The local Police Constable (PC) was tired. It was early morning and he had been on duty all night.
Time for home and he was looking forward to a nice cup of tea and a big breakfast with his wife. Maybe a chat with some of his children, before they departed for school. Then a nice long sleep.
It was a beautiful day, the 7th February 1923 in West Cornwall, England. The PC was riding home from his night shift on his bike to his village of Nancledra, so although the wind was brisk, he was warm.
He was coming home from the Police Station at Porthleven and was half a mile from home when he heard someone shouting. It was Mr Andrew Curnow a local farmer. He was waving his arms shouting something and beckoning to the PC. “Here we go again”, thought the Constable.
A few of the villagers were gathered at the top of a large disused mine shaft peering down. This was the Giew Tin Mine the only active tin producer in 1921 and 1922 but closed just that year, in 1923.
The PC rode over to Mr Curnow who was by now agitated and excited. ‘Quick! he shouted ‘ My dog has fallen down the Giew mineshaft!”
They could hear the dog’s frantic barking. The tall PC strode into the knot of people and they stepped aside to let him see what they were all peering at, down the long, dark shaft.
The PC looked down the steep shaft but could see nothing. Quickly he decided to enter the shaft and rescue the beagle. ‘Get me a rope, quickly’ he shouted.
Mr Curnow was aghast……..this was a disused narrow, crooked vertical shaft and who knew how far down the dog was. But the PC insisted and Mr Curnow ran off. The PC took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. he knelt on the grass and peered down. This shaft was a twisted one, but he could hear the frantic yelps and barking of the beagle.
Mr Curnow ran back with a farm hand and by now attracted by the shouts and activity more locals were gathered around the hole. Together, they roped up the PC and lowered him into the shaft. It was very dark so that after a few minutes they could only hear the PC’s voice. ‘Lower’ he kept shouting ‘Lower’
They continued obeying his instructions until…….silence. They all looked at each other faces grave. Suddenly the rope moved and the PC shouted ‘Got ‘im’ Pull me up!
With renewed vigour and a newfound strength the men, by now sweating with the effort of keeping the rope steady, heaved and pulled until the head of the PC and the beagle appeared at the top of the shaft!
Everyone grabbed both the PC and the dog. The beagle jumped up on his master barking hysterically whilst the PC lay on the grass sweating and panting. Everyone cheered. They all agreed that the old mineshaft should be covered over to prevent another accident.
This brave Police Constable was my Grandad, Francis Bulford. Born 28 October 1884 died 25 March 1963. RIP.
PC Francis Bulford with his wife, Emily Marion, and five of his eleven children
Below, the newspaper account of the rescue.
Giew Mine, near Nancledra Cornwall, England
Notes Of Interest On Cornish Mining
The closure of the tin mines in Cornwall was never about running out of resources – it was in response to competition from cheaper tin from abroad. South America and China are still major players in tin extraction and production. The collapse of the world tin cartel in 1986 being the last nail in the coffin of tin mining.
The Giew mine is known to have been working from the mid-eighteenth century. In its time Giew has been known as Gew, Reeth Consols, Trink and St. Ives Consols. The remaining buildings centered around Frank’s Shaft are only the easternmost of a number of shafts all working the area. The engine house dates from 1874.
This was part of the re-working of Giew Mine started in 1869 by Thomas Treweeke. Other shafts, running from east to west include Blackburn’s, Robinsons Engine, Martins, Ladock Shaft and Giew Engine Shaft where it joined Billia Consols Mine. It produced tin up until 1922.
In Cornwall, the ingression of water was the worst problem in shaft mining. A deep mine is a bit like a water well. You have to pump the water out constantly. The steam engine driving a pump was the answer to allowing deep mining in Cornwall.
You may wonder why Cornwall had the mineral mines that the rest of Britain missed out on. There is a simple geological explanation. During the late stages of the cooling of the mass of granite that makes up a lot of Cornwall, fissures opened up in the granite when it was still molten, and more hot molten rocks bubbled up through the granite from the earth’s interior. These new rocks contained many minerals, and as they crystallized they formed mineral lodes – tin, copper, zinc, lead and iron with some silver.
Because the ore-bearing rocks formed in this way, rather than being sedimentary rocks like coal (hence coal is laid down in great flat plates), they have to be mined vertically rather than horizontally.
Each fissure has to be mined straight down into the earth. Each fissure needed a separate mine. Therefore a great many vertical shafts were needed, rather than the one shaft that was used in coal mining.
There were no other substantial buildings in a typical mine. Given that many of the mines were small and vertical, they did not invest in cages to haul the miners up and down, instead, access to the mine was by ladder, a tiring part of the daily toil of the miners.