A blog for anyone with an interest in Polperro, publishing and people... with occasional musings on history and humanity.
Posted on December 18, 2016
Seven years ago, in 2009, I was contacted by an amateur antique dealer in Minneapolis who said she had just bought an oil painting of Polperro dated c1820 in a sale there. She was initially attracted to it because of its large gilt frame, but on closer inspection, she noticed part of an old label on the back on which it was just possible to make out the following words, written in ink: ‘English Channel… purchased from the artist for 36 guineas Mar 09, 1800 [?] … Polperro Bay’. The painting was signed ‘W. Linton’.
The photograph of the painting she sent me suggested it was a very early view of Polperro. There was indeed an English landscape artist named William Linton, born in 1791 whose style was very similar to the Polperro painting, though it must have obviously been done later than the 1800 date on the label suggests. Linton (1791-1876) was a Liverpool born landscape artist who moved to London where he exhibited between 1817 and 1871. He was one of the founders of the Society of British Artists founded 1824.
My US correspondent, Ann Pierzina-Killian, told me that the person who sold it to her has said it came from a Victorian house in Minneapolis that had been a funeral parlour and where it had hung for many years.
What struck me, when I saw the photo of the painting, was how remarkably accurate many of the features were, given what we know of Polperro in the early part of the 19th century. Unlike the exaggerated views drawn by Joseph Farington after his visit there in 1810, it is possible to make out the Warren, both piers in the harbour and even what looks like St. Peter’s chapel on the Lansallos side in Linton’s work.
How it ended up in a funeral parlour in Minneapolis is anyone’s guess. It may, of course, have been taken to the USA with one of the Polperro families who emigrated there in the 19th century. But the current owner of the painting is now offering it for sale with a price tag of $5,000.
That seems a lot for a painting that appears to have no particular artistic merit, but it is clearly something that ought to be brought back to Polperro if at all possible, perhaps by some form of public subscription or local appeal.
Looe Literary Festival
Posted on November 14, 2016
As one of the speakers at the Looe Literary Festival this year, I was struck by the delightful pleasure that Cornish folk derive from stories about their past. Author Paul Greenwood opened this year’s festival with a spell-binding talk about ghosts in the Jolly Sailor Inn, and I followed the next day with the story of Zephaniah Job, the smugglers’ banker of Polperro. There was scarcely room to move in the crowded bar of the Jolly Sailor, reputed to be one of the oldest pubs in Britain, a sure sign that Cornish men and women enjoy a good yarn.
The Looe Literary Festival is now in its third year and despite attracting big names (former Home Secretary Alan Johnson and Ann Widdecombe were among this year’s speakers) it still struggles to avoid making a loss. Even the local town council withdrew funding this year but the indomitable spirit of organisers Amelia Pruen and June Slee has kept it going despite setbacks and difficulties.
There was something for every taste and age among this year's highlights: Hogwarts recreated in the Guildhall, a talk on self-published fiction, 'horrible sciences' for children, a comic poet, a workshop for young writers, a Booker Prize Long List novelist, 'moon gardening' (whatever that is), Cornish miners in World War I as well as the two famous politicians - one Labour, one Tory - discussing their memoirs!
The wreck of the Ten Sail on Grand Cayman in 1794
Posted on July 19, 2016
On a recent visit to the Cayman Islands I came across the story of the Wreck of the Ten Sail, when ten ships were wrecked on a reef off Grand Cayman in 1794. They were part of a convoy of merchant ships escorted by a British frigate, HMS Convert, that had set out from Jamaica for Britain and a navigational error by the Convert led it and nine of the merchant vessels on to the island.
A legend attached to the incident claims that a royal prince aboard one of the ships was saved by the islanders and as a result, King George III granted the Cayman Islands the tax free status they enjoy today.
Whatever the truth of that legend, the story of the Wreck of the Ten Sail is remarkable enough as it is. Author Samantha Oakley, who lives on Grand Cayman with her husband Nick, is currently researching the events leading up to and following the disaster which claimed the lives of several people on board the stricken ships.
A monument commemorating the event was erected in 1994 overlooking Gun Bay to mark the visit there by the Queen on the 200th anniversary.