THE DISCOVERY OF TIN.
St Piran, or St Perran, leading his lonely life on the plains which now bear his name, devoted himself to the study of the objects which presented themselves to his notice. The good saint decorated the altar in his church with the choicest flowers, and his cell was adorned with the crystals which he could collect from the neighbouring rocks. In his wanderings on the sea-shore, St Perran could not but observe the numerous mineral, veins running through the slate-rocks forming the beautiful cliffs on this coast. Examples of every kind he collected; and on one occasion, when preparing his humble meal, a heavy black stone was employed to form a pan of the fireplace. The fire was more intense than usual, and a stream of beautiful white metal flowed out of the fire. Great was the joy of the saint; he perceived that God, in His goodness, had discovered to him something which would be useful to man. St Perran communicated his discovery to St Chiwidden. [a] They examined the shores together, and Chiwidden, who was learned in the learning of the East, soon devised a process for producing this metal in large quantities. The two saints called the Cornish men together. They told them of their treasures, and they taught them how to dig the ore from the earth, and how, by the agency of fire, to obtain the metal. Great was the joy in Cornwall, and many days of feasting followed the announcement. Mead and metheglin, with other drinks, flowed in abundance; and vile rumour says the saints and their people were rendered equally unstable thereby. "Drunk as a Perraner," has certainly passed into a proverb from that day.
The riot of joy at length came to an end, and steadily, seriously, the tribes of
Perran and St Agnes set to work. They soon accumulated a vast quantity of this precious metal; and when they carried it to the southern coasts, the merchants from Gaul eagerly purchased it of them. The noise of the discovery, even in those days, rapidly extended itself; and even the cities of Tyre learned that a metal, precious to them, was to be obtained in a country far to the west. The Phoenician navigators were not long in finding out the Tin Islands; and great was the alarm amidst the Cornish Britons lest the source of their treasure should be discovered. Then it was they intrenched the whole of St Agnes beacon; then it was they built the numerous hill castles which have puzzled the antiquarian; then it was that they constructed the rounds,--amongst which the Perran Round remains as a remarkable example, -- all of them to protect their tin ground. So resolved were the whole of the population of the district to preserve the tin workings, that they prevented any foreigner from landing on the mainland, and they established tin markets on the islands on the coast. On these islands were hoisted the standard of Cornwall, a white cross on a black ground, which was the device of St Perran and St Chiwidden, symbolising the black tin ore and the white metal. [b]
[a] See Appendix S.
[b] See Appendix T