Pilchard Rhyme

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Original Unknown? SWF Translation

Ma canow vee wor Hern gen Cock ha Rooz.
Kameres en zans Garrack glase en Kooz.

Ma canow ve war hearn gen cowk ha rooz
Comerez en Zans Carrack Looez en Cooz.

Ma kanow vy war hern gen kok ha roos.
Kemerys en Kabmas Karrek Loos yn Koos.

My verses on pilchards, with boat and net
Taken in the bay of St Michael's Mount.

Pothe’u an Coocoe devithes Treea
Durt Moar Tees Por Dega dega Creea
Ha kennifer Bennen oggas e Teen
Gen Kawall ha Try Cans Hern wor e Kein.
Th’a gweel Barcadoes en Kenifer Choy
Gen Ganow leaz Hern, Hern, Holan moy

Pothew an cucow devethez trea
Durt moer teez por "Dega, Dega!" creia,
Ha kiniffer benen ogas a toaz
Gen kawall, ha try canz hearn, war e kein
Tha gweel barcadoes en keniffer chy,
Gen ganow leeas, "Hearn, Hearn! Hollan mouy!"

Pan'th yw an kokow devedhys tre
Dhort mor tus porth "Dega, Dega!" [ow] kria,
Ha keniver benyn ogas ow toas
Gen kawal, ha trei kans hern, war hy heyn
Dhe wul barkados en keniver chei,
Gen ganow lies, "Hern, Hern! Holan moy!"

When the boats have come in
From sea, with cove folk calling "Tithe, Tithe!"
And every woman coming nigh
With a creel and three hundred pilchards on her back
To make up bulks in every building,
With many voices, "Pilchards, Pilchards! More salt!"

Po the’ns Salles da, idden Mees worbar
Pres eu tha Squatcha man ha tedna Kar
Udg’hedda, Goula glaneth en dour sal
E vedn Ri Hanou da tha Muzzy ol
Gorra spladn en Ballier, Pedden ha Teen
Gobar ha Tra broaz Enz rag Varshants feen

Pothens sallez daa, edn meez warbar,
Preze ew tha squatchia man, ha tedna kerr
Oug'hedna, golhy glaneth en dowr sal:
E vedn ry hanow daa tha muzzi oll.
Gurra spladn en balliar, pedn ha teen,
Gubber ha tra vroaz enz rag vertshants feen.

Pan'th yns sellys da, udn mis war-barth,
Pres yw dhe skwattya 'man, ha tedna 'kerdh
Woja hedna, golghi glaneth yn dowr sall:
Ev 'vedn ri hanow da dhe vowesi oll.
Gorra spladn en balyer, pedn ha tin,
Gober ha tra vroas yns rag varchons fin.

When they are well cured, a month altogether,
Its time to break up and pull away.
After that, wash clean in salt water.
It will give all the maids a good name.
Place gleaming in a barrel, head and tail,
Income and a great thing they are for fine traders.

Meero why rag Gwethan heer Tarthack Troos
Gorra war hedda Minow pemp canz pooz
Try termen en death meero why dotha
Rag hanter mees durta saim vedn cotha,
The’u hemma vor guir an Hern tha parra
En Marras Gwella ghy vedn wharra

Meero whye rag gwethan, heer tarthack trooz;
Gurra war hedna meanow pemp canz pooz.
Try termen en jeath meero whye dotha.
Rag hanter meez durta saime vedn cotha.
Thew hebma vorr gweer an hearn tha parra;
En marhas, gwelha gye vedn whara.

Mirowgh hwei rag gwedhen, hir terdhek troos;
Gorrowgh war hedna menow pemp kans poos.
Trei termyn en jedh mirowgh hwei dhodha.
Rag hanter mis dhorta [saime] a vedn kodha.
'Th yw hebma fordh gwir an hern dhe parra;
En marghas, gwella jei 'vedn gwertha.

Look for a pole, thirteen feet long;
Put on that five hundredweight of stones.
Three times in a day see to them.
For a fortnight oil will fall from them.
This is a proper way to cure the pilchards;
In the market, they will sell best.

Blethan wor blethan Gra Gorollion toas
Ha gen Hern lean moas ort Dour Gawvas
Wor duath Gra Gwenz Noor East wetha pell
Rag an Poble pow tooben debra ol
Ma Peath Hern pokar ol an Beaz
Moy Poble Bohodzack vel poble Broaz

Bledhen war vledhen gwra gorholyon doas,
Ha gen hern leun moas ort Dowr Gwavas.
War diwedh, gwra gwyns Noor Est hwetha pell,
Rag an pobel (en) pow tobm debri oll.
'Ma peth hern pekar [ha] oll an bes
Moy pobel boghojek 'vel pobel broas.

Blethan war blethan gwra gurrollian doaz,
Ha gen hearn lean moaz urt Dowr Gwavas.
War duath, gwra gwenz Noor East whetha pell,
Rag an pobell en pow tubm debbry oll.
Ma peath hearn pecare oll an beaz
Mouy pobell bohodgack vel pobell broaz.

Year after year let ships come
And with pichards full go to Gwavas Lake
At length, shall a noth east wind blow far.
For the people in a hot country to eat all.
The pilchard business is like all the world.
More of poor people than rich people.


  • John Boson 1705
  • Henry Jenner in "A Handbook of Modern Cornish": "A song on the curing of pilchards (not a very poetical subject) by John Boson. Twenty six lines of rhyming couplets beginning Me canna ve war hern gen cock ha ruz (I will sing, or my song is, of pilchards with boat and net), and describing the process of bringing the fish ashore and putting them into bulks and making "fairmaids" of them. There is a copy with a translation in the Borlase MS., which was printed in the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall for 1866, and Davies Gilbert printed it at the end of his edition of Jordan's Creation in 1827, but without any translation."

Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, Volume 2:

  • The process of curing Pilchards is so curious that it may not be amiss, in conclusion, to give a short account of it, without which the above Poem can hardly be understood. The Pilchards, when brought to shore, are placed in layers in cellars built for the purpose; a layer of salt being placed above each layer of fish. This process, which requires great care and nicety, (every fish being placed obliquely on its side, with its head outwards), is called "bulking", and the pile thus erected a "bulk". This "bulk", after about a month, is taken down, the bad and broken fish being thrown away, and the good ones thoroughly cleansed in water. The fish are then packed in a cask placed against the side of a wall; a pole thirteen feet long is procured, one end of which is inserted in a hole in the wall immediately over the cask, while to the other end is attached a heavy weight of stones; the centre of the pole passing over the top of the cask. This top, or lid, (called "the buckler") is false; and thus being heavily pressed by the weight of the lever resting upon it, enters the cask, and in turn presses down its contents. By this means a large quantity of oil is expressed through small holes in the bottom of the cask into a trench in the wooden floor below. The vacancy caused by the pressure in the upper part of the cask is again filled with fish; and the process is continued until no more can be inserted, when it is headed up, and ready for exportation.
  • (c) "Gwavas-lake". The name given to that part of Mount's Bay lying between Newlyn and Mousehole, in which the fishing boats are anchored.
  • (d) The principal market for Pilchards is the Mediterranean.



  • (Gwavas copy from Wm. Borlase MS) OC Vol III No 4 Winter 1938