The road from Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale climbs westwards up a long, steep hill until it reaches the open treeless wilderness of Greenhow Hill, the highest village in Yorkshire. Here lies the body of John Kay.
By this roadside lies a single, lonely grave, where it was once common practice for the older villagers to stop and clatter their iron clad clogs against the rough headstone, calling out a greeting to the lonely soul interred there.
His story begins at the time when there was trouble in Lancashire over machines which were being introduced to replace weavers. The military were called in to maintain order and a band of soldiers from York were detailed to march across into Lancashire to restore peace. After leaving Pateley they began the long climb up to the tops. The day was exceptionally hot, the sun beating down on their fully laden backs. Before they had reached the summit one soldier took sunstroke and had to be carried the final part of the climb. Carrying him to water, they bathed his burning head, but so great was his illness that he soon died. Because of the urgency of their task and the need to travel light a grave was hurriedly dug alongside the road, rough stones set up at the head and foot and his musket buried alongside him. Nobody returned for his body and the people of Greenhow knew nothing of him except what the soldiers had told them, his name, John Kay.
The lead miners, however, who worked the adjacent hills were well aware of what it was like to lie lonely on the hills, and developed the habit of ‘danking’ their clogs on his grave, calling “Gi’us a knock, John Kaye” as an antidote to his supposed isolation. This tradition extended to the children as they made their way to school each morning, surviving for several generations.
According to one of the last lead miners, now long since dead himself, the grave was opened revealing that John Kaye was still there. Nowadays however, the miners are long gone, children are bussed to school and the stones merely serve to mark the locations of piles of gravel. Some of his colleagues chiselled the shape of a coffin, into the roof of a mine directly below his grave.
The grave, now unmarked, lies in the northern verge of the roadside on the Pateley Bridge side of Greenhow Hill, about ¼ mile below the more modern graveyard. Harald Bruff recorded that it lay opposite to Coldstones Pond, but successive road repairs and possible widening have probably left him somewhere under the tarmac!