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Title: The Isles of Scilly - Their Story their Folk & their Flowers
Author: Mothersole, Jessie
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Isles of Scilly - Their Story their Folk & their Flowers" ***

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    [Illustration: CROMWELL’S CASTLE, TRESCO]

    The Isles of Scilly

    Their Story
    their Folk
    their Flowers




    The Religious Tract Society

    4 Bouverie Street & St. Paul’s Churchyard EG


It has been said that all writers may be divided into two classes:
those who know enough to write a book, and those who do not know
enough _not_ to write one!

In collecting material for these notes on Scilly, I have endeavoured
to prepare myself more or less to qualify for the former class; but
now that they are complete it is with diffidence that I present them.
They are but the impressions of an artist, recorded in colour and in
ink, together with so much of the history of the islands and of
general description as is necessary to comply with the unwritten law
of colour-books.

For my historical facts I am indebted to many writers, ancient and
modern. A list of the chief of these appears at the end of the book,
so that my readers may refer, if they wish, to the original

My best thanks are due to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, for permission to
quote his description of the kelping, and for other help he has kindly
given me; to my friend Miss Emma Gollancz, for seeing my proofs
through the press; and also to the many friends in Scilly from whom I
have received assistance and information.

_October, 1910._


This second edition of “The Isles of Scilly” is issued in response to
many requests that the book should appear in a cheaper form, the
original edition having completely sold out.

A few slight alterations in the letterpress have been necessary, to
correspond with changes that have taken place in the islands; but
otherwise the contents are identical with those of the original issue.


_March, 1914._


                 PREFATORY NOTE                                  5
                 NOTE TO SECOND EDITION                          6
       CHAPTER I INTRODUCTORY                                   11
      CHAPTER II HISTORICAL                                     22
     CHAPTER III FORMER INDUSTRIES                              40
      CHAPTER IV THE FLOWER INDUSTRY                            51
     CHAPTER VII STORIES OF THE WRECKS                          97
    CHAPTER VIII ANNET AND THE SEA-BIRDS                       109
      CHAPTER IX ST. MARY’S                                    117
       CHAPTER X TRESCO                                        140
      CHAPTER XI BRYHER AND SAMSON                             152
     CHAPTER XII ST. AGNES                                     159
     CHAPTER XIV CONCLUSION                                    178
                 LIST OF BOOKS REFERRED TO                     185
                 INDEX                                         187


    CROMWELL’S CASTLE, TRESCO              _Frontispiece_
    THE OLDEST INHABITANT                              14
    ST. MARY’S POOL                                    20
    THE GARRISON GATEWAY, ST. MARY’S                   32
    A GREY EVENING IN SCILLY                           44
    A FIELD OF ARUMS                                   52
    A COTTAGE FLOWER-GROWER, TRESCO                    58
    THE GIANT’S PUNCH-BOWL, ST. AGNES                  66
    ST. MARTIN’S PIER                                  74
    A FLOWER-BARROW, HUGH TOWN                         82
    DAFFODILS ON ST. MARTIN’S                          90
    OLD CHURCH, ST. MARY’S                             98
    SUNSET OVER SAMSON                                104
    A SHAG PARLIAMENT                                 110
    MONK’S COWL ROCK, ST. MARY’S                      134
    GIMBLE BAY, TRESCO                                148
    ARMOREL’S COTTAGE                                 156
    A FLOWER-HOUSE ON ST. AGNES                       162
    CRAB-POT-MAKING BY ST. AGNES CHURCH               166
    ROUND ISLAND, FROM ST. HELEN’S                    174
    OFF TO ST. MARTIN’S                               180
    MAP OF THE ISLES OF SCILLY                         10

[Illustration: MAP OF THE SCILLY ISLES _George Philip & Son Ltd_]



A “colour-book” on Scilly needs no apology, so far as the subject is
concerned, for there is no corner of Great Britain which more demands
or deserves a tribute to its colour than do these little islands,
scattered about in the Atlantic twenty-eight miles from the Land’s

For they are all colour; they gleam and glow with it; they shimmer
like jewels “set in the silver sea.” No smoke from city, factory, or
railway contaminates their pure air, or dims the brilliancy of their
sunshine. They are virgin-isles, still unspoiled and inviolate in this
prosaic age, when beauty and charm are apt to flee before the path of

And though their compass is but small, the same cannot be said of
their attraction, which seems to be almost in inverse proportion to
their size. Scilly exerts a spell over her lovers which brings them
back and back, again and yet again, across that stretch of the “vasty
deep” which separates her from Cornwall. In this case it might almost
better be called the “nasty deep,” for very nasty this particular
stretch can be, as all Scillonians know!

Nor do the islands lack variety. There are downs covered with the
golden glory of the gorse, with the pink of the sea-thrift, with the
purple of the heather; there are hills clothed with bracken
breast-high in summer, and changing from green-gold to red-gold as the
year advances; there are barren rocks on which the sea-birds love to
gather; there are lovely beaches of white sand, strewn with
many-coloured shells and seaweed; there are clusters of palm-trees
growing with Oriental luxuriance, next to fields and pastures where
the sheep and cattle feed; there are bare and dreary-looking moors,
“the sad sea-sounding wastes of Lyonnesse”; there are stretches of
loose sand, some planted with long grass to keep the wind from lifting
it, some with a mantle of mesembryanthemum, which here grows wild like
a weed;--and all of them seen against a background of that wonderful
and ever-changing sea, which is sometimes the pale blue of the
turquoise, sometimes the deepest ultramarine, sometimes again
shimmering silver or radiant gold. And then in spring there are the
famous flower-fields. Let us visit the islands on an April day, and
see for ourselves this harvest of gold and silver. For once we will
be day-trippers in fancy though we would scorn to be in fact.

Here in Scilly we find land and sea flooded with spring sunshine,
while on the “adjacent island” which we have just left every one is
lamenting the cold and the rain. The flower-harvest is nearly over,
yet still there are wide fields of dazzling white and yellow, and many
hundreds of boxes will yet leave the quay for the mainland. The
sweet-smelling Ornatus narcissus is now at its best, and its perfume
fills the air. Arum-blossoms, thousands of them in a single field,
stand stiffly waiting to be cut, while in the more exposed places late
daffodils linger, nodding their yellow heads in the breeze that comes
in from the sea. Everywhere there are flowers, flowers, flowers--such
a wealth of flowers as one never saw before; and every one is either
picking flowers, tying flowers, packing flowers, selling flowers,
buying flowers, or talking of flowers. Even the tiny children can tell
you the difference between a ”’natus” and a “Pheasant Eye”; and will
talk wisely in a way to awe the less enlightened visitor of
“Cynosures,” “Sir Watkins,” and “Peerless Primroses.”

It is barely thirty years since these sweet flower-fields first began
to cover the islands. The “oldest inhabitant,” a great-grandmother of
ninety-six (she died in 1913), would call to mind the kelp-making
industry which occupied the people in her young days. “Eh,” she would
say, “it was not a nice employ; things are better as they are.” And we
can easily believe that she was right; for instead of the fragrance of
the flowers the air was then filled with the thick and acrid smoke of
the burning seaweed; and it was but a poor living at the best that
could be made out of it.

There is now hardly a boatman in the islands who does not add to his
income by having a patch of ground planted with the “lilies,” as they
call them, and sending his boxes of blooms to market during the

But flower-growing is not the only industry of the islands. If you ask
your boatman to name others as they affect himself, he will probably
answer naïvely, “Fishing and visitors”; and he may also add that
sometimes he is employed as a “potter.” Although the dictionary allows
no other meaning to this word than “a maker of earthen vessels,” let
not your imagination be betrayed into picturing a lump of wet clay and
a flying wheel! It is crab and lobster pots that are in question, and
quantities of these crustaceans are caught round the islands and sold
to French merchants.


Then there is the mackerel fishery, which is at its height in May and
June, when St. Mary’s Pool is full of the picturesque, brown-sailed
fishing-boats from Mount’s Bay.

The other “industry” mentioned by the boatmen, that is to say
“visitors,” is carried on intermittently all through the year, but is
naturally most active during the spring and summer months.

