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Monday, July 29, 2013

Jack Simons on the Coalbrook Catastrophe

                             Cover over the borehole drilled immediately above the trapped miners.

Professor D J Simons: Death in South African Mines

1.      Chasing Production

Speed-up comes from the management's excessive desire to make profits. As the Coalbrook disaster showed, the drive for profits can reduce the margin of safety in other ways. It was alleged in the inquiry that the management had caused the coal pillars supporting the roof to be thinned down—'robbed* is the expression used—to such an extent that the roof caved in. It was against regulations to make the pillars smaller than the size shown in the plan; but according to the evidence, the management had done just that in order to "prolong the life of the section". The Commission found that "the subsidence of the mine was due to the negligence and omission of the present consulting engineer, the general managers, the managers and assistant managers".

2.      Compensation

The widow of a white miner killed in the Coalbrook accident will draw a pension of from 30 pounds to £75 a month, depending on the number of children, under the compensation law. The African miner's widow will get a lump sum of at least £180, paid to her at the rate of £3 or £4 a month, but no pension. In her case the number of children does not affect the amount of compensation. The white widow, in addition to her statutory pension, received £150 from the white Miners' Union (from which Africans are debarred by law), from the Chamber of Mines to cover immediate expenses, her husband's salary for seven months, and a rent-free house for the same period. The African widows eceived none of these benefits, not even on a reduced scale. The white widow will also draw a pension from the Governor-General's National Mines Disaster Fund, which was  established with money donated to the victims of Coalbrook. Benefits to Africans from this fund will take the form of lump sum payments, but no indication has yet been given of the amounts. An official of the Social Welfare Department was reported as having said on the question of granting relief from the fund to Africans: "It seems to us that there is no need to throw money about in all directions till we have the whole business sorted out".


COALBROOK was the biggest disaster in the history of South African mining. Never before have so many men been killed in one fall of rock. We do not yet know the full significance of what happened at the Coalbrook mine on January 21, 1960. Not all the facts have been disclosed, and the case is still open.

At the time of writing, the law officers have not yet made known their decision whether or not to prosecute. What we do have are the combined findings of the statutory board of inquiry and inquest published on July i960. The main conclusions in summary form are:

The whole of the north-eastern sector of the underground workings in the No. 2 seam of the Coalbrook North Collieries subsided on January 21, i960. None of the bodies of the 437 persons killed has been recovered. The court finds that death occurred by violence.

The subsidence resulted in methane gas being liberated into the underground workings. The cause of death was multiple injuries due to crushing by the fall of ground and/or anoxia  (deficiency of oxygen) due to the presence of a large percentage of methane gas or coal dust.

All the persons entombed underground died at about 7.30p.m.  on January 21,1960.

The subsidence of sectors of the No. 2 seam workings occurred between 7.26 p.m. and 7.32 p.m. on January 21, 1960, and followed on the collapse of portions of the so-called old Section 10 of the mine that had taken place on December 2 8, 1959, and at 4.40 p.m. on January 21, 1960.
The subsidence of the mine was due to the negligence and wrongful act and omission of the present consulting engineer (Mr. G. Dixon), the general managers (Mr. R. E. Burnton and Mr. W. Lorimer), the managers (Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Taylor), and the assistant managers (Mr. H. Easingwood and Mr. Shankland) and other man servants and agents.

One other fact of importance must be noted. On March 7, 1960, the Inspector of Mines decided to close the mine as a safety measure. When the company appealed, however, the Administration at a higher level reversed the decision. The mine is now functioning subject to many safeguards which had apparently not been adopted before the catastrophe.

We do not know if the timely adoption of these safeguards would have averted the subsidence. One can only ask questions.

Were rumblings and cracks noticed months before the roof caved in? Were pillars 'robbed' of coal? Did men as well as rats begin to desert the workings many hours before the collapse?
Is it true that men were ordered to go back to work under the threat of prosecution?
The questions have not been fully answered. Perhaps they never will be. Amidst the doubt and confusion we can only conclude that the defects which were commented on years ago have not yet been eliminated from South Africa's mining system.

South Africans reacted typically to Coalbrook: a great amount of verbal sympathy at the time, a quick return to forgetfulness (expedited by the political emergency), and a poor response in hard cash. After all, only six white men were killed. Moreover, the 431 dead African miners belonged to Basutoland and Mozambique and were therefore not the responsibility of South Africans. We have, unfortunately, no reason to console ourselves with the thought that their deaths will bring about reforms in mining laws and practices, or in the position of the black miner in the industry.

Ruth First article on Coalbrook Catastrophe

                           Ruth First

New Age February 4th, 1960 (Ruth First)

As battle to save the 435 trapped miners is lost, the emphasis must shift towards compensation adequate and equitable compensation for the victims of criminally reckless mining practices of the mine corporations. Further, 700 killed in the mines in the year just prior to Coalbrook. SACTU led a campaign for compensation as well as a full public commission of inquiry into the causes of the disaster.

There was secrecy surrounding the disaster, both during the rescue and after. No commemoration barring a small meeting held in Greenside ostensibly by VESAMAFO, an informal labor broker working outside of formal TEBA structures. Security Police presence at the shaft head and compound ominous and intriguing. SACTU learnt that one of the issues was to prevent “desertion” especially of workers from Lesotho.

A thirteen months before the disaster there was a report of an inquiry into mining practices at Coalbrook North, following the introduction of the first mechanical continuous miner in a South African coal mine.    It made reference to heavy water ingressions into the underground workings, large falls of ground and general unstable roof conditions.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

White workers on the Witwatersrand, 1902 – 1921


Philip Bonner
(With permission)

The strikers were backed by Afrikaner commandos, like this group manning a roadblock ©Museum Africa

This paper examines some elements of the impact of white worker mobility on the trade union and white working class politics on the Rand in the first two decades following the Second South African War (1899-1902) it traces this mobility, which often bordered on migrancy, to the transcontinental fluxes of what Hyslop terms the ‘imperial working class’2, but more important to the massive incorporation of semi-migrant Afrikaner workers who could be classified as poor whites, or bordering on this condition; into the white labour force on the mines. It suggests that the extreme instability of the living conditions and to a less extent of the working conditions of these workers has been under-recognised in the existing literature but that this left a strong imprint on the white working class politics of this period, including the 1913 and 1922 strikes3.


The emergence of a new category or at least named category of ‘Poor Whites’, in South Africa can be traced to the late 19th century in the Cape, but it expanded massively as a result of the scorched earth policy pursued by the British forces in the second South African War of 1899-1902, which they employed to root out Boer guerrilla/commando forces. The one uniform consequence of this policy – at least in the interior platteland regions- was the impoverishment of Afrikaner farmers4. In the aftermath of the war many Afrikaner farm owners who were aided by the Milner government to re-establish themselves on the land still did not possess the wherewithal to succeed in the new economic environment without the aid of share cropping African tenants. Other English speaking farmers introduced by Milner likewise struggled to make ends meet and again resorted to share cropping. Keegan cites several examples of the kinds of arrangements that emerged from such conditions. Two stand out. The first was the Free State land owner who returned to his farm after the South African War with no working capital. After selling off 4 000 acres of his 10 000 farm to pay off debt he farmed the rest with the aid of share croppers. By 1912 the tenants had 160 head of stock compared to the landlord’s 100. The second example comes from a letter written to the Farmer’s Weekly in 1912 in which a farmer observed that, given the climatic conditions and the uncertainty of arable yields, it made more sense to allow the African share cropper to bear the costs and the risks in return for his half of his crop. Such arrangements were seriously subversive of notions of white supremacy5.

The worst negative consequence of such arrangements in the eyes of white supremacists was the gradual elimination of the white bywoner. This proceeded at an alarming rate after the South African War, as land prices rose, as farmers’ heirs sub-divided the land of their fathers, as the white rural population increased, and as capitalist farming, especially including fencing, grew more prevalent. A striking example of the problems this group faced is to be found in the 10 000 ex bywoners who still remained marooned in British concentration camps in 1903-4, unable to restore themselves to a place in rural life6. Poor white bywoners searched out new options for survival in the arid north-western Cape and Western Transvaal, thereby accelerating environmental deterioration as well as the impact of drought, in the malarial reaches of the Northern Transvaal, and in isolated forest zones in the Cape. By the 1920s, rising land prices combined with drought, which struck the Cape every seven years, on average, closed off even the option, used by whites and coloureds. Their flight to such marginal zones nevertheless attested to the closure of the external frontier at the boundaries of Rhodesia and Botswana, and the steady narrowing of the internal frontier as a result of the development of capitalist agriculture7, particularly the fencing movement in the Eastern Cape and Western Free State that began shortly before Union. According to Grosskopf, most farms in the Eastern Cape were fenced by 1914. Following the recommendations of the Drought Investigation Commission of 1922, fencing was made compulsory in many districts from mid 1920s8. Space available to trekboer herders was thus radically contracted, a process intensified by escalating land prices in the decades after Union. Until the 1910s, du Toit claims, landless farmers were intent on escaping such pressure. Poor whites but also coloureds were able to find cheaper land in the trekvelden of the northern and north western Cape - the area stretching from Clanwilliam in the west to Hopetown in the north. From the 1920s, however, rising land prices combined with drought steadily closed off this option. According to de Kiewiet, droughts struck the Cape with monotonous regularity every seven years and with even greater intensity in the late 1910s and drought stricken 1920s, allowing few to make the transition from ‘kneg to baas’9. As a result, the 1910s and 1920s also witnessed a steady migration to the port cities along the coast which hosted steadily growing poor white populations10. The white population of Cape Town, for example, increased by 30% (100 000) between 1911 and 1921, most arriving from neighbouring country districts after the savage droughts of the late 1910s. Many others followed the railways to Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth11. The term poor white problem which first entered political vocabulary in the Cape in the 1890s was recognised and feared all over the new Union by 1910.

