Willy Uren

Willie Uren 1924 – 2010 Master Tin Dresser

 Tony Brooks has written the following, personal appreciation.


“Willie Uren, a Cornishman born in Camborne, left school aged 14 and started work in the South Crofty Tin Mill; he spent his whole working life there apart from a short period working in a gold mine in West Africa. Over the years Willie worked his way up to the position of Mill Foreman where he was in charge of the day to day running of the plant.

During his lifetime he saw the traditional equipment such as stamps, vanners, dipper wheels and buddles replaced by hydrosizers, pumps and central electric controls.

In 1989 Willie came to KEM one day to see what we were doing and he stayed as a volunteer for the next 20 years. At that early stage we had just started to work on the mill and our experience in traditional tin dressing techniques was limited to the point of being non-existent. Willie probably knew more about the type of equipment that we were hoping to install than any man living. Over the years we scoured the country for old machinery, recovered it and brought it back to KEM where it was repaired and erected under Willie’s watchful eye. If we could not source what we wanted – for example – the classifier, Willie would make a drawing of the item and we would make it. It had to be right.

Willie had a thing about taps and valves –

‘Can’t have enough valves’ he would say. One day, we were collecting a few bits and pieces from the pilot plant at the old School of Mines building in Pool, which was just after CSM had re-located to Penryn. Willie, then aged about 80, and upholding the Cornish tradition of ‘wrecking’, spied a large valve at the end of an old suspended water pipe, standing on a concrete loading. He proceeded to unscrew it. There was a bang and the valve flew across the plant followed by a jet of water – the pipe was live – ‘Can’t have enough valves’.

Willie’s great strength was his desire and ability to share his knowledge with other people. The mill at KEM. as it is today; the film, and the interviews that have been recorded are all a lasting tribute to a special man. With his trademark cap and his tie he was something from a bygone age. They do not make men like Willie any more. Dear Wiilie, we all learnt a great deal from him.”

Willie Uren’s funeral took place in Camborne on the 24th July, 2010. It was attended by family, old colleagues and volunteers and Friends from KEM. It is fitting that Willie should be commemorated somewhere at KEM, and Tony Brooks is working on ideas for this. A lasting tribute to a grand man.