Given it is the town which is the source of my own Cornish ancestry, I will always have a major soft spot for Redruth. This Saturday (17th June) it will celebrate arguably the most famous person to be connected to the town.
William Murdoch, although born in Ayrshire in 1754 will always be synonymous with the town situated in the historic mining heartland of Cornwall. At the age of 23, Murdoch had begun to work in Birmingham under the steam pioneer James Watt, who rapidly became aware of Murdoch’s potential. Within two years, Murdoch was promoted to become an engine erector at Boulton & Watt’s business in Cornwall. With Redruth at the heart of the territory’s mining industry in this era, it was no surprise that Murdoch made his home in the town – a dwelling now known as Murdoch House, and located at Cross Street. Murdoch quickly became renowned for improving the steam engines in Cornwall’s tin mines.
He next made a name for himself by developing steam locomotives. In 1784, he produced the first steam driven road vehicle. A replica of this vehicle, known as ‘The Murdoch Flyer’ was completed in 2007 and can be seen at Cornish steam rallies and also on Murdoch Day.
Murdoch then progressed to putting together the first gas lighting anywhere in the world in 1792 – something Redruth remains famous for. Within a few years the method used in Redruth was copied for use on Westminster Bridge and throughout London.
In order to celebrate the incredible inventions of William Murdoch, alongside the special heritage of Redruth, each year, Murdoch Day is held to honour him. Schools and community groups dance and parade through the streets of the town from 10am and there is singing and many stalls. Additionally there will be parades of steam engines (of course, including ‘The Murdoch Flyer’), vintage cars, art installations, exhibitions and a full programme of live music on stage at Green Lane.