Recurrent recessions in 1896, 1897, 1902-3, 1906-8, 1916, 1919, 1920-4, 1926-7, 1930-32, and 1939 intensified white indigency and social distress, all adding urgency to a mounting sense of desperation. The droughts of 1916 and 1919 were particularly savage, driving tens of thousands of poor whites to small rural towns and city slums, and prompting the formation of the Drought Distress Commission of 1920, whose findings painted a dismal scenario for the future12. The Carnegie Commission Report of 1929 published the life history of Mrs van Wyk which starkly testified to the often catastrophic effects of droughts. Born in the Little Karoo her family hired pasture but were too poor to hire labour to work it. She and her three sisters therefore worked alongside five brothers to help earn the family living. After marriage, Mrs van Wyk led the migratory life of a poor bywoner. Over several years they prospered and their stock grew to number a respectable 500. Then the 1916 drought struck. Only 20 animals survived. She and her family took refuge in Knysna where they cleared forests. Her husband then died and the family thereafter survived on Poor Relief13. A slightly different kind of history is offered by Jacob Gouws, a respectable farmer in Prince Albert, who owned a 500 morgen farm. He lost all his ostriches and two thirds of his stock in the 1919 drought. When the drought broke in 1921, he unlike many others, was able to stage a brief recovery. With the renewed onset of drought however, in 1924, all his stock were lost and he joined the ranks of the poor whites, staying alive with the benefit of food rations supplied to him and 3 000 other destitute in the Prince Albert district14.

The Unemployment Commission which reported in 1921 and was formed in 1920 provided the troubling news that while the white population of the Union had grown 5.1% between 1916 and 1921 the poor white population more than doubled, that figure standing at 11.6% for the same period15. In 1917 the principal of Doornfontein Government School, FW Mills, gave this startlingly alarmist account to a Government Commission on Relief Works:

If South Africa continues to allow its children to become poor whites in ever increasing numbers, it will in consequence become the poor white among nations, the bywoner of civilisation’16.


In the years around Union, many Afrikaners began to stream into towns which had previously been seen as foreign. At the time of Union the Witwatersrand’s towns, the hub of South African urbanisation, were overwhelmingly foreign; a melting pot of strangers. In 1907, for example, 87% of whites working on the mines were foreign born. For Afrikaners towns were both foreign in concept and foreign in composition. Leading Afrikaner nationalist writers like Albertyn insisted that South Africa’s cities did not emerge organically out of an indigenous rural people, but were imposed from outside and were populated by aliens17. In 1900 a tiny 10 000 Afrikaners lived in the country’s ten big cities. From that point on, however, the streamed in. Towns offered an economic and social safety net from the vicissitudes of an often harsh rural life. There, Afrikaners mingled with foreigners who dominated their economic and social life. The fear of Anglicisation in the subjugated environment of the town – as Hexham emphasizes, was ever present through the decade of reconstruction and the first decade of Union and towns for this reason alone were viewed with great suspicion by Afrikaner leaders18. Colonial towns were also places where races integrated, sometimes on almost equal terms. They were accordingly viewed as sites of potential racial pollution. Fear of the evil ambience of the towns thus evoked the final racial phobia of white and especially Afrikaner society - miscegenation, to join its two companions, numerical `swamping' and the economic and social slippage of poor whites.

Destitute and other whites were drawn to the towns by varieties of relief, by jobs and by informal and sometimes illegal income earning opportunities - the latter often involving some transactions with blacks. Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand were the fastest growing urban areas and hence offered the greatest opportunities to the poor. Before the South African War the government of the SAR had sought to implement a strategy of keeping poor whites out of the towns and only in extremes of distress to offer relief work in those areas19. As with so much else the South Africa war marked an important turning point in the history of the towns. Milner and his kindergarten now adopted a land resettlement policy to counteract white poverty in the Transvaal20. Up until 1908 poor whiteism was viewed as a rural phenomenon, and not much attention was paid to the towns.

The combination of rural distress and economic recession culminating in 1906-8, however, saw a refocusing of attention in this direction as poor whites flooded to the city and the city slums became identified as the central source of moral and racial degeneration. As both Chisholm and Lange point out, numerous poor white Afrikaner families began to disintegrate completely under the impact of the 1906-8 depression. Men deserted their wives and children ‘with ease’; daughters were forced into menial work or enter prostitution21.

Two statistics graphically expose the reasons for this concern. By 1917 39 021 of the Union's white population were classified as `extremely poor' and another 67 497 as poor, the greatest concentration of whom were to be found in the Transvaal and the Witwatersrand. And in 1920 an astonishing 48% of the total white population lived in South Africa's towns22 of whom Afrikaners constituted a sizeable minority23. The towns were now the hub around which South African society turned.

From this point on, one core objective of government policy was to curb the supposed wanderlust spirit of the former bywoner/trekboer, seen as the bane of government efforts to stabilise white society and buttress white supremacy. After the war, as Bottomley and du Toit observe, many marginal trekboers in the Cape and Southern Free State sought new opportunities in arid peripheral areas in the Northern Cape and Western Transvaal24. Others tried to survive - and even accumulate a little - by prospecting on diamond diggings, by occasional spells of transport riding, where this was possible, and by hunting and cutting wood in the Eastern Cape, in the Limpopo valley and in the Potgietersrus region (where they were known as `pap and game' farmers)25. From the early 20th century at least, this unstable segment of the population added the towns to their repertoire of movement. Researchers for the Carnegie Commission, for example, found many of their informants in small country towns, a neglected subject in South African historiography26. Others headed for the larger cities such as on the Witwatersrand, in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

Many continued to harbour a nostalgia for the land (though not necessarily for the precarious existence of full time farming). A common aspiration among Afrikaner mine workers at least to the 1930s was to invest their savings in smallholdings which, from 1919, surrounded the main towns. These, it seems probable, they viewed as spaces of freedom - much like African migrant labourers from the reserves - free of the constant surveillance and irksome restrictions of resettlement colonies, and where a whole variety of core necessities of life - such as lodgings, food, were free to be drawn from the gift of nature's bounty, not bought for a price on a market27. Others were perpetually on the move, and were distrusted by the elite. DRC ministers and Department of Lands officials who administered resettlement colonies such as de Lagersdrift (set up in the Eastern Transvaal in 1907) despaired of what they viewed as these restless, rootless proclivities. DRC Mapoch Gronden administrators, for example, distinguished between respectable and unrespectable poor whites. The worst offenders in this respect were frequently identified as those who had been contaminated by the town. Morrell cites one Lands Department distinguishing between two classes of poor whites, `the fixed bywoner' and `the semi-townsman, transport rider and diamond digger who outwit the government'. `The poor white who has tasted town life' another noted, `gave a great deal of trouble'.28

Poor whites, both respectable and unrespectable, were not only unstable but also a politically volatile class especially in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Ticktin describes large numbers of Free Staters being drawn to the South African Labour Party in the years leading up to World War I before being disillusioned by its shift away from bread and butter issues and towards an English jingoist orientation at the outbreak of World War I29. Both Morrell and Bottomley suggest poor whites made up the principal constituents of the 1914 rebels and Morrell cite Reitz as claiming that Rebel leader General de Wet had characterised many of his supporters as ‘not gentlemen’ but ‘slum-dwellers', who looted whenever they got the chance. Clynick suggests a variation on this theme for the 1920s and 1930s30.


The white working class, or white waged workers, tends to be viewed in accounts of South African history as a discrete segment of the urban population, separated and insulated from both working blacks and poor white. Comprised mainly of English speaking, white immigrants in its early years, it is perceived as gradually changed in composition in the early 20th century, to second generation English speaking and a lesser number of Afrikaans speaking South Africans. Both parents and offspring are generally pictured as nurturing traditions of trade unionism and labourism, which they brought with them to their adopted land, and as shaking the South African state to its foundations in a series of general strikes, mounted by the white working class, at the point of its greatest concentration on the Witwatersrand in 1907, 1913, 1914 and 1922. Along with their traditions of trade unionism, these white workers are also commonly credited with cultivating a distinct brand of white working class South African racism. Liberal historians have tended to view this in a largely negative light, portraying or begin economically irrational in the broader sense because of their blind insistence on maintaining the job colour bar, as shunting economic growth and being responsible for many of South Africa’s subsequent racial ills. Radical or neo Marxist historians have by contrast viewed white workers defence of the job colour bar as a fundamentally rational, instrumental means of confronting the exploitation colour bars (comprising pass laws, contracts, masters and servants legislation, compounds, monopolistic recruiting and the maximum average wage system) erected by the dominant classes, to produce and maintain a docile, ultra exploitable, black labour force31. In a series of publications in recent years, Jon Hyslop has significantly reinterpreted both approaches. South African trade union racism, he shows, was by no means unique, but reproduced attitudes widespread among Australian and North American labour as they battled under cutting in ‘their’ labour markets by imported ‘Asian’ labour. In its earlier days, moreover, this immigrant white South African labour force was an integral part of an imperial working class and an imperial working class culture which exhibited not only a highly developed sense of racial vulnerability, but also high levels of mobility, moving frequently from one continent to another in search of mainly mining work. Finally, in the South African context, as both Katz and Hyslop argue, it was the importation of Chinese labour in 1905 that finally made the Witwatersrand’s trade union movement gel and grow32.

