Art and Photographic History Penwith West Cornwall (and local history)

Doctors, Preachers and Arty Types

I am staring through an orange film. It’s the coloured layer around the Lucozade bottle which attends my high temperature. For reasons no longer clear to me I am in my parent’s bed listening to seagulls overhead. My mother is anxiously awaiting Dr M’s arrival on the ground floor where she has been making up Brussel sprout bags. Dr M is the son of the even more highly regarded “old Doctor M” and the chief G.P. of the practice in the Market Place just around the corner from my Grandfather’s shoe mender’s shop- opposite the church in St Ives. The downstairs in the practice there is crowded in the summer with lobster coloured visitors suffering from painful sunburn.

Then there was dear Doc B. Gentle by nature and with a reassuring voice. He was the preferred doctor from my mother’s viewpoint and mine too. In those days the result of the home visit always seemed to be the deep red sugary liquid or lobelline. In more severe cases with itchy rashes and high temperatures it was likely to be M and B. Dear DrB was one of two doctors who had served in the Navy during the War. Thus should the maroon go off and the Lifeboat go out, there would usually be one of these ex-navy doctors on board.

There was a general feeling that any illness was due to the moral failure of the afflicted. It was expressed though as “I told you not to go out in that wind with your duffle coat not properly done up”. In adolescence after overindulgence it would be expressed as- “I told ee you can’t afford to play ducks and drakes with your health”. Or even – “No wonder you have ended up like that and I haven’t seen you take out one of your books to study properly since Christmas”.

Unfortunately I cannot tell you more about the admirable Doctor B as I got to become close friends of his son and his family. They all intrigue me still and their love of sailing, their faith and their company on New Year’s Eve and forbearance for my attempts at Scottish Dancing. I am touched when I recall Dr B insisting in paying me in guineas for helping tutor his son with his A-level Physics. The memory now reminds me of the early parts of “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis”- the tennis and the sunshine.

Then there was DrS – a very different kettle of fish. Seemingly rather austere , quite tall with a head of curly hair that resembled the that of the distant Shakespeare academic Frank Halliday, he tootled through the already numerous crowds on his home visits. Rather taciturn, whilst not greatly welcomed to my childhood bedside visits was of greater support during adolesence. I remember seeing him in bookshops reading advanced ideas of art and French Existentialism. Indeed he was fascinated by living amongst a community of writers and artists.

Those younger doctors were at that time, the only persons in the community to afford cine cameras. These were used to record everything from the incident where the crew of HMS Wave were rescued by breeches buoy to family outings past Seal Island. DrS spent time both conducting audio recordings of important historical events and producing high quality photographs of members of the various art societies in that productive post-war period.

I shall discuss a little more of my personal impressions of preachers and artists in forthcoming posts

More interviews can be found at

St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Some Cornish History Sound Links

Michael Bird is an engaging and perceptive writer and broadcaster and his work deserves attention. Here are some impressive sound programmes-

This programme on the Solomon Browne Lifeboat Tragedy is at

Art and Photographic History Penwith St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Day 3. Land’s End, Porthcurno & St. Ives, Cornwall — Love Travelling Blog

It was a bright and sunny morning as we pulled back the curtains in our hotel room and after tucking into some tasty bacon sandwiches we were back in the car for another day of sightseeing.  Our starting point was to be Land’s End, the headland that sits at the most westerly point of England […]

Day 3. Land’s End, Porthcurno & St. Ives, Cornwall — Love Travelling Blog
Penwith Poetry St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Lament for Cornish Cafe Society

Perhaps it exists only in the imagination. I remember visiting the Cafe Central in Vienna with its wide variety of journals and literary magazines, gorgeous variety of coffees and its habitués. Mostly tourists when I visited but there were the ghosts of writers and revolutionists from Krauss to Trotsky. Then naturally the confectionary of all types and colours. Not quite Penzance but in its many transformations at lest one or two establishments have provided an atmosphere conducive to reading, talking and day-dreaming. The creative aspect of the latter sometimes under-rated.

In my youth it was a pasty on the beach with a towel before large bath towels were in vogue. Before we began to worry about the depletion of the ozone layer and the St Ives Times and Echo would boast about the town’s high monthly U.V Index statistics.

Sweet pastries filled the mouths
of those who sat beside us
and stayed for a while.

