On this Day 4th March 1863

Payment of Miners' Wages

On 4 March 1863 Richard Trevorrow, a miner previously of St Just, came before the West Penwith justices to sue Captains Carthew and Wearne of St Just United Mine for non-payment of his wages at the end of his contract. The point at issue was whether a discharged miner should be paid what was owing immediately upon discharge or whether the mine was within its rights to make him wait until the next regular pay day, miners in employment usually being paid some four to six weeks after the completion of the work for which they were paid.

The mine had previously told Trevorrow that he would be paid £2-10 on 14 March but would have to wait until April to receive the balance, the total owed being £5-6-3d (£5-31p).

Mr Boyns, representing Richard Trevorrow, asserted that delayed payment could detain a miner in a parish for a month or six weeks restricting his freedom to find new work while Mr Angwin, the purser of St Just United, pleaded custom and practice of the parish which was that wages would be paid on the regular pay day, custom which he said had been the case for at least 15 years to his knowledge.

The Bench directed that Trevorrow should be paid the following Saturday, 14 March, and purser Angwin said that he would have to pay part of the sum out of his own pocket but would do so if the bench wished it. He also said that Trevorrow had now taken a pitch at Levant and he, Angwin, would make sure that the same trick was not played on the agents there. Samuel Borlase, from the bench, said that the bench did wish payment to be made on Saturday 14 March and furthermore they were not impressed by Purser Angwin's threats and trusted that the Levant agents would judge Trevorrow as they found him and not be prejudiced by the present case.

Trevorrow was not awarded costs, for which he applied, on the grounds that had he waited he would have been paid. At the outset of the hearing Trevorrow described himself as a stranger to the parish, which was technically the case as he now worked at Levant in Pendeen parish but the argument put by Mr Boyns regarding the inconvenience of being detained in the parish could not really be said the apply in this case.

The usual practice in St Just at this time was that miners would take a contract for eight weeks and be paid some weeks later following the end of the contract. Advances were paid, if required, during the life of the contract. Mine Cost Books show that there was a pay day every month but the April cost book for Levant shows men being paid for work done in February. These delays in payment applied to Tributers, whose pay was an agreed proportion of the value of the mineral they had produced, a value which was not immediately known and, in the case of copper, required the ore to be dressed and sold before the miners' share could be calculated. Copper sales, ticketing as they were known, were usually held weekly but St Just mines seldom sold more than once a month. The wages in dispute in this case would not have involved copper as St Just United produced only tin.

Cornish Telegraph 11 March 1863




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"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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