Porthleven Fishing Boats

Adapted from the papers & photographs of my late Grandfather

William Frederick IVEY

1903-2000

FISHING

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.

Porthleven Fishing Boats PZ118 `FIRST SNOWDROP` alongside PZ114 `ENERGETIC` in the Inner Harbour .

Porthleven Fishing Boats PZ118 `FIRST SNOWDROP` alongside PZ114 `ENERGETIC` in the Inner Harbour .

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.

PZ114 ENERGETIC

PZ167 `GOLDEN RULE` with PZ144 `SNOWDROP`, PZ121 `BREADWINNER` & PZ114 `ENERGETIC`.

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 - PZ371SEEK - PZ346ARTHUR - PZ436HETTY MAY - PZ57*GUIDE ME* - PZ416MYSTERY - PZ82
UNIQUE - PZ11HOPE - PZ477LOUISE - PZ338MINNIE - PZ463BETHEL - PZ610ALBION - PZ99
EARLY DAWN - PZ337BOY ARNOLD - PZ389STANLEY - PZ484BRETTANIA - PZ8MABLE - PZ171BILLY BRAY - PZ67
THREE SISTERS - PZ589IVY - PZ113GIRL SUSIE - PZ59OLIVE - PZ95GAZELLE - PZ309VIOLET - PZ259
IRINE - PZ300LOIS - PZ442HARBENGER - PZ267CHARITY - PZ62
SERENE - PZ115DESIRE - PZ335
SUNBEAM - PZ318BOY GARFIELD - PZ62VOLMEY - PZ86MIRIAM - PZ114UNEXPECTED - PZ288OCEAN RIPPER - PZ4
ROSEBUD - PZ484RAINBOW - PZ159MIZPAH - PZ48PENROSE - PZ105BOY WILLIE - PZ91EDWIN - PZ177
MARITHA JANE - PZ485MAID MARION - PZ61SWEET HOPE - PZ606BESSIE - PZ143LITTLE EDITH - PZ27WELCOMB - PZ467
CONFLICT - PZ390LYDIA - PZ628BOY FRED - PZ528EARLY DAWN - PZ118AGNAS WESTERN - PZ316WILLOW - PZ243
HOPE FULL - PZ634OCEAN GIFT - PZ320MARKET MAID - PZ579CHARM - PZ12OUR JAMIE - PZ71BOY JACK - PZ191
IDEA - PZ482NELLIE JANE - PZ130FIRST SNOWDROP - PZ118WINIFRED - PZ76DOVE - PZ378GENERAL BOOTH - PZ576
ONLY TWO - PZ676HARVESTER - PZ126EBENEZER - PZ541GRACE DARLING - PZ345KINDLY LIGHT - PZ19HARBENGER - PZ465
THOMASINE - PZ475NEOMI - PZ192BOY GEORGE - PZ576CEILEY - PZ32TEMPLER - PZ241MARY ELLEN - PZ518
ENDEAVOUR - PZ119HOPE FULL - PZ116CATHRINE - PZ70RANGER - PZ41BREAD WINNER - PZ121IRIS - PZ616
MEMENTO - PZ243BOY WARRY - PZ67BIDDY - PZ121OLIVE - PZ95MIGONETTE - PZ542MATILDA - PZ146
ENERGETIC - PZ114HARVEST HOME - PZ520BOY WALLY- PZ568OUR WILLIE - PZ129SNOWDROP - PZ144FLORANCE - PZ128
INDESTRY - PZ271MYRTLE - PZ4MAJESTIC - PZ273DANIAL - PZ270PET - PZ222OUR BOYS - PZ588
MARGARET - PZ476ADA - PZ196FOAM - PZ126CHARLES - PZ209NELLIE - PZ711FAIRY - PZ14
SEA QUEEN - PZ574LEON CRISPO - PZ428OUR KATIE - PZ697HARRIET - PZ407EMBLEM - PZ575MAY - PZ624
MARJORY - PZ192BESSIE - PZ409BOY PETE - PZ599IRENE - PZ39LOIS - PZ626ADVENTURE - PZ141
GLEANER - PZ1PERSEVERANCE - PZ57BONNY MARY - PZ57ASTHORE - PZ182COR-DE-LION - PZ74BONNY MARY- PZ165
OCEAN RIPPER - PZ165SEAGULL - PZ408RELIANCE - PZ290CHITCHER LASS - PZ63GALILEAN - PZ131IBIS - PZ146
GIRL SIBLE - PZ595MAGGIE ANN - PZ32AGNAS WESTON - Z316THOMAS WILLIAM - PZ446SILVER HARVESTER - PZ622DEW-GENEN-NY - PZ185
GOLDEN SPINNEY - PZ17SILVER FERN - PZ119ALICE LOUISE - PZ592THE BIDDY - PZ121

