Adapted from the papers & photographs of my late Grandfather
William Frederick IVEY
The oldest industry at Porthleven is fishing, an occupation in which the same families have been engaged for many generations.
The Cornish fishermen are considered to be among the most hardy and venturesome of the south coast fishermen. At one time there were over one hundred boats engaged in fishing. In the year 1885 there were 80 pilchard boats, 23 mackerel drivers. These were the larger type of boat which went to fish in the Scottish waters in the herring season, and to Ireland in the mackerel season.
There were twenty crabbers (a smaller type of boat). These caught shell-fish in Mount’s Bay. There were usually seven men to a boat in a mackerel driver, and very often they were away for a stretch of three months in pursuit of the herrings going as far as Aberdeen.
The advent of the steam trawler changed all this and ths fishing grounds of the North Sea are no longer profitable to the small fisherman.
Pilchard fishing over the years had been the most important and had been the means of giving employment to a large number of men and women. In fact, it is not too much to say that the prosperity of the town was, at one time, dependant largely upon a successful pilchard season. Whether caught by seining or drift net, the landing of the shining, glistening pilchards in the early mornings during the summer months was always a fascinating sight. Fish hawkers, known as “jowsters”, with their pony and trap (later motor vans) lined the quayside to capture the first sale. And then off to inland towns and villages, where the fish were sold at 8 or 10 for a penny. Every year cottagers salted large quantities for winter consumption. In 1872 no Cornish household was without its own stock of pilchards for the winter months.
The night’s catch of a fishing boat varied considerably, some boats bringing in as much as 40,000 fish. In 1919 the fishing boat `Nellie` (PZ711) landed a catch of £100 worth of pilchards; this was believed to be at that time a record in Cornwall for one night’s fishing. In one fortnight during the height of the pilchard season the sum of £4,000 was paid out by Messrs. Pawlyn Bros. the fish buyers.
After the fish hawkers were supplied, the remaining catches of pilchards were taken to the fish cellars and the curing stores. Placed in large tanks of brine, the pilchards were immersed for six weeks. They were then taken out and pressed in casks in readiness for shipment to Italian ports.
A serious calamity threatened the future of the export trade of pilchards in 1885, when complaints were received from Italy of such an alarming nature that it was feared that the Italians, who were the chief buyers of the Cornish pilchards, might not renew any more contracts. It became so serious that the Rev. James Hargreaves, Wesleyan Minister at Porthleven, went to Italy as a deputation to investigate the position. The return of Mr. Hargreaves with the findings was a memorable occasion in the lives of pilchard fishermen at Porthleven.
But over the years the fishing industry has not always been prosperous; there are records of “hard winters”, and considerable distress among the fishermen. There have been occasions when the fishermen have returned home from North Sea herring fishing practically in debt.
Loss of fishing gear and damage to their boats through winter storms have made this hardy type of man endure poverty and hardship; a fisherman’s life in the 19th Century was one of hard toil and endurance. Changing conditions began to take place with the advent of steam and power motors. One by one, beginning with the larger boats and then the crabbers, engines were installed – the “day of sail” was drawing to a close.
There was a period of prosperity in fishing following the 1914-18 war; prices were good and fish were plentiful. Several boats, during the pilchard season, landed catches worth nearly £200. But the boom did not last long; the depression came and, in 1922, when there was a serious decline in the industry, a number of boats were offered for sale, and some of the old family craft disappeared from Porthleven harbour for good. The younger generation, sons of fishermen, no longer followed in the family tradition and the calling of the sea, which was in the life-blood of their forebears, held no attraction for them.
The gradual decline was felt to such an extent that in 1956 Messrs. Pawlyn & Sons, fish buyers, who had been in business for over 60 years, closed down. There is no open fish market at Porthleven; it is now at Newlyn, near Penzance.
Newlyn is now the principal port in Mount’s Bay for the marketing of fish.
But fishing has not entirely diminished at Porthleven. There still remains a hardy core of seafaring men who fish in Mount’s Bay, whether it is crabbing, long-lining, drift fishing, or trawling. Their home port is their fondest anchorage and they take great pride in their boats. Modern equipment in the way of echo meters (fish finding apparatus), radio telephones and GPS have been installed in many of the boats.
A number of pleasure craft also operate from the harbour.
