Gerard Collier

(1878-1923) – WEA pioneer who tried to reopen tin mine

The son of a peer, Gerard was a Workers’ Educational Association [WEA] tutor and pacifist who became a conscientious objector when war broke out. In 1919, he came to Marazion at a time of chronic unemployment in Cornwall. With the vicar of St Hilary, Bernard Walke, Gerard tried to re-open a disused mine at Scorrier.

Credit: St Hilary Heritage Centre

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Although born into a privileged family, the Hon Gerard Collier dedicated his life to working for social equality, peace and economic justice.  In 1908 he became one of the first tutors in the newly formed Workers’ Educational Association, a role he continued after his post-war move to Marazion, running classes in both Penzance and Redruth.  He became a close friend of Father Bernard Walke, vicar of St Hilary, and the Quaker artist Ernest Procter.  All three were conscientious objectors and worked tirelessly for peace. 

After the war ended he, with Bernard Walke and others, formed the Servants of the Church dedicated to alleviating the chronic unemployment in Cornwall.   They put forward a scheme to re-open a disused mine at Scorrier which was sadly unsuccessful due to competing Government road building initiatives.  

In October 1919 he was one of the founder members of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and was present at their inaugural meeting at Bilthoven in the Netherlands.  Sadly Gerard died from tuberculosis in 1923 aged just 44 years old.  A memorial by Ernest Procter was erected by his friends in St Hilary Church.  Both the WEA and the Fellowship of Reconciliation still flourish today.

Key words: mining

Credit: St Hilary Heritage Centre and photo by permission of Gerard Collier, MP