The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies
"Cuntelleugh an brewyon us gesys na vo kellys travyth"
(Gather up the fragments that are left that nothing be lost.)
The Organisation for those who love Cornwall.
From the Archives
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All these articles are taken from back issues of the Federations Journal "Old Cornwall".
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the Rev.. J. Sims Carah
Cornwall No. 4 October 1926.
are many nice places in which to be born, many nice places in which to
live, but among them all to my mind there is nothing to compare with
village life. Where are you going to find a more delightful set of
people in a more delightful setting than in Cranford? Where are
you going for greater charm than to Miss Mitford's Our Village
; Perhaps I love these books so much because I love our village more.
" Lonely and dull " say they who only pass down the village
streets and see nothing beyond the outside of things.
"Lonely" when you know everybody and everybody knows you!
You can be lonely in a town, but it is your own fault if you are
lonely in a village. I look back to the old days of my childhood and
it seems to me as if loneliness were a feeling I never knew until the
time came for me to go out into the wide world. Lonely; with every
cottage door open to you and everyone claiming you as one of their own
face after face comes before my eyes as I write. I can see old Betsey
sitting in her chair which afterwards I knew to be Cromwellian -there
in her kitchen with that lovely background of a dresser filled with
blue china, cups and saucers all covered with great white horses
prancing with their white legs all over the blue ground, or I can see
her jinnyquicking" 1 the frill of her
white cap, talking all the time to the boy at her side. Years after I
learnt her old tea-set was "Herculaneum" ware. I knew every
bit of old china in practically every cupboard in the village while I
was only a child, and all the old things of the houses, and could
describe nearly every clock in the place though it may be fifty years
since I have seen them.
Why we had a shoemaker, and you could watch your own shoes made; a
tailor; a blacksmith shop, and heaps of things beside. And then we had
schools—sometimes as many as four at a time. The Education Act
came in 1870, but it took a long time to snuff out all our schools.
There was Misses' School—no surname was necessary! She was Misses!
That was enough! A stately old soul she was, upright in her chair (I
daresay it was a Chippendale one) with her voluminous skirts spread
out. What a snuff-box she had! A great black papier mache one
with "some lovely " picture upon the top of it! It was only
the kitchen of her cottage where her children sat. There were no desks
of course, only a few forms on which they could sit, but if there were
not enough, well, the stairs were in the kitchen and they would take
the overflow. How much Misses knew I cannot tell you. She taught her
children A.B.C. and X.Y.Z., and called the last of the signs
every other one did, perhaps because it was so difficult to name that
t;iey were to" pass' e."3 But I have not told you yet about
that which had the place of honour in her school. Lying flat on the
table where Misses' hand could at once grasp it was the one absolutely
necessary piece of school furniture. It was a piece of white wood
something like a small whitewash brush without the hair.
was the CUSTIS ; and woe to the talkative ones! Misses' temper was not
always of the best and there were times when the dread edict went
forth—" custis all round!"
little way out of the village on its Camborne side stands the ruin of
one of these old schools. The school-room is 11 ft. long and 6 ft.
broad. Part of the room was taken up by the stairs, which led to a
bedroom so low that the old woman had to dress on the stairs. The
school-room, which, of course, was also the kitchen, was 5 ft. 6 ins,
in height, and at the lower side for the little house was a lean-to)
the eaves are 7 ft. 6 ins, from the foundation. The door was always
open and you could share the lessons as you went along the road. Here
again was a certain amount of refinement in the old dame, but then
dear old Betsey had a history. In that tiny room upstairs was a great
chest, and on that chest a great coat-of-arms. Betsey's father was a
shoeing smith, and once when he was shoeing her hunter, the lady owner
came suddenly upon him with " Will you marry me?" "
Yes, if you please, mum,' was the ready response, and off they went to
the wedding. Betsey knew no more; never knew who her mother was, but
the chest she kept to the end of her days. And more than that, she
kept something of that inborn refinement which never left her. I never
saw Betsey's school at work beyond the peeps you could get through the
open door. Often I have been in when the scholars were absent, but I
never saw a "custis" about the house and I don't think dear
old Betsey ever needed one.
are gone —these little village schools ; but they did not altogether
fail. In this same village, in another tiny school kept by his own
father, that brilliant Cornish archaeologist, botanist, artist,
writer, engraver, the late J. T. Blight, began his scholastic career.
Why, we had
a fair in the summer, and "some fair " it was, too! If it
were St. Swithin's day, well, it seems to me St. Swithin was kinder in
those days. I remember on one occasion the wheat was already cut and
stood in shocks in the very next field to the fair. For weeks before
the fair this would be the great subject of our thoughts. What a crowd
there was in church on the previous Sunday evening! 'Twas "Taking'sunday"
! After service we walked to Clowance. There at Best Gate you would
see two groups, one on each side. Then came the choice of partners for
a walk through the park and the engagement to meet at the fair. I
wonder how many scores of weddings in Crowan Parish have taken place
because of "Taking Sunday?"
what stories we heard, and when in our village they told stories, they
either told us where the thing happened or who the people were
who said the things, so the jokes we saw in the comic papers seemed
cold and lifeless to us. For example :- It was Betsey Ralph who
said—" My dear, 'tes all for want of ig'rance : they don't
kna.w no better."
was " the man out St. Keverne " who had the letter from his
son—" My dear father, I sends you a hat if it fit ;
if it don't, you come Helston next Saturday and bring the measurement
of your head with 'ee."
you wished to say more than you ought to say, then you were like
"the woman in Helston, who was troubled with bad words."
was " the man up to Truro," who said— " What things
is made for money," when he saw the monkey .
No, whatever we may have been, we were not dull!
1. Gophering, a gophering-iron being a " jinny-quick." - (Ed).
2. In the old horn-books one read "& per se, and; &c., et cetera." The Latin of et cetera was understood, but pre se, "by itself” was joined to one of the &’s, as “an passy” or “passy an.” (Ed.)
Cornwall No. 6 .
IT is probable that most Cornishmen of to-day would have difficulty in telling the whereabouts of Black-more, although it was once a famous tin-bearing region constituting one of the four Stannaries of Cornwall. Black-more was the name given to the great track of bleak upland between Bodmin and St. Austell which is now the chief field of the China Clay Industry. " White-moor " would be a better name for it now, for the monstrous pyramids of refuse, glistening white like snow peaks, have dwarfed or obliterated all the old familiar landmarks. The name B!ack-more is an old one. In 1283, the Assize Rolls tell us that one Thurstan de Wenthe while riding out of " Bomyne " town by the street called "of the Barre" [now Bore Street] accidently rode down Marjory, the daughter of Persona, so that she died of her injuries four days later Thurston fled, and the " Aldermen of the Barre," who were the police of those days, failed to secure him, as he had taken refuge on " Blake more," where he abandoned his horse and escaped through the "profundity" of the moor. It transpired that Thurstan had been intoxicated at the time of the accident, which account, for his flight.
Black More is constantly mentioned in 13th-century documents and is.sometimes Latinized into Nigra Mora.
The southern slopes of the moor towards Nanpean were once called Hynde-moor, a name that survives in Henmoor, and Hens-barrow [for Hynde Barrow] the culminating point of Black-more. Hensaviston and Hensafrane [Hensyenvran 1396, Hengyvran 1342], two places near Nanpean, seem also to contain the word Hynde . Whether Hynde is Cornish
I was recently looking at a curious old MS. account book dealing with the Tin Bounds of the Manor of Branel in the 17th century. The Tanner family, as Lords of Branel, enjoyed the tenth part of all tin broken on the commons, and it was necessary that their boundaries should be constantly reviewed. In 166o, therefore, we find that the Bounds of Mr. Tanner's lands on "Henmoor alias Gunheath alias High Downs " were thus set forth :
· The Bounds begin at a stone called Crouse-widen alias White Cross lying by the highway from Cargvalance Venn [now Crugwallons] lane end to Roch Church where the Lord Roberts, Mr. Edgcumbe and Mr. Tanner do meete. Then to a stone called Careck-an-googe alias the Cuckoe Rock, lying near the said way on the left. Then to a stone called Mene-Flat in Peden Hal-vegan at the head of Halvegan Moor. Then to a pile of stones called Pehel-Carnawhenis alias the Horn,' awink House on the right hand of the way. Then to a high rock called Mene-Vagar alias the Long Stone on "the right hand, and thence to a round Burrow a little "north-east in which are 9 stones then to a great Poole "called Poole-an-abelly alias the Poole where the colts " doe drink on the N.E. called Collen-a-poole. Thence to "a little pile of stones and so to the head of a spring "called Venton Latnene, then to the Poole Bounds, then "to a pile of stones in the moor called Tolvogue Rock, "then to Gothos Well near the high-way to Roche and so "by stone to stone to the head of Venton-Cacorian and so "to Nanpean Moor."
These bounds are still there dividing the Parish of St. Stephen from St. Mewan, Roche and St. Dennis The interest of this recital is in the fact that it shows that the Cornish tongue was still understood on Black-more in the reign of Charles II.
In 1671 from the Court Rolls of Burngullow we learn that the Earl of Radnor had the bounds viewed again, but the marks are given in a less interesting,fas!hion, namely as : "White Crosse," "the rock of Carrack-an-goge," half a mile from "White Crosse," the "Flat-rock or stone at Helviggen Head," the " Longstone called Lavagoe-stone," and " the round Burrow with 9 stones where 9 Lord's Lands do meet."
In 1696, a map of Burngullow Manor gives only "White-cross," " Carreck-an-goag," and " Levaga or Longstone." Now-a-days it is probable that only Longstone is known. Whitecross, which is correctly Cornished "Crouse-widen," must have stood at the point where the road from Crugwallons comes up to meet the highway from St. Austell to Nanpean. It would be interesting to discover this monument, of which nothing is known in the locality. The old road to Roche, now a mere track, climbs the hill, leaving Carrack-an-Goge [i.e.. "the rock of the cuckoo"] on the left and approaching the flat rock at the head of Halviggan Moor, or in Cornish mixed with English, `' Mene [rock], Flat in Pedan [head] Halvegan. Hal is "moor," Vegan is probably the same word as bigan, which occurs in Colbiggan in Roche, once written Kelly-bygyn (1301). 'Kelly is "grove." Is bigan the same as the Welsh brogan, a hobgoblin ?
Pehel-Carna-whenis is translated "the Hornawink (or lapwing) House," implying a desolate and lonely place. "Carnawhenis" in this case would he a corruption of corniwillen [Welsh cornchwiglen], a lapwing.
We must bear in mind that the translations given in the "bounds " are not necessarily the true meanings of the names, but the popular explanation of them at a time when Cornish was fast decaying. Time forms widen [for gwyn, white] and pedan [for pen, head] are peculiar to late Cornish (16th and 17th centuries) and are not usually found in the place-names so far east as St. Austell.
Mene [rock] Vagar or Longstone is a fine menhir or longstone, standing 10 feet above ground.
The corruption to " Lavagoe Stone " in 1671 and `' Levaga " in 1696 shows, how necessary it is to get old spellings of Cornish names before attempting to define them.
Poole-an-abelly is evidently the Pool [pol] of the [an] colts [ebilly] as the "Bounds" suggest. Collena-poole is perhaps an error for coltena, the old English plural of "colt."
The round Burrow with stones gives name to the present "Nine-stones Common."
