Cornwall on Film

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Cornwall on Film

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As a boy I remember clearly happy family holidays spent in Cornwall.

After my father bought his first car, we were suddenly able to venture further afield than our usual train ride for a week in Weston Super Mare.

As much as I loved Weston Super Mare, through my young eyes, Cornwall was a magical place, a world away from the Birmingham council estate I grew up on, its rugged cliffs and hidden coves offering the chance for previously unimagined adventures.

Many years later, in my role as a documentary film-maker, I acquired some random pieces of old film of Cornwall dating from the 1930s to the 1960s. I was intrigued to see the places I recalled from my childhood holidays as they were even before I set foot in them. Equally intriguing was the fact that most of them had hardly changed; the dress of the people was different of course, as were the vehicles they drove, and it was amusing to see men in deckchairs on the beach wearing collars and ties, but essentially, the Cornwall of old was the Cornwall of my childhood, which, for me, encapsulates the timeless beauty of the place.

I realised that others with fond memories of Cornwall might also be interested in the footage and set about compiling it into one film. The result was Cornwall on Film, not particularly imaginative I know, but it does what it says on the tin.

The Western Morning news kindly let me use stories from their archives to paint a unique picture of life in Cornwall in times gone by, which are read by the inimitable Howard Ellison. I also included some old photos of Cornwall to fill in the gaps where necessary, and even managed to sneak in some of my own footage of the Helston Furry Dance and the Padstow Obby Oss celebrations. I was though, slightly alarmed to realise that my early work is slipping into the realm of archive footage – Tempus definitely Fugits.

Finally, I must tell you that some of the footage isn’t brilliant quality – after all, it is nearly 90 years old and was shot by amateurs – however I think the subject matter is worthy of inclusion.

I hope you enjoy watching it.

One Reply to “Cornwall on Film”

  1. Margaret Britton

    Hi David, I can appreciate the excitement you felt on visiting Cornwall for the first time. We lived near Bristol when I was a child and like you Weston was the nearest seaside choice. However, as my Dad was a railwayman and therefore could travel for free, in 1958 when I was 12 we went for our first Cornish Holiday to St Ives. I think you can imagine the feelings we felt when we saw the view as we approached St Ives on the little single track train pulled by a small tank engine between St Erth and St Ives (thankfully a line which is still open). The the little town, at that time was fairly quiet and unspoiled by heavy tourist footfall and mostly populated by local bred and born people, many still involved in the fishing industry. Visitors to the town seemed to be mostly artists (there for the views and unique light) and railway men ( those lucky folk able to travel there for free ) . My Father as an amateur artist thoroughly enjoyed the visit, as did I and my Mother. The French fishermen used to moor their boats out in the bay each evening and row in to visit the Sloop Inn. The lights from their boats making picturesque bobbing reflections in the waters of the bay. The St Ives Fishermen used to land their catch in the harbour at low tide and load it into a cart drawn by a horse, this was weighed on the weighbridge in front of the Sloop Inn and recorded, as far as I remember, on a chalk board outside the weighmasters office. We watched the various buyers bidding for the fish on the slipway before they drove off with their precious load to various fishmarkets in Cornwall and beyond. Next to the harbour was an ancient single storey building, a place where all the fishermen met and often sat outside swopping stories of times gone by. They were fascinating to listen to, however a little difficult to understand, the Cornish dialect had not been ‘diluted’ by incomers at that time. My Dad sketched the whole time we were there and Mum and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the tiny back streets of the town and also enjoyed what felt like a Mediteranian climate. I shall never forget those times, especially as I have great interest in social history. Since then I have introduced my husband and in turn our daughter and our son-in-law and granddaughter to the magic of Cornwall and they of course are all smitten, but I so wish they could have experienced that first holiday with me. We shall certainly order your Cornwall on film DVD Unfortunately we are unsure of when we shall again visit the West Country a) because of Covid restrictions and b) we now live in Midlothian, Scotland!

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