The character of this white working class, as its central site on the Witwatersrand began to change, most historians agree, after the South African War of 1899-1902. The central feature of this change was less mobility and more stability. In the mid 1890s Johannesburg was still a bachelor town. In 1897, for example, only 12% of its whites were married, In 1902 this percentage increased to 20% and by 1913 it had climbed to the substantial figure of 42%33. It was still racist ( perhaps even more so, as the ‘Black Peril’ sears of 1913-14 may suggest); it was still English speaking and strongly stamped with an immigrant character, it still felt acutely vulnerable to black competition; but it was beginning to settle down.

This picture is not particularly accurate. Their racism differed little from that of their fellows in Australia and North America and significantly it was the importation of Chinese labour in 1905 that finally made the Witwatersrand’s trade union movement gel and grow. Moreover, the picture of a distinct, discrete and increasingly stable English speaking white working class is, however, open to question, as are standard explanations of the spate of strikes between 1907 and 1922 found in the mainstream secondary literature. Just before the turning point of the 1913 general strike, mining still held by far the largest section of waged labour on the Witwatersrand, employing 24 107 white workers, as compared to the next largest sector, the railways, which employed 3 721 men34. An approximately similar overall number (25 000) found work in a scatter of small heterogeneous industrial concerns. The railways were already mopping up numbers of unemployed poor whites and had assumed at least a partly Afrikaner complexion. The mines, by contrast, were viewed then and later as dominated by English speaking and increasingly family based and stable workers. In reality however, they were in fact increasingly manned by Afrikaners. The gulf between them and the stereotypically undisciplined, work shy erratic and unstable poor whites apparently remained immense. This conventional compartmentalisation of the white urban population does not, however stand up to close scrutiny. After Union and indeed some years before, the ranks of the white mine labour force were infused and diluted by increasing numbers of what the mine managers disparagingly terms ‘backvelder’ or ‘bywoner’ Afrikaner workers. Two events are customarily associated with promoting this process – the 1907 strike in which skilled immigrant miners were replaced by Afrikaner scabs (many of whom were, however, subsequently retrenched) and the First World War of 1914 -1 918 when many English speaking miners volunteered for the armed services and were replaced by less experienced local Afrikaner miners35.

As Elaine Katz has, however, demonstrated, Afrikaner workers infiltrated the mining labour force much earlier and in much larger numbers than had been previously. Prior to the 1907 strike she shows 30% of the white mine labour force to have been made up of Afrikaner miners. These were able to make their `silent and unobtrusive' entry on the mines due to the mine-owners' efforts at job fragmentation which broke down skilled `all round' jobs, into their semi-skilled components which were relatively quickly mastered by new Afrikaner arrivals, and as a result of the mortality inflicted by the dust-imparted lung disease, silicosis, which opened up large areas of employment to local-born miners36. Once anecdote and one statistic reveal all about the horrific ravages of this fatal disease. Firstly the anecdote according to the well know story of Bain, all but one of the 1907 miners’ strike committee had died of silicosis by 1913; secondly the statistic recorded by Katz, among others, which fixes the average age of death of white miners at twenty nine years.37

The new `bywoner' workers laboured mainly underground, where they themselves became victims of the deadly lung disease, probably accounted for 50% of the white underground labour force by 1914. While no figures exist to confirm this point, they were probably predominantly single, while their foreign-born fellows, if they were married, usually had their wives living overseas. When the Small Holdings Commission published its report in 1913 (prior to the strike) it presented a generally dismal picture of life and conditions on the mines which significantly subverts later conventional wisdom. White 42% of white employees on the Witwatersrand gold mines were indeed married and living with their families on the mines, 83% of married miners maintained their families aboard and a full 49.31% were single. In addition while the mines provided married quarters for 3 617 of their employees, the bulk of the accommodation which they offered took the form of barracks, two men to a room, for single men, which housed 13 753 employees (i.e. well over half of the white miners38). A significant sector of this labour force was also astonishingly unstable. Figures collected by the Commission showed that between January and June 1911 labour turnover stood at an average of 13.3% a month. Those ‘shifting’ in this way, according to evidence given to the Commission were ‘mostly underground men’39. This mobility was partly generated by imperial working class, and Afrikaner bywoner habits and culture, but was also a product of conditions on the mines. Mention has already been made of miner’s phthisis, but management autocracy was also another prime cause of workers’ mobility. As the Commission again reported, of the 22 815 employees in the service of the mines in the latter part of 1912, 20 176 were subject to 24 hours notice40. And ‘sacking’ at short notice was standard practice. This often occurred through no fault on the part of the miner concerned. As a statement submitted to the Commission remarked

‘A change of Manager on the mine of the Witwatersrand is, more often than not, accompanied by an entire change of staff; a change of even Engineers, Mine Captains and others at lower positions, means a change in the staff of those immediately under their control’41

The Commission also reproduced an illuminating extract from a Report of the Inspector of White Labour Johannesburg for the year ending 1911 in which he quoted the words of a mine employee

‘I have been lucky’ he told the Inspector, ‘I have been here about ten years and am about the oldest hand on the property. The changes during my time here have been constant. I have never felt at ease although I know I can do my work. When you see so many men as good or better than yourself get shifted on the change of a boss how can you feel secure’42

Such wholesale changes of personnel, had moreover become increasingly common in the years after Union. Of the 50 mine managers working in August 1913 O Quigley tells us, one had been appointed in 1901, one in 1903, one in 1907, five in 1909, 15 in 1910, 7 in 1911, eighteen in 1912 and 10 in 191343. As a result, numerous witnesses informed the Commission ‘it is a well known and accepted fact that the industrial community is a roving one’44. As trade union and 1913 strike leader james Bain later informed the Commission, the average white miner was likely to work for only eight months a year, while many worked on the mines simply with a view to maintaining a toehold on the land45. Bywoner’ habits and mentalities also contributed to this pattern. Johnstone cites CD Leslie, consulting Engineer of Simmer Deep Mine as observing

‘They had not come to follow the profession of mining, they had come up merely to earn money to buy cattle or buy land’46

Testimony presented to the Smallholding Commission made a similar point. Some farmers deliberately sent sons to the mines so that they could jointly retain a foothold in the land; most dreamt of returning to the self-sufficient, independent life of the countryside and geared their efforts towards this end47.

In the mines, the worlds of the bywoner poor white, the semi-skilled Afrikaner worker invisibly overlapped. So too though to a lesser extent, did the worlds of the semi-skilled Afrikaner underground worker and the skilled unionised English speaking artisan. These porous and shifting boundaries made the mines increasingly volatile places. Mine owners relied on racial and ethnic hierarchies of power and occupation to pre-empt or obstruct combination amongst their employees was being imperceptibly being nibbled away by changes in work arrangements underground. These accelerated during the course of World War I at the end of which, one observer commented

‘The white conditions below ground have changed completely since the war. The bywoner Dutch from all over South Africa are the underground workers, 70% and in some cases 86% … they never rise to better positions. They are bossed by the mine captains and stoppers and they again boss the natives’.48

Even now, the English-speaking artisans continued to dominate skilled positions and positions above ground, and a pattern of language-based residential, suburban segregation gradually evolved. Nevertheless, as Lange plausibly, though by no means conclusively argues, much intermarriage between the Rand's English and Afrikaans speaking populations occurred during the first two decades of the twentieth century, not least because of the relative scarcity of single English-speaking men and nubile English speaking women49. Moreover, while suburbs like Brixton gradually acquired an Afrikaans speaking identity, they continued to house many English speaking residents in those early years. My own house (in Brixton) was built by an English speaking blacksmith J M Rutter, which he continued to occupy into the first decade of Union50. Both English-speaking and Afrikaans-speaking miners moreover, even while being simultaneously divided by the mines hierarchy of control, shared common work place grievances, prominent among which were miners’ phthisis, the arbitrary and autocratic behaviour of managements, and the threat of displacement by cheaper African labour. Both Katz and Johnstone describe at length the de-skilling that was taking place among white artisan workers underground in the years just before and after Union. In 1907, as Katz shows, the Chamber of Mines employed 2 234 white miners to supervise 1 890 African-operated drilling machines. By 1913, 2 000 white miners were supervising well over double that number of machines (4 481) while white gangers were being rapidly replaced by African boss boys51. Semi-skilled Afrikaner workers were most directly threatened by these developments but skilled artisans also feared that they were just one or two steps away from the same fate.

A watershed was reached in all of these areas in May 1913 when a general strike was mounted by the Rand's mine workers which shook the newly formed state to its foundations. It was triggered by autocratic and arbitrary management on the New Kleinfontein mine in Benoni. The trigger for the strike at face value was ‘trifling’, but in fact went to the core of miner’s conditions and grievances on the mines52. It began on New Doornfontein Mine in Benoni after a new manager, Edward Bulman, was appointed mine manager. Upon his arrive 60 underground employees of the mine left of their own accord and Bulman discharged 15 others53. Bulman immediately set about re-organising the work of underground mechanics. Apart from dismissing two, he also increased the hours of work of the rest. The five remaining mechanics refused to comply and so the strike began. This change in conditions of work of a minuscule number of five mechanics ultimately brought 19 000 white miners on all mines on the Rand out on strike. Clearly Bulman’s new policy struck several raw nerves. One of the most exposed of these was autocratic and arbitrary management. The New Kleinfontein mine had earned a reputation for being ‘a hotbed of labour and more miners signed up there to the Miners' Union than at any other single mine’. The mine management therefore appointed Bulman, who had an ant-labour reputation ‘to cleanse the stable’54 Bulman also arrived with his own mine captain and other men, hence the immediate departure of 50 former employees. The arrival of a new manager and the enforced departure of fifty employees clearly underscored the insecurity of employment of practically all white miners on the mines, managements' deep aversion to unions, their determination not to offer them any recognition, and the wish to re-impose management autocracy55. These were problems shared by all miners on the Rand. With the added instigation of militant, socialist white union leaders like James Bain, and management intransigence, the strike soon spread to other neighbouring mines until a general strike was called on 4 July 1913 .Ultimately, 19 000 miners on all the Rand mines came out on strike56.

