Voices in the Coalshed: Light
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Voices in the Coalshed: Light

At this time of the year, when days are shorter than nights, we turn to light as a comfort – whether it be candles, fairy lights or other forms of artificial light.

There are so many old sayings connected to light and mining. “A light at the end of the tunnel…?”and especially “not worth the candle?” Apparently, it means that someone or something is not worth the necessary effort, cost or trouble.  Could it be a reference to the plight of the trapper whose job was to sit for up to twelve hours-without even a candle- opening and shutting the wooden ventilation door. They were clearly “not worth the cost of a candle!”.

In the novel, “A Candle in the Dark” by Robert Swindells, Trapper Joe replies to Jimmy that he has, “No candle. Candles cost money”. There are many references to their cost…a penny a dozen…and the need to use them economically hence “light the lamp and later – blow it out then!”

Candles, as a source of light have been essential to miners for over 5,000 years. They were a necessity whether for their work underground or to light their homes.

Miners bought candles by the bundle for use down the mine. They were often attached (with a lump of mud) to the front of the corve (tub/wagon) as they loaded or moved the coal. We are told that underground it was “a darkness so palpable that it felt like solid matter”. (A Candle in the Dark)

Miners used candles on the corves or nearby rocky ledges.  Sometimes they were fastened to the miner’s hard (compressed cardboard!) helmet- but this rarely worked when the miner was hammering into the rock face. Of course, candle fires were responsible for many explosions and consequent disasters.

So come and join us for our own Light Up Festival in November.  It is guaranteed to lighten your mood and rediscover the joy and the importance of light!

By Volunteer Lesley