The following is an extract taken from a book which I remember from my childhood. The book, ‘Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain’ is owned by my Nan and it was whilst seeing her yesterday that I saw the book again. Flicking through and looking for myths associated with Wales I found the following:
“Underground coal-mining began in Wales over 400 years ago and, since then, generations of miners have faced a daily struggle against darkness and danger. Belief in the Supernatural came easily to those who were constantly threatened by sudden disaster and superstition was rife among coal-mining communities. It was unlucky to be late for work, or to forget something and return home for it. If, on his way to work, the miner met someone with a squint, or a rabbit or bird crossed his path, he would go home for the day. Whenever anyone in his family dreamt of death, an accident or broken shoes, a mire was often forced to stay at home by his frightened relatives on the day after the dream.
Ever since Christ was crucified on a Friday, the day has been associated with bad luck. in South Wales, many colliers refused to start new work on any Friday, referred to as ‘Black Friday’, but especially on one preceding a holiday when miners in Monmouthshire would complain of having ‘the old black dog’ on their backs, an evil spirit which caused illness and accidents. Throughout Wales, pitworkers stayed away from the mines on Good Friday, but there were other days when they missed work for reasons unconnected with foreboding…
The sight of a robin, pigeon or dove flying above the pithead was thought to foretell disaster, and many miners refused to work if such birds were seen near the mines. They were also called ‘corpse birds’ and are said to have been seen before the explosion at the Senghennydd Colliery in Mid Glamorgan in 1913, when over 400 pitworkers died in the worst mining disaster in Welsh history. In the mines themselves, whistling and the word ‘cat’ were strictly taboo.
In 1890, miners at the Morfa Colliery near Port Talbot reported many eerie manifestations which occurred in the neighbourhood and in the mine itself. Fierce hounds, known locally as ‘the Red Dogs of Morfa’ were seen running through the district at night. The colliery was filled with a sweet rose-like perfume emanating from invisible ‘death flowers’. Cries for help and sounds of falling earth were heard and flickering lights, called ‘corpse candles’, appeared in the tunnels. The ghosts of dead miners and coal trams drawn by phantom white horses were seen, and rats swarmed out of the mine. On March 10, nearly half the workers on the morning shift stayed at home. Later that day there was an explosion at the colliery and 87 miners were buried alive and died in the disaster.”