A Fight at Sea
The Press Association Newlyn correspondent states that the night passed off uneventfully and this morning a detachment of the 2nd Berkshire Regiment, who had been on duty, was relieved by another detachment of the same regiment. It transpires that one East Coast boat yesterday behaved very pluckily. On being warned at the mouth ofthe bay of the danger at Newlyn, the master made for Penzance and lay to. On the smack being noticed from Newlyn, two fishing boats hoisted their sails, and, accompanied by two gigs in which were 20 men, set out to board the Lowestoft craft. The skipper of the latter noticing what was being done prepared the stones among his ballast as ammunition. he then stood away towards St Michaels Mount and,spreading full sail, ran right a strong breeze towards the Newlyn flotilla which contemplated boarding him. By this time the gigs which had been towed by the Newlyn craft had been cast off, to enable the crews to board the stranger, who warned his attackers that he would run them down, and as he swept by one of the gigs his crew shot a volley of stones at her, striking the oarsmen and endangering the boat. Then he luffed, repeated and gave another volley, and the Newlyn boat sheered off. The Lowestoft boat next served the other gig in the same manner and then pulled away, jeering at the Newlyn men as he left.
Rioting recommenced at 11 o'clock that morning, when an attack was made on Mr Stricke harbour master because he put off in a steam launch on Monday to warn the East Country boats not to come to Newlyn, and the police had to protect him. The rioters however, attacked the police as well, but were eventually driven back with the aid of truncheons. The military who were close at hand, were not called into requisition.
The mob at Newlyn has threatened to burn the harbour master’s house. It is not known whether any of the police were injured by anyone during the baton charge today.
Further Serious Rioting
Gunboats & Military Dispatched to the Scene
The rioting amongst the fishermen in Newlyn were renewed yesterday, and assumed such serious proportions that the local magistrates deemed it necessary to telegraph to Devonport for assistance from the naval and military authorities. There was quite as much excitement among the fishermen as on the previous day, and though in the morning there was no indication of any desire to resort to personal violence there was an expressed determination on the part of the men that no fish should be landed from the East-country boats. A large body of police were on duty throughout the whole of Monday night, but no further disturbance occurred. As early as nine o'clock yesterday morning, however, there was a gathering of quite a thousand fishermen on the pier but as no boats had arrived during the night the men turned their attention in other directions and made an attack upon a waggon-load of empty fish boxes which had arrived from Penzance, under the impression that the boxes were intended for the packing of fish caught by the East-country boats. The police interfered to prevent the destruction of property, but they were completely outnumbered and very roughly treated, Insector Matthews being severely cut on the side of the head with a fish box that was thrown at him. He also had a finger broken, and other members of the force received minor injuries.
The police at once drew their states and prepared to act on the defensive, but no further violence was offered by the crowd, and some of the men them amused themselves for some time by addressing the crowd on the sinfulness of Sunday fishing. One speaker exclaimed “We are no white feather men. We are Cornishmen fighting for truth, honesty, and Christianity. We will have our Sundays honoured, and if the Lowestoft men are not allowed to bring in fish on Mondays we shall have better prices on Tuesday.” After this there was an hour or two of quiet. Then came a report that a Lowestoft boat was entering the bay, and immediately THE WILDEST EXCITEMENT prevailed. The large boats were manned by about 30 fishermen, the order was given for all on the parapet of the pier to go below so that the crew of the “foreigner” might not suspect anything, and the boats rowed out to the trawler. The Newlyn men boarded and took charge of the vessel, and threw overboard all the fish that was on board. The quantity was not large, the catch not exceeding above 2,000. By this time two other “yorkies” as the Lowestoft boats are called, had put in an appearance in the distance, and to prevent their escape two Newlyn luggers were manned by very large crews and set out to intercept them. Just then other Lowestoft boats appeared in the bay, but they were all handled so well that they escaped their pursuers and made off to sea again—it was believed for Plymouth.
After this A GOOD DEAL OF EXCITEMENT was exhibited, and it was in fear of a serious disturbance that the magistrate telegraphed to Devonport for assistance from the naval and military authorities. In response to this request the gunboat “Curlew”, the special service vessel “Traveller”, and the torpedo boat destroyer “Ferret” were immediately dispatched to Newlyn, and about the same time 300 men of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, under Major Massard, left by train for Penzance and proceeded thence by road to Newlyn. A Penzance correspondent says:—A contemplated attack by 200 Newlyn rioters on a Lowestoft boat in Penzance Harbour has been pluckily resisted and repulsed. The attacking party advanced by way of the promenade. As soon as they crossed the borough boundaries they were met by A BODY OF PENZANCE WOMEN and children who hooted and jeered at them. Their retort was, “We have come to take away your husbands”; but in a few minutes the leaders with blood-stained faces were hastening homeward. Superintendant Nicholas and only part of his little police force, about eight in all, were drawn up on the narrow part of the quay. At sight of the policemen the fishermen raised a shout and advanced at the double. Behind the policemen was a small body of volunteers, composed of sailors, quay labourers, and others, armed with ice spikes, staves and belaying pins. The foremost of the rioters had the police truncheons so well played upon their heads and faces that they fell back, and there was A GENERAL STAMPEDE for 200 or 300 yards to Sandy Bank. There the men obtained boards out of a boat, and, armed with these and stones, they made a stand, but were soon broken up into little groups and scattered. According to later telegrams from Penzance only a few of the rioters remained on the promenade. A large number of St Ives boats are sailing into Mount's Bay and making for Newlyn, and the retreating Newlyn men threatened that they would return with the St Ives’ men.
