Pelynt: ‘we’ll cross the Tamar, land to land’

From the fisherfolk of Newlyn and Mousehole we head eastwards to the farmers and farm labourers of Pelynt. In the 1800s this parish may have seemed to have been quietly minding its own business cruising along in the backwaters of history. However, these years saw the reputation of its favourite son rapidly gather pace. For Trelawne in the parish of Pelynt was the birthplace of Sir Jonathan Trelawny in 1650.

A portrait of Trelawny painted in 1720 a year before his death

This was the Trelawny who was one of seven bishops charged with seditious libel by James II when they refused to agree to freedom of worship for Catholics in 1688. Imprisoned for three weeks, the bishops were eventually acquitted after a trial. The bare historical facts were not enough for Hawker who embellished the tale by combining it with the Cornish risings of 200 years earlier to create a stirring poem about Trelawny, of whom 20,000 Cornishmen would cross the Tamar to ask the reason why.

The biographies of Pelynt residents in the database are rather less eventful although, unlike the 20,000 Cornishmen of 1688, they did regularly cross the Tamar. Mary Dingle was someone who spent a fleeting time in Trelawny’s parish in the early 1860s, being found as a servant to a miller in 1861. Mary was actually from near Polruan, a few miles to the west, where her father was a farmer. After 1861 she led a peripatetic life as a domestic servant. In 1871 and 1881 she was a cook, first in Plymouth then at Hurstpierpoint in Sussex. Ten years after that she was back in Cornwall, housekeeping for a retired farmer and his wife near Lostwithiel. By 1901 she’d gone back over the Tamar and was one of the five servants working at the house of a retired banker at Lamerton in Devon.

Richard Bettinson, born into a farm labourer’s family at Muchlarnick in Pelynt, was equally mobile. Richard also began work early in life, sent to be an ox-driver at a nearby farm before he was 11. He then joined the Navy, progressing from stoker second class to be a member of a gun crew by 1881, by which time he had married Eliza from Greenwich in Kent. On retiring from the Navy Richard lived with Eliza in a small flat in Devonport.

Some exalted residents of Pelynt caught on camera in 1905

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