Federation of Old Cornwall Societies

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St Ives Old Cornwall Society



President: Margaret M Stevens


Vice-President: Frank Stevens


Chairman: Brian Stevens  


Secretary: Valerie Thomas   01736 794845


Treasurer: Raymond Perkins


Recorder: Frank Stevens



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Our annual subscription is £8.50, and we charge £2 for visitors.


We meet at 7 p.m. in the St Ives Infant

School on the third Monday of every month except February and  April.





Founded: 1920


Colours: Purple

St Ives new From Frank Stevens St Ives OCS St Ives OCS Visit St Agnes - please click here

After having to cancel the September meeting because of bad weather, the October meeting had an excellent attendance. President Margaret gave notice of forthcoming events, including the Federation’s Winter Festival at Bodmin on November 24th. She also spoke of the society’s successful Bonfire night and Crying the Neck ceremonies which proved very popular, before introducing presenter Cornish bard John McWilliams [ Jowan]whose topic was the Cornish Mackerel Season.


All of John’s narrative was accompanied by slides, many of them historic.  The first image was of cans of mackerel, on each was written ’sustainably caught’. It is alleged that mackerel fishing in St.Ives was first introduced by the Bretons in the 17th century, but it was probably small scale fishing.  They stored their fishing gear in an old abandoned cow-house on the Island, [ shown on screen]. In writings at the time there is mention of pilchards and herrings, but no mackerel, while local Tithe holders gave 1/10th of their earnings to the Church. Spring later became the main mackerel season, but nowadays the fish also appear in the autumn. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, mackerel could not be salted, so had to be eaten fresh. By then 2 sails had given way to 3, so enabling mackerel fishing in Ireland. Luggers using 2 sails contained cabins besides net and fish rooms. At one time, William Paynter built his boats on the harbour foreshore, before removing to Ireland; one of his vessels is preserved near Belfast. Before the advent of the railway, mackerel were taken to London markets by a Hayle to Bristol steamer; fish were handled by putting them into tubs on the quay, washed and freshened before being packed in pads of straw or paper in a basket with a lid and handles, before being sold on


The building of the Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash in 1859 meant that large amounts of fish could be transported more quickly. In 1860, fishermen from Lowestoft and Yarmouth arrived, but their working on Sundays was contrary to St.Ives’ and Newlyn’s religious principles, and landings at these ports was refused on Mondays with some exceptions at Newlyn. The market became gutted for the rest of the week by this practice, bringing hardship to the non-fishers. In 1896 ‘Yorkies’ flooded the markets, leading to riots in Newlyn when locals threw mackerel off their vessels.  Arriving by train, 350 soldiers of the Berkshire Regiment were sent to restore order, as well as 3 warships anchored in the bay.


St.Ives was a tidal harbour, helped by the Victorian extension to Smeaton’s Pier but Newlyn’s was not secure until the building of the North and South piers in 1888/9, and then able to accommodate vessels from all over Britain ,but leading to concerns that strangers were dominating the market and affecting the Cornish economy. With many unable to earn a living, or to pay their rates, this led to the beginning of emigration to America.


During World War One, owners were granted loans to install engines in their vessels, but those that did fish successfully during the conflict, which was important for the food supply, were always at risk from enemy Uboats. Bretons continued to arrive after the war, fishing until the Second World War, when their larger vessels enabled them to earn a good living. In the 1920’s mackerel were caught by using floating nets, with footline coilers used to pull over the nets. In recent years, small St.Ives boats caught mackerel with ‘spinners’, liners baited with feathers for hand lining, a practice that has also become popular with holiday makers. Brain showed  a bag of these feathers, now held at the museum, remarking that  what began as ‘ sustainable fishing’ went on to become still sustainable today.            


John drew the raffle after answering several questions, then refreshments were served. The next meeting will be on Monday November 19th, when John Strike’s topic will be’ Cornish Wrecks’. All are welcome.  



Harvest Remembered.  By Sylvia Rule.          Member of St Ives Old Cornwall who grew up in St Erth.


'Twas five oclock, I heard her move, an early riser Ma,

She went to wake my brother up, and then she got up Da.

Twas a ansum morning, arvest day, the sun was shining bright,

Faather got out all bleary eyed, en es long johns a orrible sight.

