Local managers met them and then Wheeler himself went to larger meetings at a public house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. The men were encouraged to bring their wives along and talk about the problems of going to work. An argument about the subject was in process at Hobart House, where the familiar Scargill tactic of keeping things going and simply hanging on was beginning to foster increasing strains in the board, not least on Ian MacGregor’s patience. In parallel, MacGregor increasingly sought advice from outsiders. Ned Smith had assured him of his loyalty, describing himself, in a phrase which made MacGregor chuckle, as his ‘praetorian guard’, but friends of MacGregor outside coal were alarmed to hear the bitterness with which MacGregor privately ran down his Coal Board team. Meanwhile Jim Cowan, MacGregor’s right-hand man, was concentrating, in his own words ‘in blinkers’, in trying to keep pits running and the thin momentum of the return to work moving.