RECENT Memories have been looking at “knocky-up boards” or “wake-up slates” which still survive beside front doors in a few former mining terraces.

We’ve found quite a lot in the Dean Bank area of Ferryhill, and there are a couple in Broomside Lane, Durham (are there any more anywhere?).

The boards were made of slate or metal and on them a miner on early shift chalked the time at which he wished to be knocked-up by the wake-up man.

Or woman, as the case may be. Our attention is drawn to a painting by the pitman artist Tom McGuinness which is currently on display in the Mining Art Gallery in Bishop Auckland. It has been lent to the gallery by the Darlington Borough Art Collection.

It shows the terraced roofs of a pit community slumbering beneath a peaceful blue moon, with the pit in the distance. As you study the painting, you begin to notice odd splashes of colour in the upstairs windows of some of the houses, as if the early birds are beginning to rise.

And then in the bottom left hand corner you notice The Caller, after which the painting is name – it is a figure knocking at a door beside which is a knocky-up board. McGuinness later returned to The Caller and turned the painting into a limited edition etching.

The Northern Echo:

Picture: © Estate of Tom McGuinness

One of the etchings is now in the Gemini Collection upon which is the collection on which the mining art gallery is based.

In this version of the image, the caller is clearly female, as shown by her headscarf and stockinged legs which stand out in the dark of the night.

The only other feature is, of course, the knocky-up board which is telling her which doors to bang on at that ungodly hour.