Both the mine managements and the State were more unready than at any time before or after in the history of the gold mining industry or the Rand to meet a challenge of this kind. For some weeks the government dithered. They considered, but were ultimately unwilling to press the mines to the negotiating table, yet in a less than even handed manner, provided police protection for strike breakers employed by the mines. It was these actions and patchy unionization, ironically, that encouraged the strike to spread. Once the strike became general, the government found it did not possess the resources to restore law and order. The number of police were inadequate, and the defence force, only just created in 1912, was in the process of reorganization. After a mass meeting in Benoni on 29 June, which degenerated into violence, the government secures permission to use 3 000 Imperial troops still remaining in South Africa and they were rushed to the Rand. Even these were not enough. On 2 July 20 gold mines were on strike, and a general strike was called two days later by the TMA, when 19 000 white miners downed tools. On 4 July miners streamed from all over the Reef to attend a mass meeting in Johannesburg’s market square turned violent. Indecisive to the last Smuts finally banned the meeting. Violence now erupted, though no one was subsequently able to identify what exactly had set it off. Twenty one civilians were killed and 166 police injured over the following two days. Rioters thronged the streets of central Johannesburg on the evening of the 4th. The offices of the pro-magnate The Star newspaper and Park Station were burnt down. Rioting and looting became widespread. After consultation with the Chamber of Mines, General Smuts and Prime Minister Botha met with the strike committee at the Carlton Hotel in an effort to broker a truce. For the government and the mines this was a moment of profound humiliation. Persistent rumours thereafter claimed that the two generals had been forced to negotiate with the Federation’s leaders at revolver-point. Smuts denied the allegation, but subsequently acknowledged that it had been ‘one of the hardest things’ in his life’ to place his signature on a document together with that of Federation leader James Bain,57 The terms of the truce that was reached were full re-instatement, compensation for the victims of rioting and strike-breakers, no victimisation and the submission to the government of a list of grievances by the trade unions.

Once World War I was joined in August 1914 the terms of engagement between government and labour quickly changed. After initial vacillation, the South African Labour Party (SALP) and the bulk of the trades unions backed what left critics termed the imperialist war. Since the continued production of gold was central to the success of the war effort, the government made every endeavour to prevent the resumption of class war between the Chamber of Mines and the miners' trades unions, an exercise in which the SALP gladly connived. An exodus of skilled British artisan miners from 1915 (an estimated 25% of the workforce) also changed the face of industry. The mines now found themselves chronically short of skilled white labour, which provided extra negotiating leverage to the mining unions.

One high profile incident which took place in January 1917 attested to the strength of the swing. Then, white underground workers at van Ryn Deep embarked on a spontaneous unofficial strike in protest at the employment of black labour in semi-skilled positions. In this instance, white waste packers were being replaced by black recruits at a wage of 5s as opposed to 15s per day, but as investigations of the strike also showed, the same general grievance was shared by white workers in a number of mines. The broad contours of the 1922 rebellion were now coming into view. 2 500 Afrikaners, mostly from the Free State, had recently secured jobs on the mines of the East Rand in place of workers who had left for the European front. These felt especially threatened by the gathering trend of recruiting Africans into semi-skilled jobs and took the lead in the strike. The veil of invisibility hanging over Afrikaner workers had now finally lifted.

The strike which was summoned on 10 January lasted for a remarkable eight weeks. During that period it underwent several changes of personality which confound both liberal and Marxist interpretations. 22 000 white miners struck work, along with workers from one or two ancillary industries. Strike committees were set up across the Rand. Their representatives sat on an augmented SAIF executive strike committee. While the Chamber of Mines remained obdurate and at times provocative, the Government adopted a posture of relative neutrality and made several efforts to broker an agreement between the parties to the dispute. At the very opening of the strike it nevertheless despatched a large force of South African Mounted Rifles from other centres in the Transvaal to the Rand. Fears about the potential role of such a force, and the need to create bodies which would prevent scabbing or strike breaking led to the formation of a unique institution of the strike - the commando - about two weeks into the strike. These represented a formidable defensive and coercive force, without whose existence the slide into outright rebellion would have been totally unthinkable. Strike commandos sprang up all across the Reef - Johannesburg alone probably had ten commandos, their membership ranging from 100 in Fordsburg to a massive 1 000 in Langlaagte. The East Rand had many, Germiston being the hub of at least six.

The strike commandos whose roots are commonly traced back to republican days are frequently portrayed as exemplifying the republican and white racist character of the strike. Johannesburg magistrate Devitt, for example, took this view at the time of the strike when he observed,
‘it is highly significant that a very great deal of the fighting had been done by the poor Dutch Afrikaners, with perhaps a sprinkling of foreigners. It is the poor ignorant class fresh from the country, devoid of industrial trade unions traditions, with little or nothing to lose, distrusting and hating the governments, hating and fearing the native..and fondly trusting their friends in the country [who have played the main role] to come to help them to crush the native and establish the Republic’58.

To which he might have added another distinctive element- their migrant/mobile character. This mobility shading into migrancy lent intense volatility to the mining work force on the Rand. Lacking a house or permanent accommodation, they had less to lose than the English speaking miner with a family and a house; lacking security of employment and bent on returning to the countryside from the town, they were more willing to risk losing their job. Finally, lacking stability, they had less to gain from trade union membership, impelling trade union and white working class leadership towards the tactic of a general strike. The outcome-the general strikes of 1913 and 1922.
58South African Quarterly, IV, 21 March, 1922.
My thanks to Tim Clynick for this quotation.

1 This is both a partially expanded and partially abridged version of one section of my chapter ‘South African Society and Culture, 1910-1948’, in Robert Ross, Ann Mager and Bill Nasson, The Cambridge History of South Africa, Vol 2, 1885-1994, Cambridge University Press: New York, 2011.

2 Jon Hyslop, ‘The Imperial Working Class Makes Itself “White”. White Labourism in Britain, Australia and South Africa before the First World War, Journal of Historical Sociology, 12, 2, Dec 1999.

3 Working conditions have been explored at length by Elaine Katz, A Trade Union Aristocracy. A History of White Workers in the Transvaal and the General Strike of 1913, Witwatersrand University press, Johannesburg 1976. See also her article in the South African Journal of Economics, 1974, ‘White Worker Grievances’, Living conditions have received less attention.
4 D Berger, ‘White Poverty and Government Policy in South Africa, 1892-1934’, Ph.D Thesis, Temple University, 1982. Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid. The Struggle for national independence of Afrikaner Calvinisim against British Imperialism, New York, Mellon Press, pp.70-71.

5 Tim Keegan, Rural Transformations in Industrialising South Africa, Ravan Press, Braamfontein, 1986, pp. 86, 93.

6 Berger, ‘White Poverty’, p.58.

7 Ibid, p.8. John Bottomley, ‘The Orange Free State and the Rebellion of 1914: the influence of industrialisation, poverty and poor whiteism, in Rob Morrell and Sue Parnell, (ed) White but Poor, Johannesburg, pp.31-38.

8 Pp 97-99 cited in Marijke du Toit, ‘Women, Welfare and the Nurturing of Afrikaner Nationalism. A social History of the Afrikaans Christelike Vroue Vereeniging, 1879-1939’, Ph. D Thesis, University of Cape Town, 1996, p. 142.

9 Ibid, p. 145.

10 W M MacMillan, The South African Agrarian Problem, Grosskopf, 1919.

11 Du Toit, ‘Women, Welfare’, p 165-7; Berger, ‘White Poverty’, p.123.

12 Berger, White Poverty, p. 18.

13 M E Rothman Mother and Daughter in a Poor Family (1932) cited in du Toit, ‘Women, Welfare’, pp. 137-40.

14 Ibid p. 142.

15 Berger, ‘White Poverty’, p.22.

16 Linda Chisholm, Reformatories and Industial Schools in South Africa: A Study in Class, Colour and Gender, 1882-1939. Ph.D. Thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, 1989, p 117.

17 Cited in Francis Wilson ‘Farming’in Leonard Thompson and Monica Wilson (eds) The Oxford History of South Africa, Vol 2, Oxford University Press: Oxford, p. 133.

18 Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid. The Struggle for National Independence of Afrikaner Calvinism against British Imperialism, New York: Mellon Press, 1978, pp.21-2; 49.

19 Berger, ‘White Poverty’, pp.48-50.

20 Berger, ‘White Poverty’, p. 114-5.

21 Chisholm, ‘Reformatories and Industrial Schools, p.68; Liese Lange p.160; Berger, ‘White Poverty’, p.71.

22 Karen Jochelson, The Colour of Disease: Syphilis and Racism in South Africa, New York: Palgrave, St Anthony’s College, Oxford, 2001, p. 54.

23 E P Stals, Die Afrikaner in Die Goudstad, Johannesburg, 1986, p.11,15.

24 Bottomley, ‘The Orange Free State, pp.32-8; du Toit, ‘Women Welfare’, p.93
25 Tim Clynick, ‘Afrikaner Political Mobilisation in the Western Transvaal. Political Consciousness and the State, 1920-1930’, Ph.D. Queens University, 1996; Grasskopf, Carnegie Commission Report, Vol, pp.

26 Ibid, p.26.

27 Vusi Ndima, ‘Ayizondi I’nkabi’, M A Research Report, University of the Witwatersrand, 198 , pp. and Hilary Sapire, ‘African Urbanisation and struggles against municipal control in Brakpan, 1920-1958’, Ph.D Thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, 1988, pp. ;

28 R Morrell, ‘The Poor Whites of Middelburg Transvaal 1912 – 1930’, Resistance Accommodation and class struggle’; R Morrell (ed) White but poor: essays on the history of poor whites in Southern Africa 1880 - 1940, Pretoria: University of South Africa, 1992 pp7-9, 14.

