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October many boats went to Kinsale, Ireland, to fish for winter mackerel. These,
like the herring, were of very fine quality, and, as is said of the apples,
‘The farther west the better’ so it might be said of the fish. This is true
of all our West Country produce. Herrings from the North Sea are never cured to
be brought home by Mount’s Bay fishermen, but those caught off the coast of
Ireland were cured and barrels-full were disposed of when they came home.
To-day you will find a St. Ives kipper far superior to East Coast fish;
therefore support home industry, and not only ‘buy British” but “buy
Cornish” if you want the best.
The winter herring fishery was pursued at Plymouth.
the summer season St. Just men often came to Newlyn to go to sea, and would
bring strings of miner’s candles, which they exchanged for old boots to wear
underground On the other hand, when fishing was bad in the winter, many Newlyn
fishermen walked to St. Just to work on grass at the mines.
living was very precarious dangers had to be faced, and sometimes heavy losses
sustained. The fishermen were not afraid to venture into far-off waters, as is
seen by the fishing lugger "Mystery" which, about 80 years ago, sailed
on the long hazardous voyage to Australia. They took about 6 months to reach
their destination and some of the crew settled there. The boat herself was on
exhibition in Australia. Her “log is still in Newlyn.
goods from France got the men into many a tight corner, but they were very
daring, and as shrewd at hiding the contraband goods as they were in landing
In these dealings we hear of the “headless horses,” and “heavy coaches”
traversing the roads and lanes. The timid dared not venture out on a dark night,
and they were not wanted to witness, and perhaps notify the customs of, this
In an old vault under my grand-parents’ house several rare shaped bottles and
jars which once held brandy, etc., were found. From that vault a stairway led to
the upper rooms of the house. The wall in which the stairway was constructed was
six feet thick. The exit was in a cupboard in one of the bedrooms. The door of
the cupboard was very pretty (glass framed in a pleasing pattern) no one would
suspect a hidden stairway there. Inside the old pier was formerly the only
shelter in bad weather for the fishing boats; but two of the old-time men-o-war
have been accommodated there, one named the 'Boris' and the other the 'Hecate'. The
officers from these ships frequently visited a house on the cliff, and three of
the seven daughters of its owner were married to three of the ships’ officers.
sales of fish took place 'under porth.' Now that is done at the Fish Market,
constructed since the completion of the harbour.
Everyone in Newlyn worked hard to help raise money to build the South Pier which
stands on the GarrickSemmens (a reef of rocks).
When digging for the foundation for the North Pier huge trunks and roots of oak
trees were found, showing that a forest once existed in Mounts Bay.
one occasion big chains were slung across the mouth of the harbour to prevent
the ingress and exit of East Coast craft which fished Sunday and Monday alike.
Mounts bay fishermen venerated the Sabbath, and, after coming ashore on Saturdays
did not put to sea again till Mondays.
Lowestoft boats brought their catches for sale on Mondays and Tuesdays, glutted
their markets, and left no chance for local craft.
arose: Scotch and Manx fishing-boats came to uphold the Cornish fishermen,
but when tempers rose and asserted themselves, the ‘‘military” were sent
to keep the peace.
Some local men were arrested and taken into custody, but through the
intervention of sympathetic and influential friends, amongst whom was
Canon Carah, they were liberated.
Canon Carah was, and is still very highly esteemed by the inhabitants of Newlyn,
where he spent a number of years as curate of St. Peters Church.
grand old rocks which protected the foot of the cliff have disappeared, and the
fun shore, which was once owned by private individuals to the extent of low water
at spring tides, has now been taken over by the Duchy.
The rocks were used for fishing from with hook and line, at high water, and for
drying salted hake and lug.
Each evening the fish were gathered into piles and covered with tarpaulin till
next day. They were also turned
every day until they were dry, when they were removed to the cellars.
The pools in the rocks were the happy hunting grounds of the children. In them
they found tiny fish and crabs, “God’s crabs” to Newlyn children:
“cankers” to Mousehole children.
One or two rocks provided slides for the little boys and girls.
the tide was so high that the sea covered the shallow stone bridge which gave
access to Newlyn Town, pedestrians had to make a detour by way of “Jack
Lane,” the lower part of the hill leading to Paul.
In years gone by this was a very winding, dark, eerie lane, overhung by tall
Up this the “heavy coach” has been drawn bearing the smugglers’ spoil.
Newlyn Town, like all other Cornish towns and villages, had its “uplong” and
“downlong,” “inlong” and “outlong.” “Inlong” was at the North
end, called the “Nor’ard,” and it is in a pretty courtlet at the “Norard
Corner” that Mr. and Mrs. Dodd Procter have made a home.
“Outlong” was known as “The Green,” the South extremity of Newlyn Town.
place of interest was the 'Vaccination Station' where public vaccination took
Another was the old “Navy Inn’ at the head of a big open square.’ It had
one room supported by granite pillars and was known as the “Balcony.”
Behind this was a factory for spinning twine for making nets. (Mr. Frank
Rising above this was the “Bowgy,” the “common land’ such as was
once possessed by all parishes.
Bowgy was a pretty, grassy hill where nets were spread to dry, children played
and rolled from top to bottom, and women sat and knitted. A stream of water
flowed along the top.
Stepping across this one found oneself in a pathway field which led to Gwavas
Farm and on to Gwavas Lane, the road to the Parish Church. Continuing along the
cliff road from the foot of the Bowgy the stone quarry is passed. .Just in
front, on the seaside, may be observed remains of stone masonry. Here cannon
once stood for the defence of the bay, and a furnace for heating cannon-balls.
