Federation of Old Cornwall Societies

Bird Chough Facebook circle blue large

St Ives Old Cornwall Society



President: Margaret M Stevens


Vice-President: Frank Stevens


Chairman: Brian Stevens  


Secretary: Valerie Thomas   01736 794845


Treasurer: Raymond Perkins


Recorder: Frank Stevens



Click to contact this Society








Our annual subscription is £8.50, and we charge £2 for visitors.


We meet at 7 p.m. in the St Ives Infant

School on the third Monday of every month except February and  April.




Monday 17th December

I realise it is very short notice - Janet Axten is giving a talk on the History of Three Major Buildings Along Wharf Road



Monday 21st January


Members' night


Monday 11th February

The Wheal Ayr Legacy. BRIAN STEVENS


Monday 18th March



Monday 29th April

Spinning a yarn, or two. JOHN WALLIS


Monday 20th May  

A.G.M. followed by

Gathering up the fragments.





Saturday 24th November 2018

Federation Winter Festival at

Bodmin Priory Church, Bodmin.


Monday 6th May 2018

Mayday parade    


Monday  24th  June 2018

Midsummer  Bonfire on Carnstabba Hill,  Halsetown.


July 2019 Federation Summer Festival

Date and place to be announced.


August 2019 Crying the Neck:

Date to be announced


























Founded: 1920


Colours: Purple

St Ives new From Frank Stevens St Ives OCS St Ives OCS Visits St Agnes

After having to cancel the September meeting because of bad weather, the October meeting had an excellent attendance. President Margaret gave notice of forthcoming events, including the Federation’s Winter Festival at Bodmin on November 24th. She also spoke of the society’s successful Bonfire night and Crying the Neck ceremonies which proved very popular, before introducing presenter Cornish bard John McWilliams [ Jowan]whose topic was the Cornish Mackerel Season.


All of John’s narrative was accompanied by slides, many of them historic.  The first image was of cans of mackerel, on each was written ’sustainably caught’. It is alleged that mackerel fishing in St.Ives was first introduced by the Bretons in the 17th century, but it was probably small scale fishing.  They stored their fishing gear in an old abandoned cow-house on the Island, [ shown on screen]. In writings at the time there is mention of pilchards and herrings, but no mackerel, while local Tithe holders gave 1/10th of their earnings to the Church. Spring later became the main mackerel season, but nowadays the fish also appear in the autumn. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, mackerel could not be salted, so had to be eaten fresh. By then 2 sails had given way to 3, so enabling mackerel fishing in Ireland. Luggers using 2 sails contained cabins besides net and fish rooms. At one time, William Paynter built his boats on the harbour foreshore, before removing to Ireland; one of his vessels is preserved near Belfast. Before the advent of the railway, mackerel were taken to London markets by a Hayle to Bristol steamer; fish were handled by putting them into tubs on the quay, washed and freshened before being packed in pads of straw or paper in a basket with a lid and handles, before being sold on


The building of the Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash in 1859 meant that large amounts of fish could be transported more quickly. In 1860, fishermen from Lowestoft and Yarmouth arrived, but their working on Sundays was contrary to St.Ives’ and Newlyn’s religious principles, and landings at these ports was refused on Mondays with some exceptions at Newlyn. The market became gutted for the rest of the week by this practice, bringing hardship to the non-fishers. In 1896 ‘Yorkies’ flooded the markets, leading to riots in Newlyn when locals threw mackerel off their vessels.  Arriving by train, 350 soldiers of the Berkshire Regiment were sent to restore order, as well as 3 warships anchored in the bay.


St.Ives was a tidal harbour, helped by the Victorian extension to Smeaton’s Pier but Newlyn’s was not secure until the building of the North and South piers in 1888/9, and then able to accommodate vessels from all over Britain ,but leading to concerns that strangers were dominating the market and affecting the Cornish economy. With many unable to earn a living, or to pay their rates, this led to the beginning of emigration to America.


During World War One, owners were granted loans to install engines in their vessels, but those that did fish successfully during the conflict, which was important for the food supply, were always at risk from enemy Uboats. Bretons continued to arrive after the war, fishing until the Second World War, when their larger vessels enabled them to earn a good living. In the 1920’s mackerel were caught by using floating nets, with footline coilers used to pull over the nets. In recent years, small St.Ives boats caught mackerel with ‘spinners’, liners baited with feathers for hand lining, a practice that has also become popular with holiday makers. Brain showed  a bag of these feathers, now held at the museum, remarking that  what began as ‘ sustainable fishing’ went on to become still sustainable today.            


John drew the raffle after answering several questions, then refreshments were served. The next meeting will be on Monday November 19th, when John Strike’s topic will be’ Cornish Wrecks’. All are welcome.