29 D. Ticktin, South African Historical Journal, 1969; Bottomley, ‘The Orange Free State,’ p.37.

30 Clynick, ‘Afrikaner Political Mobilisation, pp.

31 Frederick A Johnstone, Class, Race and Gold, Routledge and Kegan Paul: London, 1976; Robert Davies, Capital, State and White Labour in South Africa, 1900-1960, Harvester Press: Brighton, 1979, pp.1-145.

32 Katz, Trade Union Aristocracy; J Hyslop, Imperial Working Class, p.

33 Van Onselen, vol. 1, p. 31.

34 U G 51, 1913. Report of the Small-Holdings Commission, Transvaal, Cape Town, 1913, p.6.

35 Frederick A Johnstone, Class Race and Gold, p. 105.

36 Elaine H Katz, The Underground Route to Mining: Afrikaners and the Witwatersrand Gold Mining Industry from 1902 to the 1907 Miners Strike, Journal of African History, 36, 1995, No.3 pp. 467-489.

37 Katz, Trade Union Aristocracy, p.

38 UG 51, 1913, p.15.

39 Ibid, pp.18-19.

40 Ibid p.6.

41 Ibid, p.20.

42 Ibid, p.17.

43 Ann O’Quigley, ‘The 1913 and 1914 white workers Strikes’,African Studies Institute Seminar paper, Section 5, p.18.

44 Ibid, p.20.

45 UG, 51 1913, p.28.

46 Johnstone, Class, Race and Gold, p.108.

47 UG 51, 1913,p.24, 28.

48 Johnstone, Class, Race and Gold, p.106.

49 Lange

50 Title deed,
51 Katz, Trade Union Aristocracy, pp.300-1.

52 Quote from the South African Typographical Journal, June 1913, p. 9, by Katz, Union Aristocracy, p.381.

53 Ibid, p

54 Cited Katz, Trade Union Aristocracy, p382

55 O’Quigley

56 Katz, Trade Union Aristocracy, pp. ; Jon Hyslop, The Notorious Syndicalist, Jacana, Johannesburg, 2000, pp.

57 Katz, Trade Union Aristocracy, p.461.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cornish miners on the early Witwatersrand

Tin miners taking lunch (Cornwall) 

Cornish Miners and the Witwatersrand Gold Mines in South Africa c. 1890-1904 

(Published in Cornish History, John Nauright)


The economy and society of southern Africa was greatly altered by two developments in the
last third of the nineteenth century. The first was the discovery of diamonds at Kimberley in
1867.1 This discovery took place in an area of land under dispute between the Cape Colony,
the South of African Republic (Transvaal), and the Orange Free State. Due to its economic
dominance, the Cape succeeded in annexing and controlling the new diamond fields. The
fields were rich enough so that in the course of their growth South Africa received its first
massive influx of overseas capital. Even more important was the discovery of what would
prove to be the richest gold fields in the world, on the Witwatersrand in the South African
Republic, later Transvaal, in 1886. Unfortunately for British economic and regional interests,
the gold deposits were located in the center of Afrikaner power in the area, only twenty-five
miles from the South African Republic’s capital, Pretoria. These discoveries completely
transformed the political economy of the region and brought the industrial revolution to South
Africa as well as many new migrants from overseas. The largest identifiable contingent who
came to the Witwatersrand were Cornish miners.

The Rand mines developed differently from all other deep-level mines in the world. This

was due a combination of several factors. First, the ore was the lowest grade of any major gold
field. In order to obtain twenty-one grams of gold, two tons of ore had to be unearthed. Second,
at the time, the price of gold was fixed internationally. Third, much of the gold was located deep
in the earth and its recovery required extensive (and expensive) machinery which had to be
imported from overseas. Fourth, the mine owners also needled skilled deep-level miners in order
to begin mass production of gold. While some of these miners were already in South Africa at
work on the diamond fields of Kimberley or copper mines in the Northern Cape, they mostly
came from the Cornish tin mines, from the coal mines of Northumberland, South Wales and
Australia, and to a lesser degree from various mines in North America. In the early years of
mining development these skilled miners were in great demand as the mine owners were reliant
on their highly specialized skill in order to mine the ore successfully. Therefore, these men could
command relatively high wages. All these factors meant that the costs of production were high
and difficult to control. One means that the mining capitalists used to keep costs down was to
rely on masses of cheap unskilled labor. These labourers were obtained most frequently from the
recently conquered African peoples living in reserves, as well migrants from other regions of
southern and Central Africa. The most reliable source of unskilled African labour was the
Portuguese territory of Mozambique. The use of this massive unskilled black labor force
provided a unique situation for the immigrant skilled miners, as they had not encountered a
similar labour system in any of the other mining areas where they had gained their experience.

This study examines the role of skilled Cornish miners operating in this unique South African context during the years from 1890 to the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. Particular interest will be paid to the part of these miners in the struggle over, the type of labor policy, and ultimately society, South Africa would become and their role in relation to miners from other areas who came to the Rand. During this period there was a fundamental debate over whether the mines, and indeed the society, would be based on white industrial labor, as in the white settler colonies of Australia and Canada, or would instead be white supervised, supported by the sweat and toil of the black man, or imported Chinese contract workers.

Early analyses of this period concentrated on the mine owners and politicians.1 What little
there was available on the working classes before the 1970s was limited to white labor histories
written by the trade unionists. The most important of these were general histories published in
1926 and 1961, and the biography of trade union leader W.H. Andrews written in the 1940s. (2)

Most of the studies which discuss white workers do so from the perspective of the white
working class’s role in society. The most notable exception to this analysis is Elaine Katz’s A
Trade Union Aristocracy: A History of White Workers in the Transvaal and the General Strike of
1913, published in Johannesburg in 1976.3 Katz’s work is primarily concerned with the leaders
of the white labor movement and white workers’ grievances which led to the major strike of
1913.4 Her work, in the classic labor history tradition, attempts to portray working class
historical development in light of the forward march of labour. Katz’s volume remains the only
full-scale narrative of the early Transvaal labour movement. However, Katz interprets post-war
developments in the Transvaal labour movement as contributory factors which culminate in the
1913 General Strike – white labour’s great (if only temporary) victory over the state-capital
alliance. This interpretation ignores a longer historical progression in the struggle between white
labour and the mining capitalists.

The present study examines the aspirations and concerns of the white working class men
on the Rand, not in terms of a progression towards the great strikes of 1913 or 1922, but rather in
light of their ambiguous position between the mass of African workers and the developing state capital
alliance. Many studies such as Davies (1978) and Jack and Ray Simons (1983), portrayed
English-speaking immigrant miners as a unified group based on class interests.5 While these
workers had similar material goals, it is debatable whether there was a unified movement among
the majority at least until the 1907 strike, and arguably until that of 1913. By this time,
mineonwners no longer were dependent on white miners for their specialized skills so necessary
in the early early years of industrialization. More and more, the role of white mine workers
became predominantly supervisory, and, as they did so, the numbers and roles of Cornish miners
in particular, decreased. They were, however, the largest group of skilled miners during the
1890s and early years of the 1900s. Before discussing Cornish miners in particular, a brief
outline of the industry is necessary.

It was not long after gold was discovered in 1886 that the mines became consolidated in
the hands of a few capitalist groups. By the early 1890s, when the mines began to industrialize,
a unique labor system began to emerge which consisted of a small group of skilled white miners,
paid relatively high wages, and a mass of unskilled African migrant labor, paid very low wages.
The effects of the development of this labor system was to be the dominant force in shaping the
experience of the white working class on the Rand. After the South African War (1899-1902)
this group became more organized and militant as they faced increasing threats to their security
and position. The issues of Chinese importation, de-skilling, and wage reductions,
unemployment, and health began to solidify white working class interests. Trade union
organization progressed slowly in the first few years after the war, but as threats to their position
increased, white miners began to resort to increasing violence, and in 1907 and 1913, major
strikes spread along the Rand.

From early in the industrialization process, white immigrant skilled miners were placed in an
ambiguous position. This group increasingly came under the threat of mining capital in alliance
with the state, from above, and cheap unskilled African labor from below. It was, therefore,
difficult for white skilled labour to ally itself consistently with any other group in the social
framework of Transvaal society. This included opposition to the mass immigration of unskilled
white workers to the Rand prior to 1900. Miners felt that a large group of unskilled white
workers soon would be a direct threat to their position, and especially their wages. They
perceived that unskilled white miners would advance into skilled positions more rapidly than
African laborers. In the 1890s, skilled white immigrant miners were not overly concerned with
threats to their jobs from the mass of African workers, as they knew the mine owners were
dependent on their skill, and could not replace them with unskilled, short-term African contract

Immediately after the war, both the mine owners and the new British administration saw
as a key priority the necessity to re-open the mines and attempt to get production back up to prewar
levels. One problem they faced was that there was an acute shortage of African migrant
labour willing to return to the unskilled positions on the mines. Some mines tried white labour
experiments, replacing large numbers of African workers with Europeans. These attempts to
work the mines with white labour met with varying degrees of success.6 However, the majority
of the mine owners decided that the shortage of Africans could best be solved through the
importation of Chinese labourers. This led to a direct controversy with the skilled white miners,
many of whom were vehemently opposed to the importation of Chinese “coolies.” This
opposition, as we shall see, was due in large degree to the agitations of Australian union leaders
who had first-hand experience in dealing with the importation of Chinese workers at home. The
mine owners failed to create united public support for the importation, which directly led to
increased union agitation and organization.7 It was during the campaign against Chinese
importation that many white miners began to promote actively the idea of a white South Africa
in a similar approach taken by the White Australia policy.