Tolvogue Rock is possibly from tal, a brow + mogh (mutation vogh), a hog.
Gothos, now Gothers, in St. Dennis, was formerly written Guthfos, 1332, and Godvos, 1297. It appears to be the Widewot of Domesday Book 1085. The last syllable is probably bos, a house, and Goth-vos may mean " the old house." Hewas, in Ladock and St. Stephens, was formerly Haevos and Hafod, the same as the Welsh hafod or "summer-house" on the uplands, to which the cattle were driven in the summer' In the 17th century the word " Hewas" was used at Sancreed for the high crofts above the church, and in 1671 a croft at Trerise in that parish is styled " Hewas-an-Grouse" [i.e., the hewas of the cross] "wherein formerly stood a crosse of stone."
Ruthvos, not far from "Gothvos," anciently Rudfos, is probably the red (ruth) house (bos).
Arvose in St. Stephens [Arfos 1350] is possibly the house (bos) on the ploughland (ar), while Creg ivose in that Parish [Crucgkeyr vos 1346 and Crukarfos 1358] is perhaps the House f the Burrow [Cruk].
conclusion, the names of some tin-bounds in Branel Manor in 1685 may
be of interest as showing the introduction of whimsical names by the
Playne-Dealing Bounds in Stenaguin, Welcome-By, Vincent's Well, Long Sleeve, Little Good Luck, Down-Derry Green, Good Speed, Cassick-well [cask, a mare], Conney Hill, New Audit [i e. Adit] Fatt-shoad, Perron, Whele-an-Tankerd, the Galliar. Fortune-my-Friend, Frvar-Pass-By (at Dowgas, Deugoys—two woods), Lady Beame (Our Lady Beam), The Fat-Work, Narrow Scape, Lowsey Back, Goorl-a-Caurhest (or Cawrest) ; This suggests the "Lurking place (Welsh Godech) of the Giantess,'' (Welsh cawres)  ; Mana Cart [in a charter of 1400 relating to Trevarth in Gwennap two stagnarie, or tinworks, are named "Monhek-cam," cam, crooked, and "Monek de Nanscorlyes." Monhek is thus used as a substantive for a mine and the same word may occur in Mana Cart. Mwn in Welsh means a Mine or Ore. " Monek" is apparently an adjective from it, like stenak from stet]. Hath-noe-Fellow, Great-Tye, Little-Worth, Drinnick-Guin [drenak gwyn, white thorn-brake] G.mabarne [gon, down] Goverseth [dry brook, govev segh] and Hard-to-come-by.
 Alternative meanings are, hensy, "roads," or hen-sy', "old house." En vran would be "of the crow.'
 [See O.C. No, 4 P. 33. "Hewas," a not uncommon nam-, is evidently the irregular form taken by what would normally be Navas, matching gwavas.—Ed.]
 [Another guess might he Welsh codoj euraid, rich, golde i, in Cornish forni codak cures.— Ed.]
all the many "characters" who made their personality felt
in the Land's End district during the first half of the 19th century,
the most versatile was Billy Foss, nicknamed " Frost." All
that one learns of him and his accomplishments makes one realize how
rich he must have been in those things that are most valued by "
Old Cornwall " folk to-day, though they were little appreciated
by the genteel inhabitants of the neighbourhood while he lived.
Fortunately William Bottrell was not of the "genteel" type,
and gained from him a great deal of traditional lore ; while his
country neighbours all loved to pass on anecdotes and rhymes about
him, many of which, a century later, are still remembered or treasured
on scraps of paper.
such scrap was given by the late Captain W. James, a native of St.
Just, and one-time manager of the Bassett United Mines, Ltd., to Mr.
W. A. Pascoe, of St. Neot, Recorder of Liskeard Old Cornwall Society.
It contains the following :‑
POETRY BY `BILLY
I traversed Boslow I saw an old cow,
an old mare, whose bones were so bare
to make its poor master to weep.
few acres of ground, as bare as a pound,
old house ready to fall ;
was no meat for the people to eat
that was the worst of the all.
crock, pan, or kittle ; no goods much or little,
there in the old house;
table or chairs, nor bedding upstairs,
as much as to cover a louse.
grass for the flocks, but a carp of dry rocks
afforded an horrible sight.
you pass that way, you must do so by day,
you'd scat out your brains in the night!"
who gives this libel on Boslow, a farm below Dry Carn, a little
differently in his third series of tales (p. 112),
Billy Foss, as "a noted old droll-teller and clock-cleaner of
Sancreed." He made himself a more lasting name, however, as a
composer of epitaphs and a carver of slate, and though he seems to
have no tombstone of his own, his initials, or his signature,
"William Foss, Sancreed," may still be seen on those of
others in various churchyards, and some of his lettering is to be
found here and there on milestones. It would not be astonishing to
find that so versatile a person had at some time been a blacksmith at
St. just, too, but if ever he was such, this is not recorded of him
elsewhere, and his greatest fame was achieved as an impromptu
His verses were so often quoted or written out by admirers whose ear
for scansion and rhyme was not equal to his own that they survive in
many versions; none perhaps being quite as well turned as the
original. Bottrell's rendering of the foregoing Boslow rhyme, for
instance, helps to fill out a few of its halting lines, though a word
or two may be better here
the same scrap of paper is an anecdote, with another rhyme of Billy's
:—" A new landlord was going to turn into a public-house, and
promised Billy Frost should write the sign over the door, but one day
Billy was passing and saw the new sign had been written by someone
else. He looked on his friend and said,
take no drink in your stinking old wink;
heps and your door I decline ;
'had a pint of beer when I came along here,
thee's 'lowed me to paint thy sign."'
version of this written down by Mr. Henry Waymouth, a Newlyn
carpenter, c. 1880, gives the name of the owner of the beershop as
John Burt, of Nancothan Mill, who combined the trades of miller and
publican. He gives the rhyme as :‑
stinking old wink is not fit to drink,
yet to your door will incline,
would have drank of your beer as I passed,
you would have let me lettered your sign."
is hardly an improvement on the other version, but
that the original may have been something more like :
" I'll not sit to drink in your stinking old wink
enter your door I decline:
have drank of your beer, as I passed along here,
you'd left me letter your sign."
only a rhymester himself, but an inspirer 0f others to rhyming. In
Sancreed parish there was also living a diminutive and teasing
travelling tailor, one Lewis Grenfell. Mr. Waymouth records of him
that once seeing a Sedan-chair waiting at the fore-door of a big house
at Penzance, he slipped into it while the bearers were " off the
watch," and tapped the window. At the signal the men took up the
chair and carried it to the house of the person who had originally
hired it, right at the other end of the town. Directly it was set
down, off scampered Lewis, shouting his thanks for the free ride,
while the chairmen went fuming back again, to meet a scolding from the
fare that they had left in the lurch. To Billy Foss he said :‑
"You go up and down from country to town,
Cutting letters in wood and in stone ;
By your trade, though, you lose,
for it won't find you shoes,
as for best clothes, you have none!
Billy retorted :
" I'm honest, at least, for I still pay my debt
That's more than a tailor or, miller's done yet ! "
He had evidently not forgotten the Nancothan miller's sign.
sample of those rhyming bouts in which Billy had the last word was
sent to Dr. Hamblev Rowe, as remembered by an old lady of 90 living at
Treen (Logan Rock). One corn-harvest, it seems, Billy helped a Buryan
farmer to make up a few round arish-mows in afield near the highway,
and some mischievous boys, after playing pranks there, taunted him
with the rhyme :—
I was walking on the road,
sorry for the farmer's loss—
mow was made by Billy Foss."
gave them as good in return :‑
mow was made, and all complete;
was a splendid mow of wheat.
rogues and thieves in Buryan Ch'town
stole the sheaves, and the mow fell down."
per E.T.A., Crowlas).
Henry Thomas, of St. Just, has since given me a copy of this with
slight verbal differences.
much-repeated rhyme of Billy's was the epitaph, written in response to
her own request for "something fittv," on the famous St.
Just character " Betty Toddy." Mr: Waymouth's version is
" Beneath this stone lies a rotten body,
mortal remains of Betty Toddy
as a slight variant :—
that is mortal of Betty Toddy"].
Her occupation was making of brooms,
to sweep the dust from her neighbours' rooms."
version, still less dignified, was given to me
at Nancledrea. Its rhyme and reason are a little disjointed :-
lies the body of Betty Toddy,
never done any good to any body;
rooms have she dirted
of her hurthen brooms:
she lies till the last day
up her broom and come away."
It is difficult to guess which of these two dissimilar rhymes comes closer to the original. Perhaps the latter hits the sentiment better, for we know that the epitaph didn't please Betty at all, and out of her remark, " That waan't do. Uncle Billy ! " came the local proverbial saying, "'That waan't do,' says Betty Toddy," which was almost as familiar as " dressed up a regular Betty Toddy," by which hangs another tale, of Betty's young days, well told by Bottrell, Series I, p. 141.
day Billy was surprised by a well-known voice behind him ; the voice
of one of whom he expected more courtesy, hailing him as " Old
Frost and Snow." Turning round he said :—
early in the spring,
heard a guckoo for to sing;
voice was very soft and low,
bitter, bitter, ' Frost and Snow.'
of his best and most-quoted rhymes was that on Balleswidden Mine, St.
Just, relating the history of the difficulties overcome there. The
whole of it is probably recoverable, and Old
may be able to supply the rest, but all that I am able to give is one
delightful verse :
"And then they had an inyin (engine) good,
draa'd the water like a flood,
sucked right up the very mud
the Mine of Balleswidden!
Billy had a musical ear almost as remarkable as his gift for " setting clocks a-working after all the goldsmiths in Penzance had given them up": he could at once name any musical note that he heard, and led the church singers at Sancreed with a hautboy, one of the few specimens of that instrument then in the district. Specimens of his delicate slate-carving may still be seen, one in Zennor church-tower, and another close to the gate of Madron churchyard, and doubtless much of his lettering decorates other stones that he did not trouble to sign with his name or initials, but he was particularly proud, according to Mr. Waymouth, of the gilded lettering on a stone in St. Levan churchyard, the process of which he declared was " worth a patent." This stone is not far from the famous split boulder, the St. Levan Stone of the prophecy of Merlin (or as some say St. Levan) :=
with panniers astride.
pack-horse can ride
St. Levan Stone,
world shall be done."
gilding was as bright as ever fifteen (perhaps even fifty) years after
it was done, but few traces of it are now left, though without it the
carving is still worth looking at.
one ever thought of Billy without his two dogs. Wherever he went they
accompanied him; one often carried in his arms while the other trotted
beside him. A local character nicknamed "Blind Dick,"
exaggerating his fondness for his dogs, berhymed him as follows
"I understand both night and day
Two dogs doth in thy bosom lay.
