Tom Bawcock’s Eve is a festival held on the 23rd of December in Mousehole. The festival is held in celebration and memorial of the efforts of Mousehole resident Tom Bawcock to lift a famine from the village. During this festival Star Gazy Pie (a mixed fish, egg and potato pie with protruding fish heads) is eaten and depending on the year of celebration a lantern procession takes place.The children’s book The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber was inspired by the traditions a of Tom Bawcock’s Eve and has now made this feast famous. The feast also coincides with the world famous Mousehole harbour lights.
There is a traditional song associated with Tom Bawcock’s Eve which is sang when the pie is served during the celebration. The words where written by Robert Morton-Nance set to the traditional tune “The Wedding March”.
Tom Bawcock’s Eve
Merry place you may believe, Tiz Mouzel ‘pon Tom Bawcock’s eve.
To be there then who wouldn’t wesh, to sup o’ sibm soorts o’ fish.
When morgy brath had cleared the path, Comed lances for a fry.
And then us had a bit o’ scad an’ Starry-gazie pie.
As aich we’d clunk, E’s health we drunk, in bumpers bremmen high,
And when up came Tom Bawcock’s name, We’d prais’d ‘un to the sky.
There are several theories to the origins of this festival, the first recorded description was made by Morton Nance in 1927 in the magazine “Old Cornwall”. Nance described the festival as it existed at the turn of the 19th century. Within this work Nance also speculated that the name Bawcock was derived from Beau Coc (French), he believed the cock was a herald of new light in pagan times and the origins of the festival were pre-Christian.
The most likely derivation of the name ‘Bawcock’ is from Middle English use (influenced from French) where a Bawcock is a nickname for a fine or worthy fellow. Rumours persist however that in fact the feast was “invented” in the 1950’s by the landlord of the Ship Inn, a rumour which can be dismissed if you examine the Morton Nance’s writings of the 1920’s. Because of the volume of people now visiting Mousehole on this date small Tom Bawcock’s celebrations have over spilled into the nearby communities of Newlyn and Penzance, however these are rarely advertised.
Tom Bawcock’s Eve videos includes the tune to the song.