A Light Still Burning

Cadgwith Inn – Oct 12th 2012

I was so looking forward to making this trip – funny how The Queens Head in Albaston was the place where it all began for me, yet inspiration came from the other end of Cornwall on the Lizard. The Cadgwith Singers  are famed in the world of pub singing and yet so little known outside of it!

We got to the Inn at about 9pm and were told by a few people we were too early! Still, it meant that we got a good corner to position ourselves in. The pub was lovely; small with nooks and crannies and great pictures on the wall – later on we were told, with typical Cornish humour, that one area was known the ‘dead corner’ because none of the people in those photos or paintings were alive anymore.

Tatty and the photos in 'dead corner' behind him
Tatty and the photos in ‘dead corner’ behind him

Amazingly while waiting, we ended up chatting to a couple who came from East Cornwall, in Chilsworthy who turned out to know, one after the other, people I knew, including my dad and then  I discovered they’d even lived next door to my brother for a while!

The singers began to arrive and with them an air of expectancy. Tatty (Dave Muirhead) appeared and was so welcoming whilst others pointed out people that would be good to talk to. These included Anne – the daughter of Hartley, a portrait of whom hung in the ‘dead corner’. He was one of the key people carrying on the singing from the 1920s when a minister at the local chapel started a fishermans choir in the 1920s. Anne remembered coming into the pub around the age of 17 in the 50s and said back then there were only 5 or 6 of them singing. She showed us wonderful hospitality too and bought us a drink.


Then the singing began and I was immediately drawn into something familiar and recognisable; partly because of my previous encounters with the Cadgwith Singers and partly because recordings of them had accompanied my life from my 20s; Tatty pitching up, medleys of songs merging together, easy laid back atmosphere and harmonies that have guided my own. Of course The Cadwith Anthem was sung as well as Lily Of The Valley (see earlier blog ‘Singing Position’on the story of this!) Then, for me, the icing on the cake; the arrival of Nutty  (Martin Ellis) and his deep, deep bass! Still wonderful and good natured; he kindly moved my digital recorder to a safer place before launching into South Australia – whacking the beams where he has for so many years that the paint had worn away!

Nutty whacking the beams in South Australia
Nutty whacking the beams in South Australia

We were also introduced to Richard, a fisherman still working out of Cadgwith, who pointed out that they had such a huge repertoire they could easily sing for 4 hours and not repeat themselves! The inclusivity of the singers meant there were women joining in too and we were treated to a wonderful version of ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’  when four of the women used wooden spoons from the bar as microphones!


Around 11.30pm P.C. (Paul Collins) came in, not singing as he had a sore throat. He is related to the other key singer who kept the singing going in Cadgwith – Buller. I realised I’d seen him somewhere else and he pointed out he was the chair of Duchy Opera and had worked on a project ‘One Day Two Dawns’ with us and the English Touring Opera. We propped up the bar and chatted, he laconically, for a good hour or more. Sally and I finally left the pub at 1.30pm into a world of darkness – no street lights to guide our way back to the car, but a light shone brightly inside of us all the same. 

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