How the hours went by,
people just passing through
The descending sun ending
a forever with you.

(See Lily at

The décor seems to change frequently. Decorators and interior designers must make considerable profit with properties so frquently changing hands. Different styles come into vogue, multiple mixes of gin followed by martinis with names as hot and suggestive to suit. The patrons change as does the topics loudly conversed. The rate of change changes until suddenly they become silent, empty and inaccessible. No more ladies who lunch with sleeping babies in stylish prams.

Their salads come and their forks they deploy
you can tell this is a luncheon they will enjoy.

They catch up on all the news
Sharing with one another their views.

No gossip here – they are not that type
But occasionally you will hear a gripe.

About a husband , son or some other man
Someone who should be hit over the head with a pan.

Elections come and go and it seems the wrong people get elected over and over. Those who don’t enjoy cafes or approve of culture and provide illusions about taking back control, whose egos are inflated by a sterile nationalism that was out of date at least a hundred years ago.

There are some animals whose presence seems to fit in with the soporific state of the nation. They represent perhaps the affectionate tranquillity which is more English than the butcher’s dogs and greased pigs of the contemporary age.

Literature Penwith Poetry St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

West Penwith by Adrian Stokes

This poem interests me and looks fairly simple – let us  consider one or two lines and see if we can explore some more deeply. Indeed, this is a poem about surfaces and depth with a number of words that suggest rest- abolish pace, slow, apart and torpor. There is too a general feeling for sculpture as is expressed in his remarks about stone and it’s weathering or erosion by water. Details about Stokes may be found at his Wikipedia entry where it states about his early writing;” In The Quattro Cento he characterized the intense Early Renaissance feeling for material and space as ‘mass-effect’ and ‘stone-blossom’. The stone—deeply respected as a medium – is, he said, ‘carved to flower’ thereby bringing to the surface the fantasies the artist reads in its depths.” Let us continue to dig beneath the surface of these lines.

There seems to be a general feeling of relief perhaps reflecting Stokes returning to Cornwall. The lines about outhouses and stone retrace unmeagre time seems somewhat demanding. Does this mean that such structures seem and suggest aeons of time? Meagre is a synonym for sparse. So this may mean that the scene implies the extensive nature of time. As Stokes studied philosophy, then it is quite possible that some sort of Bergsonian concept of time.{See }

In the next line herd is somewhat unusual- maybe the light from the shining mica in the granite is being collected by the eye. It also is a homophone for heard which brings a whimsical feeling of  synaesthesia together with the metal clang of time colliding with rhyme. In the next stanza there is hoard and heart which may be associated with the unusual word hurd, the coarse parts of flax or hemp that adhere to the fiber after it is separated. — called also hards. This sounds very much like the Golden Fleece and adds to the reference to the early Cornish tinners. A milksop is a person who is indecisive and lacks courage. Milksop can be a piece of bread dipped in milk. The flower might mean a milkwort  or just a general term for any flower in a field which may have cows in it!

Cow Dairy Happy Stock Photos - Download 2,051 Royalty Free Photos

The word also brings to mind that Stokes was deeply interested in psychoanalysis and was in fact an analysand of Melanie Klein whose work focused around infantile phantasy at the breast. He was also a friend of Barbara Hepworth whom he brought to St Ives where he lived near The Cornish Arms pub with his wife Margaret Mellis, The feelings of support, skin texture and associated tactile imagery come out in the second section where closeness is increased by the use of our. This underlying emotion of support and nursing passivity brings to an end this interesting poem.

The background about Adrian Stokes and his leading contribution to modernism in St Ives may be found at

A useful discussion on Margaret Mellis is at

The Outwardness of Art: Selected Writings of Adrian Stokes: Amazon ...


Art and Photographic History Penwith St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Paintings of Refugees by Maurice Minkowski(1881-1930) and Frances Hodgkins(1869-1947)

The paintings of Jewish refugees from Odessa and Bialystock by Maurycy Minkowski around 1910 are haunting, heartbreaking and evocative. Yet both in their colourful lyricism and moving composition they are a reminder that the refugee crisis is by no means a new phenomena; they are also pointers to some sort of categorical imperative that it requires urgent action still today. These are art works which demand that the fight for peaceful refuge and against racism is taken seriously now and once again.