Winding up his unkind remarks with
Hadst thou not got ten pounds a year,
wouldst have been in places where
make thee act teetotal:
Union then would be thy lot,
place for every drunken sot,
every lazy lootal."
this Billy failed to reply, and on Waymouth's asking him why he
allowed " Blind Dick" to be " so out-and-out severe
" without giving him anything in return, he says, " Frost
contented himself by telling of me that nobody of note would think
anything of a man who wrote such bad grammar—the word
"lay" being in the past time when it intended to mean the
writing this account of Billy Foss I received from Mr. Henry Thomas
not only the variant of the " Mow of Wheat " rhyme already
mentioned, but several new Foss rhymes which he was kind enough to
write out for me, and a little more detail to add to the picture which
we are able to form of his life and character. His mother, he tells
me, delighted in reciting Billy's and other local rhymes while she was
busy sewing and knitting for the family that gathered round her in the
evening, though few of them have been kept in his memory.
is from him that I learn that Billy lived in a cottage on the extreme
south of Tregonebris estate, just across the stream from Lower Leha,
in Sancreed parish; Lower Leha itself being in Buryan. His chief
occupation was clock-cleaning, but he was always called on for any odd
job that needed ingenuity, and besides being able to roll off an
extempore rhyme on any occasion, would entertain the whole household
by reciting in rhyme from memory while his jobs were in hand. His one
rival was " Henny" Quick, the Zennor poet, who was not only
almost as ready at rhyming, but also cut mile-stones. Billy Foss's
greatest effort in this direction is seen at Crows-an-Wrah, while
Henny's are at Tregerest, Choon, and Brea (St. Just).
Thomas tells me that when Billy once passed through Buryan Churchtown,
a wag cried to him, probably reminding him of some tale told against
him as a bell-ringer :‑
Billy Foss is at a loss In tolling of the bell !"
threw back :‑
There's narra man in Buryan Ch'town
toll the bell so well ! "
on a morning following a heavy downfall of rain, Billy, whilst passing
the Vicarage gate at Sancreed, saw the Rev. Mr. Todd himself scraping
away the mud from before it, while the highway-warden, John Toman,
stood looking on. He stopped and said :‑
Toman has found a plan,
ever found one better;
parish toad (Todd) has scraped the road,
turn away the waiter !"
Another time, on meeting a neighbour nicknamed "Cuddle," riding on a reluctant donkey, Billy rattled off :.
pat ! Pit, pat ! on the raud,
"Cuddle" is a heavy laud,
up like a burstin taud,
his little dunkey:
he want it to go quick,
must thump or he must kick,
he hab'm got no stick
bait his little dunkey !"
Tregonebris was living at that time one George H*****, who though a
man of such ability as to have been called on to prepare the Tithe Map
in 1838-9 and to have been regarded as an authority on local land
matters, was reported as anything but an exemplary husband. His cat in
its wanderings once found its way to Billy's cottage, and was sent
home with this message tagged on at its neck :‑
George H*****, your cat is come home;
sent her all over the world for to roam.'
her again, now, and spare her sweet life—
your keep-miss and take back your wife."
of his mock valent,nes, written at the request of teasing
hussies, Mr. Thomas says, were even more plainspoken than this.
Perhaps these are as well forgotten, as he suggests, but there is
little doubt that some of his master-pieces still remain to be
collected, for no single person seems to have handed on all those that
are gathered here
as he added to the merriment of the countryside by his impromptu
skits, or solaced the bereaved by his less
epitaphs, it was in his longer compositions, the “drolls,”
chimney-corner tales that had entertained many generations before he
was born, that he made his chief contribution to local culture and
carried on the work of the old wandering bards. Of these there is
small chance of our getting more than we have already, for they were
far too long to have remained in the memory of those who heard them,
and Billy, unlike Henrv Quick, seems never to have come to
agreement with a local printer who would put them into permanent form
as broadsheets that he might sell " to earn an honest
is from Bottrell that we hear most of Billy Foss as a droll-teller. He
says of him that he recited his stories " in a sort of doggrel,
in which he mostly half said and half sung his drolls," but he
does not tell us whether the drolls were always his own compositions,
though from his gift of improvisation it is easy to believe that in
telling traditional tales he would string them into rhyme without
of his drolls concerned the dealings of a local witch with a certain
Madam Noy, of Pendrea. Of this Bottrell gives us choice of versions,
not only of the metrical curse, but even of the name of the witch. The
first, concerning "Joan," who lived near Alsia Mill, he
quotes as (unnamed) contributor to Hunt's Romances, and the second, of " Betty Trenoweth," of
Burvan Churchtown, as author of his own second series of tales. One
suspects that he was anxious not to repeat anything already printed by
Hunt too closely, so
his own books should seem more original, or perhaps for fear of
infringing copyright. This is probably why the tale in doggrel verse
which can safely be claimed as Billy Foss's, called in Hunt " The
Spriggans' Child, as told by a Cornish Droll," is given almost
entirely in prose in Bottrell's Traditions
as " The Changeling of Brea Vean."
on the old guise-dance play. " Duffy and the
Devil," Bottrell says, " An old droll-teller of Sancreed,
called Billy Foss, used to relate a story very similar to that of the
guise-dance. He made no mention, however, in his droll, of any family
names, nor of any particular place in which the `lord' dwelt who
married a poor girl. But her name was ' Duffy' and the demon who
worked for her, and who was also fooled by a witch through strong
drink, was called `Tarraway.' Billy used to say, `Some who know no
better call Duffy's devil Terrytop, but his ancient and proper name is
Tarraway. This name, therefore, Bottrell adopted for his own rambling
version, half play, half tale, of the guise-dance play which he had
previously given to Hunt, and which Hunt had ruthlessly cut up into
bits to use as he found convenient. Perhaps the rhymes in which
Bottrell makes "Tarraway" rhyme with " far away "
were part of Billy Foss's droll. They seem much less likely to be
ancient than those in Hunt :—
my lady, you'll never know—what ?
my name is Terrytop, Terrytop---top!"
even these, though they keep something of the traditional rhymes, do
not give them as well as an Irish version of the story, where the imp
Little does my lady wot
my name is Trit-a-Trot !"
not only explains the "what" of the Cornish couplet, but
gives a name that rhymes correctly with it. More than this, almost
every name of the spinner in the tale will be found, in versions told
in Great Britain, to end in something resembling "tot” or
"trot." England has "Tom-tit-Tot " and "
Habetrot ;" Scotland " Fittle-te-tot " and "
Marget-tots " ; Wales has " Sili-go-dwt," "
Gwarwyn a throt " and " Trwtyn Tratyn," in which yn
is merely a diminutive added to " Trwt Trat " ; the
Isle of Man has " Mollyn droat," and, curiously enough, of
all the many names of the spinner outside the British Isles, no other
name with such a rhyme is found anywhere but in Iceland, where we get
" Gili trutt." But there was so much coming and going
between Iceland and Gaelic Ireland and Scotland in former days, that
it is most likely that `' Gili trutt," which has no meaning in
Icelandic, is Gaelic for " Druid's gillie " or servant, just
as the Manx name " Mollyn droat " is explained (by Miss
Sophia Morrison, Folk Lore, 1go8,,
as myl yn druaght, "druid's
servant." It may be ..
nothing but a quaint coincidence, but it is odd all the same, that gwas y dryw, " druid's servant," is in Welsh the name
of the tom-tit, thus bringing the Manx name into relation with
"Tom-tit-Tot." But this is a long digression, of which Billy
with his "ancient and proper name,'' would have made nothing, and
he may be allowed to have had a right to stick to " Tarraway
" if he liked it. It is interesting to find that Mr. Thurstan
Peter found a version of " Duffy and the Devil," told at
Illogan, in which the spinning was done by a hag, and the devil was
left out altogether.
one save " Blind Dick," seems ever to have accused Billy of
being a " drunken sot " who couldn't " act
teetotal" without help ; and one wonders why, with his many
gifts, he could not make one of them find him in shoes or best
clothes. Poor as he remained, however, he may have best served his
generation, if not himself, by his slate-carving, clock-nursing,
hautboy- playing, and droll-telling, all for love of the thing done
rather than of the reward ; and his life seems likely to have been as
happy as it was useful. It is to him and his kind more than to all his
"high-minded" contemporaries, that we owe what can still be
found of the traditions of Old Cornwall.
quoted by Hunt. (Introduction,
27) says:—I have a dim recollection of another old droll-teller,
called Billy Frost, in St. Just, who used to go round to the feasts in
the neighbouring parishes and be well entertained at the public-houses
for the sake of his drolls." " Dim recollection ", if
it is Bottrell's own, is a curious expression for him to use; for he
claims to have learned many drolls from Billy Foss of Sancreed.
 Hearth brooms, apparently.
re-telling the tale " Janey Tregeer " is made " Jenny
Trayer," and the mention of Brea Vean is made the excuse for
bringing in Dame and Squire Ellis of Brea, while the end of the tale
especially is much elaborated.
note in his copy
of Hunt, Penzance Library.
This is a common variant of the tale of the idle spinning-maid.
Cornwall N.o 1 April 1925
Lap-yeor Tom from Ball-a-noon did hie,
Shalal-a-shackets passing by;
Jallow Clathing Lap-yeor’s lembs were grac’d,
a Petticoat had round his waist;
ded rejoice, and as he walk’d along,
as a Jaypie - sung a Cornish song.
Burnuhal Brane Bosfrancan,
Trewhidden Try Trembah.
Grancan Treen Bostraze.
Chykembra Dowran Trove.:
Trannack Try Trenear,
Crowles Gwallan Crankan,
Bojedna Cayle Trebear.
Carbus C'arn Tretheage.
Of these lines the old magazine says that when given the correct local pronunciation: “they cannot fail to affect a Cornish heart with that peculiar sort of pleasing melancholy which is excited by the portrait of a dear departed friend,” and Davies Gilbert’s intention in writing them seems to have been that of preserving in rhymed verse the sounds of the “dear departed” old Celtic Language as still traditionally used in place-names. In this he has been more successful than some of his imitators in more recent years. His spellings are occasionally questionable and his hyphens seem misplaced at times, but on the whole there is little difficulty in identifying the places and giving their names the correct Cornish pronunciation. To identify all, and, still more, to attempt to interpret their meanings, would be an interesting task, but if this is to be done it must be in a later issue of Old Cornwall. Sung to a Welsh penillion air, these verses have a truly Celtic ring, and should make a welcome feature at Cornish concerts.
Editors Note : If you enjoyed having a go at this then try singing along to Ian Marshall's song "Trelay" on the same theme Click to hear. This is taken from his record "21 SONGS OF CORNWALL" there is also a song book with the words and music to all 21 songs the majority of which are tradional. Both CD and Book are available here.
Reprinted from Old Cornwall No. 2 October 1925
TINNERS’ SONG.—AIR, Trelawny.
and Capp'n Franky
to go to Bal;
started for Wheal Rodney
there was work for all.
a-mining we will go, high-o!
a-mining we will go!
pick and gad all in our hands,
make a braave ould show!
to Cappen Franky,
trebbut shall us ‘ave ”
shellen and foorpence” -
“But foorteen us did craave.
feftain foot of “saafetv,”
candles foortain pound,
that was our materyaI
had luck at laast, boys,
Knockers shawed us where
shut the rock, and raise the tin,
started us off feer.
us had jolly times, boys,
plenty for to ait,
left a bit for Bucca,
put us ‘pon our fait.
above old Tinners’ folk-song has been pieced together from remembered scraps
by Mr. W.Tregonning Hooper. It was sung to the air usually associated in
Cornwall with “Trelawny”—the French Petit Tambour; but this is also the
air of the Christmas mummer’s, “Oh, a-mumming we will go,” etc., upon
which the Tinners’ chorus is evidently based. Our readers may perhaps be
able to give other versions of the words. As a Tinners’ song it was quite
familiar fifty years ago: Wheal Rodney was a Tin Mine at the back of Marazion,
and it may be supposed to have originated in that neighbourhood.
