The picture might not even be known to many people outside the U.K., but in Britain it's one of the best-known press photos of recent decades: a moment of good humor and seeming rapport between a policeman and a miner, in the midst of a bitter strike that was ugly and all too often violent.
For many years, the identities of the miner and the officer weren't known; they weren't to the late Don McPhee, the famous British newspaper photographer who took the picture. But now, writes Martin Wainright in The Guardian, thanks to the efforts of a BBC Executive's assistant named Lucy Smickersgill, the identities of the two men have been discovered.
The miner was George "Geordie" Brealey, who died young (age 53) in 1997 from choking on an egg sandwich after having suffered a series of strokes, but who is fondly remembered by his many friends for his ready smile and sense of humor—including the way he would pretend to "inspect" the police, dressed in the toy bobbie's helmet he acquired on a family outing.
The policeman was Paul Castle (shown above in a more recent photo from his website), who now lives in Tennessee and runs a "Tactical Training & Research" company called Sabre, Inc. Paul Castle now doesn't recall his feelings or the mood at the moment the photo was taken. Although he says he had sympathy during the miners' strike for "the decent human people [who] just got pulled into the middle of it all," he thinks that, at the time, he would have been more interested in crowd safety than anything else.
But the last word on the human aspect of the encounter, fittingly, is in the photographs—the negatives surrounding the shot on Don McPhee's contact sheet. The famous photo is the second of four, and the last two show Officer Castle laughing, as Geordie Brealey continues to clown.
(Thanks to Gavin McLelland)
Featured Comment by Neil Castle: "The Police officer in this photo (Paul Castle) is my father. I was unaware of said photo's existence or importance until a few hours ago. I feel a little dizzy."