Translating from the IWO in Buenos Aires, where it states:-

He was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Warsaw in 1881. At five years old he was deaf as a result of an accident. Having shown artistic vocation, he studied art at the Art Academy of Krakow where he graduated with honors. In his early years he painted portraits of local personalities and impressionistic landscapes.
His experience Pogrom of Bialystok (1905) was decisive in the course of his life: he abandoned his specialty as a landscape and portrait painter to devote himself almost exclusively to painting scenes of religious and secular Jewish life in Eastern Europe. 
Minkowski rejected the new artistic movements of the early twentieth century to put his painting in the service of a style that could be defined as “ethnographic” and became the portraitist of anonymous Jews, refugees, and the impoverished masses. 
His large canvases showing the victims of the pogroms attracted the attention of the European public, and despite the barriers imposed their origin and communication difficulties, his paintings were exhibited in Antwerp, Dusseldorf, Berlin, Paris and other cultural centers in Europe .mm1
in addition to painting many scenes of the suffering of the Jews in Russia and Poland in the early twentieth century, Minkowski devoted much of his work to exalt the role of women in Judaism,
At we read that of  his work  in Buenos Aires, where this deaf and dumb painter, the critics Silvia Bronstein Wilkis and Zachary M. Baker wrote:-
“Soon Minkowski will present to the Argentine public in his simple and beautiful  work. Undoubtedly and without prejudice, the heart will appreciate a work that only the heart has dictated, ” Julio E. Payró.wrote from Belgium in the newspaper La Nacion, in June 1926, “No violence, no scene of lethal fire, brutal invasion, but the memory and the threat of pogrom weigh in the atmosphere of the work of Minkowski (…) Thus, in his immense tenderness, the artist’s gesture Leasehold the horizon of Poland and embraces all suffering humanity, “said the Belgian art critic in another part of his article.”mm2
Frances Hodgkins (see these two above images of Belgian Refugee children painted in St Ives in 1916) was a significant New Zealand painter of whom David Tovey has written in his interesting book Sea Change Fine and Decorative Art in St Ives 1914-1930. During World War I she spent some time in Zennor, Cornwall, where she worked with the Swansea painter, Cedric Morris, who painted her portrait in 1917.She herself began to paint in oils in 1915.
As the website at the New Zealand Museum, states:- “The outbreak of World War One forced Hodgkins to move from Paris to St Ives, a small fishing village in Cornwall, England. Here she found it difficult to travel or earn money and endured considerable hardship. However, it also meant that she had time to paint, and she experimented with larger works, using oil and tempera as an alternative to watercolours. Her works from this time show the influence of Post-Impressionism. “
Tovey points out that under the proactive approach of Gussie Lindner that St Ives took in some 99 refugees from Belgium of whom something like 62 remained in 1915. The large oil which is in the Christchurch,NZ gallery, the upper of these two above was called “Unshatterable” and was exhibited at the International Exhibition in 1916. He quotes from curator Ken Hall at Christchurch who mentions how in this painting the grey swirling area in the top left represents the absent father. Moffat Lindner felt these paintings showed considerable talent and he was to provide for her and encorage her in various ways. More information on Lindner who was a key figure in the St Ives Society of Artists may be found at
 In 1915 St Ives was a small town but played its part in taking in those in dire need-surely now we can maintain this enlightened tradition particularly for those who are victims of the devastating weaponry and ferocious assault.
Art Exhibition Reviews Classics Penwith St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Visiting Penwith Gallery-March 2016 in St Ives

Even on an overcast day, walking along Lambeth Walk is a pleasure. Just along from the slumbering elegance of the St Ives Arts Club are the reinforced portholes of the Porthminster Gallery. Currently among the many interesting and varied pieces on display here  are the intriguing ceramic tiles of the Austrian artist Regina Heinz. The sea has always drenched over Lambeth Walk in Spring Tides, but dull or in the early Spring sunshine, the turnstones are a welcome sight. They seem to have appeared during the time that the seagulls have become more aggressive when swooping indiscriminately down to snatch the lunches or suppers of unwitting and hapless tourists. The turnstones are currently abundant and closely related to sandpipers.Turnstones

Currently the Tate Gallery in St Ives is closed although, of course, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is open. Details are available at A worthy alternative to the Tate Gallery is the Penwith Gallery where at it is stated that,”In 1960, the present site, then a pilchard-packing factory, was acquired and converted into a gallery, with artists’ studios above. In 1970 adjacent property became available, and the artist members, assisted by Barbara Hepworth, sought funds to create the present group of galleries, studios and workshops. To take on the task of maintaining its buildings and workshops, to arrange the programme of exhibitions and execute the gallery business the Penwith Galleries Ltd. was created.” Just opposite the Ropewalk where, of course, rope was manufactured, it was here that Troika pottery had it’s workshop and showroom.

