Picrous Day

Picrous Day is a festival celebrated (Originaly by tinners) on the 1st Thursday before Christmas. The feast celebrated the discovery of toin by St Picrous who in the east of Cornwall was believed to have been the founder of the tin industry not St Piran.

Picrous is celebrated at the Kings Arms Luxulyan every year with music and story telling.

Robert Hunt in his Popular Romances of the West of England described the feast:

The second Thursday before Christmas-day is a festival observed by the tinners of the district of Blackmore, and known as .Picrous day. It is not at present marked by any distinctive ceremonies, but it is the occasion of a supper and much merry-making. The owner of the tin-stream contributes a shilling a man towards it. This is said to be the feast of the discovery of tin by a man named Picrous. My first impression was that the day took its name from the circumstance of a pie forming the pièce de résistance of the supper; but this explanation is not allowed by tinners, nor sanctioned by the usages of the feast. What truth there may be in the tradition of the first tinner, Picrous, it is now too late to discover, but the notion is worth recording. It has occurred to me whether, from some similarity between the names (not a close one, I admit it), the honours of Picrous may not have been transferred to St Piran, who is generally said to be the patron saint of tinners. St Piran is not known in Blackmore, and his festival is on the 5th of March. The tinners also have a festival to commemorate the discovery of smelting.

The story “The Piskies in the Cellar” is traditionally told on this night. Here is a shortened version of the story

Our story has especially to do with the adventures of one of the party, John Sturtridge, who, well primed with ale, started on his homeward way for Luxulyan Church-town. John had got as far as Tregarden Down without any mishap worth recording, when, alas! he happed upon a party of the little people, who were at their sports in the shelter of a huge granite boulder. Assailed by shouts of derisive laughter, he hastened on frightened and bewildered, but the Down, well known from early experience, became like ground untrodden, and after long trial no gate or stile was to be found. He was getting vexed, as well as puzzled, when a chorus of tiny voices shouted, “Ho! and away for Par Beach!” John repeated the shout, and was in an instant caught up, and in a twinkling found himself on the sands of Par. A brief dance, and the cry was given, “Ho! and away for Squire Tremain’s cellar!”

An illustration of the Piskies in the cellar the traditional Picrous story

An illustration of the Piskies in the cellar, the traditional Picrous story.

A repetition of the Piskie cry found John with his elfish companions in the cellars at Heligan, where was beer and wine galore. It need not be said that he availed himself of his opportunities. The mixture of all the good liquors so affected him that, alas! he forgot in time to catch up the next cry of “Ho ! and away for Par Beach!”

In the morning John was found by the butler, groping and tumbling among butts and barrels, very much muddled with the squire’s good drink. His strange story, very incoherently told, was not credited by the squire, who committed him to jail for the burglary, and in due time he was convicted and sentenced to death.