On this Day 12th January 1911

Sorted, Stuffed and Roasted in Penzance

Ships in distress off Pendeen and the Runnelstone, and a Newlyn trawler towed home. A stormy old night out in the Bay, sure enough – and also up the top of the hill in Penzance. At St Clare cricket field, the big gate blown down. And over at Kelynack’s shop – right there at the top of High Street, Penzance, just over from the cattle market - the clerk of the weather at his least congenial, and a most unfortunate outcome.

Watchful fox (courtesy of Roeselien Raimond)It started innocently enough. The shopkeeper’s son, William, he’s been reading about the window-dressing competition Bovril are running. And give him his due, the lad has talent. Talent and ambition – and after all, isn’t that what’s made Britain great? So he sets to work. And he creates a “most seasonable display by means of striking arrangement of cotton wool, etc., to represent snow and frost, and over this surface a number of wild birds were searching for food”. He even adds a watchful little fox in the corner.

But then a spot of weather blows in, as it so often will. Over at High Street, the shop door flies open in the blast, and the sudden rush of air acts upon the gaslight. In a trice, the cotton wool at the back of the window is all caught alight.

Kelynack's shop as it was in 2017 (photo: Linda Camidge)Luckily, Mr Kelynack is both plucky and prompt. He beats down the flames, and dousing the smouldering decorations with a bucket of water. The Fire Brigade has been called out, the men are dashing along with the hose, and Chief Constable Kenyon is on the scene, even as – a few hundred yards away – his own attic windows are being blown in by the force of the gale.

And so there is no loss of life, or serious damage to the premises. But the floorboards upstairs have been scorched, and Mr Kelynack has a burnt arm. The window and everything in it – every last scrap of painstaking decoration? “Utterly destroyed”.

And that includes all the stuffed birds and animals that Mr Eva had lent for the display. Someone, doubtless, is in for a roasting.





Cornishman / Cornish Telegraph Thursday 19th January 1911, identical main story reports pages 7/2; identical reports giving background detail on page 3 of both publications

The picture of the fox can be found on the website of Roeselien Raimond


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Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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