Old St Keverne
A talk by Russell Hocking

On October 7th 2005 Mr Russell Hocking, who probably knows more about the history of St Keverne than any other living person, extended the talk he gave on ”Old St Keverne” last year. He started by showing the difference between the village, prior to 1900, and today, with examples of dialectical expressions that were then current but are now rarely heard. He went on to refer to his “Blue Book” in which he has collected accounts of past events.

He took the church, (which was built in about 1200), and its surroundings, as a base. The four sides of the church directly face the main compass points namely, north, south, east and west. The spire has for centuries been a guide for sailors, so that when it was destroyed by lightning in 1770, it was imperative to rebuild it as soon as possible. The lych-gate is the main entrance to the church, containing a stone platform, on which coffins were rested, and a bench on which the carriers could sit.

He told us that the Porthoustock lifeboat was put in place in 1869 with a crew of 10, and the lives of many seamen were saved as a result, from wrecks in 1872, 1877 and 1881.

In the great blizzard of 1891 a superb swimmer named James Clifford saved two men and a boy from the a vessel called “Dove”, and the same year a butcher’s boy, named Joe James, walked from St Keverne to Falmouth (25 miles) to report a wreck.

In 1898 the wrecking of the “Mohegan” occurred with the loss of over one hundred lives, but many others were saved and cared for by the people of St Keverne for several months. A memorial is in the churchyard where the lost are buried. Mr Hocking read a poem written by W.Quintrell, as a memorial of this event, entitled “The Mohegan”. Mr Hocking also read extracts by other people who had been involved in acts of rescue from shipwrecks in our locality, giving a flavour of the dangers of life at sea, and the bravery of the crews of lifeboats, all of whom are volunteers.

He concluded his talk on a lighter note, by selecting from his lists of old dialect words and asking the audience for the meanings of them. The outstanding winner of this competition was Mr Horace Stone, who is obviously another expert on the St Keverne dialect. A very instructive evening was enjoyed by all.

To listen to the recording of Russell's talk click here

Don Houghton