.

Tuesday, 21st June 2016, 12:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st June 2016, 12:53 pm
Terry Watkin, OBE

Seventy-year-old Terence Watkin was made an OBE in the Birthday Honours for his work on behalf of miners from across the Durham coalfield.

“My history is in the coal mines,” said Terence, of Grindon Avenue, South Hylton.

The retired electrician spent more than 30 year in the pits and continued his union work long after the mines had closed.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“I was involved with the trade union movement from 1961 up until 1993,” he said.

“I started at Silksworth and went to Monkwearmouth in 1973. It was the Durham Colliery Mechanics’ Association, which represented the likes of fitters and electricians - we were affiliated to the NUM.

“When the pit closed in 1993, I went to work in a factory but I still remained involved with the association.

“The members formed a trust and did almost exactly the same sort of thing the union was doing.

“It kept going from 1993 until a year ago Christmas.”

Eventually the cost of working on members’ behalf took its toll and the trust was wound up.

“We were heavily involved with fighting compensation claims and we more or less ran out of money,” said Terence.

“All the members moved across into the Durham Miners’ Association and that’s where it is now.”

Terence isn’t sure who put his name forward for the award but believes it is because he remained in this post at the trust for so long after the mines had closed.

“I have been involved with the union all my life but I think it is because when we set up this trust, I was elected as chairman - it ran for 20 years and I held that job all the time,” he said.

“It is a great honour, but I was a bit taken aback.”

Terence is proud of his work with the trust, the opportunities it has given him and what it achieved.

“I have had contact with quite a few people from all different walks of life,” he said.

“And we have put a lot of money in a lot of people’s pockets around the area - and that is very important for me.”