The ‘Knocker Upper’

At the end of the late 19th Century and indeed into the 20th Century at a time before the advent of alarm clocks, people were paid to knock on the shutters or doors of miner’s homes. Employment was usually by the colliery itself to ensure people didn’t sleep in. This profession was known nationally as a “Knocker Upper”. (In Scotland, more locally as a “Chapper Upper”)

There’s evidence that this occurred in Blantyre as late as 1920, where a man was paid 6d a week to waken the miners in the early hours of the morning. It raised 2 questions for me:

  1. Who actually woke this man up so he could go out to work in those early hours? and
  2. What did he do from 6am, all through the day and night until it was time to go out again?!

Pictured are various “knocker up” photos from the 1920s and 30s.

On social media:

Jimmy Whelan James Cornfield wrote a lovely poem about this called “The Rapper Up Man”

The Blantyre Project Thanks Jimmy. I forgot about that. I’ll look it out. Think it was in James’s wee book.

Einram Notlimah Finlay Hamilton Sardesai

Gord Fotheringham Gimme a chap the morra…..was said many a time in the village bar in my day

Tom McGuigan My Dad always called the Clock a Knock

Jane Johnstone Explains why they called it ‘the knock’…thanks…

James Connolly My grandfather james Mcinally lost his wife in 1932. My mother, the youngest of 8 kids was only 5 at the time. In order to keep his dwellings in Dixon rows he negotiated with the pit owners which resulted in him becoming the chapper upper for Dixons rows rather than a miner. Although he was on a smaller wage it meant he was there for his kids. He was known as the sheriff around town. He was also the uncle of James cornfield so the poem James put together may well have been based on him.

Jane Johnstone When my brother and his pal delivered the milk…and my brother’s pal only had one leg….his mother wouldn’t get him up for his shift….he used to tie a string to his wrist and hang it out the window…my mother used to pull the string when she went out early in the morning to the school cleaning…in order to wake him for his shift😀…having coming from a mining background I know now why she suggested this!😀

Chris Ladds With so many miners homes to chap there must have been a great variance of wake up time
Between the first and last house chapped by the time they got round them all.

Isobel Paterson Love reading all about sunny Blantyre 

Sharon McIntosh Brilliant!

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