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Tom Bawcock's Eve is a festival held on the 23rd of
December in Mousehole. The festival is held in celebration and memorial of the efforts of Mousehole resident Tom Bawcock to lift a famine from the village.
During this festival Star Gazey Pie (a mixed fish, egg and potato pie with
protruding fish heads) is eaten and depending on the year of celebration a
lantern procession takes place.The children's book The Mousehole Cat by
Antonia Barber was inspired by the traditions a of Tom Bawcock's Eve and has now made this feast famous. The feast also coincides with the world famous Mousehole harbour lights.
There are several theories to the origins of this festival, the first
recorded description was made by Morton Nance in 1927 in the magazine "Old Cornwall". Nance described the festival as it existed at the turn of the 19th century. Within this work Nance also speculated that the name Bawcock was
derived from Beau Coc (French) - , he believed the cock was a herald of new light in pagan times and the origins of the festival were pre-Christian. The most likely derivation of the name 'Bawcock' is from Middle English use
(influenced from French) where a Bawcock is a nickname for a fine or worthy fellow. Rumours persist however that in fact the feast was "invented" in the 1950's by the landlord of the Ship Inn, a rumour which can be dismissed if you
examine the Morton Nance's writings of the 1920's. Because of the volume of people now visiting Mousehole on this date small Tom Bawcock's celebrations have over spilled into the nearby communities of Newlyn and Penzance, however these
are rarely advertised.
Click here for the recipe for Star Gazey Pie.
There is an ongoing folk music tradition associated with Tom Bawcock's Eve.
Below is one version of Tom Bawcock's Song'the words written by Morton Nance in 1927 to a local traditional tune called the 'wedding March'. It is believe that Nance first observed the festivities at the turn of the 19th Century.
Lyrics of the song
"merry place you may believe, Tiz Mouzel 'pon Tom Bawcock's eve
To be there then who wouldn't wesh, to sup o' sibm soorts o' fish
When morgy brath had cleared the path, Comed lances for a fry
And then us had a bit o' scad an' Starry-gazie pie
As aich we'd clunk, E's health we drunk, in bumpers bremmen high,
And when up caame Tom Bawcock's name, We'd prais'd 'un to the sky"
Click here for an audio file and full
lyrics of the song
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