Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Zennor Mermaid

Zennor is a village west of St Ives, not far from the extreme tip of Cornwall. It was home to quarry-men and tin-miners (the local pub is called the "Tinner's Arms"), and the granite coastline is splendidly rugged:-
In the First World War, the locals became suspicious of two strangers staying in the village: might they be spies, secretly signalling to German submarines? The strangers were driven out. They were D. H. Lawrence and his partner, Frieda (born von Richthofen), who had left her husband and three children for Lawrence, thus making him a real-life "Lady Chatterley's Lover". Not surprisingly, Lawrence did not think much of the people of Zennor.

The church in Zennor is dedicated to St. Senara, one of the many Cornish saints (though in her case, possibly a Breton) about whom nothing is known for certain.

The Zennor Mermaid is to be found on one of the pew-ends. An old tradition is that mermaids are always shown with a comb and a hand-mirror. I don't know why this should be, though it is possibly linked with the fact that a "mermaid" symbolized a prostitute. Mary Queen of Scots's enemies portrayed her as a mermaid.

Seeing a mermaid was regarded by sailors as a sign of impending disaster (as in the sea-shanty of that name). The legend attached to the Zennor mermaid is that she lusted after a young choirboy named Matthew Trewhella, and lured him down to the ocean at Pendour cove. He was never seen again, but it was said that on quiet nights the two of them could be heard over the water, singing together.

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