«Tim Martindale Thesis submitted to the Department of Anthropology of Goldsmiths, University of London, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, ...»
Local ideas of history tend to settle on several distinct periods as being of particular significance: most mature fishermen remember the herring and mackerel booms of the seventies and eighties; some of the older ones will particularly talk about decline and depression of the interwar years and the changes that occurred during and immediately after the second world war; a few, and they tend to be nonfishing locals with a particular interest in history, will talk about the days of the sailing luggers of the nineteenth century and the years leading up to the thirties during which they were gradually disappearing. Each period highlights extensive organisational changes in the fisheries – in capital, technology and community. The era of the luggers probably has the most appeal in the community at large, taking into account all the stories and images that circulate. The particular appeal of this era is partly a consequence of the evocative power of the materials and images of the time. However it is also because the period is identified with a culture of cooperation that is contrasted with the absolute competitiveness identified with subsequent eras and it is this idea that I explore in this chapter.
Interview with Tony Pawlyn TM: I’m looking at the connections between technologies and wealth and employment and so on, and I was wondering if you might say that luggers were part of a more cooperative culture, or whether they were as fiercely individualistic as..?
TP: Yes certainly... In its way, they were certainly communistic, with a small c.
They’re very much group effort, luggers, very much relied on family, or friends, I mean they weren’t entirely family, don’t get me wrong, there were luggers with completely different surnames in the crew, but there were often several who were related. And certainly the lugger finance thing was single boat working... well in as much as most of the skipper-owners only worked one boat, you know there weren’t very many in the sailing lugger era that, there weren’t many fleets of boats. Not as far was West Cornwall was concerned. There were one or two owners who might have owned three or four boats, but that was about it. There were quite a lot of owners who would own a mackerel driver and a pilchard driver and worked them different seasons, because of the way the seasons began to pan out around the turn of the century.
Interview with Keith Dickson TM:...if you look at fishing communities historically, somewhere like Cornwall, it was pretty cooperative, it seems to me... or is that, do you think that’s a misconception?
KD: Well, I mean there was riots in the Newlyn fish market in the years gone by. I mean that wasn’t very cooperative. The St Ives guys don’t like the Newlyn guys. I mean how much of that is spun up, or fixed up, I don’t know but... I think, yes, in a place like Mousehole, in years gone by, when it was you know, the sailing luggers that went out fishing... Yeah I think there was, because you had to work together as a fishing community to feed and to get a wage, but I think that you know as soon as boat’s could disappear off, and you know had their own diesel engines and could do their own things, I think it became an extremely cut-throat, you know... no, I don’t think it’s ever been cooperative, unless in the very early days of fishing, when you needed eight men to man the sails and pull the oars to go to sea, to handle it. But yeah I think, other than that, it’s always been super competitive.
In this chapter, I highlight what I call the architecture of fishing, which includes boats and other structures which influence the way land and sea encroach on one another – ways that ‘domesticate 41’ the sea and make it accessible and manageable.
Such structures, therefore, also include quays, harbours, lifeboat stations, railways, roads, homes, and gardens, boatbuilding yards, Fishermen’s Mission houses, processing, curing and storage facilities and markets. I develop themes opened up in Chapter Three about the changing political economies of fishing which is reflected in patterns of topography and also institutions. This chapter moves the account forward through examining the shift from a traditional to a capitalist and occupational mode of organisation and the consequences for class and community relations both ‘within’ the industry and within Newlyn as a place. Aspects of the former way of life have continued or been recreated, not only in the form of material culture, historical images and narratives but also as economic institutions and forms of work consciousness. Beginning with the biography and social history context of Ripple, I use the term domesticate as a way of referring to the processes by which human concerns and the maritime environment shape one another, and through which the sea is made into a habitable and/or exploitable environment, if only in a very transitory way.
the reconstructed lugger, I explore harbours and boats as spaces for overlapping cultures of conflict, competition, co-operation and community.