During the struggle against importation of Chinese workers, the unions became more
politicized, and rather than join with the party of the mine owners as a unified British interest,
the trade unions allied with the Afrikaner controlled Het Volk party of war leaders Louis Botha
and Jan Smuts. Thus, the British administration and capitalist hope of a unified British interest
against Afrikaner nationalism was smashed by the failure to win union support for importation.
Soon after the Liberal Party won the 1906 British elections, importation of Chinese mine
workers to the Rand was ended. Fighting against the protests of the trade unions, the mine
owners came out with a plethora of reasons to return to the ‘black labour policy’, against the
wishes of the majority of white miners, and the conclusions of the 1907-08 Mining Commission.
The Commission stated that it was economically feasible to work the mines with increased
numbers of white workers, but this would require a substantial initial injection of capital. It was
this that prompted Randlord opposition. The failure of the Het Volk government to force the
mining magnates to implement recommendations made by the commission led trade unionists to
the conclusion that they would not gain political representation unless they formed their own
party. Therefore, in 1909 the South African Labour Party was formed to represent the
aspirations of white labour. By the time of the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910,
the place of white miners in the labour structure of South Africa was firmly entrenched with job
reservation for whites in certain mining occupations.

The Composition of the White working Class on the Rand, 1890-1910

Previous studies of the white working class on the Witwatersrand have noted the diverse nature
of the immigrant white population. These studies, however, have not presented outlines of the
various population groups among these ‘uitlanders’. There was a variety of influences which
helped to shape the attitudes of the white skilled mine workers during this period. The great
majority of the white miners were English-speaking immigrants from Great Britain, particularly
Cornwall, and later from the British settler colonies, primarily Australia.

The first British immigrants to South Africa arrived in the eastern Cape in 1820, and
along with the colony of Natal, founded in 1845, these coastal regions formed the area of
primary settlement by British immigrants prior to the great mineral discoveries. In this period
comparatively little interest was shown towards the interior of South Africa by potential British
immigrants. Only a few farmers, agricultural labourers, and small numbers of skilled artisans
migrated to the Cape and Natal colonies. This began to change after the discovery of diamonds at
Kimberley in 1867, when the demand for skilled mine workers increased. Prior to this there were
only a few English-speaking miners working on the copper mines in Namaqualand in the
northern Cape region which opened in the 1850s. It was only after the discovery of the world’s
largest supply of gold on the Witwatersrand in the South African Republic in 1886 that
significant numbers of English-speaking people began to show an interest in temporary or
permanent settlement in South Africa. The white Afrikaners also responded to the gold
discoveries, as prospectors, later as workers in Johannesburg, and finally as miners on the Rand,
although largely in supervisory roles as they lacked previous mining experience. Interest in
settlement on the Witwatersrand is evidenced in the rapid growth of the primary city on the reef,
Johannesburg, which grew from a few prospectors in 1886 to a city of nearly 100,000 by 1900,
and over 250,000 by 1914. The census figures of the South African Republic and the Union of
South Africa show that a substantial part of this dynamic growth was due to the immigration of
people from England, Scotland, Australia, and other parts of the English-speaking world, as well
as immigrants from eastern Europe, Holland, Italy, and Greece. As a result Johannesburg became
the most cosmopolitan city in Africa. There were communities of Americans, Armenians,
Australians, Bulgarians, British, Belgians, Canadians, Chinese, Dutch, Germans, Indians,
Latvians, Lithuanians, Syrians, and, of course, Africans, English-descended South African
colonists, and Afrikaners. 8

Eric Hobsbawm has called the era of industrial capitalism ‘the greatest migration of
peoples in history’.9 He also stated that people migrate largely for economic reasons, that is to
say because they are poor.10 What must also be added to this is the converse, that people
migrated for the promise of better wages and a higher standard of living. The main attraction of
the Witwatersrand gold mines to immigrant white skilled miners during the period from 1890 to
1910 was that the wages paid there were higher than those paid on any other mines in the world
at the time.

There were certainly both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors at work in the process of immigration
to South Africa in general, and the Witwatersrand in particular during the last decade of the
nineteenth and the first decade of the twentieth centuries. The decade of the 1890s, when the
mines became industrialized at a rapid pace, coincided with a period of depression in England
and Australia, and an acute depression in the Cornish tin mining industry, while the high wages
prevalent on the Rand provided an alternative for skilled white miners.11

In the early stages of deep-level mining, the mines could not function without a
significant number of skilled immigrant miners, as there was not a locally available, adequate
labour force. Even miners who moved from the diamond mines at Kimberley to the Rand were
originally immigrants and not South African born. It is significant to distinguish between the
various segments of the immigrant white population as their previous experiences and
backgrounds were not uniform. In particular, the role of Cornish miners during the 1890s and
early 1900s needs to be outlined as they formed by far the largest group of skilled white workers
on the Rand in this period.

Cornish Miners

Perhaps more has been written about Cornish miners than any other group of miners in the
world. As we shall see, Cornwall supplied the greatest number of skilled white miners to the
Witwatersrand gold mines. It was estimated by a government commission in 1903 at least
twenty-five per-cent of the entire white male workforce on the Rand originated in Cornwall.12
Given that Afrikaners were included in this calculation, Cornish men working on the Rand
would have been considerably greater among the immigrant population. The 1904 Transvaal
census figures show that 35,701 men on the Rand were born in British Europe, while 28,761
were born in southern Africa. The total white male population of the Rand was listed as
71,362.13 These figures suggest, then, that there were approximately 17,500 to 18,000 men from
Cornwall, easily the largest component of the immigrant white working class in the Transvaal.
As the overwhelming majority of Cornish immigrants were skilled miners, their numbers among
this section of the population were especially significant. The fact that Cornwall had not
developed a trade union tradition, and that few Cornishmen can be identified as trade unionists in
the Transvaal, was a key factor in the development of the white working class on the Rand.

By the time the Union of South Africa was established in 1910, many Cornish miners had
returned to Cornwall or moved on to another mining area. This was due to several factors. The
most important were the depression on the Rand from 1903-08 and the mine owners policy of
‘de-skilling’, gradually moving white miners into supervisory roles. After the 1907-08 Mining
Commission Report, there are very few references to a section of the population as being
specifically Cornish. Yet the significance of Cornish miners to the history of white labor on the
Rand is crucial. It was during the period from 1890-1910 that the position of white miners in the
labor structure developed on the Rand was entrenched. The failure of a widespread union
movement to arise before 1907, in large degree, can be attributed to the lack of involvement by
the overwhelming majority of Cornish miners.

The history of mining in Cornwall goes back centuries, and there is evidence which shows
that Cornish tin mines were significant in the period of Roman rule in Britain nearly 2,000 years
ago.14 From the early thirteenth century on Cornwall was the largest European source of tin. Tin
miners were exempt from military service and enjoyed other special rights. Later, copper was
mined at Hayle, from which many miners went to South Africa during the latter half of the
nineteenth century.15 From as early as 1769 Cornish miners were being sought abroad, as
evidenced by the attempts of a secret Portuguese emissary to obtain services of Cornish miners.16
As mining became industrialized in the nineteenth century, along with the rise of international
and imperial capital, opportunities for skilled miners overseas increased. By the latter part of
that century, Cornish miners could be found in places as varied as Wisconsin and Michigan,
Montana, California, Argentina, Chile, British Columbia, Australia and South Africa.17

Gillian Burke identified three main periods of Cornish emigration: to North America in
the 1830s, to Australia in the late 1850s, and to South Africa in the late 1880s and 1890s.18
According to Geoffrey Blainey, Cornish miners were prominent at Ballarat and Bendigo during
the great Australian gold rush of the 1850s, while numerous more “cousin Jacks” worked at the
silver, lead, and zinc mines of Broken Hill.19 In the 1860s the copper fields of Moonta and
Wallaroo in South Australia became known as ‘Little Cornwall’.20 In Montana during the 1880s
a feud between Cornish and Irish miners was a fundamental part of the ‘copper king’ wars.21

Many Cornish miners who migrated to South Africa, as well as to other parts of the world,
left with the intention of eventually returning home to Cornwall. Burke identified two types of
mining migration from Cornwall. The first was that of the ‘single roving miner’ who, if married,
left his wife and family in Cornwall, and who (married or single) returned to Cornwall as often
as possible either to work or while ‘en route’ to another area. The second type was permanent
emigration. This tended to occur during the periods of deepest depression within the Cornish
mining industry, particularly the late 1860s and 1870s, and the late 1880s. In the 1870s about
one-third of the Cornish population emigrated this latter way.22 The Registrar-General in his
report on the 1881 British census, said that the population in Cornwall had diminished by 8.9 per
cent since the 1871 census, and that it was probable that the miners had decreased by twenty-four
per cent.23 Although the first type of emigration predominated, such movements did not
eliminate the possibility of permanent settlement abroad. Some men eventually would send for
their families. Many single men would return to take a bride, usually to keep a house in
Cornwall, although some would take their wives overseas with them.24

The Report on the Health of Cornish Miners of 1904 illustrates the mining migration pattern
clearly. South Africa dominated the report. Of the Cornishmen who had worked abroad, more
than one-half had spent time in South Africa.25 The 1891 British census report stated that
“probably Cornwall contributed a sensible contingent of the 42,990 miners of British or Irish
origin who emigrated from the United Kingdom to overseas mining areas in the course of the ten
years 1881-1891.”26 Unfortunately, the precise extent of Cornish presence on the Rand is
impossible to quantify because all miners were listed under the job classification of mechanics,
and all miners originating in Britain were specified as English and not as being from a particular
county or region. If the estimate loosely calculated above is correct, then approximately 17,500
to 18,000 Cornishmen could have been working on the Rand by 1904. As the 1904 Transvaal
Census lists the male population born in Britain as 31,170, Cornish migrants to the Rand
comprised at least as much as approximately half of the total male immigrant British population
on the Rand at this time.27

