When South Crofty mine closed in the late 1990s some poignant graffiti appeared on a wall.
So what did ‘Cornish boys’ do when the mines were no longer the obvious career route? One option, as we have seen, was to follow the mines overseas. Another was to stay put, or move within the UK, and change occupation.
Kea was a mixed rural mining and farming parish stretching from the mining villages of Blackwater and Chacewater east to the Fal estuary. The health of the local mines began to falter in the later 1860s and in the 1870s and afterwards recurrent depressions became the norm.
Some miners, often with smallholdings, had always been adept at switching to the traditional alternative of farming. John Wasley was born into a mining family originally from St Blazey that had moved west to Kea in the early 1840s. By the age of 11 John was already working and described, as was his father and a brother, as a ‘miner’. This implied he was underground as a sister working on the mine surface was distinguished by the occupational description ‘mine work’. John was still mining in 1871 by which time the family had moved to the newer settlement of Baldhu in the parish.
But, by 1881, John, who had married Mary Grose in 1872, had moved to the neighbouring parish of Kenwyn at Three Burrows, north of Truro and was described as a tea dealer. Ten years later he was a farmer. A gap in the children born to John and Mary between 1877 and 1883 might suggest a spell spent overseas when John made the money to venture into farming or expand an existing smallholding.
This was not the case for Joseph Jeffery. Joseph had been born in Kea in 1849 and was also working at a mine by 1861. Marrying young in 1871 Joseph and his wife Christen first lived at Bissoe in the Carnon Valley. However, sometime between 1876 and 1879 Joseph and Christen and their young family departed for Parton on the Cumbrian coast. There in 1881 Joseph was making his living by being an agent for one of the insurance companies that were rapidly expanding their business in the later 1800s in the absence of a welfare state. Joseph died in Cumbria at the relatively young age of 38.