BOOK CORNWALL HOTELS

Join in

Send page to a friend

7180 views since 11th March 2011

Related links:

Events | Lore & Legend | Rather Interesting | Cultural Britain

Featured Destination

July 2019: Blackpool and the Lancashire Coast

Itís illumination time in Blackpool. Lancashire in October is not likely to be your choice for a sunshine break, but that is not why ...More
More Uk destinations

Tom Bawcock's Eve, Cornwall

The little fishing village of Mousehole is now famous throughout the English speaking world because of the childrenís book The Mousehole Cat written by Antonia Barber, later made into an animated film. Like so many of Britainís customs and legends, the origin of Tom Bawcockís Eve in Mousehole is far from clear, and Barberís charming retelling of the story is just one of many versions.
On the night before Christmas Eve Mousehole regularly has a lantern procession, and in the Ship Inn Stargazey pie is served, a dish made with potatoes, egg, and whole pilchards whose heads poke through the top, hence the name. Others have a more elaborate fish feast, with traditionally seven dishes of different fish served.
The romantic version of the legend has the ageing but fearless fisherman Tom Bawcock, a widower with little to lose, saving the starving village where bad weather has prevented the fishing boats from venturing out for weeks. Depending on the storyteller he is accompanied by a crew he persuades to brave the storms, his faithful cat, or both. Tomís boat returns with a magnificent catch, seven types of fish, and the famine is broken.
More academic minds have seen in the occasion a survival of some pagan celebration of the winter solstice, and the promise of new light and plentiful food to come. Bawcock has certainly been used in English as a general term for a bold adventurer, but some interpret it in this case as Beau cock, the animal crowing as the new light approaches.
Whatever the meaning, in the beautiful village of Mousehole December 23 is a fine night of celebration, with stout in great demand. The Christmas lights in the village are a wonderful sight too, drawing visitors from far and wide. Four days before Tom Bawcockís Eve another event is commemorated by these lights being extinguished, in memory of the local Penlee lifeboat which sank in 1981 with the loss of all hands, the contrast of the seaís harm and harvest recalled in stark symmetry just a few days apart.

More British Folk Customs?

If you like this, Share it

Brit Quote:
The pollen count, now thatís a difficult job. Especially if youíve got hay fever - Milton Jones
More Quotes

On this day:
Vesuvius Erupts - 0079, Battle of Sandwich - 1217, Heworth Moor Skirmish - 1453, Last Traitor Hanged, Drawn and Quartered - 1772, British Cleric Patents Corkscrew - 1795, British Burn Washington - 1814, Factory Act - 1833, Hull Airship Disaster - 1921, Huxley Finishes Brave New World - 1931, First Edinburgh International Festival - 1947
More dates from British history

click here to view all the British counties

County Pages