Read CHAPTER THIRTY THREE of Deep Down‚ a Tale of the Cornish Mines , free online book, by R.M. Ballantyne, on


Many others as well as Maggot made money by the pilchards at that time.  All round the coast of Cornwall millions of these little fish were taken, salted, and exported.  No fewer than one thousand hogsheads were taken at St. Ives in the first three seine-nets cast into the sea.  In Mounts Bay, Fowey Bay, Mevagissey, and other fishing grounds, immense quantities were caught, and the total catch of the county was little if at all short of thirty thousand hogsheads.

Among others, old Mr Donnithorne was so successful that his broken fortunes were almost re-established; and a small sum which our friend Oliver Trembath had ventured to invest in the fishing was more than quadrupled before the end of the year.

But this was not all.  At the next Botallack account-dinner, Mr Cornish gladdened the hearts of the adventurers by telling them that the lodes which had been “promising” for such a length of time had at last got the length of “performance,” and that he had now the pleasure of announcing a large dividend, which he paid there and then.

A considerable share of this fell to old Mr Donnithorne, who, in the enthusiasm of the occasion, observed confidentially to Captain Dan that he was convinced “honesty was the best policy after all” ­a sentiment which the captain heartily agreed with, although he failed to detect the precise connection between it and the old gentleman’s sudden influx of good fortune.  But, then, the captain did not drink Botallack punch, while old Mr Donnithorne did, which may to some extent account for the difference in their powers of vision.

Captain Dan, however, possessed wonderful powers of vision in reference to the underground workings of Botallack, which were displayed to advantage ­and to the great gratification of the shareholders ­when, at the request of Mr Cornish, he stood up and gave a detailed and graphic account of the prospects of the mine; telling them that the appearance of the lodes in several parts of the mine was very promising indeed, and that some ground was returning a rich harvest for the labour that had been bestowed on it; that in the 105, which was driving north by six men, they had taken down the copper for fourteen fathoms long, nearly the whole of which had turned out to be worth 100 pounds per fathom; that a splice had been formed in the lode about two fathoms behind the present end, which had disordered it, but he was glad to say it was again improving, and was at that time about fifteen inches wide of rich copper, and, as far as he could judge, they were going through to the top part of the “bunch” of copper; that these facts, he thought, were very satisfactory, but that it was still more gratifying to know that the lode on the bottom of the 105 was far more valuable than that in the back; that in the “Crowns,” especially in the various levels under the sea, the lodes were not only “promising,” but performing great things, two men and a boy (he referred to Maggot, Trevarrow, and Zackey here) having broken an immense quantity of copper during the last quarter, which was paying splendidly.

At this point, Mr Grenfell, who sat on Mr Cornish’s right hand, exclaimed, “Hear! hear!” and a little bald-headed man, with a red nose and blue spectacles, near the foot of the table, echoed “Hear!” with genuine enthusiasm (for he had been bordering on bankruptcy for some months past), and swigged off a full glass of punch without winking.

Thus encouraged, Captain Dan went on to remark that there were six men driving in Wheal Hazzard (which statement caused a “stranger” who chanced to be at the dinner to observe, in an undertone, that he was not aware they had horses or vehicles of any kind in the mines!), that one cross-cut was also being driven, and three winzes were sinking, and one rise ­several of which were opening up tin of first-rate quality, while in the Narrow shaft, Chicornish, Higher Mine, and Wheal Cock, a great deal to the same effect was being done ­all of which we leave to the imagination of the reader, merely remarking that however incomprehensible these things may appear to him (or her), they created feelings of profound joy in the assembled guests, especially in the breast of the almost bankrupt one with the bald, red, and blue headpiece.

Mr Cornish afterwards congratulated the adventurers on the success of the mine, and the splendid prospects which were opening up to them ­ prospects which, he had no doubt, would be fully realised ere long.  He referred also to the condition of the miners of the neighbourhood, and alluded to the fact that the neighbouring mines, Wheal Owles and Levant, were also in a flourishing condition; a matter, he said, for which they had reason to be profoundly thankful, for the distress in the district had been severe and prolonged.  The manager’s voice deepened at this point, and he spoke with pathos, for he had a kindly heart, and his thoughts were at the moment with many a poor miner, in whose little cottages the effects of gaunt poverty could be traced in scanty furniture, meagre fare, and careworn brows.  He remembered, too, that only the week before he had seen poor blind John Batten carried to his grave, and had heard the sobs of the bereaved widow, as she attempted to tell him how the brave man had forgotten himself to the very last, when he put his wasted hand on her head, and said, “I’m goin’ to leave thee, Mary, for a time; but cheer up, dear lass, I’ll be with Jesus soon, an’ have my sight restored, and look wance more ’pon the faces of the dear boys, an’ ’pon your own sweet face too, dear lass, when we meet again in heaven.”

There was one of the miners and shareholders of Botallack who did not die, but who lived to enjoy the fruit of his labour and the sunshine of prosperity.  James Penrose recovered ­not only his health, but also, in some degree, his sight.  One of his eyes had indeed been entirely destroyed by the explosion which had so nearly killed him, but the other was partially restored.  A long period elapsed, however, ere he was able to go about.  Then he found his circumstances so much improved that it was not necessary to resume work underground.  Botallack, in which all his savings had been invested, continued steadily to improve, and from the income derived from this source alone he was enabled to live without labouring.  But Penrose was not the man to sit down in idleness.  Wesley never had a more earnest follower than this miner of St. Just.  Thenceforth he devoted himself to preaching, teaching, and doing good as his hand found opportunity, and, being an active man as well as conscientious, he laboured to the end of his days in the service of his Lord more energetically than he had ever toiled in the mines.

