Peter Alfred Renfree

by Tamsin Spargo

Played by Phil Ladd

. . . .

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls. I see many familiar faces here. To the few of you who do not know me I am Peter Alfred Renfree and I have been proud to do the Lord’s work for many years in the United Methodist Free Church here in Redruth. Not a minister, you understand – I ran the Penhallick Fuse Works to serve our mines and quarries.  As I approach my eightieth year, I recall our efforts of to build the house of God in Fore Street. Let us ignore the cruder type who call it the ‘Flower Pot Chapel’ and rejoice in the knowledge that it will stand for generations to come. Fire shall not strike the building of the Lord.

I am at peace. I have lived the best life I could. I do not hear the whispers. Except on the stillest nights, when I can hear the names. Ann Hancock, Elizabeth Blight, William Sleeman, then Elizabeth Vivian. Ellen Opie.  I hear the names and I feel the air shatter. All so young and I was young and in charge of all those lives. Thousands saw them to their graves.  Nothing to be done, no blame. Industry needs fuses and fuses must be made and accidents happen. People say I have a ‘severe disposition’ but life is hard. I too have suffered losses. Sometimes I wonder should I have stuck to father’s trade, in boots and shoes.  Dear Polly …  I see that one or two of you are gazing at the names on my modest monument. There are, as you observe, two wives who lie alongside me: Polly and Ellen. No sniggering and giggling at the back; there is no impropriety here.  Polly, sweet and loyal, who was taken by the angels too soon, and Emma, my helpmeet and comfort, also taken to glory before me. Now they rest with me in the Lord’s embrace.

After the second blast, we moved into town, away from the noise and the fear, and I continued my work, for the factory and the Lord. Dear Polly died, soon after little Bessie was born. But, thanks be to God, I was soon joined with dear Ellen and we built a fine house on Green Lane. Manor Villa – old and new conjoined, progress indeed. Though the town suffered slumps and setbacks, those whom God had blessed in business worked to help the poor. Our chapel cared for bodies as well as souls. Our wives and daughters could turn their hands to serving soup as well as the fancy stalls at our bazaars. I was privileged to be President of our Mutual Improvement Society. You may recall we debated, and passed, a motion that free trade is beneficial to our nation. And so, I believe it is. There will be casualties, for suffering is our lot, but we must have business, we must have progress, and we must endure.

It has been a good life. I have been blessed. But can you hear the voices?


. . . .

Postscript: Many women died in the various fuse works that served our mines and quarries but they are forgotten victims of our industrial past. The safety fuses themselves saved countless lives around the world. The Flowerpot chapel that Peter and Ellen Renfree were proud to serve burned down in 1975.