There has been general agreement among academics that Cornish miners were far from being
at the forefront of the labour struggle, and that Cornish strikes, industrial unrest, and political
activity were known more for their infrequency, if not by near complete absence. Many look to
the Cornish system of Tribute as the cause of retarded union organization on the Cornish mines.
‘Tribute’ operated on the principle that a miner would work a part of the mine and a percentage
of profit from what was mined was paid to the owner, while a percentage was kept by the miner.
Burke shows that this generalization ignores two key facts. First, the majority of Cornish miners
were not tributers. Second, this overlooks the influence of mining experiences overseas,
particularly the role of Cornish mineworkers in labour organizations.28 Burke suggests, rather,
that it was the influence of returning miners which led to the formation of unions in Cornwall
after 1917.29 Therefore, Cornish miners, while not emanating from a strong union tradition, were
influenced more by their experiences in overseas mining, eventually establishing unions in
Cornwall. However, this did not occur in any great measure until after World War I. A few
Cornish miners, such as Tom Mathews, who had worked in Australia and North America, were
significant figures in the early Transvaal labor movement, although the vast majority of Cornish
miners were not involved in leadership of unions on the Witwatersrand.30

Cornish immigration to South Africa did not begin in late 1880s, but several decades
earlier. The newspaper West Briton of 11 December 1847 was the first to advertise free passages
to South Africa on the Scotia from Plymouth to the Cape for both agricultural laborers and
mechanics.31 The first real influx into South Africa that was of any size and clearly definable as
Cornish commenced in about 1852 when copper mining in Namaqualand began. The mines
were situated immediately south of the Orange River and to the north of Van Rhynsdorp. The
Atlantic Ocean formed the western border of the region, and the districts of Kenhardt and
Calvinia comprised the eastern boundary. There was a brief copper mining mania in 1854-55
when many prospectors and adventurers poured into Namaqualand in search of fortune. Mine
owners made arrangements to bring out Cornish miners, but, by 1856 the copper rush was over.
Some Cornishmen went home, while others stayed on in South Africa, eventually turning up at
Kimberley in the late 1860s.32

By 1870 bullock carts were taking Cornish miners from Cape Town to the diamond mines at
Kimberley, as the Cornish were among the earliest arrivals. Cornish miners who came to
Kimberley in the early stages of mining exploration seem not to be there to make a quick profit
and leave as soon as possible. Rather, the pattern was to work for as long as the mines could
sustain them. Cornishmen were the mining experts of the day, and the opening of the diamond
mines coincided with one of the worst periods of depression in the Cornish mining industry
which occurred in 1866-1870. Cornish miners remained a vital influence at the diamond mines
until 1908 when the Kimberley and Dutoitspan mines were shut down and several thousand
workers were discharged. Many of these Cornishmen returned to Cornwall or went to Australia,
while others moved on to the Rand gold mines. The Union Diamond mines were reopened in
1910, but Cornish influence at Kimberley had reached its high mark in this earlier period.33

Almost as soon as gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand in 1886, Cornish miners arrived
in the Transvaal. Cornish miners were recognizable in Johannesburg when it was no more than a
couple of tin shacks and a half dozen tents. There was evidence in the new mining town of a
substantial Cornish population. Near its center, in the early days, was the well-known ‘Cousin
Jacks’ Corner’, where Cornishmen used to gather on Saturday nights to exchange gossip just as
they did in Cornwall.34 However, by the 1920s, as A.K. Hamilton-Jenkin stated, all had changed
as the physical evidence of a Cornish presence had disappeared: ‘But as the vast buildings
narrowed in the streets, the cheery greetings and homely Cornish talk amid the glitter and roar of
the gold-reef city became as the songs of Zion in a strange land. The rendezvous is now lost
under bricks and mortar, and frequented only by poor wandering ghosts, in search of spirits long
since departed’.35

During the 1890s large numbers of Cornish miners flocked to the Witwatersrand. Every
Friday morning (from 1890-1900) the up-train from West Cornwall included special cars
labelled ‘Southampton’, the embarkation port for South Africa. An old Captain told Bernard
Hollowood when he was documenting his history of the Holman Brothers:

It was a rare sight. At Cambourne station of a Friday the platforms’d be packed
with a great crowd of people, laughin’, cryin’, shoutin’ and so on. Then the train
would steam in slowly and there'd be a great rush for the special carriages labelled
“Southampton”. Then there'd be kissin’ and shakin’ and she’d move out, leaving
the womenfolk and the children wavin’ and sobbin’.36

It is significant to note that the South African Gold Fields Emigrant's Guide published in 1891 by
the Union Steam Ship Company lists only the train fares from London to Southampton, and from
Plymouth (near the Cornish border, and the major train depot for Devon and Cornwall) to
Southampton along with its listing of shipping fares. Also, Cornish passengers received free rail
transport from Plymouth to Southampton. 37 Furthermore, at least one Cornish newspaper carried
a ‘News from Foreign Mining Camps’ column from the 1890s to 1914, which included a
significant number of reports from the Witwatersrand.38

The Witwatersrand proved very attractive to Cornish miners who, by the late 1880s, were
suffering through a period of severe depression in the local tin and copper mining industries.
Although the Rand was attractive economically, it was not without its dangers. According to
A.K. Hamilton-Jenkin, ‘There was plenty of fun, plenty of ‘life’, and niggers to do the work on
the Rand, even though the dread scourge (phthisis) might be biding its time in the dust-filled
stopes where the drills roared out unceasingly’.39 Before the South African War a common
notice on the Rand was: ‘______ , a Cornishman, will be buried tomorrow at 3pm at _________
Cemetary’.40 Still, throughout the 1890s, Cornish miners poured into South Africa. Indeed, the
manager of the George Goch mine stated that ‘Most of the miners of the George Goch are
Cornishmen’.41 Soon the settlements of families around the mines read like the roll-call of a
Cornish village. From Redruth, Cambourne, St. Day, St. Agnes, Beacon, Troon, and all the
mining villages of Cornwall, families were living and intermarrying on the Rand as closely as
they did at home. Even in South Africa local distinctions between Cornish villages continued, as
miners from a particular Cornish village would settle together on the Rand.42 After 1907 Cornish
immigration to South Africa began to decline, and though Cornishmen continued to arrive, the
numbers were greatly diminished as His Majesty’s colonies required financial stability to enter
after this date, and the Transvaal economy was in its fourth year of depression.43 The labor
unrest of 1913 increased the exodus of Cornish miners who had begun to leave as early as the
South African War. Cornish miners who left the Rand went for various reasons, primarily as a
result of the continual ‘de-skilling’ of their jobs by the mine owners, growing militantism in the
labor movement (although some Cornishmen were active in the early labor movement on the
Rand),44 and the improving economic situation in Cornwall.

Labour and the Cornish on the Rand

While many studies of white workers on the Rand begin after the South African War, the
period prior to the war is also significant for several reasons. The first attempts to cut skilled
miners’ wages occured prior to the war as did the origins of the deskilling process. Furthermore,
African workers were receiving longer contracts by the end of the 1890s. All of this led to
mistrust of mine owners by the skilled white miners. It is clear, however, that many miners in
this period did not intend to settle permanently in the Johannesburg area as only 7.9% of them
brought families with them to South Africa. By 1899 there were 10,266 white miners employed
on the mines along with 96,709 Africans.45

As early as 1892, white skilled miners felt threatened by competition from assisted
migrants from Europe and from Africans. This led miners to form the Witwatersrand Mine
Employees’ and Mechanics’ Union (WMEMU) in August of 1892.46 The WMEMU excluded
African workers, only allowing skilled white miners and mechanics to join.

The idea of class isolationism and protectionism was one of the key aspects that shaped
white skilled working class ideology both before and after the South African War. Miners could
literally see changes before their eyes as the African labour force jumped from 40,888 in 1894 to
96,709 in 1899. While white mining employment moved from 5,363 to 10,266 during the same
period, the pace of increase was slower for whites than for Africans.47

For skilled white miners South Africa provided a unique experience. For the first time
they were in a situation where the was a cheap army of labour working for very low wages. This
coupled with the threat from increased immigration led miners towards organization, though the
WMEMU remained small during the 1890s. The WMEMU had some successes such as in the
establishment of the first official colour bar passed in 1893 which made certain jobs for whites
only, though this was eroded by new legislation in 1897.48

The WMEMU served as a valuable beginning to labour organization among whites on
the Rand, securing the colour bar and protecting against the erosion of wages for skilled miners.
The Union was short-lived, however, and was fading away by early 1896. Its strength in terms of
members is hard to determine as membership was kept private. A new Union, the Rand Mine
Workers’ Union formed in 1897 had about 800 members, though it did not last either.49

After the South African War the labour situation on the Rand changed dramatically. Due
to a shortage of African workers returning to work, mine owners decided to import Chinese
workers to take unskilled positions left vacant. This issue deeply divided the white community
though white miners were vulnerable as around 5,000 remained unemployed by the end of

White miners returned to work on the Rand gold mines fully conscious of the position
mine owners would take in relation to the running of the mines. Many skilled miners had worked
in the mines during the 1890s. However, it was the arrival of a substantial number of new skilled
miners, particularly from Australia, who injected a spirit of aggression into the labour movement.
The relative numbers of Cornish miners declined during the first decade of the 1900s, while the
number of Australians increased from virtually none to 5000 by 1904.51

