The Carrick Roads and creeks
The Fal Oyster Fishery
The Fal oyster has been harvested from time immemorial and, in common with those of other estuarine fisheries in the UK, provided a staple food throughout the ages. During the 1840s oysters from the estuaries in the east of England became very scarce for a number of reasons and prices rocketed giving the Falmouth oyster industry a dramatic boost. At this time of bonanza, from 150 to 200 boats might have been seen on a fine day engaged in the fishery with minor fortunes being made as a consequence. In the following years, intensive commercial interests prevailed and large scale industrial boats were attracted from across the country prompting fears that the fishery would become exhausted. It was not until 1868 however that the current bylaws were introduced, by the Truro Corporation, which regulated the fishery to the non-mechanised techniques only. This action uniquely provided enforced stability and sustainability to the fishery and also provided a focus for the design and building of craft we now call the Falmouth Working Boats.
The picture below shows a Working Boat returning upriver after the days work.
In the later decades of the 1800s Pill Creek was the centre of the oyster fishery on the Fal, with Pill or Feock men holding over half the licenses. Whilst the oyster boats are now commonly called Falmouth Working Boats they might more fitingly be named after Pill or Restronguet as the best known traditional builders; Ferris, Hitchens and Brabyn hailed from shipyards in these creeks.
Frank Hitchens took over the yard at Pill in the 1870s, later moving to Yard Point near Penpoll. Whilst building a number of schooners of near 100 tons, he also launched several oyster boats, many of which survive today. Shadow was built in 1886 and is still working at Mylor, Victory, with her distinctive yellow and blue colours is a famous race winner despite the name change from the Royal Oak. Evelyn was built in 1896 and is now owned and raced by a Roseland syndicate.
William (Foreman) Ferris built a number of oyster boats also at Pill and Yard Point. Florence was built in 1895 and survives in the ownership of a St Mawes syndicate.
The fishery is also worked by the smaller Oyster Punts which are managed by oar. They are also called Tow Punts because they dredge over the stern while being towed by windless (called a Wink) towards an anchor dropped from the bow. William Ferris built a famous punt, The Green Parrot, which was so fast in its day that everyone wanted to row her in the many regattas. She has been lovingly restored by Geoff Trebilcock, William's great grandson, and is still gracing the waters of the Fal, as you can see in the picture below of her relaunch.
The relaunch of the Green Parrot after its recent restoration.
A pair of Tow Punts at Mylor