Adapted from the papers & photographs of my late Grandfather
William Frederick IVEY
THE LEGEND OF TREGEAGLE
Legendary lore has attributed the origin of the Bar Sands which separates the Loe Pool from the sea, to Tregeagle, of whom so many stories have been told. A steward to Lord Robarts of Lanhydrock during the parliamentary wars, Tregeagle tyrannised the poor and rendered himself so generally unpopular as to acquire a title to the posthumous notoriety which he now enjoys. In relation to the Loe Bar he is reported to have received a certain sum of money from a tenant, and to have died before he entered it in the receipt book. His successor, ignorant of the transaction, applied for the money, and, on the tenants refusing a second payment, instituted proceedings against him. At the trial, however, the supposed debtor having contrived to raise the spirit of Tregeagle, brought this singular witness into court, and by its evidence established the fact of the previous payment.
The proceedings were thus terminated; but a fresh difficulty arose; the ghost remained behind in the court, and the defendant being requested to dismiss it, replied, that, since he had been at the trouble of bringing the witness, the task devolved on those who had driven him to that expedient.
To dispose of Tregeagle became now a matter for grave concern, and it was resolved that some impracticable task should be given him as an employment. He was accordingly sentenced to remove sand from a certain Cove to another, from which the sea was always sure to return it.
Whilst employed as this labourer it is said he accidentally dropped a sackful at the mouth of the river, in consequence of which the Bar and Pool was immediately formed.
That is one of the stories often told, there are others, it can still be remembered when an aeroplane dropped into the muddy section of the pool, I have been told that an attempt had been made at rescue, there were, it has been stated, two airmen on board, but all still remain to this day. That was indeed a sad affair, it was after the second world war that the accident occurred, many years after.
WHEAL VOR MINE
In March and April 1964 great hopes were raised in the district about reports appearing in a local daily newspaper, reporting that the Wheal Vor Tin Mine was hopefully about to be reopened and the taking of a supply of water from the Loe Pool. The two were really two issues and I do not propose to only make a passing reference to the mine.
WATER SUPPLY FOR HELSTON
Loe Pool was quite another proposition. It was rapidly becoming a problem to supply the expanding housing situation in Helston and the immediate district. There were strong arguments for and against taking a water supply from the Loe. It was pointed out that the Loe Pool was polluted by street washings, washings from the market, sewerage effluent from Helston Borough Sewerage Works, sewerage effluent from Culdrose Royal Naval Air Station, agricultural drainage from the land surrounding Loe Pool and streams entering the Pool.
The controversy arose because Helston & Porthleven Water Company drew a considerable quantity of water from the Wheal Vor Mine and allied mines which would be seriously affected if the mine should recommence operations. The Mine did not reopen and the question of taking water from Loe Pool for domestic purposes was not taken. New premises were built at Wendron and the Water Board, which superseded the old Helston & Porthleven Water Co., drew their supply from the Cober river. When Stithians Reservoir connected mains to the district, all little problems appeared to have been solved satisfactorily.
THE OWNERS OF LOE POOL
Penrose Manor House, once the seal of the Penrose family and later owned by the Rogers family.
I do not propose to give more than a passing mention to this very popular family. Toy in his `History of Helston` has dealt in detail with that source, but I must comment on the generosity of the present Lt. Commander; Lt. Cdr. J.P. Rogers, owner of the Penrose Estate who in 1974-5 gave the whole of the lake, the surrounding woods and farmland and in addition to this property of 1536 acres, gave Gunwalloe Church Cove and further land to form an endowment, together with four miles of foreshore from Porthleven to Gunwalloe (Penrose House is not open to the public) to the National Trust that the public might enjoy the wonderful scenery of this area.
Access is on foot only. No vehicles allowed.
This is the largest gift made to the Trust in Cornwall. An imaginative condition of Commander Roger’s gift, readily accepted by the Trust, was that the Loe should be kept as a place of great beauty for people to enjoy without distraction. Boating, swimming and fishing are not allowed.
Many have been the tales told about the Loe Pool, some can be taken as sheer fantasy, but there are some which may have more than a little truth in their telling. Some are weird, some are facts, some hearsay and some, no doubt, the figment of imagination.
It has often been said that the Loe Pool is a suitable and convenient suicide venue for the people of Helston, an unkind suggestion perhaps, but it cannot be denied that several persons have chosen the placid waters to terminate their earthly associations.
Not all are suicides, there have been a number of accidental drownings in the past. It has often been said that the Pool claims a victim every seven years. It cannot be disputed that there is some truth in the strange prediction.