The Lowestoft boatowners met yesterday afternoon and considered the demand of the Cornishmen for an undertaking that Lowestoft boats should in the future remain in port from Saturday to Monday, and decided that the answer should be given from Messrs Price and Capps, chairman and secretary of the society in which they are insured, who arrived at Newlyn last evening. The feeling of the Lowestoft owners now is that as the mischief is done they will not give way, but leave members in the hands of the government. Mr H S Foster MP, last evening received the following telegram from Penzance:—“Cornishmen still throwing Lowestoft fish overboard, Newlyn harbour blocked. Our crews held prisoners by cornishmen. No gunboat here yet. One must come at once, also military. Sure life and property will be lost if not stopped at once. We are helpless!” Upon receiving this telegram Mr Foster at oncecommunicated with the Home Secretary and learnt that steps are being taken to restore order.
THE HOME SECRETARY HAS TELEGRAPHED to the local magistrates to meet the military, and provide for them food and Shelter, and to read the Riot Act if necessary. Mr Foster afterwards received the following telegraph from Penzance:—“No assistance arrived yet. Mob reinforced by St Ives men. Matters growing worse. Military coming; if not must arm ourselves for safety of property.” Telegraphing last evening, a Penzance correspondent says:—“Five boat loads of fish have been seized and thrown into the harbour at Newlyn. HMS Traveller is hourly expected and, with the aid of soldiers ad bluejackets, it is confidently expected that order will soon be restored. In the meantime Special Constables are being sworn in, as it is feared St Ives’ men may pay Penzance a visit.”
The Press Association's Newlyn correspondent states that a mass meeting of fishermen was held yesterday on Newlyn South Pier. The clerk to the county magistrates was present. Three speakers, Mr Tonkin, of Newlyn; Mr Thomas Strike of Porthleven; and Mr Mann, Mousehole, addressed the crowd. Mr Strike said they did not want violence, but they were determined to carry their principle through. There was no objection to their Lowestoft brethren coming there, but they were strongly averse to their fishing on Saturday nights and Sundays. A thousand fishermen cheered this speech. Some buyers and salesmen also spoke. They said they endorsed the views of the Newlyn fishermen, but had to consult their firms before they could pledge themselves not to sell any fish caught on Saturday night or Sunday.
The settlement is recorded as Nulyn in 1279 and as Lulyn in 1290, and the name is probably derived from the Cornish for "pool for a fleet of boats".
Like the neighbouring communities of Penzance, Mousehole and Paul - Newlyn was destroyed during the Spanish Raid of 1595.
In 1620 The Mayflower stopped off at Newlyn old quay to take on water. A plaque on the quay reads..
In memory of Bill Best Harris, historian who through rigourous research found that the Mayflower docked in Newlyn Harbour for fresh water as the water supplied in Plymouth was contaminated. Therefore Newlyn was the last port of call in UK for the Mayflower.
In 1755 the Lisbon earthquake caused a tsunami to strike the Cornish coast over 1,000 miles away. The sea rose ten feet in ten minutes at Newlyn, and ebbed at the same rate.
During the 19th century Newlyn was the scene of the Newlyn riots following protests over the landing of fish on a Sunday by fishermen from the north of England, the local Cornish fisherman being members of the Methodist church and as such strong supporters of sabbatarianism
In the late 19th century the fishing port of Newlyn was home to one of the UK's largest fishing fleets, and was also the regular landing port for many other fishing vessels operating off the Cornish coast. At the time Newlyn was also the home to as many as 5 separate Methodist and Non-Conformist religious groups, whose congregations included the local fishermen, most of whom practiced a ban on fish being landed on the Sabbath. The non-Cornish fishing crews, largely from Lowestoft and northern English ports, did not hold the same opinions with regards to Sabbath observation, and would regularly land fish on a Sunday attracting higher prices for their fish than those sold on a weekday
These articles are from the Sunderland Echo, a newspaper from the North-East of England.
