Archives For mermaids

Tristram Bird sees the Padstow Mermaid - from North Cornwall fairies and legends by Enys Tregarthen

Tristram Bird sees the Padstow Mermaid – from North Cornwall fairies and legends by Enys Tregarthen

Sailors around the North Cornwall coast are only too aware of the perilous rocks and cliffs that make up the dramatic landscape, with few safe havens to run to in bad weather. This makes Padstow an important stop, these days for leisure craft as well as fishing boats, although the harbour can only be reached a few hours either side of high tide because of the sand bar. It is thought that the sand started to form in the mouth of the Camel estuary around the 16th century and until more recent methods for dredging and marking safe channels this made the approach very dangerous. Many vessels have been wrecked on the sands trying to gain access to Padstow Harbour over the years.

The compelling and wildly romantic reason for sand to start gathering in the estuary is to be found in the tale of the Padstow Mermaid. As ever, there are many variations of this tale. It is said that ships were led safely to the harbour at Padstow under the care of the mermaid. One day someone shot the mermaid. One tale names the man responsible as Tristram Bird, a local man who came upon the mermaid combing her hair on a rock on Hawkers Cove and offered to marry her (the sudden and overwhelming attraction of the mermaid is not to be underestimated!). When she turned him down he threatened to shoot her instead, which he did. Continue Reading…

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. Continue Reading…