SECRET ACTIVITIES IN WORLD WAR II
During the last war (1939) it had been whispered that some secret experiments had been carried out in the Pool. A suggestion that Barnes Wallace’s bouncing bomb of Dambusters fame had been tried out in its early stages, but I cannot get anyone to confirm if it did really happen or was just another yarn made to be told. I console myself however with the old saying, `There is never smoke without fire’, which also is not exactly correct. From what I can gather by occasional gossip `something’ of a secret nature had been in progress during the anxious war period and that some local fishermen, now very elderly, were commissioned and with strict instructions to maintain secrecy about their activities. One elderly gentleman who claimed to have taken part in `something strange’ agreed tolet me have some reliable information on the subject, but he died without sharing his knowledge of what did happen.
I have been told that there is a cave at the bottom of Degibna Farm which contains a passage to Lower Nansloe Farm which might have been used as a smugglers hideout in bygone times. I don’t known of its whereabouts but I understand that it is near the Degibna Farm which land adjoins the Loe. I have also been told that there is a cave within the Loe itself into which divers have entered, again information is lacking, but I have no reason to doubt the integrity of the person who so informed me.
To add further to the many tales there is supposed to be a Spanish galleon laying in the Loe with much treasure aboard which was supposed to have been washed over the Bar Sands during a terrific storm, but there seems to be no trace of any such craft finding a resting place in the Loe Pool. Why every ship, especially Spanish, should be laiden with treasure may possibly have been enlarged with the repeating of the tale.
ANOTHER SECRET PROJECT?
Some years ago a University lecturer called at my home seeking information and stated that he was doing a `project’ on the various layers of silt and soil of the foundation. He produced some impressive coloured photographs, which he claimed to have taken in the depths of the pool. His conversation too, was both interesting and impressive. He promised to let me know of his findings and would send me some photographs, he never did. Further, I called on the telephone the number he gave me and I asked if it would be possible to speak to him. No one at the address contacted seemed to have heard of him, or to have any knowledge of such a person, or any project on the subject being undertaken, or in progress!
Whatever anyone may think about the Loe Pool, one that is uppermost in my mind and it cannot be disputed, the Loe Pool seems to be very reluctant to yield up its secrets and that there is no doubt that as long as the Pool exists there will be no end of rumours, suicides, drownings, mysteries and tales of uncanny happenings there.
A gentleman, long deceased, of a Helston prominent family and a geologist of some merit once told me that there was evidence that the sea at one time certainl came up the valley into the lower reaches of Helston sad still even further inland. He claimed that he could point out on the cliffs face at Lowertown where the waves at one time washed against them.
THE FLORA DAY CONNECTION
The story about the fiery dragon is worthy of a place amongst the fables. The inhabitants of Helston were alarmed at the approach of a flying dragon emitting flames which appeared to be heading in the town’s direction. Fearful of it dropping amidst them and burning down their homes the whole population ran into the country as a means of escaping what appeared to be certain destruction. But the unwelcome visitor turned in the direction of the Loe Pool and dropped into the water instantly extinguishing itself. The people were so relieved that in their joy they gathered branches of a sycamore and greenery and danced into the town waving their gatherings to the accompaniment of pinging and shouting.
It is attributed to this phenomenon that the `Hal-an-Tow’ is carried out on 8th May (or near that date) each year early in the morning and a spirited ceremony takes place at several places in the town. The starting point being at the old St. John’s bridge. This ceremony fell into abeyance for many years, due, it was said, to the drunken behaviour of some of the participants and joined by some onlookers. The Hal-an-Tow was reintroduced by Helston Old Cornwall Society in 1930.
Some early guides of the county affirms that the Hal-an-Tow is the forerunner of Helston Furry Dance celebrations. I’m afraid that I can shed no light on the argument and I doubt very much whether anyone else can.
A WEIRD EXPERIENCE
There seems to be something uncanny about the Loe Pool. There appears to be a feeling of apprehension about certain places on the edge of the Pool, particularly in the Carminowe Creek area. Uncanny experiences have been related to the Author in a variety of expressions of these experiences.
I once met a lady who approached me while I was on one of my jaunts over the footpath and asked whether I knew the lake well! I enlightened that having been born locally I had more than a passing knowledge of the place. She said in the course of her conversation `I feel that there is something uncanny about the place, do you feel it? I replied after some thought I said that some persons might regard me as uncanny if I agreed on her query, `No’ I said `I can’t really say that I have experienced any peculiarity but I have heard others say that they `feel’ something about that particular section of the lake. Another lady told me she wouldn’t go near the place alone, she had a `feeling’ that there was none around or anything to see in human form.
These are but a couple of incidents which come to mind.
The only thing, if that is the word, that I have experienced is the tranquility. The complete silence, except for an occasional flutter of some birdlife, the splash of a fish or the rustle of the breeze in the trees, those things can be contributions to some people with an impressionable mind affected by the absolute silence otherwise of this delightful retreat, a deep contrast to the townlife of constant roar and din of passing traffic.
There might, of course, be something in what others have experienced, or thought they had. We should not ridicule what others say or think, there must be some tangible explanation for these `feelings’.