«Tim Martindale Thesis submitted to the Department of Anthropology of Goldsmiths, University of London, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, ...»
In this chapter I have developed two themes. The first relates to the role of economic pluralism and the second to the relationship between practice and representation, experience and imagination, labour and narrative. Whilst fishing as technique and social economic organisation varies considerably with context, it is common for both practitioners and outside commentators to identify fishermen as the ‘last of the hunter-gatherers’. This archetypal image may not be without foundation, not only because of its dependency on a wild food source (excepting aquaculture which is more akin to farming) but also because of the parallels between domestic economies within which various scales of fishing are usually embedded and ‘band’ All of Martin Ellis’s art works can be viewed at http://www.nuttynoah.co.uk/fisherman.htm.
(http://www.nuttynoah.co.uk/fisherman.htm. Accessed 19/09/12).
organisation in hunter-gatherer societies – to which kin-ordered relations of sharing and reciprocity and combinations of individualism and collectivism are common features. Some culturalist perspectives on hunter-gathering societies have sought to redefine the notion of a hunter-gathering ‘mode of production’ to account for a heterogeneity of ‘subsistence’ practices with which anthropologists have found hunter gatherers engaged – agriculture, herding, trade, and wage-labour including factory production. Drawing on her ethnographic work in India, Bird-David (1992) argued that the ‘work ethic and time orientation of hunter-gatherers continued to shape their social relations long after most of them had become factory workers’ (as summarised by Hann and Hart 2011: 5). In light of this she suggests that the concept of ‘mode of production’ might be seen as an ‘approach to life – i.e. an ethos, involving distinct values, like sharing and egalitarianism’ (Bird-David 1992: 22).
Similarly, Barnard (1993) goes so far as to describe foraging as a mode of thought that ‘persists after people cease to depend on hunting and gathering as their primary means of subsistence’ (1993: 33).
This perspective can be usefully applied to the context of fishing in western, industrial societies and its aspects of economic pluralism and flexible socioeconomic arrangements. ‘Covers’ and inshore fishing communities in particular (such as those common on the coasts of south west England, Wales and the western and far northern islands of Scotland) have long combined fishing (and smuggling), agriculture, navy recruitment, and (more recently) tourism and construction work.
Offshore fishing has tended to involve more specialised year-round labour due to being less restricted by seasonal conditions, and because of the capital investment involved (for independent fishermen) and dependency on a wage (for company fishermen). Nevertheless over the life-time of an offshore fisherman, short or protracted spells in other careers such as the merchant navy or energy industry are also common. This diversification is even more evident when we take into account the labour not only of the fishermen but also spouses and children who have also had to labour beyond the fishing community (in the restricted sense) work in domestic service, textiles and other often gendered waged labour. Despite these flexible and diverse economic strategies, coastal communities traditionally based around fishing widely succeed in maintaining distinctive attitudes, identities and practices linked both to occupational and place-based affiliations. This suggests a broader, more encompassing and persistent fishing (or perhaps rural-maritime) ‘ethos’ then a
narrow understanding of the mode of production as simply catching fish. BirdDavid’s ethnography (ibid) suggests a model of hunter gatherers as:
... A group of people who share the knowledge and skills of hunting and gathering and trust in its viability. They reproduce these among themselves. However, although they hunt and gather regularly at any one time only a core of people – whose composition constantly changes – actually engage in those activities (p.41).
One implication of this model might be that alternative/diversified economic activities potentially reinforce the perceived and actual viability of the core activity.
To return to one particularly outspoken critic of tourism in Cornwall, the playwright and fisherman Nick Darke expressed a concern not only for traditional labour and livelihoods as the production of tangible rural commodities, but also the social relations and ethos these entailed. This theme is explored in his play The King of Prussia about the legendary Cornish smugglers, the Carter brothers, who based themselves at Prussia Cove.
The King of Prussia is a play about smugglers. Of course it is. But every play set in the past must also illuminate and simplify the complexities of the present otherwise they’re not worth doing, so The King of Prussia is also about second home owners...
