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Captivating slice of old Newlyn

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: December 20, 2012

Kenny Brown with his mother's book. www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/buyaphoto

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The Ways And Life Of The Old Newlyn Fishermen, Wives And Their Families by Blanche Harvey Brown

Review by Frank Ruhrmund

ANYONE who begins a book with, "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, particularly if that reader happens to be a Newlyner.

The late Blanche Harvey Brown, wife of a fisherman and mother of a large family, wrote her memoirs when she was 74 years old – 11 years before she died in 1990 at the age of 85.

Mrs Blanche Brown looks back at a "Good Old Newlyn Town" in which there were eight courts, from Navy Inn Court to Devils Court, and 16 street taps as no one had water in their house.

"The only light they had was a paraffin lamp and candles, that was all the light we had in the streets which came from the houses," she says.

"There was no dole, social security, free doctors, free milk or family allowance." 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 "their 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 when the women would go in the fish stores to pack the pilchards into barrels, ready to be taken down to the North Pier to be put on the large steam boat to be taken to Italy.

Yet, despite the demands made upon them, they remained cheerful and were always willing to help their neighbours.

From her memories of a Newlyn Town which "had five or six nice grocery shops, a post office and a barber shop", Mrs Blanche Harvey Brown provides us with a slice of living history, a fascinating picture of a Newlyn that has since vanished.

Illustrated with period photographs, three of which have been kindly supplied by Billy Stevenson, the rest by the author's son Kenny who has been largely responsible for this publication, were his mother here now then I'm sure she would delighted with all that he has done.

Captivating and quite charming, her book, price £6, can be obtained from J Barron & Son, Newsagents, The Strand, Newlyn, or direct from Kenny Brown on 01736 332278.

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