Jane Yates
Pot by Jane Yates

The current exhibition runs until April 19th and visitors are likely to find it various with many works to catch the eye. There are the well-known and established favourites like Antony Frost, John Piper and Noel Betowski (whose work from a previous exhibition is shown on the clip above)  as well as painters who have recently joined such as Jessica Cooper;mentioned previously on this blog. In addition to the paintings both pottery and sculpture are on display in this well-lit environment.

Classical Head by John Emanuel
Classical Head by John Emanuel

Two works caught my attention and set off trains of thought. The first was a small work by John Emanuel, who moved to St Ives in 1964 (his work is often to be seen at the charming Belgrave Gallery just off Fore Street- and is a delightful classical head. Hearing the sound of the sea in the distance might prompt us to these lines of Homer from “The King of Asine” in the Illiad:-

And the poet lingers, looking at the stones, and asks himself
does there really exist
among these ruined lines, edges, points, hollows, and curves
does there really exist
here where one meets the path of rain, wind, and ruin
does there exist the movement of the face, shape of the
of those who’ve shrunk so strangely in our lives,
those who remained the shadow of waves and thoughts with
the sea’s boundlessness


Jason Lilley
Jason Lilley

The second work attracted my attention because it reminded me of the abstract expressionism of Adolph Gottleib. I have often noticed the attractive prints of Jason Lilley – However, the similarity with Gottlieb may be judged from the accompanying images below. GottliebAdolph_summary


Art and Photographic History Art Exhibition Reviews German Matters Penwith Uncategorized West Cornwall (and local history)

Floating colours, Krowji and Pink Trees

Kerry Harding’s soft and evocative canvases take the natural world around the North

Kerry Harding at work in her studio at Krowji
Kerry Harding at work in her studio at Krowji

Coast with it’s trees, hedges and seasonal variations as a starting point. Her website may be found at Kerry was very interesting on the topic of the famous Dresden artist, Gerhard Richter mentioning his process, his photographic work and his continuous experimentation using a wide variety of methods and sometimes controversial subject matter. She also mentioned his ability to work on different projects simultaneously. She worked very hard to create a welcoming atmosphere in her space- as she says on Twitter, “studio almost ready, tinsel and fairy lights then its done.” A lovely KH 1range of paintings that I found so interesting that IKH 4 came back to browse them for a second time. It was also informative to hear how some canvases were composed of many underpaintings-up to ten or more layers.

Kathryn Stevens,, clearly rejoices in the freedom of working on a large scale. The billowing colours of her canvases express the joy of painting in bright colours. Some of them have a feathery and eloquent quality that puts one in mind of Georgia KS 1O’Keeffe (or perhaps Otto Gottlieb) but here we have an abstract expressionism with an upbeat and optimistic feel. She told me how she works freely, sometimes with music and chatted with the same exuberance that her work conveys. I was particularly taken by a study in

Kathryn Stevens's studio
Kathryn Stevens’s studio

crimson, scarlet and white. She hails from St Ives and her paintings exhibit the wondrous light for which the town has become famous.

In short there was much to add cheer on a cold Sunday. It was good to see the Siobhan Purdy’s work again- which adorns the wall opposite as I write, the Mexican and Maya themed prints in the Apex space and to talk again with Naomi Singer whose glass works continue to thrive. Interesting too were the textile pieces by Zoe Wright.

Esther Connon -Work in progress
Esther Connon -Work in progress

Before returning to the Melting Pot once again, I went into see the illustration work of Esther Connon and was much taken by her story of The White Butterfly which can be seen on I wondered if it would be possible to animate some of this according to the methods of  and this fascinating method may be seen both on videos on the papercinema site and on the community project in St Ives filmed earlier this year by my friend Alban. Altogether with the new building project at Krowji already under-way, great developments can be expected from this artistic phoenix rising from the ashes of the Grammar School at Redruth.