Flanking the harbour was a small fort or barbican built by Henry Vlll to protect the harbour against his continental enemies, its large bronze canon was carried off in the Spanish raid of 1595.The stone cellars were once used to quarantine a crew of Barbary corsairs whose ship, the’ White Horse’ was wrecked in December 1765.The effectiveness of the Penzance force seems a little dubious, to say the least, and there are numerous accounts of how the laws on trade were flouted, often in front of the very eyes of the preventive forces. In 1767 nine smugglers' vessels, including armed sloops, sailed from Penzance harbour in broad daylight; a man-of-war looked on, powerless to stop them. Five years later a customs boat from Penzance was plundered and sunk by smugglers, and later the same year, another smugglers' boat captured the revenue cutter Brilliant, which was lying in Penzance harbour with seized goods on board.
The collector of customs at Penzance describes how, in 1775, the smugglers worked in full view of the customs authorities:
'Two Irish wherries full of men and guns (one about 130 tons, and the other less) came to anchor within the limits of this port, and within half a mile of the shore, and lay there three days, in open defiance discharging their contraband goods. We are totally destitute of any force to attack them by sea, and as the whole coast is principally inhabited by a lot of smugglers under the denomination of fishermen and farmers, it is next to an impossibility for the officers of the revenue to intercept any of these goods after they are landed...the officers, being on the look-out, saw a boat come off from one of the wherries and come ashore near where the officers had secreted themselves, and the crew began to land the goods. The officers interfered, and attempted to make a seizure of said boat and goods; but a blunderbuss was immediately presented to one of their breasts, and the smugglers, with great imprecations, threatened their lives'.
On another occasion, a large wherry landed 1500-2000 ankers of spirits, 20 tons of tea and other goods on the beach here, and a local officer of the customs wrote the following plaintive letter to his superiors:
In the western part of this county, smuggling, since the soldiers have been drawn off, has been carried on almost without control. Irish wherries, carrying 14, 16 or more guns, and well manned, frequently land large quantities of goods in defiance of the officers of customs and excise, and their crew, armed with swords and pistols, escort the SS a considerable distance from the sea. In this way, goods are carried from one part of the country to another almost every night...The beach lies near a public road which, whilst the goods were discharging, was filled with armed men, in order to stop every traveller in whom they could not confide, till the goods were safely lodged in the country....A few days after, two officers got information that a very considerable quantity of goods was concealed in the house and premises of a well-known smuggler. They obtained from me a search warrant, but were forcibly hindered from executing it by four men, one armed with a pistol and a large whip, the others with sticks and bludgeons. They were told that if they persisted they would have their brains blown out. As the law now stands, I fear a criminal prosecution would have been useless for the reason, which it shocks me to mention, that a Cornish jury would certainly acquit the smugglers....These, my lord, are the facts. It would be mere pedantry to describe to your lordship the shocking effects, the moral and political consequences of smuggling carried to such a daring height, but I cannot help saying that perjury, drunkenness, idleness, poverty, and contempt of the law, and a universal corruption of manners are, in this neighbourhood, too plainly seen to accompany it.’
(Taken from Penzance Custom House Book)
The principal reason for this unhindered activity was the weakness of the excisemen, the strength of the smugglers and the degree of their local support. The involvement in the trade permeated to the very cream of society, even up to the lord Mayor's office: in 1770 the Mayor of Penzance was bound over with a large financial surety, to cease smuggling.
Given the way the laws against smuggling were flouted in the town itself, it would be surprising if there were not support for the free-trade in the hinterland of Penzance. And indeed, a Madron man described how, when his father was apprenticed to a shoe-maker...
'to vary the monotony of the work, however, they often turned out...to Gorran or Portloe, ten miles away, to fetch home smuggled goods — chiefly brandy. ...On arriving home, the liquor was coloured the right shade with burnt sugar, after which it was returned to the kegs and sold to trusty customers’.
At Ludgvan, two miles north east of Penzance, the customs officers could not sell seized liquor in 1748, because of the vast quantity smuggled in. Smugglers were asking 3/3 a gallon for the illegally imported liquor: the reserve price on the seized goods was 5/6.
Myths and Legends of Penzance
For over 300 years the Dolphin Inn has overlooked Penzance’s changing harbour. Indeed it was so close to the sea that before the present sea wall was built stormy seas used to flood the cellars of the Inn leaving the barrels and kegs of beer and spirits bobbing around in salt water. Right outside the front door was the ‘Tin Mans Haul’, a tiny cove where three small town brigantines, the Fairy, the Bassett and the Prince of Wales were refitted between voyages to London with tin ingot tin, during the early 19th century.
Customers at The Dolphin Inn at Penzance have witnessed the sight, and in recent years, the sound of an old sea captain dressed in a tricorn hat and laced ruffles paying them an unwelcome visit. It is believed he may have been a victim of Judge Jeffries (1648-89), the famous "Hanging Judge" who is reputed to have held an Assizes in what is now the dining room of the inn, or possibly an old smuggler returning to claim the casks of brandy recently found hidden away in the cellar during renovations.