Winding Engine, Robinson’s Shaft

Categories Poetry2 Comments

This month Alan Kent remembers the not so distant glory days at South Crofty with his poem Winding Engine, Robinson’s Shaft. 

“ʼEave on your steelies boy! We’m goin’ down t’ ’Ell.”
This must have once been said here,
above the bountiful, tapering shaft
of two hundred fathoms
upon which still rests
this battleship grey of drum and cable
that time, not long gone by,
sent boys into the eerie earth.


The mechanism is simple:
just a huge cotton reel
blindly letting out steel rope into blackness.
Now, it is silent as a spectre
but you still hear the ignition,
the tremble in the walls,
the arched windows shaking,
see the reflections of carbide lamps.


Your stare doesn’t stop. No. Not here.
Interpretation boards tell you how to respond,
but instead, you d’think of breathing, fags, and sweat;
sparkling tin dust in crow’s lines,
the cakey, caged words they spoke.
How many shifts were done here?
How many times did that drum spin?
Where are ʼum all too now?


Inside, all the grease is painted white,
the adjacent rooms filled with film,
reeling in today’s droll visitors.
Unlike other relics of that time,
which are scattered over craggy cliff and wild goon,
this all closed within memory,
There were named boots and hats
still left in the dryer room lockers.


The green button still calls,
still murmurs, winding up and down,
in slow ascension and descent of life.
It is how all winches work:
they are the cores of living,
pard’ners for verse and reverse.
You may never lift again
but still, you are hoist of hope.


If you enjoyed this month’s offering from Dr Alan Kent, you can read more of our Cornish themed poems here.

Dr Alan M. Kent
Dr Alan Kent is a writer, poet, dramatist, teacher and academic. He enjoys writing Cornish and Anglo-Cornish literature.

2 thoughts on “Winding Engine, Robinson’s Shaft

  1. I’ve jusr re-read CLAY, Alan Kent first novel and would like to say how much I enjoyed it. It’s hard to believe that he was only in his 20s when he wrote that. Living in St Austell and having a son working in the clay industry here, I appreciated reading about places I know.

    1. Dydh da Sheila, we are fortunate to have wonderful writers like Alan who freely contribute their work to Cornish Story. Promoting local history and engaging with local communities is one of our key aims at Cornish Story. We couldn’t do it without our contributors. If there is an area or subject that you would like us to explore for you in the form of an article, please let us know.

      Oll an gwella,


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