Mick Welsh

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MICHAEL Welsh – invariably known as Mick – was one of the last MPs from a mining background to represent Doncaster.

He had been a face worker and NUM union secretary at the Bullcroft and Brodsworth Collieries. At his death aged 85, Mr Welsh was the last of the coalfield MPs to have been in Parliament when Arthur Scargill led the miners in their bitter strike of 1984/5.

Doncaster North MP and Labour leader Ed Milliband said: “Mick was incredibly proud to be an MP in Doncaster. He felt it a privilege to serve the people of this borough and was conscientious at all times in speaking up for his community.”

Mr Welsh was elected MP for Don Valley in 1979, but because of a boundary change in 1983 he went on to represent Doncaster North, eventually retiring from politics in 1992.

His 13 years in the House were all spent in opposition, but he was able to make a valuable contribution as a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

The committee had a Conservative chairman and a Conservative majority, but Mr Welsh overcame that potential disadvantage with a combination of charm, wit and congeniality.

When members of the committee made foreign trips on parliamentary business, his demeanor attested to the ability of the British to get on, regardless of profound political differences.

Mr Welsh was eight years old when his father Danny, a miner, was killed in a pit accident, and on his 14th birthday he left school to go down the pit.

However, he studied at night school and became a well-qualified mining shotfirer – his job to detonate explosives to break or dislodge rock and soil, or to demolish obstructions to tunnelling. He also became active in the union.

Coming to the attention of tutors running an industrial project for the department of extramural studies at Sheffield University, he became a day-release student, and after three years of that, they arranged for him to go to Ruskin College, Oxford.

Later he would say that Ruskin was the making of him.

In 1962 he was elected to the Doncaster Council, serving until 1969, and he maintained good relations with the South Yorkshire local authorities when he became an MP in 1979.

He would later be described by a rival for the seat as a conspicuously good-mannered opponent, and praised as a miner and a gentleman.

Mr Welsh had got to know Mr Scargill in the early 1960s when they formed the Left Forum, which radicalised the politics of the NUM.

It was Mr Scargill who put the NUM behind his nomination as Labour candidate for the Don Valley.

He married Brenda Nicholson in 1950, and is survived by her, their two sons Paul and Lee, their two grandsons, and by his sister Molly and his brother Joseph.