In the summer there are cheap day-excursions from the mainland, and
crowds of trippers arrive at St. Mary’s by steamer to spend a few
hours on the islands. Some of them land in such a woebegone condition
that they are fit for nothing but to lie about on the benches in the
“Park” until the hoot of the steamer rouses them to crawl back to the
quay. Others, more courageous in spite of having had a “sick transit,”
will only stop to snatch a morsel of food before rushing off to the
steam-launch for Tresco, where they will make the round of the famous
gardens, walk perhaps to Cromwell’s Castle, and return to St. Mary’s
dead-beat, just in time to go on board for the homeward journey. And
they call that a day’s holiday! But these are not the visitors to
bring grist to the boatman’s mill. The kind he wants are those who
come to stay, those who come again year after year, and who delight in
sailing about amongst the islands and learning to know and love them
well. They do not come looking for “Entertainments,” with a capital E.
They are quite content with the magical music of the wind and the
waves, and with the natural beauties that surround them on every side.

These visitors are neither so many nor of such a kind as to take away
from the peaceful charm of the place. You can always get peace and
quiet in Scilly, even in the most “tripperish” season, for the
trippers follow a beaten track which it is easy enough to avoid. And
the islands are, fortunately, quite unspoilt by any efforts to cater
for their supposed wants. Not a single penny-in-the-slot machine
flaunts its vermilion and yellow in your face; there are no niggers on
the beach, nor brass bands, nor cinematographs; no dancing on the
pier; no “marine parades” or “esplanades”; above all, here are no
artificial “natural attractions” (most hateful of paradoxes), no
manufactured show-places to pander to perverted taste. If you come
hoping for these things, you will go away (and the sooner the better
for all concerned) disappointed. You would only be an alien in this
little Paradise.

There are many who will sympathise with this description of the
islands taken from a visitor’s book: “A Paradise surpassing Dante’s
ideal, but alas! only to be attained by passing through three and a
half hours of Purgatory.” For the voyage from Penzance to Scilly is
not one to be treated lightly. Looked upon as a pleasure trip, it may
be enjoyable or the reverse, according to the weather and the
constitution of the passenger; but considered in the light of a test
of “good-sailor”-ship it is, I think, without a rival. Do not be set
up because you have travelled unscathed to Australia and back, or
crossed to America without turning a hair. This little bit of the
Atlantic may yet humble you! There seems to be something in the
cross-currents between Scilly and the Land’s End which tries the
endurance of even the most hardened sailors. How often does one hear
it said in Scilly, “I used to think I was a good sailor, but----”; and
that “but” speaks volumes! Even sea-captains, regular old sea-dogs who
have spent a lifetime afloat, have been known, to their shame and
disgust, to fall victims to Neptune on the Scilly passage. I never
made a voyage in which less (or should I say more?) was expected of
you. The steward gives you a friendly peep at intervals. “Feeling all
right, I hope?” You never felt better in your life, and say so. “Well,
please hold out as long as you can; my supply is limited.” And you
almost feel that it would be ungenerous to disappoint his evident
expectations by “holding out” to the end!

But what matters three and a half hours of Purgatory when once one has
attained to Paradise? And the passage weighs as nothing in the scale
against the charms of Scilly.

In the “good old days” things were very different from what they are
now. You could not then make a return journey in the same day.
Sailings were few and far between, and people prepared for going to
Scilly as for a long voyage.

In Lieutenant Heath’s time (1744) the passage was seldom made more
often than once a month or six weeks in summer, and not so often in
winter; and he says that as it was made “in small open fisher-boats
amidst the running of several cross-tides, the passengers are forced
to venture at the extreme hazard of their lives when necessity or duty
calls them.” And these passengers “should be qualified,” he continues,
“to endure wetting or the weather like so many Ducks; however, the
Boatman undertakes to empty the water with his Hat or what comes to
Hand without the least Concern.” Half a century later Troutbeck writes
that the inhabitants “want a constant, regular, and even monthly
communication with England,” chiefly for the sake of getting food. A
strong proof of the uncertainty that attended the journey in those
days is that in 1793 the “Prudence and Jane,” coming from Penzance to
Scilly with necessaries, was driven by a contrary wind to Cherbourg in
France! Nowadays it may happen in very exceptionally stormy or foggy
weather that a Scillonian’s Sunday dinner does not arrive till Monday,
but at least it never goes to France!

When Woodley wrote in 1822, the crossing was made every week, but even
then a “good passage” took eight or nine hours, and sometimes the
vessel was delayed at sea for thirty-six to forty-eight hours, without
any provision of food for the passengers. There is an old lady now
living on St. Mary’s who told us that the first time she visited the
mainland the crossing took twenty-four hours, and then they were
landed at the Mousehole and had to walk the three miles into Penzance.

It was not until 1859 that the sailing-vessels were replaced by a
small steamer.

Now the Royal Mail Steamer “Lyonnesse” makes the return journey every
day in the summer; and although she may not be perfection, she is
reckoned absolutely safe. The distance from Penzance is generally
covered in about three and a half hours; but the proprietors reserve
to themselves the right to “tow vessels in distress to any other port
or place without being chargeable with any deviation of the voyage,
or being liable to make compensation to any Passenger”; so if under
these circumstances you were taken to Kamschatka you would have no
right to complain!

I know of one passenger who was taken out nearly to the Bishop
Lighthouse on account of a vessel in distress. Far from complaining,
she enjoyed the excitement of the adventure; but such happenings are
rare and need hardly be taken into account.

The notice posted on the quarter-deck of the “Lyonnesse” leaves one in
a happy state of doubt as to whether passengers or merchandise are the
least acceptable: “This Quarter Deck contains 1,014 square feet and is
certified for 112 passengers when not occupied by cattle, animals,
cargo, or other encumbrance.”

But that passenger would be churlish indeed who had any fault to find
with the way in which he was treated by the officials, whether on sea
or land. From the highest to the lowest they are as courteous as one
could wish--unless, of course, they are provoked to turn, like the
proverbial worm.

There is a stoker on the “Lyonnesse” with a portly and majestic
figure; but woe to the ill-bred passenger who tries to raise a laugh
at his expense! Once such a passenger saw the stoker looming across
his field of vision, and, in spite of being curled up and woebegone
with sea-sickness, he aimed at him a feeble joke.

[Illustration: ST. MARY’S POOL]

“You’d make a splendid advertisement for Mellin’s Food.”

The stoker stopped, and let his eye travel slowly over the speaker.
Then came his retort, with withering scorn.

“Well, and you’d make a first-rate advertisement for Keating’s Powder;
for anything more like a _dying insect_ I never did see in all my

Whereupon the “dying insect” looked his part more than ever, and was

The Great Western Railway Company once offered to run a fast service
of steamers in connection with their trains on condition that they
might build a luxurious hotel on St. Mary’s; but the Governor was too
wise to consent. Scilly does not need to be revolutionised and
popularised and advertised. She is so very charming as she is.

So blessed be the “Lyonnesse,” and long may she continue to reign
supreme over that part of the Atlantic--perhaps until the time when we
shall be flying across from Penzance, and looking back with horror on
the days of sea-passages, even as we now look back to the days of the



A Well-known writer has spoken of the Scilly Isles as “patches of
rock, dignified by historical and political associations”; and one is
surprised to find, considering their small size and their isolated
situation, how very frequently they do figure in the pages of history.

They were included with the mainland when the Romans took possession
of Britain, and possibly their conquerors introduced Christianity here
as elsewhere after they themselves had been converted. This is only
guesswork. Strangely enough the first Christians whom we actually know
by historical records to have landed in Scilly were heretics, sent
there into exile by the Emperor Maximus for their unorthodox opinions.
These were Bishops Instantius and Tiberianus, who were convicted of
the Priscilline heresy in A.D. 384 and sent to “insula Sylina, quæ
ultra Britannias est,” as we learn from Sulpicius Severus, who wrote
only twenty years after the event.

After the Romans had left Britain (A.D. 410) the islands probably
remained, like West Cornwall, independent of the Saxons; and when four
centuries later the Northmen came to harry the country, they were
joined by Welsh and Cornish Celts, glad of the chance of a blow at
their common foe the Saxon. Scilly was then used by the Northmen as a
sort of “naval base,” from which expeditions were made against the
mainland. King Athelstan sent a fleet to oust them in 927, and left a
garrison on the largest island; afterwards, in fulfilment of a vow, he
founded a collegiate church at St. Buryan in Cornwall to commemorate
his conquest.

It is uncertain at what date the Benedictine monks first came to
Scilly. Some say it was in 938.