Market Cross, Penzance, Lithograph by John Skinner Prout.
Published and printed by John Pope Vibert of Penzance Nov. 9th 1882.
By S. C. JULYAN, MA.
This article was first appeared in the Old Cornwall Volume 1, journal 6, page 20.
S.C.Julyan was the grandson of Penzance historian L J Courtney.
In visiting any new town one finds oneself speculating on the meaning of its unfamiliar street-names and the reason for them, when discovered, usually throws light on the history of the place. In most towns we find names, either of royal or otherwise prominent persons, or connected historical events, that will tell us all at once the date of the building or re-naming of the street: thus few towns of any size are without some reminder of our late Queen (Victoria), but Penzance has a better right to its "Alexandre Road" than most, for in person she opened it in 1865. Without good reason we also have several places called "Regent Terrace", etc., after George IV, when during the incapacity of his father (1811 - 1820) he was Prince Regent.
Clarence House; etc., again reminds us that William IV was Duke of
Clarence before he came to the throne in 1830, while
“Adelaide” Street is named after his wife;
Empress Avenue marks the 1897 Jubilee of the Empress Queen there is a
sprinkling, too, of “Victoria” and “Albert” names but with so
long a reign as that of Queen Victoria
the earliest days when Penzance could be looked upon as a town it
would have had a quay, or “key” as it was often spelt: in the
early 18th century we find mention, in Dr. Borlase’s letters, of a
place for mooring boats or small vessels, with stones planted upright
for fastening ropes, that stood near the site of the present Harbour
Office. From this the houses must have spread up the hill, and the
street leading up from the quay to the newer part of the town would
naturally be “Quay” Street. In this we find ourselves close to
what is now the Parish Church of St. Mary, built about a century ago,
but replacing a smaller building that was for many centuries a
chapel-of-ease to the mother-church at Madron. This building (and not,
as one might suppose, the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel gave its present
name to “ Chapel” Street, and also its older name, “Our Lady -
houses between the Church and the Vicarage were once commonly known as
“Rotterdam” Buildings: this recorded the fact that they were built
with money from a Dutch prize.
now to the Market House quarter, “Market Place” explains itself,
and the “Greenmarket,” now so inconveniently full of huge
motor-buses and charabancs, tells us how it was once used for stalls
whose owners supplied the town with green-stuff. Northwards we have
“Causeway Head,” a century or less ago known as “Caunsehead”;
“caunse” being a more local way of saying caucey or ii
causeway,” meaning a stone-paved road.’ This besides the banal
“North” Street had the old name “Church “.Street, presumably
because it led to what was then the parish church at Madron. Farther
on we come to St. Clare “ Street, and just as we leave the town
there is “Chapel St. Clare,” explained by a quotation from the
Guide to Penzance, 1845 :—“ There was a chapel dedicated to St.
Clare about midway between the Quay and Madron Church; no part of it
remains, but Mr. T. Coulson... recollccts having traced its
foundations when a boy, in the field adjoining the bound-stone of the
to the Greenmarket, west of it we come upon a series of names
connected with “Alverton”; this points back to the possessor of
the land at this end of the town about the time of the Conquest—a
certain Alwardus. The only other name worth mentioning here is
“Buriton” Row. “Buriton”is said to be an old name for
Penzance: if so, it is one shared with other places. From Buriton Row
an easy way into the Market Place is by way of an opening now often
spoken of as” Beare’s Passage,” from the name of an adjoining
shop: I am more interested personally in its older name, “Harvey’s
Ope,” which records ancestors of my own as owning land there, as
well as containing the pleasing old word “ope.”
Street is a delightful name, unique and suggestive of all sorts of
interest—a great name for strangers to theorise about, but in fact
just such a name as we find in many other towns, “London” Road,
“ Chester” Street, to take two at random, and merely announcing
the fact that one leaves the place by this street to get to another
town— in this case Market-Jew, otherwise Marazion.
of us can remember when the appearance of this eastern -end of the
town was very different. Tumbledown cottages and small houses have
been demolished, and larger, neater, but less interesting buildings
have been erected in their place: for instance, where Albert Street
now stands was once a lane leading down to the sea, known as “Neddy
Betty’s” Lane. This name it owed to a man, Edward Betty, who kept
a small thatch-roofed inn, Betty’s Inn, the remains of which could
be seen about seventy years ago. The name Betty occurs frequently in
the Gulval parish registers, c.1707-1747. My grandfather in his Half a
Century of Penzance, said, “From the appearance of Neddy Betty’s
Lane it seemed to have been at one time the eastern entrance to the
town,” to which Mr. J. C. Batten added that he had gathered from his
father that there was a road into the town from the Eastern Green
which came under the cliff, and entered Penzance somewhere in Market
Jew Street. It was also a Penzance joke in Mr. Batten’s
grandfather’s days to speak of a man’s coming home “under
cliff” when he had failed in any undertaking, meaning that, not
wishing to be seen, he had used the lower road and “sneaked in by
the back-door” as it were.
Town Lane on the same side of Market-Jew Street seems to refer to an
extension of the town in this direction, in or beyond the lane.
Further east on the other side “ Penrose” Terrace and” Trewartha”
Terrace commemorate, respectively, a land-owner’s seat and a
builder’s name. Back in Market-Jew Street we find “Wood” Street,
once “Pump” Lane; at its lower end a pump might have been seen not
very many years since, though no waving wood is there. From this we
reach “ Bread” Street. a modern name due to the bakehouse at its
western end. It was formerly and rightly called “Back” Lane, as
running behind the back-gardens of Market-Jew Street. From Back Lane
we now pass with ease to “‘Taraveor” Road, but many of us
remember fields between them. This road was, and by many still is,
called “Bull’s” Lane. (2). Before 1820, the cattle market was
held in what is now called Greenmarket, or one might connect this with
the open space at the top of the hill which later served the purpose.
streets named after saints, in what are popularly known as the
“Battlefields,” were so called by a Roman Catholic landowner who
wished to do honour to the holy men of his church. “Belle Vue” and
“Prospect” Place are self-explained titles, the latter a misnomer,
however, since later building. Empress Avenue, already mentioned, was
once a delightful short country walk, with the rustic name, “
Gypsy” Lane : this leads to “ Barwis” Hill, commemorating the
name of a schoolmaster who taught at Penare” at the top of it.
are several street-names that remind one of old local families. “
Daniel” place is the most interesting of these, for the Daniels were
lords of the manor of Alverton in the c7th century. Alexander Daniel,
who built a house at Laregan and died there in 1668, is buried in
Madron churchyard, that of his parish church. His son, George,
founded and endowed the school at Madron known as the Daniel School. I
owe the following information to the kindness of Canon Jennings, Vicar
of Madron :—“ Daniel Place belongs to the Daniel Trust, and was
let out on building leases in 1846 ... In the will there is mentioned
a salt cellar there, and ground for drying fishing-nets. In those days
fishing was the great industry of Penzance.”
interesting street-name is that of “Morrab” Place, etc. I possess
a paper relating to the building of St. Mary’s Place in which its
houses are said to be situated in “Croft Morrap” and to be
connected by a lane with “Morrap Lane, otherwise known as Parade
Street.” This croft was bounded on one side by the garden wall of
Morrab House, then occupied by Mr. Pidwell. “The Folly” is
reminiscent of a pleasure-ground that existed there in the first half
of the 18th century. Its distance from the town, as in other cases of
the sort, was no doubt the occasion of the name of this and of the
“Folly Fields” leading to it.
of the problems of former days at Penzance was the connection of its
eastern and western ends by road. It is now easy to pass by Wharf Road
to Battery Road, but the land side of the harbour formerly consisted
of a stony beach. Alexander Daniel writes in 1664 of “commons or
commons of pasture on the waste lands called the Greens,” between
Laregan and the land “under St. Mary’s Chapel.’ This suggests a
track across a sandy waste of towans. It was only in 1845 that the
Promenade was built, and one still hears it called “ the Western
Green,” or simply “the Green.” From this it must have been
possible to turn up to Chapel Street and so into the. heart of
Penzance. Then a short cut was made into Chapel Street by “Vounder
Veor” Lane, “which was originally the only carriage road from
Penzance to Newlyn, etc.,” as my grandfather says in his book. In
this name “lane” is not needed, for vounder veor in Cornish
already means “great lane.” From this, crossing Chapel Street, we
get to “Abbey” Street, known in 1825 “New Street Slip,” but
re-named after a house, in which two ladies lived so secluded a life
as to gain it the nickname “The Abbey.” “New” Street, like so
many New Streets, looks old and shabby. It was certainly not new at
the end of the 17th century, for there is an item in the Borough
Accounts at that date :—“ for repairing the way between New Street
and the sea for cauncing, carrying stone, etc.. £5 19s. 6d” A court
in New Street goes by the name of “Cherry Garden,” suggestive of
other and happier days when, the street was really new.
old way from town to sea is “Jennings Street,” or, until recently,
“Lane.” I have it from the late Mr. J. B. Cornish that in 1677 it
was known as “Roche’s” Lane, and that in 1795 it was described
as “Jennings Lane, formerly Major’s Lane, and previously
Row” was a nickname of South Terrace, from the number of ship
captains who lived retired, or in the intervals between their voyages,
in its houses. “Sandy Bank” is a name that now seems almost
without point, but excavations near still show the sand that was once
in sight there. “Barbican” Lane and “Battery” Road suggest old
defences of Mount’s Bay against the possible landings of enemy
ships. The Barbican seems likely to have been an ancient
fortification, perhaps Elizabethan, and the battery a more recent one.
Battery Road, the most modern road in the town, carries on the name of
the now destroyed Battery Square. ‘Coinage Hall” Street refers of
course to the “coining” of tin by striking a coin or corner off
the block to be tested, which if it reached the required standard was
then stamped. The privilege of coining tin was a valued one, as
bringing trade to a town. We read in one of Daniel’s letters to his
son, 1664, “Penzance men are about to build a Coinage Hall upon
your wastrell of the street below their Market House, which doth
rightfully belong unto you as lord of the manor,” and urges him to
claim compensation. The charter by which the privilege was obtained
was already in .the town: it is dated 1663. An entry in the Borough
Accounts reads :—“ To Col. Godolphin’s clerk for bringing home
the Coinage Charter, £1 0s. 0d.” The hall was built in the position
referred to, and was in use until 1816, when a larger one—that which
names. Coinage Hall Street—was built near the Quay.
dealing with the street-names even of a comparatively small town it is
not possible to mention more than a selection of those to which most
interest seems to be attached, but Penzance serves well as an example
of how much meaning a few such names may have for local historians.
must add that for my facts I owe much to Mr. Millett’s lectures on
Penzance and to my grandfather’s Half a Century of Penzance; also to
his guide-book, where several of Alexander Daniel’s letters are
“Caunsehead” is probably a translation of the Cornish pen caunse,
“end or head of the paved way,” which still survives as
“Pednycaunse” at Mousehole. Here the cobble-stones of the town
gave way to the unpaved country road.
The names are evidently connected, tat-ow being Cornish for
“bull.” Zarow meor (not veor) would mean “big bull’ Possibly a
bull-ring is referred to: a miracle play was called gwary myr,
“play-spectacle” and tarowvyr may be “ bull-show” similarly
Morep or Moreb in Cornish means a rough pasture next to the sea shore.
