Mining checks and tallies open our current auction, MB76 closing 15 June 2016. We’re familiar with with the lamp checks, brass holed discs with the colliery name and the miner’s unique number at that pit stamped on it. The token would be handed into the Lamp Room when the miner collected his lamp. It doubled both as a time check and a roll call system in the case accidents.
This is the first part of of the late Alan Marshall’s extensive collection, with checks from all over England, Scotland and Wales but with particular emphasis on Yorkshire (those are being offered in the autumn 2016 sale). Alan worked in mining all his life, from the age of 15, for 50 years in pits such as Elsecar, Grimethorpe and Selby. As a welder he was part of the Mines and Drainage Rescue and an active member and shop steward of the NUM.
Early mining tokens were more work checks rather than used for health and safety purposes. In this category are the Cumbrian checks for moving coal from pit to quayside date from the 17th century although the ones in this sale are 18th century and later, like the Whitehaven and Hensingham ones. By the time we get to the 20th century, these metal tickets (always metal it seems) are used for admission to the baths, for accounting, pay checks and explosives management.
Something new to me when we first saw the collection were was the motty or tally. Hanging on hooks on a great board were chunky zinc and iron motties, tallies affixed to a tub of coal by the miner as he filled each one before it went up to the surface. As a work check it served well to account for piece work. There’s one in the connection with it’s original cord, so sturdy for the task for which it was made.
Despite the interest in mining history it’s still not easy to find a single listing for all these checks but we found the following useful:
Brian Hoskins’ A Collectors Guide to Welsh Lamp Checks
Michael Finlay The Mining and related tokens of West Cumberland
Durham Mining Museum website is really helpful: it has abstracts from some of the mining yearbooks, good for research.