According to the Saga of King Olaf Tryggwason there was on Tresco in
his time “a famous abbot, the head of a great cloister.” The story
goes that the young Viking, in about the year 993, came harrying the
coasts of England with a fleet of ninety-three ships, and was driven
by contrary winds to the Isles of Scilly. Here he heard of a wonderful
Christian hermit, who lived in a cell among the granite rocks and was
said to possess the power of prophecy.

Olaf was then in the position of a seeker after truth. He was
inclined towards the religion of the Christians, but he had never
acknowledged himself as one of their number.

He was seized with curiosity to test the powers of the hermit, so he
dressed up one of his tallest and handsomest followers in his own
armour and bade him go to the cell and pretend he was the King. The
disguise was quite useless. “You are no king,” said the hermit, “and I
advise you to be faithful to your King.”

On the strength of this proof, Olaf went himself to the cell to make
inquiries concerning his own future. The hermit foretold that he
should not only become a renowned king and perform many famous deeds,
but that (far greater honour!) he should lead many into the true
Christian faith. And for a sign he told him that on returning to his
fleet he would meet with foes, a battle would be fought, he would be
wounded severely and be carried on a shield to his ship, but would
recover after seven nights and would soon after be baptized.

Events happened just as had been predicted, and Olaf was so much
impressed that as soon as he had recovered from his wound he put
himself under the hermit’s instruction, and enrolled himself as a
servant of the God of the Christians.

Afterwards he went to Tresco, where was “a famous abbot, the head of
a great cloister,” who with his brethren came down to the shore to
meet the King and welcome him with all honour. They gave him further
instruction in the Christian faith, and finally he and all his company
were baptized.

He appears to have spent several years in Scilly; and when he returned
to Scandinavia, it was to devote his energies to preaching, in his
native land and in Iceland, the Gospel which he had learnt to love in
these remote islands.

Such is the story as told by Snorri Sturluson, the Icelandic
historian, in 1222. We must not rely on the accuracy of his details;
for example, the “great cloister” to which he refers was probably only
a cell of two Benedictine monks. But there is little doubt that he
followed a trustworthy Scandinavian tradition in placing the
conversion of their hero Olaf in such an out-of-the-way and
little-known spot as Scilly.

So in these little islands there was lighted a torch which kindled the
flame of Christianity in far-distant lands.

The Abbey on the island of Tresco was appropriately dedicated to St.
Nicholas, the patron-saint of mariners. By the reign of Edward the
Confessor (1042-1066) the monks had acquired the tithes of all the
islands, and the exclusive ownership of St. Elid’s (St. Helen’s), St.
Sampson, St. Teon (Tean), Reutmen, and Nurcho, the two last of which
cannot be identified.

Scilly is not mentioned in Domesday Book; but we find King Henry I.
granting to the Abbot of Tavistock “all the churches of Sully with
their appurtenances.” Later, Reginald Earl of Cornwall confirms this
grant, with all wrecks “except whale and a whole ship.”

In another grant all the tithes of Scilly (and particularly of
rabbits!) are given to the monks by Richard De Wich “for his soul, and
the souls of his parents, and of Reginald Earl of Cornwall his lord.”
There is something pitifully ludicrous in this special inclusion of
tithes of _rabbits_ in the price paid for the salvation of human

The right of the Abbots of Tavistock to the shipwrecks was challenged
by King Edward I. in 1302, and upon inquiry the jury found that the
Abbot and all his predecessors had “enjoyed” from time immemorial all
the wrecks that happened in Scilly, except gold, whale, scarlet cloth,
and fir or masts, which were reserved to the King.

An author of the last century says, with a cheerful belief in human
nature: “Perhaps the right of wreck was given to the convent for the
purpose of attaching an increased degree of merit to their prayers in
favour of ships likely to be dashed against those rocks.” But surely,
from another point of view, it was putting rather an unnecessary
strain upon their virtue!

Of the secular government of Scilly, there are from time to time
fragmentary records.

In 1248 Henry III. sent a Governor, Drew de Barrentine, with command
to deliver every year seven quarters of wheat to the King or his

King Edward I. in 1306 granted the Castle of Ennor in Scilly to
Ranulph de Blankminster, in return for his finding and maintaining
twelve armed men at all times for keeping the peace in those parts.
This Castle of Ennor is identified with Old Town Castle on St. Mary’s,
of which only the smallest vestiges remain.

Ranulph de Blankminster also held the islands for the King, paying
yearly at Michaelmas three hundred puffins, or six shillings and
eightpence. Puffins must have been cheap in those days! In 1440 we
find the rent is still six and eightpence, but fifty instead of three
hundred puffins are reckoned the equivalent. Poor puffins! had their
numbers really dwindled so much in 134 years by their constant
contribution to the rent-roll that they were six times more difficult
to obtain? I hope it was only that they had become more wary and
expert in the art of being “not at home” when the rent-collector

In this same reign, Edward I., the monks of Tresco Priory made an
appeal to the King representing their need of proper defence from the
attacks of foes. The King granted them letters of protection, which
were particularly addressed to “the Constable of the Castle in the
isle of Ennor,” who seems, therefore, to have been the chief secular
authority in the islands at the time.

Ranulph de Blankminster appears to have fulfilled but ill his half of
the compact with the King, for only two years after it was made we
find William Le Peor, Coroner of St. Mary’s, making complaint of him
that instead of keeping the peace he entertained rogues, thieves, and
felons, and with their help committed many abuses. The King appointed
a commission to inquire into the matter; but we do not learn that
anything was done. The practical result of the complaint was that
William Le Peor was thrown into prison by Blankminster at Le Val
(supposed to be Holy Vale on St. Mary’s), and made to pay one hundred
marks. So it is to be feared that he had plenty of leisure to regret
his interference in the cause of justice. Judgment was rough and ready
in those days. An old record of the twelfth year of Edward I. tells
of the drastic treatment of felons. “John de Allet and Isabella his
wife hold the Isle of Scilly, and hold there all kind of pleas of the
Crown, throughout their jurisdiction, and make indictments of
felonies. When any one is attainted of any felony he ought to be taken
to a certain rock in the sea and with two barley loaves and one
pitcher of water upon the same rock they leave the same felon, until
by the flowing of the sea he is swallowed up.”

At the height of the French Wars of Edward III., the two monks of
Tavistock who lived on Tresco must have found their position
uncongenial, for they sought and obtained from the King permission to
hand over their duties to two secular chaplains, who should perform
Divine service daily and celebrate the Mass, while they themselves
retired to the more peaceful cloisters of Tavistock.

More than a century later, we get another proof that the islands were
not always an “eligible situation.” Richard III. ordered an
inquisition of them to be taken in 1484, when it was shown that they
were worth 40s. a year in peaceable times, and in times of war

The next important record of the islands comes from John Leland,
library keeper to King Henry VIII., and the greatest antiquarian of
his time; also the greatest “tourist,” for he was empowered by the
King to search for objects of antiquity in the archives and libraries
of all cathedrals, abbeys, and priories; and he spent six years
travelling the country to this end: his “Itinerary” began in 1533. His
notes on Scilly are so interesting that I cannot refrain from quoting
them in full:--

“There be countid a 140 islettes of Scylley that bere gresse, exceding
good pasture for catail.

“St. Mary Isle is a five miles or more in cumpace; in it is a poor
town, and a meately strong pile; but the roves of the buildings in it
be sore defacid and woren.

“The ground of this isle berith exceeding corn; insomuch that if a man
do but cast corn wher hogges have rotid, it wyl cum up.

“Iniscaw longid to Tavestoke, and ther was a poor celle of monkes of
Tavestoke. Sum caulle this Trescaw; it is the biggest of the islettes,
in cumpace a 6 miles or more.

“S. Martines Isle.

“S. Agnes Isle, so caullid of a chapel theryn.

“The Isle of S. Agnes was desolatid by this chaunce _in recenti
hominum memoria_. The hole numbre of v. housoldes that were yn this
isle cam to a mariage or a fest in S. Mary Isle, and going homewarde
were al drownid.

“Ratte Island.

“Saynct Lides Isle wher yn tymes past at her sepulchre was gret

“There appere tokens in diverse [of] the islettes of habitations [now]
clene doun.

“Guiles and puffinnes be t[aken in] diverse of these islettes.

“And plenty of conyes be in diverse of these islettes.

“Diverse of [these] islettes berith wyld garlyk.

“Few men be glad to inhabite these islettes, for al the plenty, for
robbers by the sea that take their catail by force. The robbers be
Frenchmen and Spaniardes.