Penrose and David Trevarrow had always been staunch friends.  After the accident to the former, they became more closely united than before.  Trevarrow did not give up underground work; he possessed no shares in any of the mines, but, in common with the rest of the mining community, he benefited by the sunshine of prosperity that became so bright at that period, and found leisure, when above ground, to join his friend in his labours of love.

They both agreed to make an earnest effort to convince Maggot and John Cock of the error of their ways ­with what amount of success it is not easy to state, for these worthies were made of stubborn metal, that required a furnace of unusually fierce heat to melt it.  However, we are warranted in concluding that some good was done, from the fact that both of them gave up smuggling, and, in various other ways, showed indication of an improved state of mind.  Maggot especially gave a signal and unexpected proof of a softened spirit, when, one Sunday morning, as he was getting ready for chapel, he said to his wife that it was “high time to send that little chucklehead the baby to Sunday school, for he was no better than a small heathen!” The “baby,” be it observed, was about six years old at the time when this speech was made, and his protege the “chet” was a great-grandmother, with innumerable chets of her own.  It is right to add that, in accordance with this opinion of his father, the baby was carried off to school that very morning by Zackey and Grace, the first having grown to be a strapping youth, and the other a lovely girl, for whose sake there were scores of young miners in St. Just who would gladly have walked ten miles on their bare knees, or dived head foremost into Wheal Hazzard shaft, or jumped over the cliffs into Zawn Buzzangein, or done any other insane act or desperate deed, if, by so doing, they could have caused one thrill of pleasure to pass through her dear little heart!

It is not necessary, we should think, to say that in the midst of so much sunshine Oliver Trembath and Rose Ellis thought it advisable to “make hay.”  Old Mr Donnithorne and his excellent wife (of whose goodness and wisdom, by the way, he became more and more convinced every day of his life) saw no objection whatever to this hay-making ­so the young couple were wed at the Wesleyan Chapel of St. Just ­Charlie Tregarthen, of course, being groomsman ­and the only vehicle in the town was hired to drive them over to Penberth Cove and bliss!

As to George Augustus Clearemout, Esquire ­that able managing director, despite his ducking at St. Just, continued to fill his chair and to fulfil his destiny in the airy little street in London, where, for many years, he represented Wheal Dooem, and “did” a too confiding public.  In this work he was ably assisted by Secretary Jack Muddle, who became quite celebrated as a clear expounder and explainer of veins, lodes, ores, cross-cuts, shafts, levels, winzes, minerals, metals, and mines ­ insomuch that he was regarded by many of the confiding public who frequented his office as a more thoroughly learned and scientific man than George Augustus himself.  It is interesting, how ever, to have to record the curious fact that the too confiding public changed their opinion at last on this head, and came to regard Secretary Jack as a humbug, and the managing director as a scoundrel.  Unfortunately this change of opinion did not take place until the whole of the too confiding public (the T.C.P., as Clearemout styled them) had lost large sums of money, and a few of them become bankrupt.  When affairs had reached this crisis, one of the T.C.P. ­an irascible old gentleman, whose fiery nature seemed to have singed all the hair off his head, leaving it completely bald ­went down to Cornwall in a passion to sift the thing for himself.  There he found the Great Wheal Dooem pump-engine going full swing, day and night, under the superintendence of one man, while the vast works underground (on which depended the “enormous” dividends promised to and expected by the T.C.P.) were carried on by another man and a boy.  On making this discovery the fiery old gentleman with the denuded head left Cornwall ­still in a passion ­and exploded in the face of a meeting of the members of the T.C.P., who immediately exploded in each other’s faces, and appointed an indignation committee to go and explode, with unexampled fury, in the faces of the managing director and Secretary Jack.  But these knowing gentlemen, being aware that the explosion was coming, had wisely betaken themselves to the retirement and seclusion of the Continent.

Without troubling the reader with further particulars, we may say, in conclusion, that the result was the stoppage of Wheal Dooem mining operations, and the summary dismissal of the two men and the boy.  At the present day the ruins of that great concern may be seen standing on the wild sea-cliffs of west Cornwall, solitary, gaunt, and grey, with the iron “bob” of the pump-engine motionless and pointing up obliquely to the sky, as if the giant arm of the mine were upraised to protest for ever against the villainy and the too confiding folly that had left it standing there ­a monument of wasted and misdirected energy ­a caution to all speculators ­a deserted mine ­in the language of miners, a “knacked bal.”

There are many such “knacked bals” in Cornwall, with their iron “bobs” ­ horizontal, depressed, or raised aloft, according to the attitude in which they expired ­holding forth similar firm, silent, and perpetual protests and cautions.  Many Wheal Dooems (which having accomplished their ends may now be termed Wheal Donems) are to be seen all over the country on gorse-clad hills and on bold headlands; but, alongside of these, may be seen their venerable ancestors, still alive and working; subject, indeed, at times, to fits of depression, when, as their indomitable and unconquerable managers will tell you, “the price of tin is low,” and subject also to seasons of revival, when they are getting a “little better price for tin,” but still working on with untiring persistency whether the price of tin be high or low.

Chief among these, our chosen type, Botallack, may be seen bristling on the grey cliffs of the “far west” with the Atlantic winds and spray revelling amongst its machinery, and the thunder of its stamps giving constant token that hundreds of stout-hearted, strong-limbed Cornishmen are still hewing out tin and copper from its gloomy depths, as they did in days gone by, and as they will, doubtless, continue to do in time to come ­steadily, sternly, manfully doing their work of sinking and extending the mine deeper down under the sod and further out under the sea.