Tom Bawcock - A legend from Mousehole Village, Cornwall


The story of Tom Bawcock emanates from the Cornish village of Mousehole (Porthenys). The village is located on the shores of Michael’s Bay (Cammas an Garrek Los) to the south of Penzance (Pennsans). It is set in a stormy winter many years ago. The relentless winds had prevented the fishing boats from leaving harbour. As Christmas approached the local people were becoming desperate and there was a danger of starvation.

A fisherman, Tom Bawcock, seeing the misery and desperation of the people, decided to risk his life and take his boat out into the turbulent seas. He set out on 23rd December and his vessel was tossed and thrown on the crashing waves. Brave Tom Bawcock continued to fish, defying the weather to do its worse. When he arrived back into port he brought with him a mighty catch of fish; enough to feed the village. They were baked into a pie, with the heads of the fish pushed upwards through the pastry.

Since that time, on 23rd December every year, the Tom Bawcock Eve festival is held in the village of Mousehole. It features a parade with the villagers carrying a large Star Gazey Pie (a fish pie with fish heads protruding through the pastry) through Mousehole. However, it is said that a festival of this type and held at the same time of year, originated many years before the time of Tom Bawcock, in pagan times. The local fishermen would seek to predict the fish harvest for the year ahead by baking such a pie.

A children’s book "The Mousehole Cat" based on the legend of Tom Bawcock was written by Antonia Barber and illustrated by Nicola Bayley. Get a copy from (US$) or (GB£):


Relevant links

Mousehole Village, Cornwall


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