Miner, aged 20, who died from a fall at East Pool Mine
9th May 1907
Frederick Tucker was less than a week away from his twenty-first birthday when he died as a result of a fall in East Pool Mine, on 9th May 1907.His death came less than 36 hours after that of another young miner, Thomas Plint, illustrating how dangerous underground working could be.
Frederick lived with his parents, Henry and Emily in Lanner (about four miles away from East Pool Mine) - he was the second son in the family, with his elder brother working as a tin miner at age 16. Frederick was working as a draper's assistant when he was 15, but started work underground soon after this - first at West Basset mine for three and half years, and then starting work at East Pool Mine in 1904. The family was large: Frederick had four younger brothers and two younger sisters.
The work that Frederick was engaged with at East Pool Mine was fairly typical: after a shaft (vertical tunnel) had been sunk, miners worked to widen-out areas to extract metal-rich ore, creating stopes, or underground man-made caverns. This was done by drilling holes in to which dynamite was loaded and exploded: the holes were made by 'percussion drilling' -essentially, a long metal drill-bit was repeatedly hammered in to the rock face by one man, and frequently turned to avoid it sticking by a fellow miner.
Before work could commence at the start of each shift, the staging (wooden shelf-type platform) needed to be fixed on to the rock-face at the required location: this is where the miners stood while drilling. Frederick and his work-mate, Ernest, did this after they had eaten breakfast together underground at the start of their shift, and then proceeded to start drilling at 8 am. Ernest was hammering, and Frederick was holding the drill-bit and rotating it.
Ernest and Frederick worked like this for almost an hour then, at around 9 am, Frederick gave the signal to stop hammering, which was used from time to time for miners to 'catch breath' from the arduous physical work. On this occasion, though, just as Ernest was wiping the perspiration from his brow, without warning, Frederick fell backwards off the wooden staging, and down. Ernest tried to grab him, but without success, and Frederick fell over 50 m on to hard rock at the base of the stope, and witnesses think that he may have hit the sides of the shaft on the way down. A tragic end to a young life, and also very traumatic for the other men working in the mine at the time.
At the inquest in to Frederick's death, there was no evidence that he suffered from ill health or fainting episodes, or any other illness, so the conclusion was that it was an accident. The Mine Captain was asked if it could be possible for men to secure themselves to the rock face with ropes to avoid such deaths, but Mr Tamblyn replied that the ropes could hinder movement of the miners, and make it harder for them to avoid falling rock. He also reported that this was the first accident of this nature since the shaft had been sunk 8 years previously, so though miners were evidently very careful, accidents were still possible.
The funeral of Frederick Tucker and that of Thomas Plint (who had died at the Mine just one day earlier) were on the same day, and many miners who knew them wished to attend. In recognition of this, the Mine Captain provided four horse-drawn wagons, leaving from East Pool Mine, to convey the miners: Frederick's funeral was in Gwennap, and that of Thomas Plint was at Redruth. The miners arrived at Gwennap church for Frederick's funeral service, which included the hymn 'God our help in ages past' and proceeded to follow the coffin to the graveside, where one of Frederick's brothers collapsed with grief.
After Frederick's untimely death, it can be seen from later census information that his father gave up working as a miner, and none of Frederick's four younger brothers went working underground, an indication perhaps of how much his death continued to impact his immediate family. We can hope that the close-knit mining community, though, was able to help console the family in their loss.