This seems likely to be “Meadow Street,” Street-an Dodn in
Cornish, though it is not clear where the meadow could have been.
By P. Cowls
To many who have stood on the foreshore at Porthleven and watched the boats entering and leaving the harbour, or watched them sailing—apparently without any set plan—around the Bay, it may come as news that the laws of the sea are as fixed as the laws of the road, as are also the bounds as to where one may or may not go. It might appear to the uninitiated that with such a wide expanse to sail over one could not easily go wrong; ‘also that one would be as likely to catch fish in one part of the Bay as in any other. But such is not the case. It is vitally necessary for the fisherman—and particularly the type known as the “longshoreman,” the man who does not go out of sight of land to do his fishing—to know the rules of the sea, and to know what the bottom of the sea is like, in order to be able to decide what particular type of fish finds the particular type of ground to its liking, and consequently may be expected to frequent it. For fish are more susceptible to a set type of sea-bottom than are sheep or cattle to a set type of pasture.
The sea-bottom of Mount’s Bay is more rugged and undulating even than the land immediately on its shores; very deep are some of its areas, while in others so shallow is the water that at low tide even small boats have been known to strike the crest of those sunken hills. As a boy I have often heard the fishermen refer to the “Great Row” and “Little Row ” but had no idea at that time that the shallows referred to were the crests of submerged hills which were only a continuation of the ridges of which such headlands as Tremearne and Cudden are but the land termination. The longshoreman knows these ridges well ; he knows, too, the valleys on each side of them. In the month of February he takes out his long strings of crab and lobster pots and lays them along the ridges where he knows his intended victims will be found. At the first sign of the approach of a south-west gale, with its accompanying rough sea, he hurries out and deposits his pots in the valleys below the ridges, where the tremendous swell will not be able to wreak such destruction on his frail wattles.
At the present day the deep sea fisherman has a wealth information about the habits, breeding areas and periods, and migration of fish supplied to him by the Government Fishery Research Department but a hundred years ago, when few fishermen had had the privilege of schooling and those who could read were rare, all the information had to be gained in the hardest and most efficient of all schools— that of bitter experience. Consequently when the information was first gained it was jealously guarded. Let us imagine that Dick Body (nicknamed Barras) has discovered that a certain patch of black rock on the sea bottom is a prolific spot for conger (the sea bottom is easily to be noted on still days). After a few days of good fishing and consequently good landings, it has come to be noticed by his brothers of the line that he has fished with good results at the same spot for many days; others try the spot with success, and its position is marked in the following way.
the boat it is noticed that a line of houses in Mullion village are
exactly in line with the end of Mullion Island. In the other direction
it is noted that the tower of Cury Church is lying immediately to the
right of a patch of green on Gunwalloe Sand known as the “Castle.”
The longshoreman has thus marked it as “Barras’s Mark."
position has to be taught to the younger generation by the sea
patriarchs, and from them to be passed to their descendants. Each
branch of the longshore fishing industry has its own particular and
peculiar mark as do the trawlers, the crabber’s and day hookers.
Many of them are virtually copyright and are by no means revealed
lightly. Nor should they be; they have been come by far from easily
and ought to be jealously guarded as the rights of the inheritors. I
may say here in passing that when I approached one old fisherman to
obtain the names of some of the marks he said quite abruptly;
“Whaffar?” I am a landsman, and consequently not above
suspicion of poaching.
will notice in the list of marks I shall be quoting presently how
frequently the churches are used as marks. As my old friend said,
“You see, they are sure to be there always,
and don’t change.” Perched on the top of Wheal Mount is a long low
building, now a stable but once the farm house. It is a famous
“depth” mark with the fishermen. Some weeks ago one of them said
to me, “Tell the man at We’l Mount to gie th’ old house a coot
of whitewash; we shall be usen of un soon.” The Cornish
fishing-village abounds in “nick-names, not given out of any
disrespect for the bearer, but to enable even friends to disassociate
them from perhaps two or even three bearing the same Christian and
surname. This accounts for some of the curious names of the marks.
taking the fishing marks I would like to give a list of the cliff
names used by the fisherman, and given to me by an old “crabber.”
Beginning with Beacon Crag on the west side of Porthleven Harbour and
extending to St. Michael’s Mount, we have :— Bullan, Song, Sawn or
Sowan Shaggy (a long gully in’ the cliffs frequented by Shags or
Cormorants), Pertrammel, Perslinches, Mearne (Tremearne) Cove, White
Par (bands of white granite in the cliff), Blue Par, Madgy. Leggy, Git
Sawn, Jane Jump (steep cliff), The Cloodges, Baagel-coulen or cowlin,
Nine-wells, Perkew, The Winnocks, Streath Water, The Innes, The Mount.
I have left out well-known headlands, bays, etc. The White Par is also
known as “The Flakes o’ Mearne.”
addition to natural phenomena, there are also marked by the fishermen
the positions of Ships’ Anchors that have been lost in the Bay at
various times; unless the position of these is known to the trawlers
serious loss of’ gear is likely to ensue. One of these is found
“over the stile of Breage Tower, in line with the splat of sand on
the east of the Bar.”
we have: Jimmy
Read’s Anchor ---- Breage
Tower in line with Beacon Crag, trees in Gunwalloe over western
chimney of the shop.
Tower with Seymour’s House; short hedge with the pit (a pit in the
Tower with Seymour’s outhouse; western end of Harry Cuttance’s
house with eastern end of Gunwalloe Coastguard house.
House with Penberthy’s; Gate House in Degibna over the road of
Tower with Scott’s House; Umbrella Trees (behind Chyvarloe) just in
Tower clearing Gwinion Point; Breage Tower with Scott’s House; short
hedge with the pit.
Pembro anchor gets its name from Pembro Farm in Breage; “Antonio”
was the name of the ship which lost the anchor; the others bear the
names of those fortunate (?)
be the first to discover them (usually associated with the loss of a
now for some fishing marks:
with Castle--- (Cury Church in line with
green on Gunwalloe sand.
Point of Pradnack in line with the Git Ubble.)
The Ubble mounds on Cudden Point, (the hollows between being known as
Mark --- Houses in line with Town
scarfing the Castle.
Veal—Helston Tower in sight over
Western Bar, and Town with Castle. Cury with Mashie (the
Marshes) and. the Middle Stagg in sight.
Mark—Sinny Tower over Harry Boy’s
(house near the Institute), Cury Tower in sight.
Pollack Mark—Shop with shop, and shop
scarfing (Gwinion Head).
Cairn Allocle or Cairn Ulla— Trencrom
joining the east side of the Mount, Paul Tower in Mousehole,
Coastguard Row. The Gob Minner Head (west of Bishop Rock) just
in sight over Gwavas Head. Ship Inn, Porthleven with the end of pier.
Mark—Gonning Hill just over Minner
Head, Mount in line with Minner Ubble.
Shoal (Git Shool)—West of Minner,
Perran Church just showing out from Cudden.
Tumma Dugga, Tubble dugga, Tul-me-dug.—Mullion Tower
just in sight from Gwinion Head. Baulk in line with Pier.
Cubbards—Trequean Valley with House in
sight. Waväs flakes in sight.
Eephon or Eefon—A large sawn or song
near Poldhu Cove. Lifeboathouse scarfing the pier-head.
Pellar—(West of Degibna Loe) Breage
Tower with Gar Tul in line. Wheal Mount over Tregear.
Iron Gates—Two Lizard Lights in sight.
Godolphin Hill with Hoe Point.
In addition to these, there are The Calligan, The Mern, Jack and Benny, The Drusk (Sinny Tower with Beacon Crag, Cury in sight), The Bream Mark (Breage Tower with Flakes of Tremearne, Cury out of sight),- Cairn Mallas. (a very shallow area off Prussia Cove), The Stone (another shallow beyond Cairn Mallas), Mount Mowpas (shallow off Cudden point—only 6 feet of water over it), Great Row (a shallow beyond the Welloe, running in line Rinsey Head-WelloeGreat Row). On the eastern side of Porthleven are found The Clidja (Clyde.ja—The Morrops), Hog-a-dower (near Pradnack), The Booder (east side of Pengwinion), Trig-a-bellah (near Poldhu Cove), The Visses (in Mullion Bay), Growse and Growse Cliff (near Poldhu).
of these names, known only to fishermen, are
Celtic fragments that, however corrupted they may be, are worth
preserving. I am afraid the collection of them has been left somewhat
late, as an old fisherman friend aged 8o, who knew most of them, tells
me that he “caan’t maake it out, but he can’t run them off haaf
like he used to, and the young wans have gaw new names far thum.
Map showing thatched cottages remembered by Mr. Joseph Marrack Harvey in 1944/
Click on all pictures to see larger versions.
Last Thatched Cottage in Newlyn
William Henry Mann saw his house on fire at Newlyn in the early part
of 1938 it was a matter of supreme concern to him and to his
grand-daughter who lived with him. The fire was not without a
more general significance, for it robbed Newlyn of the last of its
thatched cottages which at one time were many. The cottage stood in
Church Lane, now known as Gwavas Lane, between Church Street and
Boase street almost opposite the present day Primitive Methodist Church.
vine and the geraniums flourished before its white washed walls adding
to its charm. Stanhope Forbes’s
picture “The Evening Hour”, painted some
years earlier, shows the road at this
spot looking downhill towards the top of Trewarveneth Street.
It preserves on canvas a record of four similar thatched
cottages which then stood
opposite but which were pulled down to make room for the building of
the 'Prims' in 1927 . "Willum 'Enry's" cottage is not
entirely omitted; it just appears on the extreme right as a
subordinate but very useful part of the composition the portion of its
thatched roof being particularly effective.
When William Henry Mann saw his house on fire at Newlyn in the early part of 1938 it was a matter of supreme concern to him and to his grand-daughter who lived with him. The fire was not without a more general significance, for it robbed Newlyn of the last of its thatched cottages which at one time were many. The cottage stood in Church Lane, now known as Gwavas Lane, between Church Street and Boase street almost opposite the present day Primitive Methodist Church.
vine and the geraniums flourished before its white washed walls adding
to its charm. Stanhope Forbes’s
picture “The Evening Hour”, painted some
years earlier, shows the road at this
spot looking downhill towards the top of Trewarveneth Street.
It preserves on canvas a record of four similar thatched
cottages which then stood
opposite but which were pulled down to make room for the building of
the 'Prims' in 1927 . "Willum 'Enry's" cottage is not
entirely omitted; it just appears on the extreme right as a
subordinate but very useful part of the composition the portion of its
thatched roof being particularly effective.
John J Beckerlegg had a conversation with his father-in-law, Joseph Marrack Harvey, in August 1944. Joseph M. Harvey was born in 1859 and was a native of Newlyn. It occurred to John Beckerlegg that he should try and find out how many other thatched cottages in Newlyn his father-in-law could remember. Joseph confined his recollections to the cottages in the area of Newlyn Town, as in his early days Street-an-Nowan was a separate community and had not made the same impression on his memory. John J. Beckerlegg acted simply as recorder. He thought there might have been a dozen or so but he was astonished to find that his father-in-law had personal recollections of no fewer than 64 thatched cottages in Newlyn Town alone. So in the lifetime of this 85 year old man 64 of the thatched cottages of Newlyn had gone forever.
