Look to the stars.
December 22, 2011 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Tom Bawcock's Eve. Down t' Mousehole. A tiny fishing village down the Cornish coast from Penzance, early to get the Atlantic storms, each December 23rd celebrates the saviour of the village, Tom Bawcock, who long ago put to sea in fierce weather to gather seven kinds of fish for the starving.

Was Bawcock real? Who knows? But there'll be pie that looks you in the eye, and beer and lights and songs to chase away the winter gloom.

Merry place you may believe, Tiz Mouzel 'pon Tom Bawcock's eve
To be there then who wouldn't wesh, to sup o' sibm soorts o' fish
When morgy brath had cleared the path, Comed lances for a fry
And then us had a bit o' scad an' Starry-gazie pie
As aich we'd clunk, E's health we drunk, in bumpers bremmen high,
And when up caame Tom Bawcock's name, We'd prais'd 'un to the sky" (more)

And if you can't make it for Tom Bawcock's, drop in whenever you are passing and sink one in Dylan's Corner in the local pub, in memory of the poet who named Mousehole 'the loveliest village in England'.
posted by biffa (6 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have been to Mousehole! Long ago when I was a child. It was indeed lovely, and I look forward to exploring the links when I am on my laptop.
posted by rtha at 2:45 PM on December 22, 2011

Seven fish? That counts as fasting, among my relatives.

That said, man those lanterns are awesome.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:39 PM on December 22, 2011

I've only been to Cornwall once and didn't have the chance to check out Mousehole, but if you're in that part of the world, definitely take a side trip and check out the Minack Theatre in Porthcurno. It's an open-air amphitheater carved into the side of a cliff overlooking...well, it's almost more the Atlantic Ocean than the English Channel that far west, but the point is the view is gorgeous. (There's an aerial view that doesn't quite do it justice, but you get the idea.) Mrs. Example and I saw The Crucible there a while back, and it was hard to concentrate on the first act just because the scenery was so spectacular.

Two things if you go, though. 1.) Dress in layers. Even in mid-August, there's a spray that comes off the sea and you can get occasional bursts of rain throughout the evening. 2.) If you're taking public transportation, watch the time. Mrs. Example and I had taken the bus from Penzance, and the show ran a bit long--we wound up jogging a quarter-mile down a pitch-black hillside to the parking lot in order to catch the absolute last bus out of Porthcurno until the next morning.

End of massive derail. Sorry, but I can't resist the urge to pimp the Minack.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:50 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tom Bawcock wasn't the only hero in the tale though...at least, not according to the story I read to my daughter over and over when she was little, the story of The Mousehole Cat. (more, and (video doesn't work in my country due to copyright reasons, but may do in yours) more).
posted by reynir at 3:56 AM on December 23, 2011

Two nights before the 1981 Penlee Lifeboat disaster, lifeboat crewmember Charlie Greenhaugh had turned on the Christmas lights in Mousehole. After the storm the lights were left off but three days later his widow, Mary, asked for them to be repaired and lit again. The village has been lit up each December since then, but on the anniversary of the disaster they are turned off at 8:00 pm for an hour as an act of remembrance. (Yes, the wording was mostly lifted straight from the wikipedia article, sorry).

So whether or not Tom Bawcock was real, people do still put to sea from Mousehole and other places like it, sometimes saving lives and sometimes losing their own. It's a few days after that anniversary now, but maybe spare a thought for them, and for lifeboatmen and seafarers everywhere else.
posted by Lebannen at 5:48 PM on December 23, 2011

Indeed Lebannen, a fishing boat went down very suddenly twenty miles up the coast from Mousehole shortly before Christmas, three men rescued, one drowned. As someone living in Cornwall and who uses the sea for leisure a fair amount I often think about the people who go out to rescue those in trouble at sea. When you see some of the terrifying sea states and are cosy in your living room or the pub it astonishes me that people will risk everything in appalling conditions to try and save others.

MBE: I did an FPP about the Minack a while back.
posted by biffa at 2:45 PM on December 27, 2011

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