Ee  put on  his clawthes an es ob nail boots- the cows e ad to milk,

Poor Da, e was feelen pretty wisht- on wan eye e ad a wilk.

A  quick cup of tay, and then e was off = I erd un start to hum,

He ad to be ready, git the corn en fore the threshing machine ded come

Mawther guv me a chore to do- to cup up the mate nice an small,

On arvest daay, sides everything else, she made up pasties fer all.

The taaties was cut up very thin, and also the rooty too,

The onion I ded, sniffen and scraichen, the pastry Mawther would do.

The slab was lit and stoked up high, out come the shivers wide,

An on each shiver, the pasties was laid out neatly, side by side.

The pasties was then put en to cook -they'd taake about an ‘our,

The next job then ad to be done - the bucket we ad to scour.

That bucket was used to fill with tay for all the workmen theer.

Weth their pasties they liked ot sugar tay- better by far than beer.

The flasket was next- twas lined weth a cloth, and felled weth things to taake,

Like saffern cake, splets and crame, and specially evva cake.

Another flasket ad to be used to carry all the clome,

An the third wan for all the pasties to be carried out from ome.

Faather e brought the milk back ome fer mawther to make into crame,

She poured en into a namel bowl that was waiten, all ready and clane.

She put thes to stand en the parlour wheer twas nice and cool,

An to kape en out of the way of the dogs, was put on a gate high stool.

Tomorrow that bowl well be put on the slab so that the crame can scald

‘Eff you touch en, I'll ave yer fengers off’- thas what we cheldern was told.

Now Faather, the bucket weth tay filled up, got sugar an melk, and then

Carried en out for the men who ad their croust at alf past ten.

Mawther an I  like buccas running round, each pasty wrapped in a towel,

The dogs was maazed smellen they pasties, an all set up an owl.

Mawther, shay screeched like a whitneck- stop thay dos from maken that sound

While I put the led on the bucket, to stop the tay floshen round.

Mawther hitched up the pony to the jingle, and this was my arvest trait,

When I'd put the flasket an thengs on the floor, I was lowed to set on the sate.

Off we went, clip clop to the field, trying to keep en the tracks,

The men gov a cheer- ‘good ol missus they sed’, an sat down with a smile on their chacks.

The sun  baiten down, oll scorchen  an ot, the men weatherbeaten and brown

I sat en the jengle weth pasty an pop, an felt like a queen weth a crown.

Faather gov me a smile an ee sed – ‘I knaw tes ard work my cheeld

But es nawthen like aven a pasty an croust out en the arvest feeld.’

Then mawther an I picked up all the slops and our homeward way ded wend

And I wished as ard as I could wish, that the daay would never end.


Clome = plates etc.       shivers = solid shelves put into the Cornish Range to cook on



For many years St.Ives has resounded to the singing of  Carols (Curls), written by Cornish musicians, including  Thomas Broad, Joseph Tanner, Thomas Merrit, and Colan (Cully) Willliams. Each Chapel had its own Carol Choir and for two weeks before and after Christmas Day they would sing around the streets and stately homes in the St.Ives and Carbis Bay area. Sadly the introduction of double glazing, has meant that choirs are no longer audible above the sound of  TVs and stereos. Despite this the Chapel choirs from Fore Street and Bible Christian still continue to keep these unique carols alive and many locals gather to listen wherever they meet to sing them. Many of the choir members who know the songs are getting older and only a few young people are following in their footsteps to learn the different parts. In order to encourage singers to learn these carols and join in singing at  Christmas Eve especially, the Combined Chapel's carol


In 2020 the Carol Choir has been invited to sing the St.Ives Carols in Truro Cathedral and it is hoped that we can raise a good number to join us in celebrating the centenary of the Old Cornwall Society in St.Ives on that occasion.



William Thomas


Crying the Neck 2019- pleae click here for report

20th January 2020 with images-page-001 27th Jan with images. &banner  pdf-page-001 St Ives members 20 January 2020

Photo coertesy Tobi  Carver at St Ives Times and Echo. It shows St Ives Mayor, Tony Harris and his wife on the left with Margaret Stevens to the right of the banner at Members night for their Centenary meeting.