PORTHLEVEN FISHING BOATS / HOOKERS & CRABBERS from c1800
I recently discovered this fantastic list of Porthleven Fishing Boats / Hookers & Crabbers along with their Penzance (PZ) registration numbers in my late Grandfathers papers. I am unable to verify if this is a definitive list, but would guess that it covers the majority of boats from around 1800 onward. Unfortunately, I don`t have the time to reproduce them in alphabetical/numerical order. What I have also noticed when reproducing the list is the occasional duplication of a boats name or registration number. Having thought about this I can only suggest that perhaps the boat changed ownership or a new one was registered. Dont forget that this list covers over 100 years of Porthleven boats and therefore not all of them would have been in service at the same time. However, not witstanding this, it will hopefully help you find the name of any boat that you may come across in old photos/postcards/books etc. Goodluck!
TABLE OF PORTHLEVEN FISHING BOATS:
|FISHING BOAT NAME:||FISHING BOAT NAME:||FISHING BOAT NAME:||FISHING BOAT NAME:||FISHING BOAT NAME:||FISHING BOAT NAME:|
|OLD BIDDY - PZ371||SEEK - PZ346||ARTHUR - PZ436||HETTY MAY - PZ57||*GUIDE ME* - PZ416||MYSTERY - PZ82|
|UNIQUE - PZ11||HOPE - PZ477||LOUISE - PZ338||MINNIE - PZ463||BETHEL - PZ610||ALBION - PZ99|
|EARLY DAWN - PZ337||BOY ARNOLD - PZ389||STANLEY - PZ484||BRETTANIA - PZ8||MABLE - PZ171||BILLY BRAY - PZ67|
|THREE SISTERS - PZ589||IVY - PZ113||GIRL SUSIE - PZ59||OLIVE - PZ95||GAZELLE - PZ309||VIOLET - PZ259|
|IRINE - PZ300||LOIS - PZ442||HARBENGER - PZ267||CHARITY - PZ62||SERENE - PZ115||DESIRE - PZ335|
|SUNBEAM - PZ318||BOY GARFIELD - PZ62||VOLMEY - PZ86||MIRIAM - PZ114||UNEXPECTED - PZ288||OCEAN RIPPER - PZ4|
|ROSEBUD - PZ484||RAINBOW - PZ159||MIZPAH - PZ48||PENROSE - PZ105||BOY WILLIE - PZ91||EDWIN - PZ177|
|MARITHA JANE - PZ485||MAID MARION - PZ61||SWEET HOPE - PZ606||BESSIE - PZ143||LITTLE EDITH - PZ27||WELCOMB - PZ467|
|CONFLICT - PZ390||LYDIA - PZ628||BOY FRED - PZ528||EARLY DAWN - PZ118||AGNAS WESTERN - PZ316||WILLOW - PZ243|
|HOPE FULL - PZ634||OCEAN GIFT - PZ320||MARKET MAID - PZ579||CHARM - PZ12||OUR JAMIE - PZ71||BOY JACK - PZ191|
|IDEA - PZ482||NELLIE JANE - PZ130||FIRST SNOWDROP - PZ118||WINIFRED - PZ76||DOVE - PZ378||GENERAL BOOTH - PZ576
|ONLY TWO - PZ676||HARVESTER - PZ126||EBENEZER - PZ541||GRACE DARLING - PZ345||KINDLY LIGHT - PZ19||HARBENGER - PZ465|
|THOMASINE - PZ475||NEOMI - PZ192||BOY GEORGE - PZ576||CEILEY - PZ32||TEMPLER - PZ241||MARY ELLEN - PZ518|
|ENDEAVOUR - PZ119||HOPE FULL - PZ116||CATHRINE - PZ70||RANGER - PZ41||BREAD WINNER - PZ121||IRIS - PZ616|
