BRANDISHING a banner bearing the message “The lady is not returning”, residents in a former pit village celebrated the funeral of Margaret Thatcher.
Crowds in Easington Colliery, which suffered soaring unemployment after the closure of its mine, gathered to mark the laying to rest of the ‘Iron Lady’.
As mourners lined the streets of London to pay their respects, celebrations got under way at Easington Colliery Club and Institute, with specially made banners unfurled.
“I don’t think you can underestimate the level of hate many people in the North East have for her,” said 28-year-old labourer Steve Williamson.
“There are communities still hurting because of what she did to them. I’m not old enough to have felt the effects first hand, but my family did and this place still does.
“Some say a party is over the top, but this is a day to celebrate. The world is a better place without her.”
Another banner featured a parody of Baroness Thatcher’s famous Assisi speech, made on the steps of Number 10 when she first came to power.
“Thatcher’s Prayer” included the lines “Where there are pits, may we bring destruction” and “Where there are communities, may we bring strife”.
“It’s still hard to fully comprehend what she did to the mining communities,” said Paul Walker, 42, from Durham City.
“Whole villages and towns thrown out of work. It was absolutely brutal. It should never be forgotten.”
Dave Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, dismissed claims of “bad taste”.
“It is 100 per cent a celebration about Thatcher, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
“Thatcher treated us with bad taste. She closed down all of our mines, decimated our villages and stopped our youths getting jobs.”
Elsewhere, Easington Social Welfare Centre, the former miners’ welfare hall,in Seaside Lane, was the venue for an event involving speakers and memorabilia marking the 20th anniversary of the pit closing.
However, ex-miners insisted the party had been planned for months and had nothing to do with Baroness Thatcher’s death.
Dr David Boyes, chairman of Easington Social Welfare, said his grandad, Victor James, worked for 60 years down the pit without a day off.
“It is a misconception that we are celebrating Margaret Thatcher’s funeral,” he said.
“This has been organised for a good few months to mark the closure of the last pit in the Durham coalfield.”
He added: “We were asked by various people to change the date, but why should we for this woman?”