Click on Loop the Loop here:-





Art and Photographic History Art Exhibition Reviews St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Mr Warren’s Turner- Penzance Public Library

As the winter storms hit Penzance, so does that great painter of storms, steam and whirling chaos, Joseph Mallord William Turner. Not the great English Romantic himself of course, whose late works are currently at the Tate Britain in London until January 25th next year, but as a film, Mr Turner, by Mike Leigh and in the form of an exhibition currently on view in Penzance Public Library, Turner and Me painted by Vaughan Warren R.A.S. Ancillary works by Vaughan are also on view on the first floor of The Arcade in Chapel Street.

Timothy Spall in Mr Turner
Timothy Spall in Mr Turner

In a year of sombre reflection upon the futility of war, the appearance of original films like Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall and Mr Turner, are inspiring visually. The technique of Loach and Leigh, both of whom use improvisation as a means to authenticity, is inspiring and instructive. Mr Turner has renewed interest in a rumbustious, querulous figure and promises to be exciting viewing. Turner was a protean traveller and visited Cornwall and painted the local landscape including Mounts Bay and the Tamar Valley. Sketches at St Ives established him, according to some authorities, as the founder of the painting tradition there. Timothy Spall, an exceptional actor and a keen sailor brings his talent and determination to portraying Turner in both his vitality and in his melancholy moods.Mount

Vaughan Warren has a tremendous enthusiasm for Turner and has won the Turner Award himself, as well as the Reynolds Medal and Landseer Award. He also has a track record of interest in the history of art which informs his work at a deep level. He also has an interest in local history. He and his partner Melanie Camp share an enthusiasm for Daphne Du Maurier’s novels and in particular Rebecca and its associated film which was, of course a Hitchcock classic. This has provided the inspiration for an Acrylic, a medium which Vaughan assures us Turner would have loved, The Wreck of the Rebecca, which appears in the current show. Vaughan Warren has found much inspiration too in the work of Julius Olsson, whose contribution in St Ives is the subject of much intriguing study by David Tovey, as well as Whistler, Mondrian and Kandinsky. The latter was an acquaintance of Naum Gabo, who also worked locally, is famous for his writings on the spiritual in art. Warren declares too his intention to strive,” towards an abstract beauty through paint and the image”.PSX_20141004_222450

The Victorian restrained grandeur of the public library in Penzance makes for a suitable context for Vaughan’s Turner inspirations. However, because they have to be mounted so high up above the installed illumination, they are not as visible as they might be. It is a reminder that despite the town having many galleries there is limited space in which even experienced artists can display. Turner’s palette is of great interest to Vaughan Warren and more details can be found at

Self-portrait by Vaughan Warren
Self-portrait by Vaughan Warren

Mr Warren RAS
Mr Warren RAS

In the current display three works particularly appealed to me. The acrylic on canvas of St Michael’s Mount predominates because of its free use of colour. I also greatly liked small watercolour called Turneresque. It almost goes without saying that this painter shows great facility in all three mediums. The two pictures which are mounted in oval frames make a refreshing change here too. The small painting in the corner which appeals to me most however is Red Interior; Music Room whose contrasting colours remind me a little of Sickert and a little of Gwen John. Anyone who has the opportunity should see the film and Vaughan Warren’s work in Penzance.

In addition to the works displayed in the library there is an opportunity to view Vaughan’s drawing of Nelson’s death mask at the Redwing Gallery, Wood Street in Penzance. The display in Penzance Library may be viewed until mid-December.

On View at Penzance Library, Morrab Road, Penzance
On View at Penzance Library, Morrab Road, Penzance

Literature Penwith Poetry West Cornwall (and local history)

F.E.Halliday, Shakespeare scholar, writer and historian of Cornwall

Frank Ernest Halliday was a very enthusiastic walker. Tall with a mane of beautiful white hair and reserved, his elegant stride cut a figure, like a distinguished prophet or poet. He was when, first I became aware of his reputation as a historian and a Shakespearian scholar, hurrying down Back Road West in the general direction of Clodgy where he frequently seemed inclined to walk, frequently at this formidable pace. At about this time, he had already retired from school mastering at Cheltenham College where he had become a friend of Cecil Day-Lewis years before. That was in the early Thirties and the time to which I am referring was somewhere around 1960.


