Two traditional Northumberland/Durham miner’s songs – Music and videos by David Black
1 – Byker Hill and Walker Shore
The song dates from the late 18th century. The music for this video was recorded in 2010, and released on Go Canny records.
The footage of the Sword-Dancers of Winlaton, County Durham is from a Pathe newsreel of 1926. The pitmen were carrying on a centuries old folk tradition, going back to beginnings of coal-mining in the area in the 15th century.
The pitmen veterans featured in the film would have been born in the 1850s and ‘60s. Their parents would have been around when the Winlaton iron foundaries were still working and the Chartists were active:
‘Winlaton was a hotbed of insurrectionary plotting and secret manufacture of weapons such as pikes, knives, caltrops (spikey metal contraptions for disabling horses’ hooves), and even cannon and grenades. Winlaton also had a lively branch of Female Chartists.’
( ‘1839: The Chartist Insurrection’ , Black and Ford, Unkant:2012).
90 years on, in 1926, with the General Strike looming, the iron works were long gone and Winlaton had become a coal-mining township. Now, 95 years later, Winlaton is a commuter village.
2 – The Blackleg Miner. In memory of the ‘Cramligton Train-Wreckers’ in the 1926 General Strike.