world famous Christmas lights of Mousehole|
Every Christmas, the people of Mousehole decorate their houses and the harbour with Christmas lights and decorations. As a result, visitors flock from all over the UK and beyond to enjoy this festival of colour. The purpose of the display is to raise money for charity.
This event, which becomes a major village party, attracts visitors from both the surrounding district and from all over the world. In late September the village begins preparation for their lights, which have been going on for nearly 40 years. They are switched on from the Saturday in the Middle of December until the Friday at the end of the first week of the New Year from 5pm until midnight each day. The harbour looks magical!
A few days before Christmas 1981 the coaster Union Star got into difficulty and the local lifeboat was launched from Penlee station. Sadly, both the ship and the lifeboat were lost, together with the crew and passengers from the coaster and the whole crew of the lifeboat. On 19th December each year, the lights are switched off, in memory of those who gave their lives. The events of that night are described here.
Photos of the 2002/3 lights by George Greene. Copyright.
Tom Bawcock's Eve
Mousehole has its own unique holiday. It is a particularly "merry place" to be on the evening of December 23. Tom Bawcock's Eve is in memory of a famous episode in the village's past. It seems that long ago bad weather forced fishing boats to stay in harbour, and the villagers were faced with starvation. In a short lull in the storm one brave man, by the name of Tom Bawcock, managed to catch enough fish to keep the villagers alive until the storm abated. The fish was baked into a large pie, called Stargazy Pie. Each year on December 23 Stargazy Pie is eaten at the inn on the quay and in the surrounding houses. With the village lit with spectacular lights for the Christmas display. most of the illuminations are traditional Christmas shapes, but there is always a Stargazy in lights somewhere!
Mike Buttery is a retired fisherman and artist who lives in Mousehole. Commonly called Butts he is well known for his singing voice and knowledge of all things Tom Bawcock. Click here to hear him singing the Stargazy song.
STAR-GAZING PASTY from this site on Cornish Pasty
"Mawther used to get a herring, clean 'un, and put same stuffin' as what yow do have in mabiers (chicken); sew 'un up with niddle and cotton, put 'en in some daugh made of suet and flour; pinch the daugh up in the middle and lave the heid sticking out one end, and tail t'other. They was some nice pasties, too, cooked in a fringle fire with crock and brandis and old furzy tobs."
There are quite a few variations in the recipe of Stargazy pie, here are two that are easier to follow:
4 pilchards, herring or mackerel
juice and rind of 1 lemon
2 sliced hard-boiled eggs
6 oz. flaky pastry
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 chopped Spanish onion
4 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
1 rasher bacon
freshly ground sea salt and pepper
1/4 pint white wine
Clean and gut the fish but leave the heads on. Soak the breadcrumbs in milk to make them swell. Add the lemon peel, half the onion and lemon juice, and the parsley. Stuff each fish with this mixture, fold and place in a pie dish, with the heads hanging over the edge. Cover with the chopped eggs and bacon, the seasoning and the rest of the onion and lemon juice, then pour over the quarter pint of white wine. Roll the pastry out to size and cover, leaving the fish heads outside. Bake at 220 degreesC/425 degrees F/Gas Mark 7 for 20 minutes, then for a further 10 minutes at 180 degrees C/350 degrees F/Gas Mark 4.
Right: The Ship Inn, where they serve Stargazy Pie.
Stargazy pie serves 6
shortcrust pastry made with 285g plain flour
8 pilchards, sardines or small herrings
1 large chopped onion
approx. 3 tbsps chopped parsley
3 hard-boiled eggs
3 rashers streaky bacon
beaten egg to glaze
Roll out the pastry for double-crust plate pie. Cover the plate, brush the rim with water and roll out another piece for the lid. Keep it aside. Preheat the oven to gas 6, 200C (400F) . Clean and bone the fish, leaving their heads in place. Season inside and stuff with finely chopped onion and parsley. Fold back into shape. Lay the fish on the pastry like the spokes of a wheel with their heads on the rim so that they can gaze upwards. Fill the gaps in between with chopped bacon and hard-boiled eggs. Put the pastry lid in place, pressing down between the fish heads so that it meets the pastry of the lower rim, making a wavy effect. Brush with beaten egg. Bake for 30 minutes, though if the fish are on the large side give them 15 minutes more at the reduced heat of gas 4, 180C (350F). Serve hot.