A bit of courage and good fortune led me to meet John Lambourn, restorer of the Ripple. It was wonderful talking to John in the growing gloom of night enveloping the village, standing in his yard, him stopping his work cutting wood to share with me his thoughts and words – me shuffling my feet to keep warm. I felt that solid companionship between men at the end of a day’s work outdoors. It reminded me of day’s end when I was a quarry labourer – satisfaction making you hardy to any physical discomfort. No boredom and no hurry, alive to the feel and sounds of the evening. Knowing you’ll be home to light, warmth and food soon enough. I went home after crawling around in that boat with John and Mervyn. I recall now the smell of wood shavings and resin – the solid feel of the interior, the dark night and stars visible through the hatches; our conversations in the glow of the work-lights.
(Field-diary entry, 18 December 2008).
John completed the restoration work on the Ripple in a yard opposite the harbour in Newlyn (Fig.45). The yard was owned by the firm W.S Stevenson’s and Sons and was lent to him to assist his project which was part of the ‘heritage’ component of the Newlyn Fish Industry Forum (NFIF) regeneration plan. The yard, in the centre of Newlyn, is very visible, and John would get interest from many passersby during the building. In time, the Stevensons requested that John give back the land as it was a prime lot for development. John refused, and even though Ripple is now moored in the harbour, he has left his makeshift timber-frame roof and tool-shed in place as a way of occupying the site, stating to me that he would not move until ‘Stevensons get legal’.
In many ways, luggers were part of a techno-social system that was perfectly adapted in the context of Cornish fishing. On my trips out with John on Ripple, he would say that boats like her could have been ‘built in your back-yard’. The phrase captures a sense in which John sees these boats as having provided direct links between domestic units and the sea at their backdoors – the sea as a profitable, exploitable resource accessible through self-reliance and self-sufficiency. They were easily built (in the sense that boat-building materials and expertise could be locally sourced), not a large amount of capital was required, they provided employment for a large number of people (fishing crew, boat-builders, sail-makers, rope-makers and blacksmiths), and their design was perfected for local conditions and for speed, giving them range and competitiveness. Cornish-built boats were in demand not only for local commissions but for buyers throughout Britain.
The Trevorrow family of boat-builders The centrality and visibility of the Ripple rebuild, is reminiscent of how Ripple would have originally been built in the nineteenth century. Boats were built on the harbour fronts and even on the beaches – Peake’s yard in Newlyn, and Kitto’s boatyard (Fig.46) and Oliver and Sons in Porthleven. Notable fishing boat builders in St Ives were William Paynter, the Trevorrows, Robert Bryant and William Williams. Trevorrow’s yard was at Porthgwidden beach in St Ives. Such a yard implies only a temporary appropriation of space that would not have belonged to Trevorrow in any formal sense of ownership. The boat builder would have required little more than his tools and skills in order to carry out the commission. The Henry Trevorrow who worked this yard in the 1920s was a third generation boat-builder, and the third of three Henry Trevorrows. It was either him who built Ripple in 1896, or his father, or they built it together – his father is recorded in the 1901 census at the age of 77 as ‘boat builder’, although now with the specification ‘[wood] boat builder’ added showing how the boatbuilding industry was diverging into metal.