The diagram above shows the position of each marked with a black rectangle. To show the main area on as big a scale as possible, the road from the foot of Bowgey Hill (A in diagram ) towards Mousehole has been omitted from its correct position. It has been included in the top left-hand corner to the same scale but defined by dotted lines with the thatched cottages marked by cross hatching.
By S.A. Opie
it would appear that a wagon, with wheels muffled to deaden the sound,
was used. An old lady who, about sixty years ago, used to visit a
friend near lllogan, was on several occasions nearly frightened to
death by the appearance of a ghostly chariot without wheels at a crossroads
between Illogan Church-town and Broad Lane, probably at what is now
Paynter’s Lane End. She discovered later that it was the
smugglers’ wagon, the wheels of which were muffled to reduce the
sound to a minimum; but the sudden appearance of a wagon which made no
sound, dashing at full speed through the lanes, was enough to give the
impression to a superstitious person of a chariot without wheels. It
is possible that the smugglers tried to increase the suggestion of the
supernatural, as I was told that the men in the “chariot” were
“dressed all funny.” A gentleman then resident in Four Lanes made
several trips across the Channel in the pursuit of this profitable
trade. Sometimes it was necessary to resort to such stratagems as
hiding liquor in coffins, or other unlikely hiding-places, to escape
the vigilance of the preventive men, but often underground
hiding-places were specially excavated. Some time ago such a
smuggler’s bolt was discovered by the subsidence of a garden wall in
Stithian’s Row, Four Lanes. Although reports were published in the
Press (e.g., The Cornubian) at
the time, I can gather no record of what was found; if any reader has
any information or newspaper-cuttings regarding this I should be glad
if he would communicate them.
Cam Brea village, near Redruth Churchtown, there is a row of
whitewashed cottages. Although most of these are fairly modern i.e.
1920’s, one of them (I believe the third in the row) is apparently
much older. When some alterations were being carried out, a large
space was discovered in one of its walls, the only apparent outlet
being a small window in the back of the house. It could not have been
part of the old open fireplace, as the open grate was in the wall
opposite: the thickness of the wall had often been commented upon
before. Local opinion conjectured that it was a forgotten smuggling
of the farms of Wendron and the district around possess caves cut in
the marl or pot-granite. These usually consist of a tunnel, extending
in one case for fifty feet, with branches on either side. These
branches are not usually more than ten or twelve feet in length, but
one that branched from the main tunnel at Mount Wise, near Carn
Menellis, took sixty cartloads of material to fill the gap it left
after it had collapsed beneath the weight of a steam’ tractor. There
are, or were, examples of these caves at Mount Wise, Filtrick,
Gregwartha, Hendra, North Penhalurick, and a farm near Penhalvean.
Although the prominent positions of some of these forbid the view that
they were excavated for smuggling, it is more than probable that they
were occasionally used as hiding-places by smugglers. It is likely
that they were first made, however, for a purpose similar to that
which they served until recently, that of storing roots, etc. They
were so used for potatoes, many sacks of which were heaped inside, the
entrance being then filled in with earth, thus protecting them from
frost in the severest winter. The entrances of some have an extremely
ancient look and there is a remote possibility that some such may be
of early date, as similar tunnels are sometimes connected with
undoubtedly ancient Logos or passage-chambers. My reason for
mentioning them at such length, is to record the purpose to which they
were recently put, before this, too, is forgotten and “lost in the
mists of antiquity.”
By D. de L. Nicholls
First published in Old Cornwall
The smuggling trade
through Norway House was run on a financially sound basis with two
families in Guernsey. The enterprise was clearly designed to take
advantage of the Early Charters held by Guernsey which exempted her
from paying revenue to British Customs. When George Ill found
himself short of revenue during the Napoleonic Wars, he renewed
efforts to impose Customs and Excise officers on Guernsey. Relying
on their Charters, Guernsey refused. In 1767 Customs and Excise
managed to attain a precarious foothold in Jersey and. Guernsey. But
they were later routed, in fact 1775 became known as the Golden age
The families who shared
the enterprise with Norway House, the Priaulx and the Tuppers
(related to Victor Hugo), lived overlooking St. Peter Port where
many of the vaults were under their command.
Now came the discovery of
the subtle improvement in flavour of wines and spirits matured in
the caves under the climate of Guernsey. This led to the opening of
a regular and facile route between that Channel Island and Cornwall.
The Priaulx traded
directly with Roscoff: the Norways then traded directly with
Guernsey. As a precedent, the trafficking between Lanlivery and
Guernsey, run on successful business lines, may reveal a glimpse “as
the gentlemen go by.”
A cargo of brandy cost
£1500 in Guernsey, and sold in England for £3000. A gallon cost 3/3
smuggled, but 5/4 over a counter.
When the ancestral home
in a parish provided the finance, captain and crew were never
lacking. On the word Captain would hire a boat £150, also £100 to
pay 4 crewmen £25 each. Then £1 per tub was banked to cover
Even before landing the
galley was recognised by knowing men and women on farms on the
cliffs, especially one farm overlooking Polmear. On nearing the
entrance to Fowey harbour, the cutter drew in towards the small bay.
Here two deep steps have been cut into the rock face providing a
smuggler, loaded with a tub means to make his way to the long tunnel
in the south cliff which led under fields to the farmhouse above.
The tunnel opened in the dairy. From the farm a field path led with
all appearance of innocence, down to the roadway, where stood
conveniently the-Ship Inn.
If the way were clear to
slip into the harbour, signals having been exchanged as to
“strangers” being about, rowers took their cargo up the river. The
goods weighed several tons. To compete with the shallow river, at
the first creek smugglers transferred their cargo to barges. Word
went swiftly round. Farmers were waiting at many creeks upstream.
After dark goods were unloaded at short quays. Nightfall was the
favoured time for landings. On drawing up to the quay the Captain
landed and took his stance. Beside him stood a man with a lantern,
his back to the wind. All was quiet and orderly. The men were bonded
by trust and there were no loafers nor drunkards among them. That
firmest of all bonds, a common enemy, held them. A joke which scored
off the Excise men was greeted with high glee. The farmer was heard
with relish whose wife’s quick wits won when she heard the Revenue
men approach: she pulled the pins from her hair, stood it on end,
rolled her eyes and gibbered. The Excise men took one look and fled,
leaving her seated on a tub of brandy!
Finally there are three
sequences that comply with this glimpse of the smuggling world. On
8th of May, 1863 Nicholas Kendall married Clair de Lancey Priaulx.
When the traffic began to grow, Roscoff with her vaults and cellars
was chosen as the port of trade.
If you leave the site use your back button to return
By J. Kelynack
West nestles at the foot of a hill on the N.W. shore of Mount’s Bay.
It was once a fishing village, but since the formation of the new
harbour it has become popular and important as a port, and is now
linked up with Penzance.
and Newlyn Town are now connected by a good broad road. At one end
stands a big Fish Market.
the river to almost the southern extremity of Newlyn there is a
commodious and safe harbour formed by two piers, North and South,
built about fifty years ago. The need for a harbour at Newlyn was felt
because Penzance Harbour was so dangerous to enter in southerly gales,
and there was not always sufficient water to take boats in, while
Newlyn could be reached in all weathers and at all states of the tide.
To-day the harbour affords shelter to fishing and trading craft from
various parts. Steam mackerel-drifters from the East Coast lie side by
side with Belgian boats, crabbers from Brittany and Brixham trawlers.
Steam-ships discharge cargoes of coal, and alongside the South Pier
are others being laden with stone (blue elvan) for road-making.
few local fishing-boats are observed. They have been ousted by bigger
and more up-to-date vessels, which can go faster and farther to
fishing grounds and also stay longer before bringing their catches to
market for sale. From 45 to 50 years ago a fleet of about 200
mackerel.drifters sailed from Newlyn to the fishing grounds, but these
boats have gradually dwindled down to about 20.
fishing was carried on from March to June, off the Scillies, Ireland
and France. Each lugger was manned by seven men and carried a train of
50 nets, each 5o fathoms long—12,500 ft., about 2 miles.
the early parts of the season, mackerel were caught near enough for
landings to be made every day or two; but later, when the fish were
farther off, nearer the Irish and French coasts, the takings were
borne to St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, there sold by salesmen from
Newlyn, and purchased by buyers also from the home port, the salesmen
and buyers spending the week from Monday to Friday at St. Mary’s. In
succession three ships, the Queen of the Bay, the Lady of the Isles,
and Lyonesse conveyed all the fish to Penzance for despatch to the
Metropolis by rail.
of the various luggers and their respective catches were sent by the
salesmen from Scilly and taken by the waiting messenger with all haste
“home” to the officer of the firm for which he worked. Here an
eager crowd of children, and often women, waited to know whether the
boat concerned was “listed,” some going away lightheartedly,
others despondently, at the result. On Saturdays the money realised
from the week’s toil was shared by the captain at his home, the
members of the crew being present.
seasons, even in those days, were not prosperous. Some dragged on and
on with very poor catches. When the lesson was read from Numbers XXII.
in Church, one would hear the remark, “Baalam and Balak was read in
the lesson to-day: no more fish now, the season is over This would
just mark the time when big catches of fish could no longer be
soon as the season ended the boats were “belayed,” and all nets
were washed, dried, repaired, and stowed away in the loft until
were preserved by “barking” or tanning with catechu in huge vats,
then they were spread in the fields, on the beaches, or on the grass
at the foot of St. Michael’s Mount to dry: children delighted in
sailing to the Mount or to the beach under the Promenade, Penzance,
with the nets. That is past history. Few in Newlyn to-day would have
participated in that pleasure.
all the big boats were fitted out for the Irish herring-season. Every
boat was scraped, caulked,- tarred and painted, nets were placed in
the “net room,” and provisions to last a few days taken on board.
Bags of hard ship’s-biscuit and fresh beef from Penzance formed the
bulk of the food store.
the fish travelled North, the boats followed them and fished from the
Manx ports. Peel, Douglas, Derby-haven and Castletown were favourite
the herring travelled farther North, and the luggers, arriving in the
Clyde, entered the locks through which they were towed to the East
coast. Eyemouth and Berwick were the first ports of call.
they came down to Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarboro’, the North Sea
herring ports. On making the homeward voyage, which took about one
week with fair wind, a few boats fished out of Lowestoft, also. More
recently Mount’s Bay boats have gone as far as Aberdeen for the
fleet generally arrived home for Paul Feast, in October. What
treasures were in the boat’s lockers and sea-chests for those at
home! They were gradually collected: liquorice and broad-figs from the
Isle of Man, glass and china, dolls for the girls, and toys—such
novelties and strange sweetmeats!
the summer, seining was carried on in Mount’s Bay in large
rowing-boats built for the purpose. Mackerel-seining was pursued in
June. A “school” of mackerel was a fine sight. On a smooth sea
there first appeared what one might take for a gentle breeze ruffling
the surface. This spread and deepened until the whole became a
splashing, tumbling mass.
luggers, “pilchard.drifters,” were prepared for catching this
specially Cornish fish, the pilchard season lasting from June to
were caught in Mount’s Bay, the pilchard drifters leaving the
harbour at 4 p.m. to arrive on the “ground” and “shoot” nets
boat had a crew of three men and carried 12 nets, each “250” long
(25 fathoms). When the nets were shot they extended for more than
half-a-mile, and to these the boats “rode” and drifted with the
current. No prettier picture was ever witnessed than that from Gwavas
Hill, on a summer night about 9-30 or io o’clock, when all the
lights of the little pilchard-drifters, dotted about under a
10.30 or 11 p.m., the nets were hauled in, and the boat made for port.
