Friday 22 February 2019


I promised more detail about Newlyn in Part Two and I am pleased to publish this post in response. If I may, let me take you into Newlyn through my vision as a runner. My focus begins to switch from Penzance to Newlyn by the time I'm approaching the end of the Penzance promenade and I return to the pavement and soon see a Lidl store and garage on the other side of the main road.

The south-western end of the promenade in Penzance

This road will very shortly turn into a gentle straight decline straight down to the traffic lights by the town sign for Newlyn.

The Newlyn town sign has always had a special significance for me - 57 minutes out from Marazion; 30 minutes away from Mousehole - and that's Newlyn Art Gallery facing the road behind the town sign 

Past the traffic lights, half a minute's running takes me to a complex crossroads with the main road through Newlyn turning to the left. This is generally a time to engage all the senses; the cars can

come from four different directions - and I've got to cross two roads to get to the pavement beside the road that will take me through Newlyn.

Approaching the complex crossroads

Now, I'm threading my way through pedestrians and parked cars on a narrow pavement, sometimes running in the road if it's safer to do so. This photo captures my first sighting of a political message - I did not see any when I was running on Monday but that might have been because I had other preoccupations.

'Newlyn Fishermen Deserve Better' is the message on the poster fixed to the lamp-post

Within a hundred yards, I have reached the long stretch of the fisheries building.

Pretty this stretch of Newlyn is not - but it is resonant with the sights and smells of the fisheries industry

And now my camera records political graffiti - Newlyn is evidently a port vibrant with the politics of fishing. But what do the messages mean? I am in unknown territory; here, there are people who have concerns that take them out at dead of night to leave their mark on walls - but what are these bread and butter issues?

NHFC - Newlyn Pier and Harbour Commissioners

# FISHTIEF OUT - Fish Thief Out

My local paper that was published today - The Cornishman - took me some slight way into understanding but much remains obscure.  

Here is what I did learn from today's 'Cornishman'. The headline stretched across the page in bold type: 'New £1.3m fish market defaced in 'mindless act of vandalism'. And underneath two photographs of the graffiti, similar to mine. I learned that the words 'WING OUT' AND 'PARSONS OUT' referred to harbour master Rob Parsons and Newlyn Pier and Harbour Commissioners chair Rob Clifford-Wing - and it was the harbour master's verdict that the graffiti was a 'mindless act of vandalism'. He - Rob Parsons - was 'very disappointed'. 'Our new £1.3 m fish market at Newlyn exists to improve the economic prosperity of local fishermen and their families … just as this facility is nearing completion, someone decides to deface it ….'.

That was it. Where, I asked myself, is the investigative journalism? Is there another side to this story? How mindless is 'mindless'? I shall keep my eyes and ears open for more detail. Do please add your own insights in the comment box, if you know more.

So much for my running journey into Newlyn, seen through the lens of a Nikon 16.0 Megapixels COOLPIX - (highly recommended!) Now, some illustrated etymology to add to the story:

Landing fish at Newlyn - (undated photo) - late-19th century?

'Newlyn' is a corruption of the Cornish 'LULYN', which means "A pool for a multitude of vessels". There has been a deep water pool just outside today's harbour for many centuries - it dates back long before the present harbour was built.

And then some historical context:

Business & Commerce in Penzance

Newlyn Fishing Industry

Fishing was one of the main industries in the west of Cornwall from the Middle Ages. While Penzance had initially been the main fishing port, this changed as it became more economically dependant on tin mining. Fishermen and fish merchants moved their fish businesses to Newlyn and Mousehole in the late 17th century. 

Methods of fishing and fish processing which developed in the 17th century changed little until the late 19th century. In Mount's Bay fishing was by one of three methods: hook or hand lining, seining and drifting. Pilchards were the main catch but mackerel became important in the late 18th century.

With fishing being the main focus, the village has developed around its harbour. Newlyn has two quay areas, the old quay where only a few boats moor, and the main larger one where the majority of the boats moor and can access the Fish Market.

While there are many fishing villages in Cornwall, Newlyn is the one to visit to see a real commercial port. There is an important fishing market and, if visited early in the morning, the catches that are landed there before auction can be seen.

Newlyn's economy is largely dependent on its harbour and the associated fishing industry and Newlyn harbour is the largest fishing port in the south-west of England. The port was a focus of the pilchard fishery until the 1960s. Today, a few vessels have resumed pilchard fishing and use a modern version of the ring net. Catching a wide verity of species, the largest vessels in Newlyn are beam trawlers owned by W. Stevenson and Sons Ltd, one of Cornwall's largest fish producers, while most of the other vessels are owned by their skippers.

More images (grateful acknowledgements to Fishing News):

Newlyn fishing vessels - contemporary image

Newlyn ring-netter - hard times at the moment due to changes in fishing regulations 

And finally an online update, dated July 2018, with grateful acknowledgements to Phil Lockley. Note the Brexit complexities:

With its new fishmarket now reaching completion, confidence among Newlyn fishermen and vessel owners is growing, with new boats steadily joining the fleet. Further plans are underway to bring in new tonnage of purpose-built deep-sea beam trawlers, reports Phil Lockley

Quite different to many West Country ports – if Newlyn lost its fishing industry, there would be little left of the town – fishing is its past, its present, and is vital to its future. And within their budget, Newlyn harbour commissioners are investing heavily to support the port’s industry.

The largest Newlyn beam trawler fleet (owned by W Stevenson and Sons Ltd – now referred to as Stevenson’s of Newlyn) is prospering, but the structure of that fleet is now under review, and some vessels may, in time, be replaced by boats better able to tackle the Western Approaches, seeking prime fish like megrim and monkfish – core species for Newlyn.

Now on the minds of both Newlyn fishermen and its fish merchants is what may come after Brexit. Some are despondent, believing that the British government will not keep its promise – it will capitulate in forthcoming EU/UK deals, and fail to regain for Britain the status of a truly independent coastal state.

But not all Newlyn folk are strong Brexiteers. In many respects, the needs of Newlyn are so similar to those of ports in Brittany that the outcome of a hard Brexit may not be in Newlyn’s favour. Many Newlyn boats fish in French waters, and some often land there – and over 70% of fish and shellfish landed in Newlyn is exported to the EU.

There was shock this year when the crabbing industry at Newlyn – and at all other Cornish ports, too – saw a sharp downturn in the catches of brown crab. And with the unpredicted absence of mackerel, the smaller-boat fishermen of Newlyn now fear a bleak outcome overall for the remainder of 2018. However, there has been a remarkable run of lobsters, and a promising influx of juvenile crawfish.

The wide mix of boats in the Newlyn fleet includes a strong representation of inshore toshers, for which prime-quality line-caught bass and mackerel have long been of crucial importance. This is reflected by the broad range of species that contributed to the provisional 2017 port value total of £29.6m from 13,505t. These figures correspond to a 9% increase in catch value and a 4% drop in tonnage, mainly due to variations in catch composition over the course of the two years.

Depending on the seasonal nature of their fishing activity, and the area they are fishing in, some of Newlyn’s prominent fleet of netters sometimes land their catches directly into France, while several other local boats consistently consign catches from Cornwall, for sale on Plymouth and Brixham markets.

With a value of £19.2m from 6,525t, demersal species continue to dominate landings at Newlyn (65%). Shellfish (£8.9m/3,211t) account for a further 30% of the port’s annual catch value. 
I found the photo-journey through Newlyn and the research that followed fascinating - I hope you did too. Do please leave a comment.