Lured to sea by the Mermaid of Zennor

February 27, 2013

The Mermaid of Zennor by John Reinhard Weguelin 1900

The Mermaid of Zennor by John Reinhard Weguelin 1900


Myths and legends have a wonderful way of weaving themselves into the fabric of an area. They tie themselves up in historical fact, heresay and stories until you can’t tell one from another. More stories emerge from the mytholgical soup that is created. Paintings, poems and songs enrich the landscape further. To be in a physical place that anchors all these expressions of one story together and gives them the possibility of some kind of reality in the distant past, is like standing on the pages of a magical book. Drinking in the surroundings and the atmosphere whilst thinking about the characters. Where they stood, where they lived, where they died.

In the village of Zennor, a little further south from St Ives, there is a church called St Senara’s that contains a carved pew-end of a mermaid around 600 years old. It is here that a man called Mathey Trewella (there are many variations of the spelling) regularly sang the closing hymn. His voice was fine and clear and he was young and handsome. Many variations of the tale exist, some embellished and full, others scant and short, but they all agree that a mermaid was enticed to visit the church to hear him sing. It seems wonderfully ironic that a mermaid should be enticed onto land by the voice of a mortal man, but she duly donned a dress to hide her fishtail and somehow made it to the church. She was noticed by people who wondered who this fine and beautiful lady might be, but she always disappeared quickly and no one ever found out. Until one day when Mathey noticed her and fell in love with the mysterious visitor.

As she left he followed her and together they left the village and were never seen again. Sometime later a ship’s captain reported to the village folk that a mermaid had asked him to pull his anchor up from his position in Pendour Cove (close the Zennor) so she could get to the entrance of her watery home to get back to her husband and children. The husband was Mathey Trewella and he had gone to live with his mermaid sweetheart in the depths of the sea. Other stories tell of how Mathey still sings in the Cove (you can hear his faint singing on the wind at Pendour Cove) or how he rings a bell to warn the village folk if a storm is approaching.

Back to Zennor!

barbara

barbara

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Offbeat Theatre writer of plays for adults, youth theatres, schools and anyone else! Loves to write, blog and visit Cornwall....