GILL FIELD SUMP
William Longthorn (above with his wife Hannah) was a lead miner from Greenhow near Pately Bridge, and Great Grandfather to Tom's friend, Granville Thwaites. Granville, prompted by The Silverlode's ghostly denuemont, told Tom this true story, and when Tom decided to work it up into a song, Granville produced a wonderful old book called "T' ill (an' t'Oade Uns upuv Greenho')" by Harald John Lexow Bruff, (Waddingtons, York 1920) which provided all the necessary detail. (Click here and scroll down to the picture of the mine portal as above left to read Bruff's version of the story).
John Kay was a soldier who'd collapsed and died of exhaustion while on a forced march up Greenhow Bank (see site above also), and had been buried on the spot by his comrades. (Local legend has it that Bonny Prince Charlie's army took the same route when advancing towards Derby, on which occasion another solider had also dropped dead from the heat while climbing that same very steep hill).
When 'The Silverlode' was reviewed in Tradition magizine, the issue also contained an article about Spar (or Spa) Boxes, by Chris Clarke. These are wooden display cases containing arrangements or even vignettes made from various crystals also found in lead mines. They provided an important source of additional income for the miners, who, having 'bought' a section of mine from the company, often ended up in debt at the end of the year. Looking for crystals instead of digging for lead was known as 'bonny-bitting.'
Special thanks to Jim Lawton for advice on the Yorkshire dialect, and Malcolm Street, webmaster of the above site.
Now then, William Longthorne, didst tha win some lead today?
Not much! I’m bonny-bitting now - I’ve muckle bills to pay
Oh I’ve nae time for crystals me, 'tis metal feeds my son
But I only need some pyrite and me spar box will be done!
And the Hill will hold its secrets, though we rive out every vein
And no living soul will ever go down Gill Field Sump again.
And why's thee still underground, this late hour of t'clock?
I’m off to Gill Field sump - they say there’s wick in yonder rock
A double shift in Gill Field Sump?! Tha’rt mad as tha can be!
That’s a place not safe to work alone. Better keep thee company.
This level’s powerful eerie, it fair gives my blood a chill
Well tis right beneath the spot they buried John Kay up on’t hill
That coffin carved int' ceiling marks t'grave where ‘ee now sleeps
Oh give up! And let’s go dig some lead. Tha’s giving me the creeps.
Now, see this wood partition? Pull it tight behind, this way...
To keep t'air at pressure? Aye, then seal it round with clay
And if a man comes though he mun first knock three times and shout
To warn the lads below the wind’ll blow their candles out.
D’ye hear that? Someone’s knocking... Guard the candle! Tush - it’s blown!
Well, tis sure t' trap’s been opened, but no bugger ’as come down...
T' fool has let t' foul air in - our lungs’ll feel the strain
Better shimmy up the ladder lad, and seal up trap again
Now then - what’s the matter? Tha’rt white as driven snow!
The seal - it’s not been broken! But us saw t' candle blow!
To seal up trap and dissapear, he mun wear through solid rock!
And if no-one’s up ont level, then who gave t' warning knock?
That’s three times that we’ve heard it, now, and still t' seal is tight
Happen it’s John Kay come down to gie us both a fright...
Well I’ve had me fill of games wi' ghosts, let’s quit this 'aunted 'ole...
Aye. Let’s sammy up tools and go, and nivver tell a soul!
And at dawn t’ folk came running, roused t' wife up from t’ bed,
To offer their condolences - it seems they think us dead!
Didst tha not hear what ‘as ‘appened, Will? We got out just in time...
The Gill - it burst its banks last night, and’s flooded out t' mine!