Local History of Seaton Delaval and Holywell

Seaton Delaval and Holywell, along with Seghill, was a mining area and the story of the ‘Blackleg Miner’ is detailed in a traditional folk song.

The Blackleg Miner

It's in the evening after dark
when the blackleg miner creeps to work,
With his moleskin pants and dirty shirt,
There goes the blackleg miner.

Well, he grabs his duds and down he goes,
To hew the coal that lies below,
There's not a woman in this town row
will look at the blackleg miner.

Oh, Delaval is a terrible place,
They rub wet clay in the blackleg's face,
And around the heaps they run a footrace
to catch the blackleg miner.

And even down near the Seghill mine,
Across the way they stretch a line
To catch the throat, to break the spine
of the dirty blackleg miner.

They grabbed his duds, his picks as well,
And they hoy them down the pit of hell,
Down you go, we pay you well,
You dirty blackleg miner.

It's in the evening after dark
that the blackleg miner creeps to work,
With his moleskin pants and dirty shirt,
There goes the blackleg miner.

So join the union while you may,
Don't wait 'til your dying day
For that may not be far away,
You dirty blackleg miner.

We also have our fair share of myths, or is this one true?

The Witch of Seaton Delaval

One night, long ago, a young man was making his way home along a cart-track that led to Wallsend. The wind was high and he had his cloak wrapped tightly about his shoulders to keep out the bite of the fresh spring air. As he passed a church to his right, he noticed there was a light inside, but he was not overly concerned as people often lit candles at the Lady alter which gave off a dim light such as he had seen. He continued on his way without a second thought. A way farther down the track, however, he met two men cushing cattle from the fields.

"Why are you moving the cows so late in the evening?" he asked.

"Why, it's the last day of April," said one of the men with surprise. "If we leave them out in the open tonight they'll be cursed by witches for certain!"

Then the traveller remembered that on the last day of April wicked witches gathered and cast spells upon the people and their animals. He had seen the damage that these witches could cause, he had seen the animals struck with disease and the crops fail in the fields for no apparent reason. And just then he remembered the light he's seen in the church and it occurred to him that it might be the black witches meeting before working their mischief.

At once he turned about and ran toward the church where the eerie glow still burned within. He climbed up to a window and peered into the shadowy interior. There, in a circle, around the flickering glow of a black candle, was a coven of black-robed witches. As he stared in disbelief, he could hear the incessant chanting and the voice of a central figure who was standing over a boiling pot. One by one she dropped things into the cauldron and sang:

"This is to cloud their joy and mirth
This is to kill the lambs at birth
This is to spoil the food in shops
And this is to burn and rot their crops!"

This was all too much for the young man, he was by this time very angry and he thought to himself, "Not if I can prevent it!" and saying this he burst through the church door and grabbed the witch next to the cauldron. She kicked and bit him fearfully but he did not release her. The other witches fled in panic, but he did not bother to chase them, satisfied that he had caught the ringleader. Despite the noise and pain she inflicted, he managed to haul her off to the prison where she remained until the day the trial arrived.

By this time, news had spread far and wide, and people came from all around to bear witness against the witch. The people were insistent that it was she who had been responsible for every ill occurrence of the past year. Not surprisingly, she was found guilty and sentenced to be burned at the stake. As the old witch was led away to the burning post, however, and the faggots were piled up around her, the people began to soften, for although she had done them such wrong in the past they felt sorry for her.

Someone said "Why not grant her a last request?" and others in the crowd agreed it was a good idea. So one of the officials approached the witch and asked if there was anything they might do for her before the sentence was carried out.

The old hag looked at him with an evil glint in her eye and said in a soft voice "Why, that's very kind of you. I know I have done the good people of Seaton Delaval a great wrong, but I repent with all my heart. All I ask is that you bring me two little wooden plates and set them beneath my feet. Mark you," she added, "They must be brand new and never used before!"

"Why, I have brand new dishes," said one woman in the crowd. "I'll go and get them right away." And she ran off to her house to get them. She reappeared ten minutes later with the two plates. The official set them under the witch's feet and, almost at once, a strange whirring sound filled the air. To everyone's astonishment, the witch flew up into the sky with the wooden plates supporting her. As she passed overhead she cursed the villagers and vowed she would make them pay dearly for trying to burn her.

The people were frightened and began to run around in panic. But the woman who had brought the plates cried aloud "Do not fear! I had suspected some trickery and I only gave her one new plate. The other has been used a thousand times! Look ..." and as she spoke the used plate fell away from the witch's foot and she came tumbling out of the sky. Many looked away as she hit the ground, but just as many saw the witch of Seaton Delaval get her just reward



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