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Memorial To Cornish Tin Mining
in St Just and Pendeen

A preliminary sketch in wax and granite

Out of respect for the former miners of this district, it is my hope to offer an image of tin mining that each member of the community can take to their hearts as their own.

In thinking about the needs of this memorial, I feel it essential to create a strong sense of the working environment; to place the men, rather than the machinery, in context and central to the image. A night-shift visit into the sweltering depths of the development drive down Levant, in the early 1970’s gave me a profound and lasting respect for these men. As James Crowden said in his book ‘The Wheal of Hope’:

“Hard rock breeds hard men
Who slip between the earth’s cracks for a living
The dark chasm which closes round you,
Tight like a fist, draws you down
Into the mine’s gullet, the belly of the beast
Hewn out of granite”

Tin miners came in all sizes but we will always remember them as powerfully built with faces set hard like the granite rock on which they toiled on a daily basis. The battery and helmet lamp tell us that this sculpture is of a modern miner but I have chosen to portray him wielding a mining pick-hammer, rather than a rock drill, because it is the tool that unites all tin miners through the ages. We get a sense of the confined space he is in from his eye set on the rock, unseen by us, that he is about to tackle. The plinth, created from two large slabs of granite, representing a typical stope of this area, further reinforces the sense of precariousness and physical restriction.

Further images of tin mining that would include a man drilling in the stope, would be introduced more effectively in a relief work plaque set into the front of the memorial between the two stope rocks. This would also contain any inscriptions.

The tin miner would be scaled up to approximately six feet in height, with the stope boards and acro bar set at about six feet, making a total height of about 12 feet. The finished figure, acro bar and boards would be cast in bronze because this is an alloy made from the two metals for which Cornwall is famous for mining: copper and tin.

Raised up in this way, between two sizeable slabs of un-worked local granite, will not only keep final costs to a minimum but offer a dramatic memorial to the heritage of this unique breed of Cornishmen whose skills and grit have spread far and wide over the centuries.

“Faces that have worked underground
Notch up their own history
Of scars, sharp rocks and narrow escapes,
Gunpowder tattooed beneath the skin.

Faces that believe in minerals and each other,
The pulpit of endeavour.
Brought to bear in times of need.
Faith that cannot easily be broken.”

From ‘Faces Old & New’ by James Crowden

Fund raising for the statue is continuing with several events being planned for the coming months including a community art project, and stunt show with Scott May. For further details please log on to the Trust’s website www.stjustdistricttrust.co.uk or telephone Bernard Rees on 01736 788337.

Click here for a press cutting from The Cornishman

Click here for the announcement of Colin's winning design on July 11th