“One Davers a gentilman of Wilshir whos chief house at Daundesey, and
Whitington, a gentilman of Glocestreshire, be owners of Scylley; but
they have scant 40 marks by yere of rentes and commodities of it.

“Scylley is a kenning, that is to say about xx. miles from the very
westeste pointe of Cornwalle.”

The following additional notes on Scilly are also found amongst
Leland’s papers:--

“Ther be of the Isles of Scylley cxlvii. that bere gresse (besyde
blynd rokkettes) and they be by estimation a xxx. myles from the west
part of Cornewale.

“In the biggest isle (cawled S. Nicholas Isle) of the Scylleys ys a
lytle pyle or fortres, and a paroch chyrche that a monke of Tavestoke
yn peace doth serve as a membre to Tavestoke Abbay. Ther be yn that
paroch about a lx. howseholdes.

“Ther is one isle of the Scylleys cawled Rat Isle, yn which be so many
rattes that yf horse, or any other lyving best be browght thyther they
devore hym. Ther is a nother cawled Bovy Isle.

“Ther is a nother cawled Inisschawe, that ys to say the Isle of Elder,
by cawse yt berith stynkkyng elders. Ther be wild bores or swyne.”

Leland appears to have jotted down his notes as the information was
given him on the spot; and the fact that his informants were not
always agreed would account for some discrepancies and repetitions. He
did not live long enough to arrange his notes. A very short time after
his visit the “poore celle of monkes” ceased to exist. With the
dissolution of monasteries in 1539, the Abbey of Tavistock fell, and
its lands in Scilly passed to the Crown.

Another ten years, and we find the islands being used as a pawn in the
game of a man of high ambitions. Lord Admiral Seymour, the brother of
the Lord Protector, was accused, in a bill of attainder brought
against him in 1549, of having entered into relations with the
pirates of the Channel, forged cannon, collected money and munitions
of war, and “gotten into his hands the strong and dangerous isles of
Scilly.” On these and other charges he was put to death.


In the same year, 1549, the name of Godolphin occurs for the first
time in the annals of the islands, as that of the captain of the
group; and in 1571, Queen Elizabeth leased the islands to Frances
Godolphin at a yearly rent of £10, “with power and jurisdiction to
hear and finally to determine all plaints, suits, matters, actions,
controversies, contentions, and demands whatever, which shall happen
to be depending between party and party within any of the said isles,”
heresies, treasons, matters of life and limb and land, and Admiralty
questions alone being excepted. At the same time he was ordered and
encouraged to keep the islands in a proper state of defence. To this
end many batteries were erected on St. Mary’s, and Star Castle was
built on the summit of the “Hugh” in 1593.

The next grant of Scilly was to Sir William Godolphin, for fifty years
from 1609 to 1659; he was to pay £20 a year and to receive one last of
gunpowder every year for their defence, with the condition that he
should not “give or bequeath any of the said isles unto any of his
daughters,” because they were considered incapable of defending them.
Later on the possession of an able-bodied husband seems to have been
sufficient to qualify a daughter to inherit.

In the struggle between King and Parliament, Scilly more than once
afforded a refuge for the Cavaliers, and was finally their last

In March, 1646, when General Fairfax had defeated the King’s forces in
Cornwall, Prince Charles fled from the Castle of Pendennis to Scilly,
and was lodged in Star Castle. The chair on which he sat there may
still be seen in Holy Vale, to which place it has been removed.

Two days after his landing he sent Lord Colepepper to France to
acquaint the Queen “with the wants and incommodities of the place,”
and to desire “a supply of men and moneys.”

We get a glimpse into the “incommodities of the place” from the
_Memoirs of Lady Fanshawe_, whose husband was in attendance on the
Prince. She was set on shore almost dead after having been robbed by
the seamen with whom they sailed from the Land’s End.

She writes: “When we had got to our quarters near the Castle where the
Prince lay, I went immediately to bed, which was so vile that my
footman ever lay in a better, and we had but three in the whole
house, which consisted of four rooms, or rather partitions, two low
rooms and two little lofts, with a ladder to go up: in one of these
they kept dried fish, which was his trade, and in this my husband’s
two clerks lay, one there was for my sister, and one for myself, and
one amongst the rest of the servants. But when I waked in the morning
I was so cold I knew not what to do, but the daylight discovered that
my bed was near swimming with the sea, which the owner told us
afterwards it never did so but at spring-tide.”

Poor comfort to be told this when it happens to be the season for the
highest spring-tides! Nor was this all that the poor lady had to
suffer, for she goes on to say: “With this, we were destitute of
clothes; and meat and fuel for half the Court, to serve them for a
month, was not to be had in the whole island; and truly we begged our
daily bread of God, for we thought every meal our last. The Council
sent for provisions to France, which served us, but they were bad, and
a little of them.”

These privations had to be endured for six weeks, at the end of which
time the Prince, despairing of receiving reinforcements, embarked for
Jersey and thence to France.

The islands were left under the governorship of Sir John Granville,
who held them in the King’s name till 1651, harassing the
merchant-shipping, and capturing English and Dutch vessels that passed
that way.

With the avowed object of demanding satisfaction for acts of piracy,
the Dutch Admiral, Van Tromp, descended on Scilly with twelve
men-of-war; but he had private orders to treat with the Governor for
the handing over of the islands to the Dutch. Sir John was too loyal
to listen to these proposals, whereupon Van Tromp tried to disguise
the real nature of his overtures by pretending he had only wanted to
get possession of the islands in order to restore Charles II. to his

       *       *       *       *       *

At length in 1651, after frequent complaints of the “pirates” of
Scilly had been laid before Parliament, a fleet was sent under the
command of Admiral Blake and Sir George Ayscue (Ascue, Ayscough, or
Askew, I have never seen it spelt twice alike) to bring the islands
into subjection. After the fleet had arrived within the roadstead, a
day was lost through the treachery of a pilot called Nance, who,
although “the most knowing pilot” of the place, led them to Norwithel,
“affirming on his life” it was Tresco. Surprised, and exposed to the
enemy’s fire, the Parliament men retreated to Tean, effecting a
landing on Tresco the following day.


Here they took possession of an old breastwork on Carn Near, and
erected an advanced battery to command Broad and Crow Sounds. It could
reach any ship that went into or came out from St. Mary’s Harbour, and
generally with effect, for ships must often pass very near in order to
avoid rocks or flats. The King’s party in consequence soon became so
distressed that a messenger was sent for orders to the Prince in
Holland, and brought back permission from him for the Cavaliers to
surrender and make the best terms they could for themselves. Eight
hundred soldiers were taken prisoner with Sir John Granville, and
officers “enough to head an army.”

Soon after the reduction of the islands, a strong circular tower, now
known as Oliver Cromwell’s Castle, was built on Tresco. It was so
placed, low down on the shore, that its guns could sweep the surface
of the water for a great distance. It was constructed in part from the
materials of a much older fortress on the hill above, called Charles’s
Castle, a building of great strength, but in an unfavourable situation
for defence.

After the Restoration, when the Godolphins were again in power in
Scilly, Duke Cosmo records that the garrison on St. Mary’s was reduced
from six hundred to two hundred men. He mentions also that twenty
soldiers were employed to guard Cromwell’s castle (or “the Castle of
Bryer,” as he calls it). Later this fortress was allowed to fall into
decay, for in 1740, when England was at war with Spain, it had to be
“put into a state of good defence,” but apparently no garrison was
kept there for long, and it again suffered from neglect.

During this same war with Spain, many batteries were erected on the
Hugh of St. Mary’s (now known as Garrison Hill), and a strong entrance
gateway to the fortifications was built in 1742.

Since then the military establishment seems to have been gradually
reduced. In 1822 it consisted only of a Lieutenant-Governor, a
master-gunner with four others under him, and two or three aged
sergeants. In 1857 “five invalids” manned the fortifications, and in
1863 the fort was dismantled.

Seeing that the guns removed at that date were chiefly salvage from
the wreck of the “Colossus,” lost near the western rocks in 1777, and
had been lying under water for fifty-four years before they were
placed on the batteries, it is perhaps just as well that they were
never required for active service!

Within recent times the Government decided to make of Scilly a naval
base, but after spending five years and a quarter of a million of
money in constructing new batteries they discovered in 1905 that the
firing of the guns would bring down the houses of Hugh Town. So again
the fortifications have been abandoned, and the history of Scilly as a
centre of warfare appears to have come to an end.

