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Seacoal (1985)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Ray drives to a block of flats and collects Betty. They drive on to a pub for a 'Country and Western' evening. Unknown to Betty, the event is popular with the seacoalers who work on the Lynemouth coast, reclaiming waste coal that is washed in on the tide. Without informing Betty, Ray buys a caravan in the seacoalers' camp.

Betty wakes the next morning to find herself in the run-down caravan, and is shocked to learn of Ray's decision to set up as a seacoaler. Nevertheless, she agrees to move in with him, along with her daughter Corrina, in order to place themselves beyond the reach of her violent husband.

Betty cleans the caravan, turning it into a decent home, and becomes accustomed to life among the seacoalers, making friends with the other women and working alongside Ray. Ray comes to an agreement with his friend Ronnie to use Ronnie's address in order to claim welfare benefits to supplement the meagre household income.

Ray and Betty are shocked to discover that all their hard work has only netted them £40 from the coal merchants. Ray sells his car and buys a horse and cart, which enables him to negotiate better terms with the merchants and also to distribute some of the coal on his own account. Meanwhile, Betty expresses frustration at the privations of this new life and her financial dependence on Ray.

Corrina makes friends with the other children on the camp, and often truants from school. Ray is called for an interview at the Social Security office, where his fraud is discovered. He then stakes all his coal in a bet to win a lorry that could improve his fortunes, but loses. He returns to the beach to find his coal gone. Utterly dispirited, he packs his suitcase and leaves while Betty is out. Although upset by Ray's desertion, Betty decides to remain on the site and try and make a life for herself and Corrina.