Our song in the Cornish language was a collaboration between Lizzie and Pol Hodge from the Cornish Language Partnership, with music by Lizzie and Emma. It’s a retelling of ‘The Pilot’s Ghost Story’ set in Hayle, collected by Robert Hunt in ‘Popular Romances of the West of England’. Here are the lyrics, the story is below – do have a look because it includes some lovely details and dialect that we couldn’t fit into the song lyrics! The song is recorded on our EP.
* Hobble is the term for an unlicensed pilot boat for towing larger ships.
** We were quite pleased that this fitted the song because it harks back to some of the earliest written literature in Cornish – the phrase is found in Bewnans Meryasek , written in 1504 but probably copied from an earlier document.
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THE PILOT’S GHOST STORY.
“On a sudden shrilly sounding,
Hideous yells and shrieks were heard;
Then each heart with fear confounding,
A sad troop of ghosts appear’d,
All in dreary hammocks shrouded,
Which for winding-sheets they wore.”
Admiral Hosier’s Ghost.
I PREFER giving this story in the words in which it was communicated. For its singular character, it is a ghost story well worth preserving :– “Just seventeen years since, I went down on the wharf from my house one night about twelve and one in the morning, to see whether there was any ‘hobble,’ and found a sloop, the Sally of St Ives (the Sally was wrecked at St Ives one Saturday afternoon in the spring of 1862), in the bay, bound for Hayle. When I got by the White Hart public-house, I saw a man leaning against a post on the wharf;–I spoke to him, wished him good morning, and asked him what o’clock it was, but to no purpose. I was not to be easily frightened, for I didn’t believe in ghosts; and finding I got no answer to my repeated inquiries, I approached close to him and said, ‘Thee ‘rt a queer sort of fellow, not to speak; I ‘d speak to the devil, if he were to speak to me. Who art a at all? thee’st needn’t think to frighten me; that thee wasn’t do, if thou wert twice so ugly; who art a at all?.’ He turned his great ugly face on me, glared abroad his great eyes, opened his – mouth, and it was a mouth sure nuff. Then I saw pieces of sea-weed and bits of sticks in his whiskers; the flesh of his face and hands were parboiled, just like a woman’s hands after a good day’s washing. Well, I did not like his looks a bit, and sheered off; but he followed close by my side, and I could hear the water squashing in his shoes every step he took. Well, I stopped a bit, and thought to be a little bit civil to him, and spoke to him again, but no answer. I then thought I would go to seek for another of our crew, and knock him up to get the vessel, and had got about fifty or sixty yards, when I turned to see if he was following me, but saw him where I left him. Fearing he would come after me, I ran for my life the few steps that I had to go. But when I got to the door, to my horror there stood the man in the door grinning horribly. I shook like an aspen-leaf; my hat lifted from my head; the sweat boiled out of me. What to do I didn’t know, and in the house there was such a row, as if everybody was breaking up everything. After a bit I went in, for the door was ‘on the latch,’–that is, not locked,–and called the captain of the boat, and got light, but everything was all right, nor had he heard any noise. We went out aboard of the Sally, and I put her into Hayle, but I felt ill enough to be in bed. I left the vessel to come home as soon as I could, but it took me four hours to walk two miles, and I had to lie down in the road, and was taken home to St Ives in a cart; as far as the Terrace from there I was carried home by my brothers, and put to bed. Three days afterwards all my hair fell off as if I had had my head shaved. The roots, and for about half an inch from the roots, being quite white. I was ill six months, and the doctor’s bill was £4, 17s. 6d. for attendance and medicine. So you see I have reason to believe in the existence of spirits as much as Mr Wesley had. My hair grew again, and twelve months after I had as good a head of dark-brown hair as ever.” [a]
[a] “The man has still a good thick head of hair.–C. F. S.”