27 Lamorna Cove

Evergreen - - Contents - JOHN HUS­BAND

Scenes such as Ad­mi­ral Rod­ney’s naval bat­tle against the French fleet in the Caribbean are de­scribed in such vivid de­tail that it is hard to be­lieve that the au­thor had not wit­nessed it first hand. Whether in Corn­wall, West Africa or the West Indies, Cros­bie Garstin was a master of lo­cal di­alect and folk song, seam­lessly in­te­grat­ing it into the nar­ra­tive. At the time, he was liv­ing in Lamorna Cove, a ro­man­tic lo­ca­tion and the scene of a dra­matic meet­ing with his fu­ture wife Lil­ian. She was vis­it­ing the cove with a stu­dent friend who got into dif­fi­cul­ties while swim­ming. A strong swim­mer, Garstin res­cued the friend and mar­ried her!

It is in the coun­try­side around Lamorna where the Pen­hale story un­folds, and the au­thor makes good use of his fa­mil­iar­ity with the area, set­ting the ac­tion among real lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing the vil­lages of Paul, Mouse­hole and New­lyn. The inn where the smug­glers hold their meet­ings, the Ad­mi­ral An­son, is nick­named the Kid­dly­wink, a ref­er­ence to the sale of contraband liqueur. The buyer would sig­nal his wish to buy with a wink to the land­lord. This is a ref­er­ence to Lamorna’s lo­cal inn, the Lamorna Wink, nowa­days pro­vid­ing sus­te­nance of the purely le­git­i­mate va­ri­ety! The only ge­o­graph­i­cal twist is that St. Gwith­ian, the par­ish in which the Pen­hales live, is bor­rowed from a lo­ca­tion some 20 miles away near Hayle.

Cros­bie Garstin died in 1930, fol­low­ing a boat­ing ac­ci­dent in Sal­combe, Devon. He never saw the Hol­ly­wood adap­tion of his last novel, China Seas, which starred Clark Gable and Jean Har­low.

Later, in the 1980s, a church min­is­ter re­vealed that 20 years be­fore, in Lon­don, he had met a writer who claimed to be Garstin, and who had writ­ten a num­ber of nov­els un­der the names Nor­man Les­lie and John Cros­bie. How­ever fas­ci­nat­ing, the story has never been au­then­ti­cated, al­though Garstin’s body was never found.

To­day Lamorna Cove re­mains a quiet lo­ca­tion at the end of a wooded val­ley carved out by a bub­bling stream. The beach is rocky and boul­der strewn. From 1849 to 1911 the cove was a hive of in­dus­try, ex­tract­ing gran­ite, the rock from which this coast is built. Many well- known land­marks, in­clud­ing the Thames Em­bank­ment, were con­structed from the blocks which were loaded di­rectly onto ships moored in the harbour. Dur­ing the early 20th cen­tury the cove at­tracted a colony of artists and writers, and the Lamorna So­ci­ety have erected slate plaques to com­mem­o­rate them. I took the cliff path from Lamorna east along the coast to find the home of an­other much- loved writer from more re­cent times. Ini­tially the climb up is hard, as the cliff is lit­tered with gran­ite blocks which make the go­ing dif­fi­cult. Past Lamorna Point the path as­cends to a gran­ite cairn where a tall boul­der, shaped like a stand­ing stone, looks out to sea. This is Carn Barges, the spot where, on hol­i­day in the 1950s, the writer Derek Tangye first set eyes on a lonely un­in­hab­ited cot­tage shel­ter­ing by the edge of a wood in the dis­tance. He and his wife Jean­nie knew at once that this was where they wanted to spend the rest of their lives. Both of them had

glam­orous jobs in Lon­don, he as a jour­nal­ist and she as the pub­lic­ity man­ager for the Savoy Ho­tel group. They knew many fa­mous peo­ple and at­tended nu­mer­ous so­ci­ety par­ties, but it was a life they were both happy to give up in favour of a sim­pler and more re­ward­ing one be­side the Cor­nish coast.