One often heard a quiet call from a watcher on the cliff, “What fish
have ‘ee got ?“ and the equally subdued reply in a deep voice, so
many “hogsheads,” “thousands,” or “hundreds,” and occasionally
“Not a life !“
times a boy or girl, or two, or a visitor, would be taken out
“pilchard-driving.” What an experience was theirs when a good
catch rewarded the fishermen’s efforts, to see the glistening fish
being drawn into the boat out of the deep, dark water! These pilchards
were all disposed of in the early mornings to jousters, or to local
September and October pilchard-seining took place. This was one of the
most exciting and interesting of all the seasons. The pilchards first
made their appearance off Newquay, then gradually travelled down all
round the coast to Mount’s Bay and on to Mevagissey. The seine-boats
for Mount’s Bay were kept at Gunwalloe, Mullion and Cadgwith, the
fishery having died out at Newlyn, Mousehole and the Mount, formerly
all dependent on it. When news came that the pilchards had passed
Newquay, the “huers” at Mullion were ever on the watch on the
soon as a school was sighted, the signal was given to the crew of the
“seine-boat,” a long open rowing-boat with a great hump of net in
the centre. Beside her were the “tuck-boat” and “cock-boat.”
hands were in readiness, and at the sign speedily pulled out from the
shelter of some rocky headland to the spot indicated. Bonfires were
lighted to signal to the Western Shore for boats to come for fish, and
as soon as the blaze was seen the cry went up, “Hevva! Fire in
a commotion in the sea met the eyes of the delighted seiners !—Here
were millions of pilchards dancing and leaping out of the blue water
and lashing it to fury. What a prize if the men are quick enough! They
encircle the “school” with the heavy seine and draw the ends
securely together; to keep the fish in the enclosure the boys in the
“cock-boats” frantically splash with their oars, and plunge big
round stones slung on ropes up and down in the water to the cry of
“Plouncy, boys! Plouncy !“
the encircling net is drawn closer and closer, and those in the
“tuck-boat” dip up basketful after basketful of silvery fish into
the waiting huggers, whose crews, on hearing the familiar cry of
“Hevva !“ carried from street to street, emptied their boats of
nets to fetch a load. They fill up till they are deep down to the
gunwale in the water, and so return home across the bay.
hands await the harvest of the sea, and the precious burden is
carried, by men, women and children up the slip-ways and stiff
streets, to the cellars in readiness to receive them. Horses and carts
toil up the inclines by the aid of torches as the night advances.
Women bend under the weight in their cowals. One might see three
persons carrying two baskets of fish between them, and children
following, picking up what fell out of the baskets.
let us look at the cellar, It is a big stone-paved court with lofts,
or the dwelling-house, over part; these being supported by tall
granite pillars. The covered portion is paved closely with very small
oval stones in cambered strips, divisions being made for drainage with
long narrow pieces of wood. The rest is open to the sky. About four or
five feet above the pavement, and at intervals along the walls, are
square apertures to accommodate the ends of long beams, or
the pilchards reached their destination the whole cellar was
illuminated by candles, and everyone was busy till far into the night.
As soon as day-light appeared, men and women were again in the cellars
to start the curing of the fish. “Bulking” was the first process.
This meant the forming of huge piles of pilchards on the small paving
stones, in alternate layers of fish and salt, the outer row showing
all the fishes’ heads. These “bulks” were allowed to remain 3
weeks before the fish were considered cured and fit to “break
out.” Now the salted pilchards, known as “fairmaids,” were
washed in a kieve, or huge wooden tray having a grating in the bottom
through which the fish scales could drop. From this the pilchards were
lifted on a big griddle into a wooden stand, having a barred bottom,
on high legs. This stand containing the fish was carried by two men to
the women already waiting to pack the “fairmaids,” into hogsheads,
numbers of which were standing in readiness against the walls, under
woman placed as many fish as she could on her open palm in the shape
of a fan and placed them in the hogshead, head to cask, until the
circle was complete. The centre. called the “rose,” was filled in
alternately head and tail, this being repeated until the cask was
full. A heavy wooden cover called a “buckler,” was next placed on
top, with blocks on its inner side for leverage. A long “pressingpole,”
inserted in the aperture above and projecting some distance beyond the
cask, was weighted at the end by means of a big, rounded
“pressing-stone” hung by its hook on a rope sling, and so the fish
were pressed for 2 or 3 hours. At the end of this time the cask needed
a refill. 24 hours later a further repacking was necessary, and at the
end of two days the final “back-laying” was done. - This time all
the backs of the fish were uppermost. Two thousand “fairmaids”
were now in each hogshead, and the whole had a last pressing before
the cooper came to “head in” the cask. Buyers’ agents next came
to examine the fish, which were weighed, and, if approved, passed and
stamped with the purchaser’s name, usually “Bolitho & Co.”
They were then despatched to their destination, Italy, in schooners,
and later, steamships.
hogshead of fairmaids fetched about £3. Everything from the pilchard
was valuable. Nothing was lost. The oil obtained through pressing, was
sold for refining and came back as—who knows? Drugs, the scum, were
sold for lubricating engine-wheels. The salt, used in preserving the
fish, was sought after by the farmers for manuring their land.
the settling up of the season’s accounts, the “seines’
account” took the form of a feast at one of the inns. Punch was the
drink, and the toast was, “Long life to the Pope, death to our best
friends, and may our streets run in blood !“ No wonder such a toast
was pledged when the pilchard industry was so remunerative.
Editors note:- J Kelynacks grandfather was a partner in a fishing boat with Henry Vingoe. In 1840 they were fishing the Irish sea and this report appears in the Collectanea Cornubiensia by George Clement Boase.
Pg. 1452: under "Recollections of the Irish Church". written by Richard Sinclair Brooks M.D., Pubpilshed by Macmillian & Co. 1877.
"Contains under date of 1840 Notices of John Kelynack, Henry Vingoe, Thomas James (who was afterwards drowned) Nicholas Wright, Hitchens, Boyns and of Simmons (who died of consumption). These men were in Ireland fishing and Brooke held a service on board their boat at Kingston Harbour."
is a happy hunting ground to the Antiquarian, and it seems quite
natural that a pastime handed down from the days of antiquity should
have been preserved there.
to the origin of this ancient game we can merely indulge in flights of
fancy. We might stretch the old legend and claim Corinaens as the
first Cornish champion three thousand years ago, and we might stretch
it a bit farther and claim that his bout with the giant Gog Magog on
Plymouth Hoe, was the first of those inter-county (Devon and Cornwall)
matches that retained their popularity even to the middle of the last
But to find authentic records we are obliged to leave the remote past, however wistful a look we throw in that direction, and to plunge into mediaeval times, when wrestling was a common sport throughout the length and breadth of Merrie England, special skill in the exercise being the hallmark of Cornishmen. In "The White Company" Sir A. Conan Doyle gives us a charming mediaeval scene at "The Pied Merlin" (a scene, by the way, that one would like to see on the stage), terminating in a wrestling match between Sankin Aylward and Hordle John. In view of the fact that the former threw
opponent by a variation of that quick " fore-heep," known as
the " flying mare." I have never quite forgiven the author
for not making Aylward a Cornishman. No man named Sankin Aylward ever
stepped in Cornwall—out of a book.
is well known that Cornishmen fought in the French wars of those days,
and it is pretty well established that the Cornish contingent
following King Henry V. to Agincourt, 1415, marched under a banner on
which was depicted a pair of wrestlers in a " hitch,"
silver tower Dorset's red banner bears.
Cornishmen two wrestlers had for theirs."
feels that the banner floating proudly over the Cornish quarters was a
direct yet friendly challenge to the rest of the British Army, and
when the moment came for the archers to discard their bows and draw
their swords with .i " God for Harry, England and St George !
" I have no doubt that our hardy ancestors were amongst the first
in the charge that overthrew the enemy.
than a hundred years later, we find Henry VIII. requesting
Godolphin to supply a number of Cornish it wrastlers " to
compete in a great sporting carnival at Calais. (The Field of the
Cloth of Gold, 1521) It is said that the Cornishmen justified their
choice by winning.
game "seems to have been generally similar to the Cornish game
still in use. In the common game, the hold was taken by the collar and
waistband, in the prize game the body was stripped to the waist, and
each (wrestler) had a girdle something like a shawl, over one shoulder
and under the other, for his opponent to take hold of."
writing in 1588, mentioned the girdle—" This (Cornish
wrestling) hath also his laws, of taking hold only above girdle,
wearing a girdle to take hold by. .
Tudor Times, wrestling, as a common pastime, died out, except in the
North West, (Westmorland and Cumberland) and South West (Devon and
Cornwall). In the North-west the shawl, or sash, or girdle has
entirely disappeared, but the "sash" hold still survives,
and, indeed is the one and only hold now permitted. That is to say
each wrestler must take his hold by putting his arms over one and
under the other shoulder of his opponent, locking his fingers at the
back before the umpires (or as we should say "sticklers ")
give the word to go. There are recognised hitches or tricks such as
" the outside hipe," "the inside hipe " " the
back heel" and so on, "hipe" like the Cornish "
heep' being a corruption of the word "hip." In the Southwest
the sash appears to have grown bigger and bigger until it became
" the jacket." When Polkinghorne returned after his
celebrated match with Cann in 1826, his Cornish admirers presented him
with a "championship sash" which is now the property of the
County Wrestling Association.
hundred years ago the jacket was almost tight fitting and small enough
to be called a "vest." To-day it is big, loose, coarse and
ugly. "Coat" is no name for it. We can scarcely call it an
implement-or an instrument, although it might easily prove an
instrument of torture to a man of to
delicate skin. The only name suitable to the stiff canvas abomination
seems to be "jacket." In the Westmorland‑ Cumberland
game, the competitors appear in the ring as athletes should appear,
clad to show the symmetry of their form.
The body of a Greek god would be " uglified " by the
jacket. It is only when that grotesque garment has been gathered,"
or better still when it is laid aside at the end of a bout that we
realise the physical beauty of the wrestlers. Although Cornish
wrestling, like " Punch," is not so good as it used to be,
and we might use the witty rejoinder of a late editor of that national
journal and say that it never was, nevertheless the palmy days of the
game appear to belong to the periods of its unrecorded history. Carew
tells us that " you shall hardly find an assembly of
boys in Devon or Cornwall where the most untowardly amongst them will
not as readilly give you a muster of their exercise, as you are prone
to require it. . .
common amongst our grandfathers in the game of"shuffle
hats and wrastle "—hats being tossed into a ring and paired to
decide the order in which their owners should wrestle off—and is yet
struggling to survive in one or two remote districts. (Carew)
intimates that the pastime had, even in his time, already declined in
its former pre‑ eminence.