In 1953, Halliday wrote in History Today of the famous Cornish Historian, Richard Carew, a Member of Parliament and a friend of Philip Sydney,” The importance of Richard Carew has never been appreciated. Few, indeed, are even aware of the writer who, while Shakespeare was writing for the London stage, was quietly at work in his Cornish country house. This neglect is the result of his own modesty, the remoteness of his dwelling, and the multitude of his great contemporaries in and about the capital, and not of any lack of merit…..” Much of what Halliday wrote here about Carew is now equally true about himself and the extensive range of his own work. It is time to remember Halliday’s work, much of it written in his house next to the sea, downalong in St Ives. (Those interested in Carew will find a brief entry at

Back Road West, St Ives
Back Road West, St Ives

When Halliday’s Shakespeare appeared in an American edition in 1961, it was reviewed in the Renaissance News a little later;-

“Mr F.E.Halliday’s life of Shakespeare is the product of a widely read, fully informed, and prolific mind. After twenty years as head of the English Department at Cheltenham College he retired in 1948 to devote himself solely to writing. He is one of the few scholars today who have taken all Shakespearean knowledge as their province. For a period of over fifteen years he has been turning out studies which give an ever broadening view of the great dramatist. In 1946 he published Shakespeare in his Age. Then came Shakespeare and his Critics which although completed in 1947, first appeared in 1949.”

Frank 51w4YHv817L._

Halliday was educated in North Yorkshire at Giggleswick School where he learnt to cherish Latin poetry, including Horace and his reflections on the seasons, mutability and loss grew up in its unique atmosphere. He was growing up in the dark and difficult days of World War 1 which deeply affected both staff and boys. There is a useful short biography of him included in Cornwall’s People – A Biographical Dictionary by Carolyn Martin and Paul White (Tamar Books). He then went on to King’s College, Cambridge and later entered teaching himself. It was at Cheltenham College that he met and became a supportive friend to Cecil Day-Lewis, the famous thirties poet. Indeed, Halliday, who was an English master and became Head of Department, painted Day-Lewis’s portrait which is in the National Portrait Gallery and may be seen at

This portrait captures the refined appearance of the poet in a contemplative mood in profile but whether marking an essay or composing a splendid poem is not clear. Day-Lewis’s meeting and friendship in 1931 with Frank Halliday is recorded in some detail in Sean Day-Lewis’s biography of his father C. Day-Lewis, An English Literary Life. It appears that the dress code at Cheltenham was somewhat severe. Also Day-Lewis’s poetry was considered risqué when discovered by the self-appointed proctors of moral rectitude among the other masters. He was accused in a letter from the Headmaster of Bohemian tendencies!

“An Assistant Master at the school had seen him wearing a green shirt, while whitewashing the

walls of his flat, and another observer had reported the poet attending a concert with a stock about his neck under his dinner jacket: this was intolerable conduct, the staff must be properly dressed at all times.

Before replying he took the advice of a college master who, unlike the colleagues who had reported all departures from convention, was a friend. Frank Halliday was a sensitive Yorkshireman who loved literature and eventually became a writer himself. His autobiography tells how he first heard of Cecil as ‘a young married man who liked Beethoven and César Frank’ and was ‘said to write poetry’. He met the newcomers during their second term and registered Mary ‘with ballet dancer’s hair and figure and a dairy maid’s complexion’ and Cecil ‘reserved and almost severe with the trace of an Irish brogue’. Halliday was also a shy man and his mask was an offhand manner, at first discouraging. The discouragement had been overcome and by this March, Cecil and Mary had become friends with Frank and his wife Nancie, and they spent a long time discussing the best response to the headmaster’s outburst.” (Sean Day-Lewis on his father- Halliday’s own biography is called Indifferent Honest, Duckworth 1960)

