Voices in the Coalshed:Tommyknockers
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Voices in the Coalshed:Tommyknockers

Would you venture here? Could this tunnel take you towards the Tommyknockers?  

Last year as Halloween approached, we asked if you had heard of the Tommyknocker or Knocker? 

These mythical creatures are said to inhabit all kinds of mines all around the world. They have different names depending upon where you might find them. In Wales, it might be called the coblynau; in Ireland, the leprechaun; in Kent the kloker and in England and Scotland another name is the brownie. Stories of the Tommyknocker were taken to the United States by migrant miners and it is perhaps there that their supposed fondness for gold comes from. 

Generally, these creatures are said to be about two feet tall (60cms) and wear traditional mining clothes. They have white whiskers. Most reports suggest that they are mischievous. They would hide tools, take a bite out of someone’s snap and extinguish lights. Some believed they would lead to rich seams.  

Another idea was that they were the spirits of former miners watching over and protecting those who still worked in the mines. Most stories agree that it could be dangerous to laugh at or ignore the Tommyknocker. 

One interesting story which you can read in Coal Magazine, November 1949, tells of a Cornish tin miner, Tom Trevorrow, who did not treat the Knocker in the mine he was working with the respect he should have, telling him to, “Keep quiet and go.” The result? He was showered with stones. The Knocker demanded some of Tom’s food but Tom ate it all and the Knocker chanted: 

“Tom Trevorrow! Tom Trevorrow! 

  We’ll send thee bad luck tomorrow! 

  Thou old curmudgeon to eat all thy fuggan 

  And not leave a didjan for bucca.” 

(Bucca was the Cornish name for the Knocker.) 

After this Tom was cursed with bad luck and was forced to leave his job. 

Another story from the same article shows a different side to the Knockers. In this a miner was missing underground. His companions searched for him but were unable to find him. After six or seven days another miner thought he saw a figure standing on a mound of earth. When he got near, the figure disappeared and he walked on but the figure appeared again and again until the man got close enough to it to hear a groaning sound and the missing miner was found, his life saved by the Knocker. 

Do you recall similar tales from your time working underground ? 

Want to know more? Visit our website where you can read the referenced articled in the digitised version of ‘Coal,’ the industry magazine.