Historical help for short story

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Sapphire at Dawn
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Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2010 8:23 pm

Historical help for short story

Post by Sapphire at Dawn » Sun Aug 22, 2010 8:36 pm

Hi there,

I'm currently writing a short story that takes place in eighteenth century Cornwall, at around the time the pilchard trade began it's decline. I basically need any information anyone can give me about the period; daily life of the fisherman, traditional aspects of the trade, habits etc so I can make the story as authentic as possible. I'm at university in Leeds, so I don't really have the liberty of going to Cornwall myself to do some research, so I've been using what I can find online, which is somewhat lacking in personal details. Any information or names and addresses of museums etc. I can write to would be greatly appreciated.


Sarah x

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Re: Historical help for short story

Post by carrek » Sun Aug 22, 2010 9:16 pm

In the early 1700s, in the far west of Cornwall, some of them still spoke Cornish.

Here is a rhyme about pilchards in Cornish, attributed to John Boson from 1705 (actually spelt as he wrote it):

Ma canow ve war hearn gen cowk ha rooz = My verses are of pilchards, with boat and net
Comerez en Zans Carrack Looez en Cooz. = Taken in the bay of the Grey Rock in the Wood (St Michael's Mount).
Pothew an cucow devethez trea = When the boats have come in
Durt moer teez por "Dega, Dega!" creia, = From sea, with cove folk calling "Tithe, Tithe!"
Ha kiniffer benen ogas a toaz = And every woman coming nigh
Gen kawall, ha try canz hearn, war e kein = With a creel and three hundred pilchards on her back
Tha gweel barcadoes en keniffer chy, = To make up bulks in every building,
Gen ganow leeas, "Hearn, Hearn! Hollan mouy!" = With many voices, "Pilchards, Pilchards! More salt!"

Pothens sallez daa, edn meez warbar, = When they are well cured, a month altogether,
Preze ew tha squatchia man, ha tedna kerr = It's time to break up and pull away.
Oug'hedna, golhy glaneth en dowr sal: = After that, wash clean in salt water.
E vedn ry hanow daa tha muzzi oll. = It will give all the maids a good name.
Gurra spladn en balliar, pedn ha teen, = Place gleaming in a barrel, head and tail,
Gubber ha tra vroaz enz rag vertshants feen. = Income and a great thing they are for fine traders.

Meero whye rag gwethan, heer tarthack trooz; = Look for a pole, thirteen feet long;
Gurra war hedna meanow pemp canz pooz. = Put on that five hundredweight of stones.
Try termen en jeath meero whye dotha. = Three times a day see to them.
Rag hanter meez durta saime vedn cotha. = For a fortnight oil will fall from them.
Thew hebma vorr gweer an hearn tha parra; = This is a proper way to cure the pilchards;
En marhas, gwelha gye vedn whara. = In the market, they will sell best.

Blethan war blethan gwra gurrollian doaz, = Year after year ships do come
Ha gen hearn lean moaz urt Dowr Gwavas. = And with pilchards full go to Gwavas Lake
War duath, gwra gwenz Noor East whetha pell, = At length, shall a north east wind blow far.
Rag an pobell en pow tubm debbry oll. = For the people in a hot country to eat all.
Ma peath hearn pecare oll an beaz = The pilchard business is like all the world.
Mouy pobell bohodgack vel pobell broaz. = More of poor people than rich people

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Re: Historical help for short story

Post by Marhak » Sun Aug 22, 2010 10:43 pm

One of the finest books you can get for this sort of detail is A.K.Hamilton Jenkin's "Cornwall and its People", originally 3 books - Cornish Seafarers (1932); Cornwall and the Cornish (1933); and Cornish Homes and Customs (1934). These were joined together in one volume in 1945, then taken on by David and Charles who publuhsed further editions in 1970 and 1983.

This is a book that greatly needs to be reissued. When the question is asked: What is that defines the Cornish? - that book answers it all. Libraries should have it on their shelves.

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