Gerald Crosland Pengilly (1924-2007)

Gerald Crosland Pengilly, who died on the 4th September at the age of 82 years, was probably the most respected Cornish mine manager of the last fifty years. He was born in 1924 and attended the Camborne School of Mines where he distinguished himself as an outstanding mining student. After working as a mine captain and manager in Africa, Mr Pengilly returned to Cornwall to apply for the job of manager of Camborne Tin, a mining exploration company set up in 1962 to promote a revival in Cornish metalliferous mining. Having failed to obtain the job, which was given to Jack Trounson, he returned to West Africa only to receive a message to return to Cornwall in the far more important role of manager of South Crofty.

His became manager of the mine in May 1963, asking to work alongside the current manager, N K Kitto for a few months while he acquainted himself with the extensive workings of the old mine. When he took over the reins he exploded into action, reorganising almost every aspect of the mine's management and mining methods. He organised a mine rescue team; he reintroduced electric cap lamps (previously rejected after a half-hearted attempt to introduce them a few years earlier); he improved ventilation through Roskear and Taylors shafts; he replaced the old steam whim with an electric winder; he introduced Hunslett diesal locos and Granby wagons onto 380fm level; he ordered a pickling plant to treat timber; he installed a geo-chemical laboratory; a training school was started, with Howard Mankee in charge; the diamond drilling programme was expanded; Cooks Shaft was given new runners for new aluminium skips; new pumps were put into the 340 pumping station; a 40 hour week was introduced for miners; injury and sick pay was introduced; long-hole drilling was brought into use in Robinsons and Cooks Complex lodes; ear muffs and reamer steels came into use; 1,000,000 was spent modernising HMS and the rest of the concentrating plant; Robinsons Shaft was deepened to 380 and East Pool was drained and ready for exploitation.

As all this work to modernise the mine progressed the annual profits rose inexorably throughout the 1960s and '70s. In 1970 the mine was visited by Prince Charles, the Duke of Cornwall, and Gerald Pengilly was proud to show him around the underground workings. In 1972 Mr Pengilly was awarded the MBE for services to Cornish mining, and few could have begrudged him the honour. By then he was a director of St Piran Mining Co., the owners of Crofty, and shortly afterwards he became Managing Director. He continued to take overall charge of the mine, despite mine managers running it on a day-to-day basis. In July 1979 Mr Pengilly resigned as Managing Director of South Crofty. He remained the most highly respected mining man in Cornwall and sat on various committees and boards, including the Board of Governors of Camborne School of Mines, of which he was, for a couple or years, Chairman, using his enormous knowledge and experience of mining for the benefit of all those in the industry. Members of the Cornish Miners Association were pleased and proud when Mr Pengilly accepted the presidency of the Association. He was an active and enthusiastic member, sometimes attending meetings in Camborne, despite living in Liskeard and being in poor health. He will be greatly missed by the former mine workers of South Crofty and all those who knew him.