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Cornish traditions weather the storms

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: December 27, 2012

  • Tom Bawcock's procession enhanced by the band in Mousehole.

  • David Eddy as Tom Bawcock and daughter Lowenna led the children's parade.

  • Young Rufus Potter enjoyed the lights and the procession.

  • Tom Bawcock's procession to the harbour – all about fish.

  • Montol 2012. The masked and lantern lit parade makes its way down Market Jew Street. PZPM20121221C-002_C.JPG

  • The Lord of Misrule and Old Ned at Montol in Penzance.

  • The crowd warms up as the beacon blazes at Lescudjack.

  • Montol 2012 at Lescudjack Hill fort – The Guisers prepare to perform.

  • Montol 2012. Lescudjack Hillfort. The Guise dancers. PZPM20121221C-004_C.JPG

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DESPITE atrocious weather, hundreds of people celebrated two peculiarly west Cornish traditions last weekend.

With the midwinter festival Montol on Friday and Tom Bawcock's Eve two days later, it was a weekend of community fun, music and dancing.

Downpours may have cancelled the ever popular torchlit procession, but this year's Montol celebrations took on a more family feel, its organisers said.

The colourful end to the annual winter solstice party in Penzance had to be called off but the crowds still enjoyed the festivities with families coming together to watch a cabaret evening at St John's Hall.

Some 700 people joined in with the early evening walk to Lescudjack Hill Fort, a drop in the normal number thanks to the weather.

"It was a wonderful night despite the torchlit procession being a washout," said Helen Musser, Montol organiser.

"We would have had a lot of soggy-feathered costumes."

The evening began as normal with the choosing of the Lord of Misrule before the crowds made their way to the hill fort for a lantern competition, music, dancing and the lighting of the beacon.

Luckily, for the first time this year's event also included cabaret entertainment following the return of the procession to the town centre.

"We carried the party on inside," said Ms Musser. "Lots of families said it was a brilliant idea because they tend to go after we all return and go to the pubs. We could in the future keep a family event going and then take the party to the streets if the weather is good enough."

The community refused to let the wet weather dampen their spirits, instead dancing the night away in St John's Hall.

"The night took on a life of its own," said Ms Musser. "There was a lovely mix of performance and audience participation."

The fun still wasn't over. The Turkey Rhubarb Guise Band will take to the streets of Penzance and Newlyn on January 4 from 7.30pm, encouraging the community to get together and join in with another creative dancing procession.

In Mousehole on Sunday night, hundreds lined the streets for the traditional celebration of Tom Bawcock and his black cat Mowzer.

Each year, on December 23, the fisherman who went out in ferocious storms to help starving villagers is celebrated – usually with a parade and a feast of stargazy pie in the harbourside Ship Inn.

This year youngsters processed through the fishing village with lanterns led by David Eddy as Tom Bawcock and his daughter Lowenna.

Members of the Golowan band and the Mousehole Male Voice Choir were also on hand to provide a musical accompaniment. Mel Matthews, manager of the Ship Inn, said it had been a brilliant evening and very busy.

"We did five trays of pies but we don't sell it so you can't tell how many people it was.

"It was just a really, really good night, there were hundreds of people in Mousehole."

Tim James secretary of the village's choir added: "It was such a lovely still evening and we were very lucky with the weather. At one point you could even see the moon, which was a miracle."

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