Protestors who marched against the closure of the convalescent home which has looked after miners from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire for decades, say they will never give up on campaigning to make sure retired miners and their families who used it are cared for.
The end of an era came on Wednesday when the doors of the Derbyshire Miners’ Convalescent Home in Skegness - which has been a holiday retreat for 90 years - closed for the last time,
Bus loads of protestors made a last-ditch attempt last week to save the iconic building, only to find they were locked out with security manning the gates,
According to the charity The Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO), which has run the facility, the building is “no longer fit for purpose” but former miners and families will still “have access to all our other services, including our free personal welfare service”.
Sources tell us the building is now an empty shell and notice has gone up outside saying offers for it of over £750,000 should be submitted to CISWO by November 5.
However, one of the protestors, Geoff Poulter - who worked as a miner in Derbyshire for 32 years and served as an NUM branch official for 25 years - said he didn’t believe the building could not be saved,
Mr Poulter, who retired to Ingoldmells after sustaining a serious back injury, had returned to Derbyshire - but came back for the protest.
Joining other miners from Nottingham and Yorkshire as well as Derbyshire who wanted to make their feelings known, he said he was horrified to find the gates had been shut to them.
“People staying in the home who came to the gate said they couldn’t believe what they were seeing,” said Mr Poulter. “The staff were also told they couldn’t speak to us.
“We were not making a violent protest - we just wanted CISWO to rethink what they were doing and show them we are concerned.
“People like me suffered in the mines and paid out money for years so the convalescent home was somewhere to turn to in times of need. It’s the only thing we and the families who need respite care have left.
“I know people who have stayed there this year who tell me it’s not as bad as CISCWO make out - they have shown rooms with wallpaper hanging off - but I don’t believe it is anything the people of Skegness wouldn’t have got behind to help put right. I campaigned for Skegness Hospital for years as founder of Skegness Hospital Watch and I know what local people are capable of.
”It’s part of their history and they won’t want to see it go.”
David Cox, who had visited the home many times with his wife over the past four years, said they were very “sad” about the closure. He said: “It felt like one big happy family whilst staying there, which was made possible by a fantastic group of staff who would go out of their way to help as much as they could and even further.
“Yes, it may need quite a lot of work to get the whole place up to scratch, but believe me it would be well worth the cost.”
Information listed by the Charity Commission, up to December 31, 2017, states that CISWO’s income was £3.7m and spending at £4.6m and if the building is sold, retired miners say they want to make sure their families benefit.
One of them, Jeffrey Bird, who also came down for the protest, said: “This was the last facility for Derbyshire miners and their families - what will they do now?
“We want answers from CISWO about what they are doing with the money miners paid into the fund every week so they could go to the retreat.
“I know they do some good work for ex-miners who fall on hard times- they helped a friend of mine get a fridge. But now it seems they are selling the retreat we paid for.
“I understand a group from Nottingham are putting in an offer of £1 but it is the funds we are concerned about. Not to mention what has happened to the artefacts in it, including NUM banners worth thousands of pounds?
”What is really said is the younger generation are not going to know that electricity once came from coal because there will be nothing left to remind them.”
Chris Kitchen, of the National Union of Mineworkers, was also at the protest and met with CISWO on Monday. He said: ”I met with CISWO to make sure every avenue has been explored but having done that I am now not confident any more can be done, such as pressing for an alternative venue for convalescing.
“I’m told that although the facility has been used, it has not always been by former miners as bookings have been taken by elsewhere. CISWO told me providing cheap holidays is not part of their remit and the charity would rather focus on the welfare side of their work.”
This was confirmed in a statement by CEO of CISWO, Nicola Didlock, who said: “The decision to close the miners’ retreat has not been made lightly or without extensive consideration by the charity’s board of trustees. The home has enjoyed a seafront location in Skegness since 1939 and the home became as much a part of the everyday life of the average Derbyshire miner as any other aspect of the industry.
“However, with reducing numbers of holidaymakers each year, and the increasing costs of retaining the building to meet the needs of the client group, it is felt that closure is sadly necessary.
“We are assessing the needs of former miners who have accessed the retreat who may have issues such as ill health or a disability and will be offering them support through CISWO’s personal welfare service.”