The Man Engine

Man Engine, Redruth

The Man Engine Chant called out by thousands in Cornish when the man stands up:

HAKA BALWEYTH (Pol Hodge/Will Coleman)

(Kober - Copper, Sten - Tin, Yn pub Karrek - In every rock, Yn pub Men - In every Stone, An gwella Sten - The best Tin?, Yn Kernow - In Cornwall)

Kernow: the horn-shaped granite kingdom of Cornwall thrusts itself out into the Atlantic Ocean. It is a tiny 0.02% of the planet’s surface yet beneath its rocky shores can be found samples of more than 90% of all mineral species ever identified! Millions of years in the making, the geology of Cornwall is unique. This unbelievable geological treasure (Copper, Tin, Arsenic, Lead, Zinc, Silver, etc) has powered the Cornish people’s endeavour through over 4,000 years of mining history: innovation, triumph and heartbreak.

In July 2006 the Cornish mining landscape was recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This placed Cornwall's engine houses, miners’ cottages, grand gardens and miles of labyrinthine underground tunnels on a par with international treasures like the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China amongst others.

Man Engine, Redruth

The Man Engine project celebrated the Tenth or as many have now said, the ‘Tinth’ anniversary of Cornwall’s World Heritage status as well as the successes and the struggles of the real people whose lives shaped the Cornish Mining Story.

Struggles indeed and ones worth remembering, for the harsh realities of Cornish mining were far from glorious or romantic. Two of my paternal ancestors died in the great Man Engine disaster of 1919. Their wives were sent to the Penzance Union workhouse within weeks as without their husband's wages, they were unable to pay their cottage rents to the Bolitho Bank.

A record breaking 10.2 metres high and 40 tonnes in weight, this moving, steaming 'beast', the likes of which had never been seen before – made its way on a 130 mile long journey from Tavistock in West Devon and the Tamar Valley to Geevor in the far western tip of Cornwall between Monday 25th July and Saturday 6th August, 2016 stopping off at many of the old mining towns on the way where its appearance literally over awed massive crowds which now exceed over 100,000 people.

The largest mechanical puppet ever made in Britain, the ‘miner' is a major feat of Cornish engineering.

Man Engine, Redruth

The same height as a double decker bus when in its 'crawling' mode, the Man Engine transforms to almost three times that height when stood up.

Throughout its journey the part-man, part-machine was accompanied by community singing of Cornish and English songs and music, created by a team of more than a dozen miners' and bal-maidens who animated the giant throughout his travels. Remembering my ancestors and with a tear in my eye, I was proud to join in with the chanting and singing as best as I could at several of the venues. I was not alone in feeling a sense of pride and emotion and the community singing, some of it in Cornish, was outstanding.

Will Coleman, Man Engine

There are proposals to have the ‘Man Engine’ taken to visit the dozens of Cornish heritage communities around the world, places where Cornish folks made their homes and pursued their mining skills. This is dependent of course, on funding and logistics.

This has been one of the most moving tributes to our brave mining folks I have ever witnessed and one I shall surely never forget. It proved to me beyond all doubt that we, the Cornish can achieve truly astounding things and I pay tribute to the organiser, Will Coleman, his hard working team and all those who made this awe inspiring and historic event happen.

Cllr. Mike Chappell
Chair - Kernow Matters To Us
(photographs of the Man Engine taken during his long journey)