TABLE OF PORTHLEVEN CRABBERS

CRABBER NAMES:CRABBER NAMES:CRABBER NAMES:CRABBER NAMES:CRABBER NAMES:CRABBER NAMES:
MARY ANNIE - PZ561EVELYN - PZ88
LILY - PZ317WISPERING HOPE - PZ336ANNIE STOTTEN - PZ503GOLDEN RULE - PZ167
PROVIDER (2) - PZ19RELIANCE - PZ475ARK, PAMSEY - PZ401ANNIE - PZ244INTERMASS II - PZ181FISHER LAD - PZ335
STELLA - PZ21ELSIE - PZ44DOS AMOGUS - PZ60LEVEN MOR - PZ556BOY FRANK - PZ67DONALD - PZ622
SADIE WICKHAM - PZ287MELENIE CLAIRE - PZ464ENID - PZ550SUSAN - PZ148PRISCELLA - PZ348THREE SISTERS - PZ282
BOY BOB - PZ501WILLIE - PZ91
ANN WICKHAM - PZ248DEVONIA - PZ139EMILY- PZ677VIOLA - PZ91
AUDREY - PZ234BOA, PESOADER - WH115PROVIDER - PZ280HEATHER - PZ159DIANA O - PZ200DONNA ROSE - PZ726
PATHFINDER - PZ74OCEAN SWELL - PZ720MATHEW HARVEY - PZ190ST RUAN - FH243GIRL JOAN - PZ628
ROBERT & JOHN - PZ103
HEATHER YVONNE - PZ353WEILL IVY - PZ521MAID ANN - PZ628OUR GRACIE - PZ79PENNY - PZ353ANN MARCELLE - PZ389
GIRL LILLIAN - PZ69MY RENEE - PZ283MONIQUE - PZ446MORNING STAR - PZ31BOY JIM - PZ201

TABLE OF PORTHLEVEN HOOKER BOATS:

HOOKER NAME:HOOKER NAME:HOOKER NAME:HOOKER NAME:HOOKER NAME:HOOKER NAME:
MABLE - PZ174SERENE - PZ335OUR JEAN - PZ335FISHER LAD - PZ335
JEM - PZ450ISABLE - PZ9
GELN WILLIE - PZ20OUR JANICE - PZ228BOY PETER - PZ151SKY LARK - PZ26GIRL KIM - PZ37
OUR GIRLS - PZ502
BOY JACK - FH133GIRL RUTH - PZ159COLLEEN - PZ319PAULMANDA - PZ276GIRL FRIME - PZ182POLLY MAY - PZ430
JANE M - PZ531EVA - PZ462PRISCILLA - PZ5SWALLOW - PZ13FAITH - PZ515LEANDER - PZ21
WILFRED - PZ219
PORTHLEVEN FISHING BOATS

Photo of the fishing fleet at the entrance to the Outer Harbour.

Porthleven Fishing Boats

Porthleven Fishing Boats in the Outer Harbour
Photo sent by Roxane Treleaven

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