(16o8-1661) says, " The Cornish are masters of the Art of
Wrestling, so that if the Olympic games were now in fashion, they
would come away with victory... Wrestling was not then a gentle
exercise; perhaps it is scarcely a gentle exercise as we know it
to-day. Gilbert's " History
of Cornwall" speaks of former "desperate wrestling
matches" and we learn from Shakespeare's " As You like
it," how a champion might deal with his opponents….. .”the
eldest of the three wrestled with Charles, the Duke's wrestler ; which
Charles in a moment threw him, and broke three of his ribs, that there
is little hope of life in him; so he served the second and the
which feat, we are
to note, the celebrated Charles was faced by the handsome,
curly-headed young hero. and naturally (and quite properly, too), was
himself carried off on the ambulance.
prototype of Charles, although we may trust he was not so brutal, was
the Cornishman Lyttleton Weyworth who had the honour of wrestling
before Charles 1I.
in the pastime was not confined to any particular class. The
"hero" quoted above was a young nobleman. John Goit, a
champion during Elizabeth's reign, was a sea captain " upon often
trial." and a friend of Carew. The Reverend Richard Stevens (born
1656) "who prized himself for skill in wrestling " was
headmaster of the Truro Grammar School, and William Parson (born 1722),
"several years champion of Cornwall," was the
respectable parish clerk of Sithney.
seems impossible to find descriptions of wrestling matches before the
days of newspapers, but accounts of tournaments during the first half
of the last century are fairly common.
meet]ng at any of the larger centres, such as Truro, Falmouth,
Redruth, etc., drew together thousands of spectators and usually
lasted at least two days, sometimes three—the first day wholly
occupied in wrestling off for "standers " or, as generally
pronounced to-day, "standards," a standard being a player
who reached the third round by vanquishing two opponents. The
following day was devoted to wrestling for prizes. The practice of
awarding cash is a comparatively recent innovation—say a hundred
years old. Prizes consisted of gold-laced hats, silver-laced hats,
silver goblets, gold and silver lined baskets, beaver hats, pairs of
gloves, and even pairs of leather breeches. There are still to be seen
silver goblets won by the great Parkyn of St. Columb, but one
concludes that the hats and breeches have long since become too worn
and shabby for exhibition.
held the ring for upwards of twenty-five years until he gave place to
Polkinghorne (born at St. Keverne 1788), who was successively landlord
of the King's Arms and Red Lion Inns at St. Columb. Polkinghorne
sprang into fame by vanquishing the Devon Champions Flower and Jackson
at the inter-county meeting of 1816, and was the greatest figure in
Cornish Wrestling until 1826, when he met Abraham Cann in the historic
match at Morice Town, Devonport. Many inaccuracies have crept into
recent descriptions of these men and their match. Anyway it was a
draw, and it appears to mark the close of a period abounding in
talent, brawn and muscle on both sides of the Tamar, and also the
magnitude of the stakes appears to have exercised a baneful influence
on the pastime just as fabulous purses to.dav exercise a
baneful influence on the sport of boxing. From this date Cornish
Wrestling began to languish, and later (after Gundry's day) fell into
a serious decline. Ill-health compelled Cann to retire from the arena
while Polkinghorne's fame and figure forced on him the role of
stickler. It is interesting to recall that those desperate rivals put
their heads together as sticklers twenty years afterwards, when Gundry
won the Devon and Cornwall Championships at Camden Town, London, in
any doubt, Gundry, whose memory has not yet wholly vanished, takes
rank amongst the very greatest exponents of the art. There is little
to be said of the period from 1850 to 1900, although a few players of
outstanding merit are still remembered (notably Treglown in the West,
who followed hard on Gundrv, twenty years later Philip Hancock of St.
Austell, who is yet living, hale and hearty, at Mullion, and about
1890 the brawny Pearce of Wendron), but inter-County matches died out,
and the game had not only fallen into decline—it had fallen into
present revival—so well fostered and encouraged by the County
Association—really dates from twenty years ago, when the
Chapmans of St. Wenn took the ring. Those brothers, each of them dead
game to the last ounce, infused new life into the pastime, and,
perhaps unconsciously, helped to prepare the ground for the new growth
now springing up under the auspices of the Association.
following describes a meeting that took place just before the Great
War. Readers who followed the sport in those days will recognise some
of the characters portrayed.
sky overhead, green sward under foot, a light breeze from the sea, a
ring 40 yards in diameter—rimmed with spectators ten deep—quick
play of hand and foot, and the rigour of the game, the game that has
been played in Cornwall from time immemorial!
" wrastlers " shyly and awkwardly come up to the committee
tent and give in their names. They are then matched according to their
weight and record. They wrestle off in rounds on the knock-out system
and, when the entries are many, two pairs often simultaneously take
the arena. Each competitor must strip to the buff and don the regulation
loose canvas " jacket." His other raiment consists only of
tight-fitting drawers and (sometimes) stockings. He must not grip his
opponent below the waist, but he rarely tries for a body hold. He
plays to get his favourite "hitch" on the jacket, and the
hitch is often suggestive of" ju-jitsu."
a man is thrown on his back so that at least three of the four points
touch the ground at the same time (two shoulders and a pin, or two
pins and a shoulder) his opponent has gained a " back " and
becomes a "standard" (i'e. he is standing) for the
is no struggle for mastery on the mat. He may play for the "cramp
arm and heel " hitch, the " fore hip," the " under
heave," the "back step " or any other, or he may give
his man the "flying mare,' but always three "sticklers"
(umpires with sticks—old men wise in the craft aforetime) slowly
revolve round each player to see that the wrestling is bona fide and
the hitch a fair one. At each fall the stickers solemnly put their
heads together, a nod of profound gravity signifying a " back
" and a shake of more profound gravity, " no back."
of the ancient sport assemble from all parts of the county to contend
for money prizes varying from ten pounds (often with a cup or belt) to
pair of youngsters with round faces, sturdy bodies and legs, and
beautiful brown arms, are from the clay works—where the most
beautiful brown arms in Britain are to be found. They struggle
together like young bulls, but neither will stand long when he meets a
slippery lightweight from -St. Stephens or Nanpean (also in the clay
district) in the second round.
lanky lad wrestling in trousers is a farm hand from Tregadillet and he
is matched against a dangerous-looking fisherman fronm Mevagissey.
("Mevagissey' sibilantly swelling sounds like a roller hissing up
the sand.") They will put up a great bout and whichever wins is
pretty safe for a prize.
game little fellow entered under a nom de guerre and matched
against a travelling scissors-grinder is a yeoman farmer. Against
every opponent he will wrestle fiercely—neither asking nor giving
quarter—and at the end of the day he will drive off in his own car.
slowly into the " jacket " is an oldish man long past his
prime. He is foolish and unfortunate—foolish, because he thinks to
reproduce the form of his youth, and unfortunate because he is matched
against an active and saucy boy. When at last he came down heavily on
his stiff old back every bone in his body cracks.
is the best light-weight, growing a little bald, always
smiling pleasantly and handling his men gently and with the touch of
an artist. His plan of campaign is to work his way into the last round
and then give his back to the champion heavy-weight (against whom he
would be hopelessly outmatched) thus qualifying for second prize.
romantic figure of the champion with his pale and eager face, is as
striking as a Greek statue. He scarcely looks a "heavy," but
the rippling muscles of his back and chest tell of enormous strength.
He will throw every man he meets this year, and next year, and—until
the time comes when "youth will be served, my masters."
There is many a trophy in his mother's parlour which his skill and
courage have gained for him in the mining camps of America and South
Africa. Neither he nor his scarcely less famous brothers have ever
been known to give their "backs" in the wrestling ring. He
is sure of a place on the roll of fame in company with other great
are not wanting. An old man is tripped up by a promising youngster.
Brute strength and weight are tossed heels over head by craft and
cunning, The over-fat player worried by a sinewy stripling is, in the
words of a spectator, " steaming like a crock." A novice of
tender years—trying on the "jacket" for the first time—
is gently laid to rest on mother earth by our friendly light-weight.
a popular sport, wrestling is unique. We all know the clean game of
cricket, with all its keeness, with its white-flannelled, sun-browned
players, and well-dressed spectators, and we know football and the
cigarette-smoking mob who invade the ground (mostly looking unable to
afford the entrance price) often to jeer at the opposing team, and
always to howl at the referee.
The wrestling crowd is very different. They are comfortable. Thev don't hurry to the ground. They take it easy, and they smoke pipes. They are not excitable and they never howl at the sticklers. (" What, never ? Well, hardly ever.") The most offensive remarks hurled at these impressive veterans rapt in the play, is when one of them —himself a -' bony wrestler" in his day, but now running to weight and breadth of beam—allows his burly figure to block the view of half the field. Then we hear a chorus "Move round there, Sticklers ! " And the wrestlers themselves— modest fellows some of them, chewing straws and sitting round in groups before they enter the ring—game to the last ounce, are the best tempered sportsmen in the world. You may see an experienced heavyweight lay a novice on his back with rough kindness—as you would chuck over a Newfoundland puppy--and when the heavy-weight's heels are knocked out—knocking him out of the prize list too—there is no malice in his grin as he shakes the hand of his vanquisher.
The second and later rounds sort out the prize winners and at the finish, shyly and awkwardly as at first, the wrestlers come forward for their money, and if you happen to meet one of them afterwards in the street or on the railway station, where he is not at all an imposing figure, you will be wise to remember the advice of Polonius and "beware of entrance to a quarrel." With a grip on the collar and cuff of your coat he can give you a turn which will land you, half a dozen yards away, on your head.
Dick," a Famous Cornishman
This was Riehard Bullock, known the world over as ''Deadwood Dick'.
Brought up in a humble home at Ruthros, a village of some 20 houses only, he
moved at an early stage with his Parents to Retew not far away, in the
The family were all ardent Free Methodists and worshipped at the Queens United Methodist Free Church, now known as Immanuel Church, which is in the St. Columb and. Padstow Circuit. Richard Bullock was for years a valued member of the choir there. It is remembered that at one early morning Christmas-Day Service he had to take a prominent part in singing "Unto us a Child is born", which caused some amusement since his own only child, Maurice, had been born not many days before.
Pigeon-Shooting had a fascination for Dick Bullock, as he was then always called, and he invariably took first prize. I am indebted to my friend Mr. A. J. Hocking of Fraddon for the following : -
"Dick Bullock as a young man was my father's great friend and shooting partner, and whenever I think of him, I call to mind stories I have often heard regarding their shooting. When Dick was 18 years of age and my father, Ned Hocking, was 16, they decided to compete in their first pigeon-shooting match, to be held at St. Stephen in- Brannel Feast Week On their way to St.. Stephen Churchtown, going through Meledor, Dick announced to a roadman working there that they were going to bring back first and second prizes, a feat which they actually acomplished! Many times, too, I have heard the tale of Dick Bullock marking-in four partridges, in what was later known as Daniel Crowle's Moor. When his dog flushed the birds, two taking to the right and two to the left, with his double-barrelled gun he shot the four of them, two with each shot. - partly luck, of course.
Dick went to America soon after his son Maurice was
born, and when later he received a letter from his friend Ned Hocking
informing him that Mrs. Hocking had given birth to a daughter, Dick sent his
congratulations and jocularly added, 'I suppose you will soon be
putting your girl and my son to spark (go courting) now?'"
Secured long after by Col. W.F.Cody for his "Buffalo Bill's Wild
West Show," The "Deadwood Coach" itself largely partook in Dick's fame
and thrilled thousands in the realistic encounters with redskins in war-paint and
feathers and road-agents armed to the teeth as staged in a great
travelling hippodrome. Mr. Escott in a letter to Old Cornwall suggests that the
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