Henry’s great-grandfather William Trevorrow, born about 1794 in St. Ives was a fisherman. In the 1841 census, he is recorded as living at Pudding Bag Lane with his wife Mary and five children. The occupation of his son, Henry Trevorrow, is recorded as ‘joiner’. His age is given as ‘15’ but this must be a mistake as it would make his birth-date 1826, whereas all other records would suggest he was born in
1824. Other occupations listed for households on Pudding Bag Lane in 1841 include six other fishermen, a washerwoman, a mariner and a labourer, and on adjacent streets, a mariner, a publican, a tailor, a baker and two more fishermen. By 1861, Henry had his own household on Fish Street, where he lived with his wife Mary and three children, all listed as ‘Scholars’. Children in relatively poor working families were registered as being schooled from as early as age three, but the census records indicate they tended to be in employment by their early teens. Henry’s occupation at this time is listed as ‘Ship Builder’. By 1871, Henry and his family were living at ‘Jon Kign’s Place’, his occupation listed as ‘Ship Carpenter’. The census records for this street indicate that the family’s income had increased, as other occupations listed for this street indicate more highly skilled and higher earning jobs than those at Pudding Bag Lane, where he lived with his father. Occupations recorded at Jon Kign’s Place include: Shipmaster, Master Joiner, Carpenter, Cabinet Maker and Dressmaker.
In 1881, Henry Trevorrow was living at Academy Place with his wife Mary and now five children, including the second generation Henry, who is by now, at age twenty three, registered as ‘Ship Carpenter’. In 1891, this younger Henry is registered as living at a boarding house in Plymouth, occupation ‘Shipwright’, having gone to seek work in the Plymouth dockyards. In the same year, his son, Henry the elder’s grandson, also called Henry is born in St. Ives. He continued the family tradition of boatbuilding and lived out his life in St Ives until his death in
1970. Academy Place still exists today, but some those other streets where the poor working community of the nineteenth century lived can no longer be found. Pudding Bag Lane for instance, was demolished during the ‘slum’ clearances of the 1930s.
The fishing quarter was right in the heart of St Ives centred on the harbour. The streets were closely packed and quite crowded, with terraces of small houses occupied by large families. Today, walking around in that old quarter, some of the narrow and now neat terraced rows remain but the some of the busyness and chaos has gone, although one can sense that it was once a hive of activity. It is now really the artists’ quarter and has a different kind of busyness as a thoroughfare and curiosity for tourists. Many of the cottages are let to holidaymakers and display symbolic markers of their former association with fishing – buoys and nets, and quaint names painted on drift wood signs.
Lugger design In a single life span Henry Trevorrow (b. 1824) contributed to the development of lugger design in a way that perfected it for Cornish fishing at that time and also witnessed the beginning of the end of this craft. By the time his grandson was of working age, luggers had become almost redundant. Any that were still in use after the Second World War were by then relics, finding some use into their old age through motorisation. Many were sold to Irish buyers with whom the Cornish had built links through following the Irish fisheries. They included the Water Lily, built by Henry Trevorrow and said to be the fastest lugger ever built in Cornwall (Harris 1983). The 1920s and 30s saw the decline of the herring fishery and the mackerel fishery also declined in the 1930s. Ripple was sold in 1933, the year of the depression, and only survived through being maintained as a gentleman’s yacht and a house-boat.
Luggers were heavily framed carvel-built boats known in Cornish as scath nos (net boat). The carvel design sets Cornish boats apart from other traditions of wooden boat building in Britain. ‘Carvel’ refers to a design where the planks of the hull butt up against each other, fixed with the use of wooden pegs or tongue and groove, rather than the overlapping ‘clench’ or clinker tradition. Maritime historians believe clinker design to have stemmed from Viking and Scandinavian Europe, whereas the earliest known examples of ‘carvel’ are associated with the Eastern Mediterranean – the Phoenicians and Greeks, and gradually emerging further west via the Venetians, Romans, Iberian traders and Bretons. The method was used in the building of the cok, a boat used in the drift-net Cornish fisheries up until about the early seventeenth century. By the late seventeenth century high-peaked lug-sails were in use. In the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century the chasse-marée style of the Breton trading ships had been adopted. Cornish smugglers, many of whom were fishermen or connected to fishing communities, are credited with bringing home the influence of these boats, fast enough to outrun the revenue cutters. By 1870, the three-masted design of the chasse-marée vessels had been dropped for two masts, which was more suitable for fishing as it cleared the deck (Fig.18).