Peace has reigned there since the days of Cromwell, but it has not
always been peace with plenty as it is nowadays. The islanders have
passed through hard times before arriving at their present state of
prosperity; the history of these vicissitudes, however, belongs to
another chapter.



For many years the condition of the people of Scilly was not an
enviable one. Their isolated situation, without any regular
communication with the mainland, threw them for long periods upon
their own resources, which were very limited. They lived by
agriculture, fishing, “kelping,” and piloting, with some admixture of
smuggling; but sometimes their services as pilots would not be
required for months together; their crops, their kelp, and their
fishing would fail, and their smuggling ventures miscarry, and then
they would be in a sorry plight, and in danger of famine.

Under these circumstances we cannot wonder at an Order of the Council,
issued in 1740, forbidding the exportation of corn; for the islanders
used to sell everything they could to passing ships, and not keep
enough for themselves.

Another order is more puzzling. It prohibited all masters of ships or
boats “to import any stranger to settle here, or to carry any person
from the islands” under penalty of a fine of ten pounds. It is easy to
understand why strangers might not be imported; but since Scilly was
supposed to be over-populated at that time, why were the islanders not
allowed to leave? This was indeed turning the islands into a prison,
and giving a real ground for Heath’s quaint supposition:--

“Here is no prison,” he writes, “for the confinement of offenders,
which shows that the people live upright enough not to require any,
_or that the place is a Confinement of itself_.”

Smuggling was a very popular employment. It was so easy to slip over
to France and return with a cargo of contraband goods, which could be
dropped overboard attached to a buoy if the revenue-officer
inconveniently appeared. Even the clergy engaged in the traffic. It is
said that Parson Troutbeck, who speaks feelingly of the drunkenness
occasioned by smuggling, was himself obliged to leave the islands from
fear of the consequences of having taken part in it. The Parsonage on
Tresco was originally built in a spot especially convenient for this
trade, although not otherwise suitable; and one of its tenants had
also to run away because he was mixed up in some smuggling affair.

In 1684 a new industry had come to the aid of the people. Kelping was
introduced by a Mr. Nance from Cornwall, and for nearly one hundred
and fifty years formed one of their chief employments.

Kelp, as every one knows, is an alkali, of value to glass-makers,
soap-makers, and bleachers, and obtained by burning seaweed, or
“ore-weed,” as they call it in Scilly.

I am tempted to commit a bold piracy and quote in full the vivid
description of the kelping given by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in _Major
Vigoureux_, for I could never hope to rival that description in its
force and picturesqueness. It occurs in a romance, but all its facts
are based on contemporary records, and are strictly true to life.

“All the summer through, day after day, at low water, the islanders
would be out upon the beaches cutting the ore-weed, and, as the tide
rose, would drag it in sledges up the foreshore, and strew it above
high-water mark, to dry in the sun. On sunny days they scattered and
turned it; on wet days they banked it into heaps almost as tall as

“From morning until evening they laboured, and towards midsummer, as
the near beaches became denuded, would sail away in twos and threes
and whole families, to camp among the off-islands and raid them;
until when August came and the kelping season drew to an end, boat
after boat would arrive at high water and discharge its burden.

“These operations filled the summer days; but it was at nightfall and
a little earlier that the real fun began. For then the men, women, and
children would gather and build the kilns--pits scooped in the sand,
measuring about seven feet across and three feet deep in the centre.
While the men finished lining the sides of the kiln with stones, the
women and girls would leap into it with armfuls of furze, which they
lighted, and so, strewing the dried ore-weed upon it, built little by
little into a blazing pile. The great sea-lights which ring the
islands now make a brave show and one which the visitor carries away
as the most enduring, most characteristic recollection of his sojourn;
but (say the older inhabitants) it will not compare with the
illuminations of bygone summer nights, when as many as forty kilns
would be burning together and island signalling to island with
bonfires that flickered across the roadsteads and danced on the wild
tide-races. From four to five hours the kilns would be kept burning,
and the critical moment came when the mass of kelp began to liquefy,
and the word was given to ‘strike.’ Then a dozen or fourteen men
would leap down with pitchforks and heave the red molten mass from
side to side of the kiln, toiling like madmen, while the sweat ran
shining down their half-naked bodies; and sometimes--and always on
Midsummer Eve, which is Baal-fire night--while they laboured, the
women and girls would join hands and dance round the pit. In ten
minutes or so all this excitement would die out, the dancers would
unlock their hands, the men climb out of the pit, and throw themselves
panting on the sand, leaving the kelp to settle, cool, and vitrefy.”

The kelp was ready to be exported as soon as it was cold; and the
sooner the better, for it was apt to deteriorate with keeping. A
single mass, formed in a kiln of the size above mentioned, would weigh
from two and a half to three hundredweight. When the industry first
began, the price obtained by the islanders was only eighteen to twenty
shillings for every ton. This afterwards rose to forty-four shillings
a ton; but for a long time the steward of the islands, who represented
the Godolphins, insisted on acting the part of middleman, paying only
twenty shillings, and threatening to turn any one out of his holding
who sold it elsewhere for a higher price. Later, when the islanders
had broken free from this tyranny, they were able to get from the
merchants of Bristol and London as much as five pounds per ton of
twenty-one hundredweight. But the amount of labour involved was
colossal. It has been estimated that more than three tons of seaweed
were required at a burning, in order to produce three hundredweight of
kelp. This huge mass of weed had all of it to be cut from the rocks,
carried, scattered, dried, and stacked, before it was ready for
burning; and many times must the entire operation be repeated during
the season.


Chief amongst summer resorts for the kelp-making families were the
Eastern Islands, where, as Woodley tells us, they would reside “during
the whole of the kelping season--not forgetting, however, with their
characteristic attention to religious duties, to repair to the church
of the nearest inhabited island on Sundays!”

Each island had its limits for gathering the ore-weed, and seldom a
year passed but some offenders were brought before the Council and
punished for encroaching on the territories of other islands. The
distant ledges were free to all.

Great skill was required in burning, especially in knowing the exact
moment when to “strike,” and in keeping the sand from getting into the
kiln and spoiling the kelp.

The smell of the burning weed was peculiarly offensive and very
penetrating. Even in the height of summer doors and windows had to be
barred to keep out the smoke, the odour of which would cling to
clothes and furniture long after the kelping season was over.

It was never an industry that paid well. In some years it brought into
the islands as much as £500 to £700, but each family could seldom by
much hard work earn more than £10 in a season. Still, that was better
than nothing, and it was a great blow to the islanders when, owing to
increased competition, they could no longer find a market for their
kelp, especially since only a short time before effective measures had
been taken to put a stop to smuggling.

In 1819 the distress was very great, and in order to alleviate it
£13,000 was collected on the mainland for the purpose of starting a
mackerel and pilchard fishery. Fish-cellars were built on Tresco, and
boats and nets were provided; but the success of the enterprise was
only short-lived, owing to the want of capital to fall back upon.

At last, when matters were so bad that it seemed as if they could get
no worse, a new means of earning a livelihood was discovered by some
enterprising Scillonians. They found that by exporting to the shores
of the Mediterranean their surplus produce (which consisted chiefly of
potatoes), in ships of their own building, and bringing back cargoes
of fruit to England, they could get a good return for their outlay.

This discovery gave a great impetus to agriculture and to
shipbuilding, and many a trim schooner was turned out from Scillonian
shipyards. At that time there was a duty levied on all vessels of 60
tons and over, so the shipwrights strictly limited the tonnage of
their vessels to fifty-nine and a fraction.

And now, while this industry was still young, a great change befell
the islands. In 1831 the lease of the Duke of Leeds, who was then the
representative of the Godolphin family, expired, and he declined to
renew it. For a few years the islands remained in the hands of William
IV., and some attempts were made during that time to improve their
condition. But what they really wanted was a thorough reorganisation.
They had been too long under the management of stewards, who had been
either unwilling or unable to make the necessary changes, and who had
on some occasions used their power for purposes of extortion.
Moreover, there had been very little encouragement to the people to
make improvements on their land, for short leases had been the rule.

The advent of a new Governor changed all this. In 1835 Mr. Augustus
Smith, having taken up the lease from the Crown, arrived in Scilly to
inspect his new property, and before long the islanders discovered
what it was to have an energetic and far-seeing Governor resident
amongst them, instead of an inapproachable and preoccupied absentee

At first his acts were considered arbitrary; the ne’er-do-weels were
dispatched to the mainland; sons were not allowed to remain at home on
the farm if there was not sufficient work for them; schools were
opened, and education made compulsory long before it was so in
England. The people covertly resented what they considered to be the
loss of their freedom, but the islands are still reaping the benefits
of this autocratic rule.