Suzanne Stackhouse [a character in the play] is Cornwall’s proto-second-home owner.
In the words of John Carter, “she’d come down ere, play around, bugger off and leave we to pick up the bits”. Her attitude towards local people is arrogant and superior. She is an out-and-out villain with not a single redeeming feature. She is two-dimensional, predictable and transparent. She rips through the place like a hurricane leaving a trail of devastation behind her. The only predictable thing about her is that she’ll be back next year. Smuggling at that time made a valuable contribution to the economy and John Carter had a strong sense of responsibility to the community which is not shared by the likes of Suzanne (Darke 1999: xi-xii).
So Darke was concerned with how livelihoods and mutual responsibility, obligation and concern were interdependent features of rural ways of life, similar to Sennett’s concern with the links between technique, work and community (2009, 2012). Darke has also written about the comparisons between lobster fishing and play-writing 74 and the two activities were brought together in his individual persona and life, mirroring his diverse family influences which in turn reflect the rich variety of social influences (industrial, artistic) in Cornwall. This brings me finally to reflect on the second of theme of this chapter and the links between economic pluralism and ( http://nickdarke.net/archives/playwrite_as_lobster_fisherman/. Accessed 19/09/12).
a fluid or elastic conception of the relationship between production and ideology, experience and imagination.
Ingold (2000) has critiqued interpretations of totemistic and animistic depictions of nature (prehistoric such as those found at the caves of Lascaux and contemporary practices among hunter gatherers), as reflecting a universal capacity for ‘art’ as representation. He contrasts the ‘close and intimate knowledge of the landscape and its plant and animal inhabitants, on whose continuity or regeneration their life depends’ (p.11) of the hunter gatherer and at the other extreme the ‘affluent westerner’ who may find an animal a beautiful thing to look at, albeit at a safe, removed distance.
The activities of hunter gatherers that lead to the production of what we in the west call ‘art’, should be understood as ways not of representing the world on a higher, more ‘symbolic plane, but of probing more deeply into it and of discovering the significance that lies therein... To understand the original significance of what they were doing, we must cease to think of painting and carving as modalities of the production of art and view art instead as one rather peculiar, and historically specific objectification of the activities of painting and carving (pp. 112- 113).
The examples of fishermen’s art and craft activities I have considered, whilst nurtured and informed by formal western art traditions, are arguably also better understood from Ingold’s perspective on activities of painting and carving amongst hunter gatherers. The experience of working at sea and the practice of recalling and evoking that experience are intimately conjoined, exploring and extending fisherman’s practical experiences and skills, and enabling them to diversify whilst maintaining their independence and control over the things they make. It is also a way of working with memory that reflects experiences of personal and social change and ultimately reinforces the ethos of fishing even whilst the communities in which it is reproduced are transforming. The distinctions I set out at the outset of this chapter, between the ‘observed’ and the ‘working’ seascape, remain conceptually valid as describing two poles of experience, but the case studies suggest that in practice there is a fertile middle ground.
Figure 69: Fisherman's Memorial, Newlyn, 2009.
Figure 70: The Granite State wrecked at Porthcurno in 1895. Collection of Gibson’s of Scilly. The development of tourist photography coincided with the end of the merchant sailing era.
Figure 71: View of the Jubilee Pool from the promenade, Penzance, 2009.
Figure 72: The Rain it Raineth Every Day, 1889, Norman Garstin 1847-1926. Oil on canvas, 94 x 163 cm. Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance.
Figure 73: The Sunny South, 1885, Walter Langley 1852 – 1922. Oil on canvas, 122 x 61 cm. Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance. Purchased in 1997 with funding from The Art Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Friends of Penlee House.
Figure 74: A Chip off the Old Block, 1905, Walter Langley. Collection of Ferens Art Gallery: Kingston-upon-Hull City Museums, Art Galleries and Archives.
Figure 75: Michael Johnson, metal sculptor at The Copper Works, Newlyn, 2012.
