Singers at The Cornish Arms, St Merryn         2nd October 2012

We arrived in darkness on a cold October evening and the Cornish Arms was full of light and warmth. The pub is now owned by Rick Stein and walking through a very modern restaurant, we headed straight to the main bar which to our relief still had an old feel to it with wood and slate, and photos on the wall of the ‘old singers’ – Charlie Bate, Tommy Morrisey and Charlie Pitman. Names I’d heard of years ago from singing around pubs. There’s a lovely description of the pub and backround on  Mick Hursey’s blog www.mick-hursey.co.uk/north-cornwall/cornish-arms/

Singers and the 'old singers' photos
Singers and the ‘old singers’ photos

We were there before any of the singers but slowly they arrived including Nidge who Sally knew from years ago working on a farm in Mawgan Porth. We had met him more recently through singing in Tywardeath and Polkerris (more of that later!). He also sings with The Rum & Shrub Shantymen.

There were about eight singers including Rex Trenoweth and nephew – both of whom were bell ringers at St Merryn Church right across from the pub, they come and sing after their bell ringing practice and after they had a few beers too – the pub providing a jug or two! Apart from Nidge we’d also previously met Shona – she had struck up a song in the middle of a lot of male singers in the Bishop & Wolf pub on St Marys when we’d been there for the Newquay and Scillies rowing weekend (see previous blog). I couldn’t help thinking how brave she was and we discovered we’d both hung out at the White Horse pub in Launceston in our youth! Rex Trenoweth has a reputation for a huge repertoire of songs and indeed we heard many not sung elsewhere such as ‘Mother’ and ‘The Old Armchair’.  Over the years he has sung in partnership with another well known man from the Padstow area – Johnny Murt (who we heard singing at the Newquay Fish Festival). He also had a fine sense of humour and told a few good anecdotes!

Rex Trenoweth, Nidge, Shona and others
Rex Trenoweth, Nidge, Shona and others

Most of the singers had their party pieces and without doubt Nidge’s rendition of ‘Let the Light of your Lighthouse’ is one of his best! He told me it was a Southern Baptist song and Sally remembers hearing it in the 70’s sung around St Day. They also sang ‘The Village Pump’  which I remember my Father recording our neighbour singing at Calstock again in the 70’s.

Seeing the pictures on the walls and hearing Rex and the others singing I got the feeling of the tradition continuing and through our travels we’ve become aware of the many ‘new singers’ of today; a wonderful thing to experience!

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