THE SILVERLODE OF SARK (BLISS)

They really did stumble on silver in Sark, they did recruit Cornish miners (as photographed in East Pool by JA Buckley above), and they did ship ore all the way to Hull for smelting. Even the line about hearing the boulders rolling is true. The evidence for a catastrophic flood is, however, less convincing - but sources do say that 10 men were drowned by sea water at the bottom of the mine on the same day that a storm sank the ore ship, which was carrying the most promising ore yet found. (The front cover of The Silverlode CD shows ‘the view’ today - Photo Jennifer Cochrane)

This email adds a lovely personal note to the song. Thomas Remphry (also called John Renfrey in some documents) took over as Mine Captain upon the resignation of John Prince in 1843, at the same time that most of the shareholders pulled out of the venture, one year before the disaster. (And contemporary sources do say he married an island girl). The Seigneur of Sark, Earnest le Pelley (who'd taken over from his brother Peter when he himself was drowned in another shipwreck) mortgaged his Fiefdom to keep the mine going. When it failed, Earnest lost Sark, and died a few years later in Guernsey, a broken man.

Dear Tom,

Just received the Silverlode CD today which contains some truly beautiful songs. I was initially interested in the title song as it concerns one of my forebears. Tom Remphrey arrived in Sark with the Cornish miners and, as far as I am aware, was the only miner to marry a Sark girl and settle on the Island. I was born in Sark but now live in London. I visit the island as often as possible, although I unfortunately have no direct family now in Sark. Many thanks for a wonderful collection of songs and perhaps if you are ever in Sark again our paths may cross? Good luck and best wishes,

Martin Remphry

BLISS vocal, guitar NAPPER mandolin, vocal

I was born down in St Austell, in the year of 1810

My family all were miners, a noble breed of men, They

Said I was their kind of lad, a healthy strapping chap

Slapped a shovel on my shoulder, and a candle in my cap

Then word came to the tin-mine, in the year of 36

A gang of lads was needed with their dynamite and picks, they'd

Stumbled on some silver, and a ship was set to go

To some island in the Channel where the wild winds do blow

 

And it's fine for you, the devil you may care

Staring at the view, with the breeze all in your hair

Me I'm down the dungeon, in the danger, damp and dark

Hacking through the granite, for the silverlode of Sark

 

I remember when we landed, she was standing on the quay

I heard them call her Chloe, she had eyes to match the sea, but

The silver needed shifting, and I had work to do

Till I met her at the island fair and all my dreams came true

For seven years we laboured but the pickings they were poor

We had no fuel for smelting, had to ship each ton of ore, so

The finance never tallied, but I worked to keep the faith

For a chance to marry Chloe, I would give my dying breath

 

We were down to 60 fathoms, and the galleries ran far

Some deep and some so shallow, just beneath the ocean floor

And when the breakers thundered, we trembled with the dread

We could hear the boulders rolling, barely yards above our heads

By 44 a fool could see that things were going wrong

And all the lads from Cornwall, they upped and went back home

But I stayed on for Chloe, and I worked with twice the heart

To spin a ring of Sliver for my bonny Maid of Sark

 

I should have seen it coming, should have left with all the rest

But I thought I'd faced the challenge, I could weather any test

But love was no protection in the terror and the din

When the island gave its answer, the day the sea broke in

I heard the shouted warning, I tried to get to grass

But the ladders jammed with miners, there was no room to pass

I never was a sailor but I met a sailor's death

Ninety feet below the ocean, I drew that dying breath