Figure 76: An artist of the Newlyn School at work with an audience, late C.19th.
Collection of the Cornish Studies Library.
Figure 77: A salvaged remnant of the Rosebud, in Rosebud Court, Newlyn, 2012.
Figure 78: The Rosebud, moored at Westminster. Collection of the Cornish Studies Library.
Figure 79: The Island port mear beach old house in port mear square and a few hold houses in set peters st., Alfred Wallis, n.d. Private Collection.
Figure 80: This Sain Fishery That Use To Be, Alfred Wallis, n.d. Private Collection.
Figure 81: St Ives Harbour, Hayle Bay and Godrevy and Fishing Boats, Alfred Wallis, n.d. Private Collection.
Figure 82: Nigel Legge setting nets on Razorbill, near Cadgwith Cove, 2012.
Figure 83: Cadgwith Cove, 2012.
Figure 84: Nigel Legge’s studio, exterior 1, 2012.
Figure 85: Nigel Legge’s studio, interior 1, 2012.
Figure 86: A withy pot in construction at Nigel Legge’s studio, interior 2, 2012.
Figure 87: Mr Tom Brown of Port Isaac preparing lobster pots, 1943. Collection of the Cornish Studies Library.
Figure 88: Nigel Legge in his studio, interior 3, 2012.
Figure 89: Nigel Legge’s studio, interior 4, 2012.
Figure 90: One of Nigel’s label tags for his withy pots.
Figure 91: Playwright and fisherman Nick Darke. Photograph by Steve Tanner.
Figure 92: Fastnet fleet, Nigel Legge, on slate, n.d. Private collection.
Figure 93: Driftwood painting, Nigel Legge, n.d. Private collection.
Figure 94: Newlyn Trawler, Nigel Legge, n.d. Private collection.
Figure 95: Former pilchard processing buildings known as a ‘pilchard palace’, Church Cove, 2012.
Figure 96: Three in the Sea, Martin Ellis, Acrylic on board, n.d. Private collection.
Figure 97: Nutty’s Past, Martin Ellis, Acrylic on board, n.d. Private collection.
Figure 98: Nutty’s Pilchard, Martin Ellis, Acrylic on board, n.d. Private collection.
Figure 99: My Qualifications, Martin Ellis, Acrylic on board, n.d. Private collection.
Figure 100: Martin Ellis (aka Nutty Noah). Unknown photographer. 75 (http://www.nuttynoah.co.uk/. Accessed 12/09/12).
9 HERITAGE: RECONSTUCTION AND
REGENERATIONNo one knows when the first boat was built, or where, or by whom, or why. Boats began before history; boats are part of our cultural memories. Why else do people gather at the water’s edge when tall ships appear?
Dick Wagner, founding director, The Centre for Wooden Boats, Seattle (Hendrickson 2012: 21).
But look! Here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremist limit of the land;
loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No they must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand – miles of them – leagues. Inlanders all, they came from lanes and alleys, streets, and avenues – north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither?
From Moby-Dick (Melville 2003: 4).
The playwright Nick Darke expressed fears about the loss of traditional livelihoods in the small farming and fishing community where he lived and was born, and the encroachment of tourism and property speculation. In his view tourism offered ‘little remuneration and less dignity to its workforce’ (1999: xiii). He even seemed to resent the production of ‘heritage’: ‘culture is debased, and everything including history becomes a commodity’ (ibid). In this chapter I explore a range of fishing heritage meanings and practices in Cornwall. My concerns are to acknowledge social complexity and potential conflict around the production of heritage. Similarly to Darke I highlight practice-based/labour-centred views on place and identity (Ingold 2000, Gray 2000 and Howard 2012a) alongside non-essentialist meanings of heritage (Harvey 2001). However by unpacking and contesting conventional constructions of ‘heritage’ and ‘industry’ as separate and opposed domains, I argue (contrary to Darke) that heritage does have a role to play in sustaining livelihoods.