In the far, far west of Cornwall. In the fishing area of Newlyn and Lamorna, is the tiny fishing village of Mousehole – pronounced Mowzel. Those beautiful and barely changed villages are now delightful places to holiday, whereas, once the only living to be made was from fishing. The Cornish are a brave lot. The soil is so thin, it’s barely worth farming and yet Cornish farmers get the first vegetables of the season into the shops to beat the English at their game. For hundreds of years, the Cornish miners blasted through solid rock to mine copper and tin. To this day, fishermen will risk an ‘easterly’ in ‘ellish conditions to make a living.
In times past, in fact so long ago that the date is forgotten, Mousehole was battered by storms for days and days and the fisherman couldn’t get out. The tiny gardens gave all they could and people were living off salted pilchards. The village was facing starvation. An older man, a widower, called Tom Bawcock risked his life and almost a certain death, on a dash to sea, that others would think nothing more than a suicide mission.
Reputedly, he came back with nine different types of fish. To this day, in Mousehole, he is remembered and celebrated. People eat ‘star gazey pie’, which is a mixture of any landed fish, mixed with a cheese sauce, mashed potatoes and boiled eggs. I love Pilchards, but eat them in the summer and autumn when they are at their best…………..they’re almost too difficult to get hold of as most of them are sold to the French and Spaniards.
Every year, Mousehole lights up the harbour side and has done since the 1960s. The brave tale is best told by Antonia Barber in her beautiful children’s book ‘The Mousehole cat’. Children on holiday will often look for the Mousehole cat. I can still remember reading this to both of my children when they were tiny and them being enchanted by the story and the magical illustrations in the book. Enjoy the links below to the ‘telling’ of the tale. Happy Tom Bawcock’s eve!