Under it the shipbuilding grew into an important industry, and only
declined with the introduction of steam.

In those days the services of pilots were still much in request. The
“Road” was often full of merchantmen, who had put in for repairs or
supplies, or to wait for orders; and since every harbour in Scilly has
its reef of rocks at the entrance, and around the islands the sea
hides many a sunken ledge, a pilot was always signalled for at the
earliest opportunity. A busy trade also was done in supplying these
vessels with food, and executing necessary repairs. During the
Franco-German War (1870-71) the frequent presence of German vessels in
the harbour brought quite a little fortune into Scillonian pockets.

An old lady of my acquaintance well recalls putting into Scilly in
those days, on her way back from Australia. She remembers how the
islanders boarded the vessel with supplies of vegetables, fowls, and
eggs, and what fine and handsome men they were; and she has never
forgotten the taste of the eggs, with their fine flavour of oranges!
An orange-ship had been wrecked off the islands a short time before,
and the hens had evidently failed to hand over the salvage to the
Receiver of Wreck.

With the advent of steam all these various employments have vanished;
and the building, piloting, provisioning, and repairing of ships no
longer form part of the daily routine of Scilly.

Instead there has arisen the flower industry, which was started about
thirty years ago. Improved communication with the mainland gives to
Scillonians a ready market for their flowers during the first quarter
of the year, and the exporting of early potatoes follows close on the
heels of the flower-season.

With these sources of revenue, and with relays of visitors who are
beginning to appreciate the climate and the many charms of Scilly,
the islands are now more prosperous than at any former time.

On the death of Mr. Augustus Smith in 1872 they passed into the hands
of his nephew, Mr. T. A. Dorrien-Smith, who still carries on the
traditions of his predecessor, and takes a keen interest in all that
concerns the welfare of the people.



It is barely thirty years since first the sweet flower-fields began to
cover the islands; but it is possibly nearly a thousand years since
the original bulbs were introduced.

There are several reasons why it is thought likely that Scilly owes
her semi-wild narcissus to the Benedictine monks, who brought some
with them, so it is supposed, from the South of France, and planted
them on this alien soil to which they have taken so kindly.

For although several varieties of the polyanthus narcissus have been
found growing wild, it is in or near the gardens and orchards that
they have always been most plentiful. A narcissus similar to the
Scilly White has grown round St. Michael’s Mount from time immemorial;
and it has been noticed that elsewhere also they have seemed to spring
up in the footsteps of the old monks.

The Scilly White bears a very close resemblance to the Chinese
joss-flower, which is held as sacred; and it would be a strange
coincidence if here in England we have cause to associate it with
consecrated ground.

It was long before Scillonians discovered what a gold-mine lay hidden
for them in these simple flowers. On the other hand, it may be that
they found the gold-mine as soon as it existed, for it is only
comparatively recently that flowers have become as remunerative and as
popular as they are to-day.

The pioneers of the flower industry were Mr. William Trevellick of
Rocky Hill and Mr. Mumford of Holy Vale, who sent two boxes of
flowers, gathered from the gardens and orchards, to Covent Garden
Market, and received for them a sum of money far exceeding their

From that time onward they began to grow flowers systematically for
the market, and, encouraged by their success, others soon followed
their example.

In 1883 the Governor made a special journey through Holland, Belgium,
and the Channel Islands for the purpose of making observations on the
flower industry. He saw that Scilly was well able to forestall the
Continental supplies, and accordingly he made extensive purchases
of bulbs, and has ever since been one of the largest growers.

[Illustration: A FIELD OF ARUMS]

At first only those kinds that were already well known in the islands
were cultivated--Scilly Whites, Soleil d’Ors, Grand Monarques,
Pheasant Eyes, and the Yellow Daffodil; but now many of the newest and
most valuable varieties may be seen.

It is no sinecure to be a flower-farmer nowadays. The heaviest work
is, of course, during the harvest; but transplanting the bulbs,
clearing the ground, and trimming the shelters keep the farmers very
busy during the summer; and those who force bulbs in glass-houses have
hard work to get everything done before the winter sets in.

The bulbs increase very rapidly in the ground, and are now exported as
well as blossoms. Some sorts need to be transplanted and divided every
few years; but Scilly Whites may be left in the same place for twenty
years without, apparently, taking any harm.

The dead leaves of the bulbs are raked off in summer when they are dry
and sere, and are used as fodder for the cattle instead of hay. They
were originally used for litter, to supply the scarcity of straw; but
it was noticed that the cattle ate their bedding with great gusto, and
seemed to flourish on it, although the green growing leaves are
poison to them. So now ricks of lily-leaves may be seen side by side
with the hay-ricks.

Every one who has a yard of ground to spare grows flowers. The harvest
sometimes begins as early as the middle of December, and is not over
until June, but the real press of the work is during February and
March. Then every “steamer-morning,” that is to say every other
week-day, from six o’clock to half-past nine you may hear a continuous
rattle and rumble of carts, barrows, and trucks, laden with wooden
boxes of flowers, making their way to St. Mary’s Quay. They come from
all parts; from the large fields by Old Town, from the sheltered
valleys “back of the country,” from the sunny slopes of Porth Hellick,
from the little gardens on Garrison Hill. The off-islands also send
their share; Tresco, St. Agnes, and St. Martin’s in flat-bottomed
barges towed by the steam-launch that brings their mails, while
heavily laden sailing-boats put in from Bryher, until one wonders how
it is possible that all these contributions can ever be stowed away in
the hold of the “Lyonnesse.”

The children of St. Mary’s have three weeks’ or a month’s holiday from
school during the busy season, the boys for picking flowers and the
girls for tying. Sometimes the girls will beg for leave to go into
the fields for a change; but it is backaching work, and wet work too,
very often. The men and boys usually wear leggings to protect
themselves from the long, dripping wet leaves.

As soon as they are picked the flowers are put in water in the
glass-houses. The bunching and tying is chiefly done by the women and
children, and is paid for at the rate of threepence for a hundred
bunches. A quick worker can make fifteen to twenty shillings a week.
Some of them tie them in their own homes, and you may see cartloads
and barrowloads of flowers, in boxes or baskets, being delivered at
the cottage-doors loose, and fetched again later on, neatly tied,
twelve in a bunch, and ready for packing. The flower-houses on the day
before the steamer leaves are a sight to behold--banks of daffodils
and narcissi, wallflowers and anemone fulgens, tier upon tier.
Afterwards they are packed in shallow wooden boxes, each containing
three, five, or six dozen bunches; and at busy times the lights of the
houses burn far into the night, showing that packing for next day’s
steamer is still going on within. And the tap, tap of the hammer of
the box-maker is constantly heard at all hours throughout the

The weather is of course a very important factor in the success or
failure of the flower crop. A wet summer may prevent the bulbs from
ripening; a strong gale in early spring may ruin thousands of flowers.
The salt spray in a storm is swept right across the islands, spotting
and blackening the blossoms so that they are unfit for the market; and
although at a little distance a field may look delightful, it may
prove on examination to be worthless, full of damaged flowers. So it
is easy to understand why the growers prefer to pick the buds
half-blown than to run the risk of their destruction.

There is a great difference between year and year in the abundance of
the harvest. To give two examples: In the season 1908-9 there was no
great show of flowers, but picking began about the middle of December,
and went on continuously for four or five months. Prices kept up
particularly well, owing to late frosts in the Riviera, and
Scillonians were well content. They were proud to boast of having
supplied the Battle of Flowers at Nice when the French gardens were
under snow, in spite of the heavy protective duty that has to be paid.
The following season, 1909-10, was quite a contrast. It was a record
year for quantities, but the harvest began much later. The flowers
came on with a rush in February, and all kinds seemed to be in bloom
at the same time, and to bloom as they had never bloomed before. They
were, in fact, too plentiful. “There’s a boolk o’ flowers,” as one man
put it, “but they ain’t fetching no such tremendous price.” It was
thought that the floods in Paris also helped to bring down the prices,
for people were in no mood for buying flowers there, and the surplus
supplies were shipped to England.

Every one in Scilly was kept hard at work from morning to night, and
even so it was impossible to keep pace with the flowers. Usually, as I
have said, they are picked in bud to save them from sudden storms, and
put in water in the glass-houses, where they will open under better
protection and more quickly than out of doors. But this month of March
they opened faster than they could be picked. It was a race between
the animal kingdom and the vegetable; and the vegetable won!
Wallflowers also were coming on apace, and had to be neglected until
the masses of daffodils and narcissi had been attended to.