Halliday’s friendship with Day-Lewis was to last over forty years and much of it conducted by letters from St Ives where he seems to have lived first at Five Fields, Dynas Ia and later when they were completed in Barnaloft Flats, overlooking Porthmeor Beach. Day-Lewis was deeply interested in Marxism and wrote, somewhat ironically to Halliday about the class war and the colourful inhabitants of his local pub at Brinclose, near Axminster, of the News Chronicle, Liberalism and of course in 1938 of Chamberlin and the approach of the Second World War. Day-Lewis moved in an interesting circle of thirties poets and writers and it seems likely that Halliday too might have met such figures as Rex Warner and W.H.Auden. F.E.Halliday seems to have continued as an amateur artist and painted Brinclose in 1939. By 1942 Day-Lewis is working some sixty hours a week at the Ministry of Information and became a close associate of Charles Fenby, journalist and assistant editor of The Picture Post. Day-Lewis records an encounter at this time with another somewhat severe character, Arthur Koestler whom he mentions in his correspondence with Halliday. Day-Lewis’s letters have recently, in 2012, been donated to the Bodleian Library

The Wreck of The Firebrand
The Wreck of The Firebrand

By the 1960s after the suppression of the Hungarian uprising, which had incidentally also prompted Halliday to sign a letter to the Times, Day-Lewis vigorously renounced his earlier communist views. By 1968, Day-Lewis, who also wrote detective novels as Nicholas Blake, became Poet Laureate. However, in 1971 Day-Lewis mentions to Halliday, a searing review he received from another Cornish poet in the TLS. He correctly identifies the critic as Geoffrey Grigson who having been born in Pelynt was a Cornishman, and held somewhat negative views on Cecil Day-Lewis’s poetry although unlike his earlier Headmaster, regarded him on the single occasion they met at the BBC, as elegantly dressed!

In addition to his Shakespearian Studies, Halliday was active with regard to social and political concerns.  In 1963, he signs a letter to the Times along with John Betjeman, A.L.Rowse, Brian Wynter and more than thirty other prominent citizens against the Admiralty’s proposal to take some 355 acres for troop and helicopter training on the lovely Zennor moors. This was a major concern in Penwith at the time. This upset many local people and not least as the land had been placed under a special covenant by the National Trust. In 1975, just over 67% of voters supported the Labour government’s campaign to stay in the EEC, or Common Market and Halliday was writing to the Times again to advocate full political union; not just an economic agreement. Halliday was advocating a Yes vote because he strongly believed in the idealism needed to bring about an effective World government.

There was also a wryly amusing letter written at the end of December 1964(Shakespeare’s quatercentenary) with regard to a production by Lindsey Anderson of Julius Caesar. Anderson was a pupil of Halliday at Cheltenham, where the former also met the future novelist, Gavin Lambert. Halliday gently chides his former pupil for trying to ‘improve Shakespeare’, essentially by excising nine revealing lines of a speech by Brutus. These lines reveal much about the republican’s character. He compares this with how in the Restoration, much was made of Caesar’s ghost who was made to appear at Phillipi. Halliday proceeds to regret the trend towards displaying gratuitous violence in the History plays, whilst making it clear that he is not referring thus to Anderson  and expressing his sorrow that Falstaff is being reduced to a sinister figure. He remarks that although he had tickets at Stratford for seven plays he could actually only stomach attending five and a half! The previous year, in another letter to the Times he had taken on the subject of the identity of W.H. of the Dark Lady   Sonnets, an unknown William, he surmises, and disagrees somewhat daringly with the inimitable A.L.Rowse.

The walk past Man'Head to Clodgy, St Ives
The walk past Man’Head to Clodgy, St Ives

Recently, while reading my own copy of A History of Cornwall, published by Gerald Duckworth in 1959, I became intrigued by a fine chapter on the Eighteenth Century; a generally neglected period but here there was a rich variety of detail. I was particularly interested in the earlier part of the Century, essentially before the mineral wealth of the Duchy had been much exploited. This was an unsettled period of rebellions and Halliday points out, “ Impoverished by the Civil War, the Cornish people took little interest in the events that followed the death of Charles II- the Monmouth Rebellion, the Revolution of 1688, the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715-…” In St Ives, which had had a Parliamentary army garrisoned there, the inhabitants might keenly have felt ravages of occupation. There are also records showing that Monmouth was blown off course there on his way to Weymouth and his future defeat at the Battle of Sedgemoor. The Treaty of Utrecht which interestingly, has recently escaped much notice upon its 300th Anniversary provided a temporary peace to the Wars of the Spanish Succession and its signature was celebrated in St Ives at the time. Travel then was most easily carried out by sea although as the experience of Sir Cloudesley Shovell wrecked on the Scillies suggests, navigation was a hazardous affair particularly in determining longitude.

