The significance of William West’s achievements at Phoenix United Mine is captured by events at the mine in 1870, a rare occurrence of Cornish Miners presenting a gift to the mine’s owners. Here is some extracts from the Western Morning News account of the day’s events.
“On Saturday last (July 9th, 1870), at Phoenix Mine pay-day, an event of a very interesting and gratifying character occurred – the presentation by the miners and others employed in the now extensive and flourishing adventure, to Mr . W . West, of a very handsome time-piece.”……….
The account now continues with a description of the presentation, but this blog will skip to the words of William West.
“Mr. West, after briefly thanking the deputation, addressed the whole body of employees from the window. He could hardly express to them his feeling in receiving such a testimonial from such a fine-looking, steady body of men and women. He was sorry, in one sense, to take anything from them, for they worked hard enough for their money, and had plenty of uses for it, and he would rather give than take; but still he accepted their handsome present with a very deep and real pleasure. (Applause).
He hoped that they had in Phoenix a mine that would provide for them and theirs all their lives. He had many difficulties in bringing it out, but they had stuck by him like men. Most of them, he knew, were originally western men, and he hoped that they and their families would find themselves thoroughly comfortable in the east. It should not be his fault if they were not.
That they were careful, steady men, was proved in the very few accidents that occurred. Still he exhorted them ever to neglect taking proper precautions. He knew that mining was practical by experience. (Applause.) He was quite as desirous that the mine should be worked safely and comfortably as profitably; and he sent up a stock of copper-ended tamping bars, with which each ‘pair’ was to be supplied.
One great need that was felt was the want in the neighbourhood for sufficient cottages for the large body of men now connected with that mine. He saw this, and he was glad to tell them he was trying for a place where he could put up 100 cottages, and he hoped he should do it. (Applause) They would be all the more needed when West Phoenix got fairly in work, for it was his intention to spend a good deal of the money he got out of district in giving employment in the district. (Applause.)
Once more he thanked them from the bottom of his heart. Three hearty cheers were then given, and setting and pay proceeded.”
Today, standing at the entrance gate to the count house I can imagine William West stood in the bay window with the miners crowded below. I have stopped at this gate many times, and read the speech to groups; the Last Great Cornish Engineer’s words still being heard in the landscape he moulded.
The rest of the account can be read in ‘The Last Great Cornish Engineer‘.