This exceptional crop was attributed to the warm, dry summer of the
year before, which had ripened the bulbs to perfection, and made the
fields thus bring forth “an hundredfold.” Bad weather kept back or
spoilt the earlier flowers, and so complicated matters by
concentrating the bulk of the work for the season more than ever into
two short months.

Three times a week at the height of the harvest, fifty tons of flowers
were leaving St. Mary’s Quay for Penzance, en route for London,
Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, and other of our large cities. Fifty
tons! That means, roughly speaking, three and a half million blossoms;
and so we may reckon that at least one and a half million of flowers
were being picked in Scilly every day!

And yet the islands did not look despoiled. Far from it. The fields
were a glorious sight, sheets and waves of silver and gold,
representing to their owners the silver and gold of hard cash.

But such a wealth and abundance of flowers is of less advantage to the
grower than to the purchaser. So many tons poured into the market in
the course of a single week bring down prices with a run. “More than
double the usual crop and less than half the usual price” is not a
satisfactory state of affairs, for there are all the expenses of
picking, tying, and carriage to be considered; and the cost of sending
to London is no trifle--something like £6 a ton. An additional charge
is the 10s. per ton which is paid to the Governor on all flowers that
leave the islands, to recoup him for the lengthening of the pier
twenty years ago. Prices were so reduced that the narcissus Soleil
d’Or would only fetch 2s. for 36 bunches, when the year before they
had been 5s. 6d., and Princeps had fallen to the same price from 4s.


But what a year it was for seeing the fields! I must say it again even
if you are tired of hearing it. You must not imagine squares of
flowers, flat as pancakes, prim and orderly and uninviting such as you
see in Holland. In Scilly no two fields are alike, and it is difficult
to find one that is flat and uninteresting. They cover the slopes
facing to the west and south; very often they run down almost to the
edge of the sea, with only a low stone hedge to divide them from the
shore. What would Wordsworth have felt, I wonder, to see these waves
of dancing daffodils? Perhaps he would have preferred the scattered
groups and clusters that spring up of themselves in the hedges by the
wayside, or even on the beach itself.

For the wise Scillonian soon discovers which of his bulbs are the best
and most profitable; and, weeding out from his fields those that
promise least, he “heaves them to cliff,” where, if they light on any
sort of soil, and out of reach of the waves, they will blossom even at
the water’s edge, till some unusually high tide washes them away. In
the meantime they delight the eye of the passer-by with unexpected
splashes of gold, drops from the gorgeous seas that cover the

So lovely are the flowers that one would like to imagine the industry
as “roses, roses all the way”; but of course that cannot be the case.
Besides the drawbacks I have mentioned already--damage to crops from
sudden storms, and gluts in the market from excess of supply--there
are other risks to run. It has happened that in rough or foggy weather
the off-islanders have sent quantities of flowers to St. Mary’s by the
launch, and they have been duly stowed away in the hold of the
“Lyonnesse.” The weather has got worse and worse, and it has been
considered unsafe to make the journey to Penzance. But the
flower-boxes are in the hold, and there they have to stay; and
eventually they reach their destination on the mainland. By that time
their contents are dead and worthless, and so the grower has lost his
flowers, his time, and his trouble, and yet he must pay the carriage,
and for the return of the empty boxes if he wants them.

To any one who has paid a visit to Scilly during the flower-season,
the always-welcome sight in the London streets of the first daffodils
of the season will be more than ever welcome; for these children of
the spring will recall the blue seas and sunny skies of the
flower-islands where they were reared.



How many islands are there? That is a difficult question to answer
until we know how big a rock must be in order to be dignified with the
name of island. One writer tells us there are over 300, another says
nearly 200, a third has counted 140 on which grass will grow, and a
fourth makes his estimate (how, I know not) as low as 17. Three
hundred must include a great many “blynd rokkettes,” as the old
chronicler Leland delightfully calls the little barren rocks.

One point at least is certain, that nowadays there are only five
islands which are inhabited: St. Mary’s, Tresco, Bryher, St. Agnes,
and St. Martin. Sixty years ago there were six, but Samson has since
been vacated.

There is reason to suppose that some of the islands were formerly
joined together, and that they have been separated by the encroachment
of the sea. Even now at low water of a spring-tide it is possible to
walk from Samson to Bryher, from Bryher to Tresco, and from Tresco to
St. Martin’s, across the sand-flats, if one does not mind the risk of
getting wet; and to wade across Crow Bar between St. Martin’s and St.
Mary’s. Ruins of houses and stone walls have been found six feet under
the sand, the walls descending from the hills of Bryher and Samson,
and running many feet under the level of the sea towards Tresco; and
it is said that there was once a causeway from the abbey church at
Tresco across the downs to the church on St. Helen’s Isle.

There is a tradition that long ago the islands were all connected with
the mainland, and that they are the only remnant of a tract of land
called Lyonnesse, which contained 140 churches, but over which the
Atlantic now rolls. On the spot where now the water swirls round the
dangerous “Seven Stones,” there is said to have stood a city called
the City of Lions, and that region is even to-day known to fishermen
as Tregva--the “town” or “dwelling.”

The story goes that when King Arthur, of glorious renown, had fought
his last fight and lay dead on the field of battle, his followers fled
in confusion, pursued by Mordred, the rebel knight; and the course
they took brought them to the extreme west of Cornwall.

    “Back to the sunset-bound of Lyonnesse--
    A land of old upheaven from the abyss
    By fire, to sink into the abyss again;
    Where fragments of forgotten peoples dwelt,
    And the long mountains ended in a coast
    Of ever-shifting sand, and far away
    The phantom circle of a moaning sea.”

Pursuers and pursued were still pressing on when suddenly there arose
a mighty tempest. The earth rocked, heaved, and was rent; and in
between the two bands of warriors burst an angry flood of surging
waters, swallowing up Mordred and his men before they had time to
escape. But Arthur’s followers were marvellously preserved; the sea
did not overtake them. Like the Israelites of old, they saw the
destruction of their enemies while they themselves stood in safety on
dry ground. And that ground was Scilly, all that is left of the lost
land of Lyonnesse, over which the sea still swirls and eddies with
unabating violence.

In the names of two of the eastern islands of Scilly, Great and Little
Arthur, are found a reminiscence of the followers of the “Flower of
Kings,” who are said to have lived and died on the islands where they
had been so strangely (and mercifully) cut off from the rest of their

So runs the legend, which sober, unromantic people spend their efforts
and waste their breath in trying to disprove. They prefer to think
that the sea between Scilly and Cornwall is called in Cornish
Lethowsow (_i.e._, lioness) on account of its violence and turbulence,
and that King Arthur’s followers escaped by boat--or not at all!

There is a tradition of the house of Trevilian that one of their
ancestors had great possessions in Lyonnesse, and saved himself at the
time of the inundation by swimming to shore on a white horse; in
memory whereof the crest of the family is still a white horse.

Whether or not these stories have a foundation of truth, no one can
say; but there is certainly a general resemblance in character and
formation between Scilly and the Land’s End.

The whole of the islands are composed of granite, which is seen
cropping up everywhere through the soil. Huge blocks and boulders of
it lie scattered all along the coast, many of them of weird and
fantastic shapes. The strangest have been given special names, more or
less appropriate. On the peninsula of Peninnis, St. Mary’s Island,
there is the “Tooth,” a slender conical rock 30 feet high; also the
“Pulpit,” with its flat sounding-board, a fine specimen of horizontal

Then there is the remarkable “Giant’s Punch-bowl” on St. Agnes,
consisting of two large masses of rock--the “Bowl” itself, and the
base on which it stands. The base is over 10 feet high, the Bowl more
than 8 feet, and the entire height of the top of the Bowl from the
ground is nearly 20 feet. The Giant could have indulged in a hogshead
of punch at a time, for that is the capacity of the natural basin. In
former days the Bowl was a “logan-stone,” and could easily be rocked
by two or three men with a pole, but now it rests on its base at two

Another strangely shaped rock on St. Agnes is known as the “Nag’s
Head”; but there certainly never was on sea or land a _horse_ with a
head of that shape, whatever other strange beast it may resemble. It
is thought to have been worshipped in ancient times, for there is a
circle of stones round it.

