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'Magical' beach find lingers

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: December 20, 2012

By John Paull, who now lives in Colorado, USA, and spent his early childhood on the Gwavas Estate, Newlyn, between 1942 and 1949

John Paull, right, as a young boy with his brother, Jimmie, who still lives in Newlyn.

John Paull, right, as a young boy with his brother, Jimmie, who still lives in Newlyn.

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ON THE day of my fifth birthday I was surprised when my dad, not my grandma, met me at the end of the school day. Dad had never picked me up before. He was in his Western National bus driver's uniform so I knew he'd come straight from work. I was worried that something was wrong but dad said we were going pebbling on Lariggan Beach.

I felt so special, and I knew in my bones that something magical was about to happen.

We walked hand in hand on the cobbled street to the Fradgan, past Uncle Steve and Aunty Flo's white cottage, past the tall icehouse towering over the small inner harbour, and crossed over to the open fish market. We reached the small stone bridge by the Fisherman's Institute at the end of Newlyn pier, where the Coombe River ran into the sea. We walked around the corner by the Austin and Morris garage onto the seafront, then down the smooth, worn granite steps, onto the beach.

The sky was bright blue, and the sun a shimmering yellow. St Michael's Mount, way off in the distance, looked very majestic.

The tide was out and the large, smooth rocks, black and grey and white, were wet and shining in the late afternoon sun.

As the greeny-blue water lapped back and forth, herring gulls squabbled as they looked for food scraps.

We stepped over the pebbles, making sure we didn't step on the strands of slimy brown and yellow seaweed. Dad reached in his pocket and brought out two of his Old Holborn tobacco tins.

"Here," he said, giving me one, "take this and fill it. Just wishing rocks, mind you."

We walked slowly along the seashore, and we looked and we touched and we talked and we collected.

Soon my tin was full of tiny wishing rocks and heart-shaped pebbles that I wanted to take home to show my mum.

Just as we were walking towards the granite steps, I spotted something different.

It didn't look like any of the other pebbles. Dad had no idea what I'd found but I knew it must be special.

At home mum told me to keep it safe and it wasn't until I showed it to my teacher, Miss Harvey, that I found out what it was.

She said it was not a rock at all but amber.

She held my beautiful amber in her hand, smiled and said loudly, so everyone in class could hear, that it had come from a far-off country, and had probably been washed ashore after a long trip in the sea.

She wrote the word A M B E R on the board.

"And Johnny Paull was lucky enough to find it."

I could tell Miss Harvey was thrilled. I don't think I had ever seen her wide smile before.

Johnny Hoskins put up his hand and asked: "Where'd you find that, Johnny Paull?"

I looked at him and told him: "Down at Lariggan, Johnny, you know, when the tide's out," I answered. "You've been, ain't you?"

"Course I have. Been every day. Ain't never seen one of those yellow things, though," said Johnny.

Miss Harvey got me to draw a picture of the amber and when I finished she taped it to the wall.

Then she said: "Keep it, Johnny Paull. The amber. And that wishing rock. Keep it in your Oxo tin – treasure tin, sorry – and save it. Save it forever."

"And, you, Johnny Hoskins, go and find your own. Go and find your own amber on the beach, the next time you're there."

Mr Paull would like to know if anyone has a photo of Miss Harvey. To get in touch with him, e-mail jcarr@c-dm.co.uk

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