By Avice Etchells. (nee Jane) 1920 – 2011. It was sent to her niece, Jocelyn Jane in Cadgwith for use in a local newsletter
Just a few things l can remember of my childhood in Cadgwith Cove in the 1920- 1930-1940s My very earliest recollection, was the morning my brother Tony (now known as "Old Man") was born. I was three years old, I can remember running to the chicken pen in the garden, and informing a big black hen named "Chicky Wickey" that we had a new baby. Then clutching the hen carried her indoors and up the stairs, with great difficulty, to see the new arrival!
During the summer in Cadgwith when the crabbers could go to sea, was an idyllic time for a child. When there was plenty to eat, sunshine and a marvellous time swimming and playing on the beach at Little Cove, or lying in the sun on the Todden - calling in to see Granny Jane who was glad to see me when she wanted her butter fetching from Inglewidden Farm which was owned at that time by the Hocking family. If it was a good day Mrs Hocking would sit me on her back step and give me a dish of apple pie and cream. I was watching the whole time that the big cock turkey was not in pecking distance! I was not sharing my pie with him! He also had a very nasty temper.
In the Mullet season the Cadgwith men were proud owners of two Mullet-Seine boats, each had a crew, one named "Covers" the other named "The Rangers" One man’s task was to walk the cliffs looking out to sea for shoals of mullet (He was called the "Hewer") He would then proceed to the cliff below Hillside, or the Coastguard lookout at the opposite side (Man 0'War) of Cadgwith Bay and make his loud call of "Hevva", "Hevva".Then each crew would rush to launch the Seine boats, and row out to the catch, being guided by the "Hewer" on the cliffs. It was my own grandfather's job to do this. On the day he died, he was returning to Cadgwith after walking the cliffs .The nights were drawing in, and it was getting very dark, he missed his footing, and was found the next day, dead at the bottom of the cliff.
As we grew older my brother Tony and I were allowed to help unload the fish from the Seine boats. Beautiful Mullet fresh from the sea. For this we received sixpence each from the payment from the fish merchant. Any payment from the fish merchant was called "The Smack”. The fish were taken to "Willy Bobs" garage in the Square, (Mr William Bolitho). No longer there but since replaced by a block of ugly flats, the fish merchant Mr Jim Paulin, would state a price, and load the fish into his lorry. The very first black man I ever saw as a small child was Pins lorry driver, who was called Jock.
As I grew older and into my teens, my mother was crippled with arthritis, so as my sisters were away in service, or married, it was my job to help look after the men in the family, my father (then the "Old-Man"), and my brothers Henry and "Chink", all fishermen, my younger brother Tony and my mentally deficient sister Patricia.
During the winter, times were very hard indeed at Cadgwith. When the boats could not put to sea the men would use this time to cut their withies. (Special Willow branches), which they would use to make new crab-pots for the next Spring. In the Square, there was a Bark House where the new Trammells (nets) were dyed to a deep brown in a big boiler with a fire underneath to boil the dye. As children we could stand at the door and watch, but enter at our peril.
My father was very strict on safety. We were not allowed on the fishing beach when the crabbers were being winched up on the beach or to stand between the boats which were propped on either side with "stools" One of the boys from the village was killed several years earlier whilst playing between the boats.
In my teens during the winter time when the wind was howling under the eaves of our thatched cottage, and the sea was pounding on the beach, it was a time to listen for distress rockets. As my bedroom window faced seaward, I was the first in our house to hear the rockets. I would call the men from their beds, as they were part of the lifeboat crew. Their oilskins and boots were kept in our outhouse. I fetched these and had them ready whilst the men got dressed. We then made our way (me included) to the lifeboat house to help launch the boat. When the whole crew plus helpers had arrived, the big timbers had to be laid along the road, then the beach to the sea. Big pots of grease and Turks Head brushes were used to grease them liberally. The lifeboat then ran smoothly on them down to the sea, being held by ropes on either side to keep her on an even keel. The lifeboat safely in the sea, and fully manned, I would sometimes go up to Man 'O War" or on the Devils Frying pan cliffs to get a view or what was happening out at the wreck. It was dark and cold and wet mostly blowing a gale. The ship would be lit up, this would nearly always happen during the night, when our kitchen fire had gone out, it would have to be relit and the kettle on the boil ready for the men when they returned wet and exhausted from the sea. One wreck I can remember was the ship "Clan Malcom", which the Cadgwith crabbers had the contract to salvage what they could from her, on behalf of the owners, which made a small welcome income for a few weeks. In those days there was no such thing as Government Benefits such as Unemployment Benefit or Social Security. If you didn’t work you couldn't eat.
I helped my mother out with money in the winter by working on a farm, doing homework. I also remember a wreck off The Lizard of a ship called Le Tigre and for a few days afterwards barrels of red wine washed up on the beach! We could remove the barrels from the beach, But the wine in them managed to disappear!! Some of it was buried in our garden in earthenware jars and bottles. Mulled wine was lovely on cold winter nights.
