The life of John Harris (1820-1884)
Between 1853 and the year
of his death in 1884, he had fifteen volumes of poems and an autobiography
published. One of these, the first, called ‘Lays from the Mine, the Moor and
the Mountain,’ went into a second edition.
During his lifetime, he
only once left Cornwall, to visit Stratford-upon-Avon
after he had won the Shakespeare Tercentenary Prize in 1864, having competed successfully against other national and international, entries.
John Harris, a Cornishman born in the village of Bolenowe, near Troon, Cornwall , started work at the tender age of ten as a surface worker at Dolcoath Mine, and two years later, was working underground with his father. He continued working underground for the next twenty five years. This experience inspired many of his finest poems.
John Harris was largely
self-taught, having received only a rudimentary education. He would use
discarded wrappers to write on with the aid of Blackberry juice and a nail.
While working at Dolcoath, he read Shakespeare, Milton and Byron. He was
encouraged by the first Vicar of Treslothan, the Reverend George Bull. He was
helped by Dr. George Smith of Trevu, Camborne, to have his first poems
published. He dedicated volumes of his poems to many of his well connected
He married Jane Rule
of Troon on September 11th 1845,
and settled in Troon for twelve years. He moved to Falmouth in early 1858 working there as a scripture reader, and ‘Town Missionary’ for the Scripture Readers Society. After the toils and tribulations of Dolcoath, his later poetry reflected the cosmopolitan society of Falmouth.
He died in 1884. He
was buried in Treslothan Churchyard, Troon, with his beloved daughter, Lucretia
who had died aged six years. On his gravestone the following epitaph can be
the peacemakers: For they shall be called the children of God.