|MEMENTO - PZ243||BOY WARRY - PZ67||BIDDY - PZ121||OLIVE - PZ95||MIGONETTE - PZ542||MATILDA - PZ146|
|ENERGETIC - PZ114||HARVEST HOME - PZ520||BOY WALLY- PZ568||OUR WILLIE - PZ129||SNOWDROP - PZ144||FLORANCE - PZ128|
|INDESTRY - PZ271||MYRTLE - PZ4||MAJESTIC - PZ273||DANIAL - PZ270||PET - PZ222||OUR BOYS - PZ588|
|MARGARET - PZ476||ADA - PZ196||FOAM - PZ126||CHARLES - PZ209||NELLIE - PZ711||FAIRY - PZ14|
|SEA QUEEN - PZ574||LEON CRISPO - PZ428||OUR KATIE - PZ697||HARRIET - PZ407||EMBLEM - PZ575||MAY - PZ624|
|MARJORY - PZ192||BESSIE - PZ409||BOY PETE - PZ599||IRENE - PZ39||LOIS - PZ626||ADVENTURE - PZ141|
|GLEANER - PZ1||PERSEVERANCE - PZ57||BONNY MARY - PZ57||ASTHORE - PZ182||COR-DE-LION - PZ74||BONNY MARY- PZ165|
|OCEAN RIPPER - PZ165||SEAGULL - PZ408||RELIANCE - PZ290||CHITCHER LASS - PZ63||GALILEAN - PZ131||IBIS - PZ146|
|GIRL SIBLE - PZ595||MAGGIE ANN - PZ32||AGNAS WESTON - Z316||THOMAS WILLIAM - PZ446||SILVER HARVESTER - PZ622||DEW-GENEN-NY - PZ185|
|GOLDEN SPINNEY - PZ17||SILVER FERN - PZ119||ALICE LOUISE - PZ592||THE BIDDY - PZ121|
TABLE OF PORTHLEVEN CRABBERS
|CRABBER NAMES:||CRABBER NAMES:||CRABBER NAMES:||CRABBER NAMES:||CRABBER NAMES:||CRABBER NAMES:|
|MARY ANNIE - PZ561||EVELYN - PZ88||LILY - PZ317||WISPERING HOPE - PZ336||ANNIE STOTTEN - PZ503||GOLDEN RULE - PZ167|
|PROVIDER (2) - PZ19||RELIANCE - PZ475||ARK, PAMSEY - PZ401||ANNIE - PZ244||INTERMASS II - PZ181||FISHER LAD - PZ335|
|STELLA - PZ21||ELSIE - PZ44||DOS AMOGUS - PZ60||LEVEN MOR - PZ556||BOY FRANK - PZ67||DONALD - PZ622|
|SADIE WICKHAM - PZ287||MELENIE CLAIRE - PZ464||ENID - PZ550||SUSAN - PZ148||PRISCELLA - PZ348||THREE SISTERS - PZ282|
|BOY BOB - PZ501||WILLIE - PZ91||ANN WICKHAM - PZ248||DEVONIA - PZ139||EMILY- PZ677||VIOLA - PZ91|
|AUDREY - PZ234||BOA, PESOADER - WH115||PROVIDER - PZ280||HEATHER - PZ159||DIANA O - PZ200||DONNA ROSE - PZ726|
|PATHFINDER - PZ74||OCEAN SWELL - PZ720||MATHEW HARVEY - PZ190||ST RUAN - FH243||GIRL JOAN - PZ628||ROBERT & JOHN - PZ103|
|HEATHER YVONNE - PZ353||WEILL IVY - PZ521||MAID ANN - PZ628||OUR GRACIE - PZ79||PENNY - PZ353||ANN MARCELLE - PZ389|
|GIRL LILLIAN - PZ69||MY RENEE - PZ283||MONIQUE - PZ446||MORNING STAR - PZ31||BOY JIM - PZ201|
TABLE OF PORTHLEVEN HOOKER BOATS:
|HOOKER NAME:||HOOKER NAME:||HOOKER NAME:||HOOKER NAME:||HOOKER NAME:||HOOKER NAME:|
|MABLE - PZ174||SERENE - PZ335||OUR JEAN - PZ335||FISHER LAD - PZ335||JEM - PZ450||ISABLE - PZ9|
|GELN WILLIE - PZ20||OUR JANICE - PZ228||BOY PETER - PZ151||SKY LARK - PZ26||GIRL KIM - PZ37||OUR GIRLS - PZ502|
|BOY JACK - FH133||GIRL RUTH - PZ159||COLLEEN - PZ319||PAULMANDA - PZ276||GIRL FRIME - PZ182||POLLY MAY - PZ430|
|JANE M - PZ531||EVA - PZ462||PRISCILLA - PZ5||SWALLOW - PZ13||FAITH - PZ515||LEANDER - PZ21|
|WILFRED - PZ219|