Raymond Harry was born on Friday 13th March 1903. As Raymond says in his memoir, “Lucky or unlucky?” He was baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Trewellard and his parents are given as William Thomas Harry and Mary Bennetts Harry. In 1903 the Harrys already had three children, Raymond being the fourth and in the next six years three more children would be born.
Raymond Harry is better known as Jack Penhale, author of The Mine Under the Sea, an account of his days at Levant Mine between 1917 and 1921. Raymond/Jack worked at Levant when the disaster took place on 20 October 1919 and when the four trammers were killed in an explosion in August 1920. He survived his time at Levant, lived to tell the tale (literally) and learnt the lesson – he left Cornwall for Canada, returning to Cornwall in 1928 to settle back in Carnyorth.
The Mine Under the Sea is a short book, originally published as an eight part serial in the Cornish Magazine in 1961. The author narrates episodes which are redolent with the humour of the mining industry, for instance in the tale of the 'trade secret' of the underground blacksmith which sees Ned Treloar and Peter Williams get their comeuppance. But the book is overlaid by the tragedy of the Man Engine and also by the price that so any miners paid for their years underground. The beginning of the book is dominated by the figure of Jack's father, a young man who left Cornwall for the riches of the Rand and returned a few years later, a man old before his time “with hollow, sunken cheeks, and without lungs to breathe”. The price of working in the dust! William Thomas Harry went to South Africa in 1910 and returned in 1916 and by the end of 1917 he was dead at the age of 43.
The Mine Under the Sea was written 40 years after the events which it portrays but the author gives them the immediacy of yesterday, even now almost 100 years later. Conveying a sense of underground to someone who has never been there is not easy but Raymond Harry achieves it with apparent ease and good humour while making it clear that this is “no laughing matter”.
Jack Penhale, The Mine under the Sea, Levant Publications, 2007.