The artillery volunteers from Penzance visited this battery regularly for target
beauty of the cliff walk has been spoiled by the
stone quarry which has taken away the whole of the hill. At the foot of the hill
was a rope-walk, a pathway by the “Craft” led to some fields through which
one reached the “Weath” and then Trungle, Paul.
smallpox visited Mousehole no one was allowed to go there from other villages,
neither was anyone allowed to leave Mousehole. To prevent this a long spar was
placed across the cliff road to bar the way.
St. Peter’s parish was formed out of Paul, the old Church at Paul was the only
one. This was destroyed by the Spaniards, who in 1595 landed at Point Spaniard,
Mousehole, and burnt the village except one house “The Old Standard,” just
below the Keigwin Arms, and the Church at Paul, only a blackened arch being left
to tell the tale. The Church was soon rebuilt, as the old registers certify. The
first entries were made in 1599. There was the minstrels’ gallery and a fine
lane to the Church rose steeply from Newlyn Cliff to “The Cross,” from where
one obtained a delightful view of the bay and encircling hills. “The Cross’
was a grassy bank surmounted by two big rocks overhung by a hawthorn tree. At
the foot of these rocks, long ago, the fishermen placed a portion of their fish
to propitiate the Bucca, the sea-god.
skeptical of the efficacy of their offerings, the more venturesome watched one
night and found that ‘twas no spiritual being that carried off their fish, but
human hands. From that time no more fish were offered to the Bucca.
up the lane in the eastern hedge was a granite stoup where all the girls
“christened” their dolls. Each girl carried a bottle of water, which she
poured into the stoup, and after naming the doll dropped a pin into the
‘pin-mill” and wished.
Easter Mondays people assembled on the “Green” at Church Town to witness and
participate in Games and Wrestling (Still called “Going to Games”).
National School occupied part of one side of the Green. Here boys and girls from
Newlyn, Mousehole and the country round, received their schooling. The Parish
Clerk was also School-master. One named Pentreath was father of Richard. Pentreath,
the artist whose tablet stands in Paul Church. James Richards was the next grand
old master. In addition to the usual subjects, he taught navigation to young
men, many of whom became sea captains, or entered the Civil Service (100 years
ago). This man was fearless One day he went up the Church tower and climbing one
of its pinnacles stood on top of it.
were “Dame” schools in Newlyn and some good schools at Penzance where a few
girls from Newlyn went for their education One for boys in Newlyn was ruled over
by a severe disciplinarian With his penknife he once pinned an offender by the
lobe of his ear to a desk.
services were held in a room on St. Peter’s Hill. The gallery was panelled,
and in each panel was a picture painted by Mr.William Curnow, a self-taught local
artist, uncle of Mrs. Harold Harvey. Penny Readings also took place in this room
and they were well attended.
Church services were held, later, in a Mission Room at the foot of the Bowgy,
but a pretty stone building, St. Andrew’s, has supplanted that. There are two
other places of worship, one a Primitive [Ebenezer] and the other a Wesleyan Chapel. A new
Centenary Chapel substitutes the Primitive Chapel.
very old hostelry stood on the top of Newlyn slip. At the corner was a
‘‘hipping stock,’’ and at the back, in a square courtlet, stood a big
stone trough out of which the horses drank. Stables occupied one side of the
square and in one corner was an inner courtlet occupied by a cooperage and
dwelling house of the cooper. It was to this house that many women brought their
knitting of an afternoon and listened to the lads’ of the house reading aloud
the latest books, e.g., ‘‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” ‘‘Hiawatha,” etc.
the Fishermen's wives would come from their houses to the foot of the street,
with their knitting, to hear the news, or watch the boats go to sea. When not at
sea, and if there was time to spare, the fishermen might be seen arrayed along
the cliff leaning on the rail, or walking up and down within a certain length,
as if on shipboard, discussing the fishing or politics. They loved an argument.
Midsummer Eve the whole place was alive and illumined by torches and bonfires.
Little girls wore head-dresses and garlands of flowers. At night lusty youths
and hefty girls swung torches, prepared quite a month previous, as they ran
along the cliff. Candles were stuck on the rails and lit, and as the night
deepened tar-barrels and bonfires blazed. This was also done on the opposite
shores at Marazion, St Michael’s Mount, Porthleven and Mullion.
On May Day and Easter Monday junketing was indulged in at adjacent farms in
Paul, Treveneth, and Tredavoe.
Mr. Stanhope Forbes lives, at Fawgan, is a huge
bank known as “Gillies Bank.” This is a part of a carriage drive, commenced
by Sir Rose Price, his intention being to construct it right through his
property to Trengwainton where he resided. The high mound may be seen from
huge rock, known as the “Devil’s Rock,” at Tolcarne, overlooks St.
Peter’s Church. It derives its name from the peculiar net-like surface called
the “Devil’s Net.” There are also a “Devil’s Foot” and “Devil’s
was not very far from here that John Wesley met with hostility when he first
came to Newlyn. His cause was championed and he was protected by a strong
man who carried water was called Henry Dour— “Henry of the water.”
Newlyn folk are clannish. Community life is strong. Neighbours help each other.
No one is allowed to want sympathy or assistance. Funerals are, or were, well
attended: hymns were sung to old tunes at the deceased’s door, on their way to
Paul Church, and at the Church. One sympathetic soul once remarked, “Iss, I
must go to their berr’in. Ef I don’t go to their’s, they waan’t come to
[This article first appeared in the 1935 Autumn edition of "Old
Cornwall Magazine". It follows on from the
previous article, which I have reproduced under the heading of Newlyn Fishing].
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