Packing pilchards and knitting socks were all part of a fishing wife's lot
Anyone who begins a book with the words "as far as I can remember, and I was born in 1906, so here it goes" is guaranteed to grab the attention of the reader.
The wife of a fisherman and mother of a large family, Newlyn woman Blanche Harvey Brown wrote her memoirs in 1990 when she was 74.
In it she looks back at a good old Newlyn Town where there were no less than eight courts – from Navy Inn Court to Devil's Court – and sixteen street taps.
"No house had water indoors, so every drop of water had to be carried," she wrote. "The drinking water was carried in earthenware pitchers and zinc buckets for household use. The only light was a paraffin lamp and candles. That was all the light we had in the streets which came from the houses."
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Here was an age when life was hard, when there was no dole, social security, free doctors, free milk or family allowance and it was very much an era of the survival of the fittest. And there is no doubting the fact that the survival of the fishermen and their families depended upon their wives..
From the moment they came downstairs in the morning to clean out the grate and relight it to the knitting of their husbands' jerseys on eight stocking needles, three quarter length stockings and their sea boot stockings, besides all the rest of the knitting for the children, they hardly stopped working.
And that's not counting the pilchard season.
"In August, when the children went back to school, the women would go in the fish stores to pack the pilchards into barrels, which was done in a special way," she wrote. "Then they were pressed twice so all the oil was pressed out into large barrels, then the tops were put on and they were ready to be taken down to the North Pier to be put on the large steam boat to be taken to Italy.
"If there were babies, they were washed, dressed and fed, then laid in the cradle which was made of wicker, with two rockers on the bottom so the baby could be rocked to sleep. There were not many prams about in them days. So mothers did not go out much and if they did they always had to carry the baby and they never had much time to spare for that, as they always found something to do."
Yet, despite the demands made on them, "dressed in long black skirts and blouses, they had a nice white blouse for Sunday or if they went to Penzance", they remained cheerful and were always willing "to help their neighbours in any sickness or trouble".
While times were tough, life had its lighter moments. Children made their own fun, there were the nicknames from "Pint" to Pat Me" and galas – the Band of Hope Gala on Whit Monday and the Sunday School Gala on August Bank Holiday – when with bands playing and banners flying they marched to Trereife.
From her memories of a Newlyn Town which "had five or six nice grocery shops, a post office and a barber shop" where a man could have a hair cut and shave for seven or eight pence (old money) and a boy could have his hair cut for twopence, Blanche Harvey Brown provides us with a slice of history, a fascinating picture of a community and a age that have since vanished.
Illustrated with period photographs, the author's son Kenny is responsible for the publication. And were his mother here, I'm sure she would delighted with all he has done. Captivating and charming, The Ways And Life Of The Old Newlyn: Fishermen, Wives And Their Families by Blanche Harvey Brown is available for £6 from Barron & Son's newsagents on The Strand in Newlyn or from Kenny Brown on 01736-332278.