Old photograph of railway station

By the 1860s, Cornwall was in crisis. When Kimberley in South Africa saw the world’s greatest ever diamond rush, thousands of Cornish migrants flooded there to try and make their fortune. Before the Second Boer War an estimated 25% of the white work force in the gold mines on ‘the Rand’ (Witwatersrand) was Cornish. The mines were incredibly dangerous and the average miner’s lifespan there was just 35 years. Cornish migration to South Africa began to decline after the First World War, when the price of gold fell dramatically. This picture shows the “weekly exodus” of miners heading to South Africa. The Cornish economy depended on the huge quantity of money these miners sent home (nearly £1 million a year from the Transvaal alone). This caused tension with the Boers (Dutch settlers) and was one of the many causes of the Second Boer War in 1899. (X1459/2/72)