Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cornish Knockers

In other posts on this blog stories about American western mine spirits known as Tommyknockers are shared here and here.

The belief in these mine spirits originated with tin miners in Cornwall, England. Cornish miners called these mischievous spirits Knockers because they were heard
Cornish Knocker
deep within tin mines knocking.

These Knockers lived in the darkest part of a mine and were described as thin-limbed, two feet tall and had long hooked noses. To miners they liked, they would appear. They were described as wearing miniature versions of miners’ clothes.

Cornish miners to appease these spirits would share part of their meal with them. In Cornwall, miners ate pasties, which are a spiced meat and potato mixture enclosed in a pastry. Often at one end, an apple mixture was placed inside as well--making the pasty a complete meal.

This pastry was turned over and crimped at the edges. It is said the miners would touch their pasty just along this crimp with their dirty hands--thereby keeping the rest of their meal clean. They would then thrown the soiled crimped part down for the knockers.

Cornish Pasty
When it was time to eat “Oggy Oggy Oggy” would be shouted down the mine shaft by a maiden above, then the miners would call back, “Oi Oi Oi.” Oggy means pasty.

When the knocking was heard in a Cornish mine it was believed to be of help. For
Tin Miners in Cornwall
Cornish mine knockers knocked to show where rich new veins could be found or to warn miners of impending danger.

One Cornish story told about a Knocker was about a man who bought a home in the mining district. It wasn’t long before he began to awake to the sounds of heavy boots walking up and down his stairs. When he looked out of his bedroom he saw no one.

When these noises persisted he questioned his servants. One young maid told him what he was hearing were just Knockers. They were alerting people to the fact that there was a lode under his house that needed to be worked. This turned out to be true for under this man’s house was one of the richest tin lodes found.

One Cornish miner working deep within a tin mine was wielding a heavy hammer. He heard a sharp voice calling his name between each stroke he took. When this crying became urgent he threw down his hammer and walked in the direction of the noise.

After he had taken a dozen steps he heard a loud crash behind him. In the spot where he had been hammering a large amount of rocks had fallen down.

One superstition connected to Knockers is if a person hears them outside a mine it is a warning a death is about to occur.

A night watchman was working at an accounting house in the village of Breage in West Cornwall when he heard the distinct sounds of knocking. This was followed by what sounded like someone turning over a rubbish or trash bin.

When this worker looked out he saw nothing disturbed. When he told his friends about this the next day they listened and nodded their heads gravely. Within days this night watchman fell ill and died.


Geevor Tin Mine
With the decline of tin mining, reports of encounters with Knockers have diminished. But people believe even today that they still reside in the deepest parts of abandoned mines.

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