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  • Dreaming Murder in Parliament #10: John Williams, the Dirt (and Tin) November 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    tin mine

    Surely the most important player in the Perceval dream is the dreamer himself, John Williams. Read most modern reports about the murder and you will assume that JW was a member of the Cornish upper middle classes, a squire with clay and fox blood on his hands. In fact, John Williams was a major Victorian industrialist belonging to a dynasty of mining money makers. As one biographer has it: ‘The Williamses were alchemists. They turned copper into gold on such a scale that they made the other mining magnates of Cornwall look like under-achievers.’

    John Williams was born to wealth, but he was an extremely talented man who would have prospered in any field. He became a mine manager at 23 and by 27 was running 22 mines. ‘He also made fortunes of various sizes out of manganese mines in east Cornwall, sulphur mines in Ireland, tin smelting near Truru and at Hayle, quarries in Devon, and the Cornish Bank – of which he was co-owner.’ Anyone who made this kind of money in Victorian England was a money-fingered entrepreneur without much time for fancies. In fact, the only fanciful thing that Williams seem to have done in his life was to marry a 25 year old (his second wife) when aged 79.

    So back to the dream. Beach honestly expected to find a slightly eccentric mine manager in Cornwall, who combined exploiting miners with trips to Glastonbury and South Cadbury: in short, nineteenth-century Celtic, hippy chic. But, instead, Williams was one of those straight as an arrow type and the dream perhaps made such an impression on him because it was so unusual. The curious nocturnal event of 2-3 May happened, in twenty-first century terms, to Rupert Murdoch rather than to Shirley Maclaine. Curioser and curiouser. Any other John Williams information: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com PS The quotations above all come from Smelt 101 Cornish Lives. Next post in this series the, many of you will be glad to know, the conclusion.