The Australian union tradition was much stronger than that of Cornish or other British
miners who had experience in the system of organizing along the lines of the craft union
tradition. By 1890 Australian unions had begun to develop along industrial lines and the
Australian Labor Party was a strong electoral presence. Australian labour also had experience of
the White Australia Policy which only allowed for European migrants to come to the country. In
1902, the Transvaal Engine Drivers cited Australian labour’s campaign against Chinese cabinet
makers as a justification for maintaining the colour bar in the Transvaal mining industry.52

While white labour resisted the importation of Chinese labourers, mine owners were able
to import thousands of Chinese between 1904 and 1908. By 1908 African workers had returned
in sufficient numbers to end the importation. This issue and the maintainence of the colour bar
became paramount after the war as white skilled miners fought a defensive battle to protect their
position on the mines. By this time however, numbers of Cornish miners had declined
dramatically as it was clear that the mine owners preferred deskilling and greater use of cheap
Afrian labour than any increase of the skilled white workforce. While the Mining Industry
Commission of 1907-08 urged greater use of white labour, the government had little will to
challenge the mine owners who were inent of immediate profit maximization.53


While the role of Cornish miners in the early history of mining in South Africa has been
documented previously, the sheer magnitude of their numbers has been not been quantified and
read alongside the overall labour history of the South African Gold Mines. Cornish miners lack
of a strong industrial labour union tradition meant that organization was more difficult before the
South African War than it was after when a large influx of Australian miners with such a
tradition came to the Rand. While some Cornish were active in the WMEMU, its failure to
survive or to gain key economic and political ground can be explained by the inexperience of
miners in trade union organization and politics. While wages remained relatively high at £18 to
£22 a month during the 1890s and certain jobs were reserved for whites, there was a need to
maintain these two areas of strength but little need to be more active during the 1890s. This was
well suited to the Cornish mining experience as opposed to the Australian one. Yet, the role of
Cornish miners in the 1890s was pivotal to the successful establishment of the gold mining
industry and their skills were instrumental in the mines becoming profitable.


1 See W.M. Macmillan, Bantu, Boer and Briton: The Making of the South African Native
Problem (London: Faber and Gwyer, 1929); C.W. deKiewiet, A History of South Africa: Social
and Economic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941); Eric Walker, A History of Southern Africa
(London: Longman, 1959); G.H.L. LeMay, British Supremecy in South Africa 1899-1907
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965); T.R.H. Davenport, South Africa: A Modern History, Third
Edition (University of Toronto Press, 1987).

2 E. Gitsham and J.F. Trembath, A First Account of Labour Organization in South Africa
(Durban: South African Typographical Union, 1926); I. Walker and B. Weinbren, 2000
Casualties (Johannesburg: South African Trade Union Council, 1961); R. Cope, Comrade Bill:
The Life and Times of W.H. Andrews (Cape Town: Stewart, 1941).

3 E. Katz, A Trade Union Aristocracy (Johannesburg, 1976).

4 See also: E. Katz, ‘White Workers’ Grievances and the Industrial Colour Bar, 1902-1913’,
South African Journal of Economics, 42, 1974, pp.127-56.

5 J. and R. Simons, Class and Colour in South Africa, 1850-1950 (London: International and
Defence Aid Fund, 1983). Rob Davies describes this study as ‘Marxist historicist’, in that it sees
the history of the white working class in terms of the unfolding consciousness of a particular
class subject. Simons and Simons develop their argument on the white working class in terms of
a dual consciousness—a ‘class consciousness’ and a ‘race consciousness’, with their ‘class
consciousness’ being dominant in this early period. See R. Davies, Capital, State and White
Labor in South Africa, 1900-1960: An Historical Materialist Analysis of Class Formation and
Class Relations (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1979), p. 37, footnote 23.

6 The most notable of the white labor experiments was made by Frederick Hugh Page Creswell,
manager of the Village Main Reef mine. Creswell was opposed by the members of the Chamber
of Mines, who had already come to the conclusion that the best way to achieve rapid return to
pre-war production levels was to import Chinese indentured labor.

7 For more on this issue, see Peter Richardson, Chinese Mine Labour in the Transvaal
(Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1982).

8 Census of the South African Republic, 1891 Report (Pretoria: South African Republic, 1892);
Census of the Transvaal Colony and Swaziland of the 17th April 1904 (London: Waterlow and
Sons, 1906); Census of the Union of South Africa, 1911 (Pretoria: Government Printing Office,

9 E. Hobsbawm, The Age of Capital 1848-1875 (London: Abacus, 1977), p. 228.
10 Cited in G. Burke, ‘The Cornish Diaspora of the Nineteenth Century’, in S. Marks and P.
Richardson, eds., International Labour Migration: Historical Perspectives (London: Maurice
and Temple Smith for the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, 1984), p. 58.

11 For the general trend and overview, see Burke, ‘The Cornish Diaspora’.

12 Transvaal Government, Report of the Miners’ Phthisis Commission, 1902-1903 (Pretoria,
1903), para. 10.

13 Transvaal Census of 1904, p. viii.

14 G.B. Dickason, Cornish Immigrants to South Africa: The Cousin Jack’s Contribution to the
Development of Mining and Commerce 1820-1920 (Cape Town: A.A. Balkema, 1978), p. 3.

15 Dickason, Cornish Immigrants, pp. 3-6.

16 Dickason, Cornish Immigrants, p. 7.

17 There is a significant literature of Cornish migration in the nineteenth century, for examples
see J. Rowe, Hard Rock Men (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1974); O. Pryor, Australia’s Little
Cornwall (Adelaide: Rugby, 1962); Dickason, Cornish Immigrants; and P. Payton, The Cornish
Overseas (A. Associates, 1999; reissued by Cornwall Editions, Ltd, 2005).

18 Burke, ‘The Cornish Diaspora’, p. 59.

19 G. Blainey, The Rush That Never Ended: A History of Australian Mining (Melbourne:
Melbourne University Press, 1963); G. Blainey, The Rise of Broken Hill (Melbourne: Macmillan,

20 See Pryor, Australia’s Little Cornwall; P. Payton, A Pictorial History of Australia’s Little
Cornwall (Rigby, 1978).

21 C. B. Glasscock, The War of the Copper Kings (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1935), pp. 74, 114,

22 Burke, ‘The Cornish Diaspora’, p. 62.

23 Cited in A.K. Hamilton-Jenkin, The Cornish Miner: An Account of His Life Above and Under
Ground From Early Times (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1927), p. 322.

24 Burke, ‘The Cornish Diaspora’, p. 62.

25 Report on the Health of Cornish Miners (Truro, 1904).

26 British Parliamentary Papers, 1893-94, cvi, C7222, General Census of England and Wales,
1891, v. 4, General Report (London: HMSO, 1892), p. 27.

27 See Report of the Miners’ Phthisis Commission.

28 Burke, ‘The Cornish Diaspora’, p. 66.

29 Burke, ‘The Cornish Diaspora’, p. 66; also see P. Payton, ‘The Cornish Radical Tradition: Its
Background in Cornwall and its Development in South Australia’, University of Adelaide, 1977.

30 Tom Mathews was Secretary of the Transvaal Miners’ Association from 1908 until his death
from phthisis in 1915, see E. Gitsham and J.F. Trimbath, A First Account of Labour
Organization in South Africa (Durban: South African Typographical Union, 1926), p. 160.

31 West Briton, 11 December 1847.

32 The Cornish role in the Namaqualand copper industry is disccused in Dickason, Cornish
Immigrants, pp. 27-40.

33 Dickason, Cornish Immigrants, pp. 47-52.

34 Hamilton-Jenkin, The Cornish Miner, p. 329.

35 Hamilton-Jenkin, The Cornish Miner, p. 329.

36 Quoted in Dickason, Cornish Immigrants, p. 13.

37 W.C. Burnet, compiler, South African Gold Fields Emigrant’s Guide (London: A. White and
Co. For the Union Steam Ship Company, 7th Edition, 1891), p. iii.

38 The Cornishman (Penzance).

39 Hamilton-Jenkin, The Cornish Miner, p. 330.

40 Hamilton-Jenkin, The Cornish Miner, p. 330.

41 E.J. Way, Manager of the George Goch Mine. Minutes of Evidence presented to the Mining
Industry Commission of 1897 (Johnannesburg: Times of the Industrial Commission, 1897), p.41.

42 Hamilton-Jenkin, The Cornish Miner, p. 331.

43 Dickason, Cornish Immigrants, p. 68.

44 Gitsham and Trembath, A First Account of Labour, p. 180; Simons and Simons, Class and
Colour, p. 80.

45 N. Levy, The Foundations of the South African Cheap Labour System (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1982), p. 82. Figures taken from Chamber of Mines Annual Report.

46 Simons and Simons, Class and Colour, p. 53.

47 Chamber of Mines Annual Report for 1894; Chamber of Mines Annual Report for 1899.

48 Oulined in Simons and Simons, Class and Colour, pp. 55-56.

49 Katz, A Trade Union Aristocracy, p. 22.

50 South African News, 17 February 1904, p. 8; S. Ransome, The Engineer in South Africa: A
Review of the Industrial Situation in South Africa After the War and a Forecast of the
Possibilities of the Country (London, 1903), p. 272.

51 This migration has been discussed by B. Kennedy, A Tale of Two Mining Cities: Johannesburg
and Broken Hill, 1885-1925 (Melbourne: Monash University Press, 1984).

52 Kennedy, Tale of Two Mining Cities, p. 22.

53 See Report of the Mining Industry Commission, 1907-08