Halliday remarks that this period around 1700 was characterized by a change in land ownership. Lawyers, merchants and businessmen started to invest in land that might be valuable more for the materials beneath the surface than as a source of food that gave it value to the gentry. This is a period where speculation starts to become important and clashes between the older aristocracy and the emerging entrepreneurs. This was particularly true in the western part of the Duchy where the known lodes existed. Halliday points to Celia Fiennes travel diary. He quotes her references to the shortage of timber for mine construction and the shortage of fuel. She writes, “They burn mostly turffs, which is an unpleasant smell; it makes one smell as if smoaked by bacon.” Fiennes, as Halliday points out, had to travel by horse because the roads were in such a poor condition. Copper was mined alongside tin but because of the shortage of fuel it was shipped to Bristol and South Wales for smelting. Little Cornish horses, she tells us were used to carry fish and the corn which was being cut.

The early C18, which Halliday covers in about thirty pages, sees the introduction of the first steam engine in about 1710. It was the very inefficient Newcomen engine, although state of the art at the time, and was used at the Godolphin mine at Wheal Vor. It used vast quantities of fuel. Even by 1740 there were just three steam pumps at work. It was not until the early Nineteenth Century  that Cornish engineers greatly improved the efficiency of those engines that had be designed by Watt, Trevithick and others Thus in effect this would henceforth reduce the cost of coal which had to be imported from South Wales, a trade in the hands of merchants and businessmen. Incidentally, it was a German Chemist, a proponent of the celebrated but misguided Phlogiston theory, Johann Joachim Becker (1635-1682) from Speyer near Heidelburg, who visiting Cornwall in the 1680s made an important discovery. At Treloweth, St.Erth, that Becher was said to have built a furnace for the smelting of tin using pit coal as opposed to charcoal.


The celebrated Tory politician who rose to become Marlborough’s confrere and the First Lord of the Treasury, Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin, KG, PC (15 June 1645 – 15 September 1712) might well be remembered for the work he did in passing the Act of Union with Scotland which created the united kingdom of Great Britain. He also established sound finances for Queen Anne and made possible the founding of the Bank of England. The Cornish might, however, have other reasons for remembering him as Halliday points out:-

…..”some of the old charcoal-using blowing houses were retained for smelting stream tin, which was of a finer quality than that from the mines. The use of coal probably saved Cornwall from being completely denuded of timber, the demand for which for shoring up the workings was enormous, and one of the last services that Godolphin did for his native county was to cheapen the price of coal by securing a drawback of the duty on that used for smelting. A few years before, in 1703, he had been responsible for the favourable terms of pre-emption granted to the Cornish tinners.” This unfortunately ended when Walpole came to power.

Frank Halliday was not only an author with broad interests, having written books on Chaucer, Dr Johnson, Wordsworth, Hardy and Browning besides Shakespeare; he was also a committed intellectual who was active as a School Governor, interested in social action and helped to set up with Bernard Leach and Barbara Hepworth in 1967, the St Ives Trust which has been instrumental in developing conservation projects and working in alongside the St Ives Archive Centre.

F.E.Halliday was an experienced lecturer and I can still recall a historical talk which he gave when I was a young lad in The Labour Party Rooms upstairs behind the back of the Union Hotel at the bottom of Ayr Lane. This is currently a rather chic restaurant but in the Sixties, a quite barely furnished room at the top of a steep winding wooden staircase. The subject concerned the early history of Cornwall and was concerned the Early Bronze Age and I particular recall much mention of the Beaker Folk (Glockenbecherkultur). Halliday’s tall figure loomed over slides showing the migrations of these people over Southern England at a time when Britain’s only significant export material was in fact Cornish tin. He mentions in a chapter on the Bronze Age in “A History of Cornwall” that, “Beakers are rare, but two have been found as far west as Land’s End, both of them in cists, and one, now in St Buryan church, accompanied by a flint knife.” It would be interesting to know if it is still located there.

Spread of the Beaker Culture
Spread of the Beaker Culture

Speaking about Cornwall he says,” And I loved it for its character: for its strength, although an outcast among counties; for its appearance of having known and suffered so much, yet without any trace of disillusionment, but having rather an air of expectancy; for its human virtues of patience and endurance; for its mystery…”