Oil Works and River Poisoning, 1869

type: Beyond Scotland - Wales

Wrexham Advertiser
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To the Editor of the Wrexham Advertiser.

Sir, — Three years ago those engaged in the coal oil trade in Flintshire had the opportunity of making very large profits - profits which were false in every sense, because the result of speculation and gambling in oil. The apparent prosperity, however, tempted great numbers to embark in a trade which appeared in their eyes at the time nothing less than a gold mine. Bankers and country gentlemen, tradesmen and workmen, high and low, rich and poor, were alike drawn into the vortex in the hope of growing speedily rich. It was the fashion then to call these people enterprising and fortunate. They were told on all sides that not only would they make their own fortunes, but at the same time they were benefactors to the country. Ere long come the crisis which brought down other trades in all parts of the country. But, perhaps, none were so completely and irretrievably crushed as the oil trade of Flintshire. Men came here full of life and hope, many of them with the savings of a life of industry, and had to leave us penniless and heart- broken. The grave has closed over some of them, and others have had to accept such positions as just enable them to give food and shelter to their families.

More than a million of hard cash has been lost, hundreds of poor men thrown out of employ, and what do we see? Why, the very people who had. been so loud in praise of oil manufacturers, and had lauded them as public benefactors turn round and scoff and jeer over all this dreadful misery. We hear nothing now but wretched attempts at wit and fun over the fallen oil manufacturer. He is said to poison our rivers, and to disfigure our beautiful country.

Do the people who talk thus know the facts ? Surely not, or they would lament over the empty cupboards of our striving poor, and the ruined prospects which I have set forth, rather than over the loss of a few paltry fish — fish which might as surely have been lost had there never been an oil works in the country. And as for river poisoning by refuse from oil works, all the refuse which could by any possibility find its way into the rivers Alyn and Dee from well-conducted oil works could no more poison these rivers and kill all the fish in them, than a cargo of petroleum wrecked on its way here from America could poison the Atlantic and kill all the fish it contains. The parties who have published the statements I refer to have been grossly misled as to the facts.

Yours truly, Paraffin

Wrexham Advertiser, 30th January 1869