During my Schooldays we had a very bad winter, when I remember there was no food in our house (this dear Jocelyn is no exaggeration, as happened quite often in winter months) We somehow acquired a white canvas bag of big round Ships Biscuits. These came from one of the wrecks I think it was the Clan Malcolm. So my brother Tony and I were fed on these biscuits soaked in hot water and sprinkled with sugar for a day or two.
There was a small wooden shop in the village, owned by two sisters Miss Mary Jane and Miss Alice Mitchell, both very old ladies. Miss Mary Jane kept the shop whilst Miss Alice kept house. And there was a connecting door between. The shops weighing scales were brass with various brass weights. As children we would be sent to the shop, hoping that the weights had been taken into the kitchen to be cleaned with "Brasso".It was a great delight to buy something that needed weighing, like sugar or butter, Because Miss Mary Jane would shout "Alice where's the weights?". A voice from within the house would say "I’m corning Mary Jane, I've only got one pair of hands", upon which Miss Alice would appear in a starched white apron. She was thin and scraggy with a long face, and a long red nose, from which always dangled a glistening dewdrop. Miss Alice had no teeth and without fail, and to our great delight, a long tongue would reach the end of her nose and the dewdrop disappeared.
As a teenager I went to Ruan Minor church every Sunday evening and remember one very stormy night, during the singing of the hymn “For those in Peril on the Sea", The rockets went off for a wreck, and to call the lifeboat men. Needless to say the church service was abandoned.
When war broke out I was eighteen years old, and volunteered to join the WRNS. My sister Isobel, who was married to a sailor, came to look after mother. My brothers Henry and Chink joined the navy, my brother Tony who was at Gravesend sea school, for the Merchant Navy, was fifteen years old, and was sent to join a ship which sailed to the River Plate. the Old-Man (my father) joined the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and spent most of the war oiling the fleet off Freetown South Africa. Whilst awaiting my call up to the WRNS, I joined my sister-in-law Rene in making camouflage nets. These were very like fishing nets.
I went to Torpoint to serve in the Navy, and after a year at H.M.S. Raleigh, I volunteered for the first class of WRNS to be trained as boats' crew. I was the Cox'n of the motor launch "Carla" at Devonport.I then requested transfer to Falmouth, where I was on the "Moyanna", a quay punt commandeered for service in the Navy. I learned after that, the young man who had previously worked the boat with his uncle, went into the Merchant Service. His ship was sunk. He was taken prisoner on the Altmark (a prison ship) and imprisoned below decks for months before the ship was captured by the Navy. He was later on the same ship as Tony, my Mother’s side of the family.
Mothers name before marriage was Lavinia Frances Lambrick. She was one of six children. The youngest were twins a boy and a gir. Her mother died in childbirth, and her husband James Lambrick was left alone with six children. (at that time he lived in the house with the side to the road below the water tap -opposite Henry & Renes house) He was a farm labourer and Methodist preacher. So our Granfer James Lambrick rode his horse to Helston Union (where the homeless resided) and picked out a strong and healthy girl named Lidia Penaluna. Arranged to marry straight away, collected from the workhouse, married her, and brought her home to Cadgwith to mother his six children, including a few weeks old twin babies! My mother said the first day she arrived she made the biggest Beef pie she had ever seen, and from that moment on, they loved her. Finally mother worked for years as a nursemaid to a family at Poltesco named Cohen and from there, as housekeeper at Constantine Vicarage. Her day off was Sundays, and Charlie Jane would walk from Cadgwith Cove to Constantine to see her. He was a handsome young man she said. They were married in Constantine Church, and went to live in a cottage (no longer there) at Gwavas. They moved not long after to the Square at Cadgwith.
Going back to when I was young, every house in Cadgwith was occupied by Cadgwith people, and nearly all relations on one side or another The Janes the Stephens Bolithos. The only outsiders I remember were elderly Miss Raven. I don’t know where she came from. She lived in the house over-looking the fishing beach, on the cliff side over the cave. She didn’t communicate with anyone that I know of.
Granny Janes house was on the opposite side of the beach on the Todden. She died at 97 years of age and at that time was still as bright as a button and taking an interest in all that was going on. Her name before marriage was Anne Willey and she came from Pradnack Manor Farm. (Now known as Predannack since the Aerodrome was built on the land during the war)
She came to Cadgwith one day when she was sixteen and met a fisherman Henry Jane, fell in love and married against her father’s wishes, she came to live in Cadgwith and her family never spoke to her again, as a poor fisherman wasn't good enough for them. (I’ve had this tale from my cousin Sylvia, who was my very favourite cousin) Grandma & Granfer had three daughters and four sons all eventually Cadgwith fishermen. Uncle Bert & Uncle John started as fishermen, but Uncle Dick, joined the Navy. Charlie (my father) was a gentleman’s valet in London for several years. Isobel has a photo of him at that time,