The pilchard season is over for another year, nets are in storage and the boats are now after herring. But the Royal Cornwall Gazette (RCG) is reporting that the herring boats are bringing in huge catches of pilchard at St Ives. Eighty of them have landed between 10,000 and 50,000 pilchard each, some 600 to 800 hogsheads. In his diary for 19th November 1821 John Tregerthen Short wrote;
The largest quantity of pilchards ever known on the drift at one time: from 50,000 down per boat; in all over 500 hogsheads.
Pilchard packing on the beach at St Ives (courtesy Morrab Library Photo Archive)
It's not just at St Ives, Newlyn and Sennen have been blessed with a late pilchard harvest as well. But the bonanza is soon over as the weather changes and by Thursday 22nd the boats can no longer put to sea.
Landing pilchard at Sennen (courtesy of Morrab Library Photo Archive)
Tregerthen Short reported on 17th December that pilchards were sold at £4 per hogshead to Fox of Falmouth, so if his estimate of the catch was correct at 500 hogsheads for 19th November then that days work was worth about £2000 (in excess of £200,000 today according to the Bank of England).
For a video of workings of the St Ives pilchard fishery by Brian Stevens of the St Ives Museum go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siHya90VfIU