Lightening, Luggers and err, Elephants
From the shifting shades of the town over time, to the people that have played a part in its past, there’s not much that passes historian and image collector Malcolm McCarthy by. We ask him to share some of his favourite stories and facts from Padstow’s colourful past.
With 20 years as berthing master guiding boats into place in the busy harbour, 45 years of collecting old Cornish photographs, and now three history books under his belt, it’s fair to say Malcolm has earned his Padstow stripes. Here are five of our favourite facts and stories from across his almighty collection.
While researching his new book about Victorian Padstow, Malcolm came across a newspaper cutting about a phenomenon called Ball Lightening that caused something of a ruckus in the town. “This incredibly rare form of lightening, appears as a giant glowing orb,” he elaborates. “This orb once made its way all the way down one of the alleys here in Padstow. After that, the townsfolk renamed it Thunderbolt Alley.”
In the 1930s a travelling circus made a stop off at Padstow, complete with a herd of Elephants. Because it was summertime, the circus folk led them through the town –much to the children’s delight – to let them cool off in the water of the harbour.
Sir Walter’s place by the water
Towards the end of the 16th Century, Sir Walter Raleigh – Queen Elizabeth’s favourite explorer and gentleman – lived in Padstow in Court House, right by the water’s edge. This pretty property was where Raleigh carried out his duties as Warden of Cornwall, arranging the collection of taxes and dues. You can still peer through onto the courtyard or this historical abode, where renovations are currently breathing new life into its ancient granite walls.
Long lugger bench
Watching the world go by on this harbourside look out, Long lugger bench was where fishermen and gents of the town would gather to chew the fat and take in the hubbub of the harbour. Named after the traditional Cornish long fishing boats with two sails, the wooden bench has now been replaced with a couple of standard wooden benches, where you’re more likely to see fish and chip munching tourists, than the townsfolk.
If you want to learn more about the town over time, get your hands on a copy of Malcolm’s photo-based book Padstow Through Time