How they even­tu­ally ac­quired the te­nancy of the cot­tage at Dormi­nack, and the ups and downs of their new life grow­ing flow­ers and veg­eta­bles on the dif­fi­cult cliff- edge lo­ca­tion is de­scribed in A Gull on the Roof, pub­lished in 1961. This was the first of 19 books which came to be known as the Mi­nack Chron­i­cles writ­ten by Derek un­til his death in 1996 — Jean­nie died 10 years ear­lier. He took par­tic­u­lar de­light in de­scrib­ing the var­i­ous an­i­mals that shared their lives, in­clud­ing Monty, Lama and Oliver the cats, and Fred and Penny the don­keys.

As well as do­mes­tic crea­tures, a num­ber of wild birds adopted the cou­ple, among them Hu­bert ( the gull on the roof), Tim the robin and Char­lie the chaffinch. Jean­nie was also an au­thor us­ing her maiden name of Ni­col, writ­ing about her life at the Savoy in Meet me at the Savoy, fol­lowed by three ho­tel nov­els, Ho­tel Regina, Home is the Ho­tel and Ber­tioni’s Ho­tel. Be­fore her death, they set up the Mi­nack Chron­i­cles Trust, which to­day owns 18 acres of land

ad­join­ing the cot­tage ( http:// mi­nack. info/). They named it “Oliver Land” af­ter their cat, and to­day it is run as a na­ture re­serve and “a place for soli­tude”, ac­cord­ing to the no­tice on the gate be­side the cliff path. The cot­tage, though, is not open to vis­i­tors. I must also point out that this Mi­nack is not the lo­ca­tion of the fa­mous cliff- side the­atre, which is a few miles fur­ther east at Porthcurno.

Vis­it­ing in spring I found that, be­side the cliff path, daf­fodils were still in flower. These are a rem­nant

of the bulb fields that used to be cul­ti­vated when the Tangyes first ar­rived. In Sun on the Lin­tel the au­thor de­scribes a morn­ing he spent at this idyl­lic spot over­look­ing the sea: “Noth­ing a mil­lion­aire could buy could equal the re­ward of a spring morn­ing on a lonely Cor­nish cliff”.

At the foot of the cliffs just be­yond is Tater Du, Corn­wall’s new­est light­house built in 1965 to warn ships of dan­ger­ous rocks af­ter the coaster Juan Fer­rer came to grief in Oc­to­ber 1963 with the loss of 11 lives. The in­ci­dent is de­scribed by Derek Tangye in his book A Don­key in the Meadow. Nearby is the prop­erty of an­other fa­mous writer who was a friend of the Tangyes, John le Carré.

The gran­ite out­crop of Boscawen Point, pro­vided mag­nif­i­cent views of my des­ti­na­tion, the boul­der­strewn beach at St. Loy’s Cove. Af­ter de­scend­ing to the wa­ter’s edge, the path took me through a small wood at Boskenna Cliff which, in May, is glo­ri­ous with blue­bells, within earshot of waves lap­ping on the beach.

At St. Loy’s Cove, af­ter scram­bling across the boul­ders, which en­tirely cover the beach, I re­joined the path to re­turn to the main road through an­other val­ley which runs par­al­lel to Lamorna. This passes Boskenna, once owned by the novelist Mary Wes­ley. This spec­tac­u­lar sec­tion of the Cor­nish coast has cer­tainly been an in­spi­ra­tion to the writers who have been lucky enough to live and work here.

Lamorna Cove in Corn­wall, home of the writer Cros­bie Garstin.

The view from Carn Barges with the Tater Du Light­house in the dis­tance.

Above: The cot­tage at Dormi­nack, once home of Derek and Jean­nie Tangye. Right: Merthen Point and St. Loy’s Cove seen from Boscawen Carn.

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