It is not a hard rock, this island granite, and is easily worn away by
the action of the wind and water. At many points the sea has eaten out
large caves in the cliffs, and bellows in them, with the sound of
thunder, in rough weather.

The wildness and grandeur of the coast scenery form a great contrast
to the peaceful farms lying but a short distance away. The flowers are
sheltered from the boisterous winds where necessary by high hedges of
euonymus, veronica, and escallonia. Evergreen shrubs are naturally
chosen, for at the time when they are most needed no others are in
leaf. The escallonia and veronica grow with great luxuriance, and send
forth a glow of bright pink bells and purple spikes against the dark
background of their glossy leaves. Of trees the islands can make but
little boast; they are too much exposed to the violence of storms. The
only really large trees are at Holy Vale and Newford on St. Mary’s,
and there are no others of any size, except in the gardens.

Dracæna palms flourish particularly well, and when one sees a group of
them against the deep blue of the sea it is difficult to believe that
one is still in the British Isles, and not on the shores of the

Duke Cosmo III. of Tuscany says that the only trees he saw growing in
1669 were apple and cherry-trees, planted by the then Governor, but
that thick stumps of oak were found in many places in digging the
ground. So it seems that the islands were once better wooded than they
are now. The tradition of an Abbey Wood on Tresco confirms this

Apple and other fruit-trees are often seen growing in the midst of the
flower-fields; or, to put it the other way round, the orchards are
often thick with daffodils.


Geraniums and fuchsias reach a great height, climbing to the eaves of
the houses, and sometimes blossoming all the year round. It is said
that an islander once replied with indignation to a stranger’s
tactless comment on the scarcity of wood, “Indeed, _we_ can heat our
ovens with our geranium-faggots!” Any one who knows the Scillonians
and their sense of humour will guess there was a twinkle in his eye as
he said it.

Marguerite-daisies also grow into large woody shrubs, in perpetual
bloom, and are often seen bordering the fields of daffodils.

In his _Observations on the Ancient and Present State of the Isles of
Scilly_, published in 1756, Dr. Borlase strongly recommends the
planting of “shelters of Elder, Dutch elm, Sycamore, and the like, in
clumps and hedgerows,” for he notices that everything which rises not
above the hedges does very well; “but to tell you the truth,” he
continues, “the true spirit of planting either has never reached here,
or has been forced to give way to more necessary calls.”

It may be that the fine trees at Holy Vale owe their origin to this
advice, and certainly it has been followed so far as the hedges are

The highest hill in the islands is little more than 160 feet above the
sea-level; but when, as in the case of St. Martin’s Head, the hill
rises to this height straight from the sea instead of by gradual
degrees, there is no lack of grandeur and impressiveness, especially
from the seaward side.

Scilly has not a single river; and no wonder, for where would there be
room? But neither does it abound in brooks and rivulets. I can only
recall one tiny stream. The islanders depend for their water on wells,
and on the rainfall, and only in very exceptional seasons do they run
short. There are fresh-water ponds on St. Mary’s, Tresco, Bryher, and
St. Agnes, but most of them are near enough to the sea to have been
spoiled occasionally in times past by the entrance of the waves and
spray during storms. In the summer of 1909 the ponds on Bryher and St.
Agnes dried up for the first time within the memory of man.

The inhabitants of St. Mary’s are wont to say that though they have no
rivers they have two bridges! One of these spans the fosse of Star
Castle, and the other is thrown across a corner of the beach to make a
short cut to the lifeboat-house.

In spite of the scarcity of trees and the absence of streams and
rivers, I cannot agree with Parson Troutbeck, who writes: “Here, upon
the whole, the poet would have a bad time of it, and might sigh alike
for the purling stream and the shady grove.” I fear I should feel but
scant respect for any poet who found cause for sighs and regrets in

And this is a paradise without even a serpent, for the islands are as
destitute of snakes and vipers as is the blessed isle of Saint
Patrick. Hence arose an old saying that when the Almighty had finished
creating Ireland there were a few handfuls of mud (_sic!_) left,
which, being cast into the sea, became the Scilly Isles. I think this
saying must have originated with an Irishman--and that is the only
excuse I can find for it!

Rats there are, whose ancestors are said to have all arrived in a ship
from Shields. And in Troutbeck’s time there were cockroaches--such
cockroaches! His very description of them makes one shudder! “A large
sort of flies, sometimes several inches long, but not so large here as
in some other places; esteemed great curiosities and scarce known in
any other part of the world.”

Fortunately these “curiosities” seem not to be so much in evidence

The Scillonians are a mixed race. They are thought to be descended
partly from the ancient Iberians, that small and swarthy people, of
whom so little is known and so much conjectured. No doubt they have
also much Celtic blood in their veins, but they have never had any
distinctive language, like others of the “Celtic fringe,” and the
English that they speak is remarkably pure. Their descent has likewise
been traced from the Scandinavians who once frequented the islands;
and doubtless other strains as well have mingled with their blood.

There is a tradition that a ship of the Armada was wrecked off the
coast of St. Agnes (at how many points of the British coast is there
such a tradition!), and it is said that some of the Spaniards who
escaped with their lives made that little island their home. According
to the old chronicler Leland, St. Agnes was entirely depopulated
somewhere about the beginning of the sixteenth century, the five
families who lived there being all drowned on their way back from a
marriage feast at St. Mary’s; so it is possible that if the Spaniards
landed here they found a free field.

The present inhabitants of St. Agnes are a fine race, but quite
distinct in character from the rest of the islanders; and I have heard
it said that when they get excited or angry “you can see the old Moor
coming out as plainly as anything.”

St. Martin’s men are tall and fair and handsome, and seem to show
signs of Scandinavian descent.

That a purer English is spoken on the islands than on the mainland has
been explained by the fact that a Bedfordshire company of soldiers was
left behind in garrison here during the Commonwealth, and in time was
completely forgotten. The soldiers intermarried with the island women
when they had given up all idea of being recalled. I do not think that
any one who has ever heard the true Bedfordshire twang could credit
this story as an explanation!

But there is little doubt that fresh blood has been introduced into
the islands by such intermarriages. Duke Cosmo III. of Tuscany was
driven by contrary winds to put into St. Mary’s Harbour in 1669, and
he reports that “corn of late began to be scarce, in consequence of
the increase of the population produced by marriages of the soldiers
of the garrison with the islanders, but this has been remedied for
some years past by forbidding them to marry!”

The isolation of the islanders led in past times to intermarriage
between the same families again and again, but the results do not
appear to have been as unfortunate as might have been expected.

There is this result, on the off-islands especially, that the same
surname is repeated over and over again, so that nicknames have to be
resorted to, to distinguish one man from another. On St. Agnes every
man is a Hicks, unless he is a Legge. On Tresco, Bryher, and St.
Martin’s, Jenkins, Pender, Ashford, and Ellis are the typical names.

It happened once on St. Agnes at the signing of the parish books that
the names of the four signatories (the churchwarden, the two
overseers, and the auditor from London) were all the same--Hicks!

There are traces of prehistoric man in nearly all the
islands--kitchen-middens, with heaps of limpet-shells and other
refuse, and great numbers of sepulchral barrows of the Neolithic and
Bronze Ages.

At the foot of Hellingy Downs on St. Mary’s the remains of a primitive
village have been discovered, with the foundations of many circular
huts, some of which have now been washed away by the sea. There was a
kitchen-midden close by; and an ancient stone hand-mill, about four
thousand years old, and some very crude pottery of the same period,
were unearthed from among the foundations.

When digging near Garrison Hill, St. Mary’s, some of the islanders
have come across layers of limpet-shells four feet in depth; and on
the desolate island of Annet, now sacred to sea-birds, there has
recently been found a midden with quantities of the peculiarly shaped
and unmistakable pharyngeal bone of the wrasse, as well as the
inevitable limpet-shells, showing that in this case prehistoric man
had endeavoured to vary his diet. Dr. Borlase, the antiquarian, thus
describes the barrows:--

“The outer ring is composed of large stones pitched on end, and the
heap within consists of smaller stones, clay, and earth, mixed
together. They have generally a cavity of stonework in the middle,
covered with flat stones; but the barrows are of various dimensions,
and the cavities, which, being low and covered with rubble, are scarce
apparent in some, consist of such large materials in others that they
make the principal figure in the monument.”

These funeral mounds were formerly called “Giants’ Graves,” and it was
believed that terrific storms would follow their disturbance. Dr.
Borlase got into some trouble with the people because his
investigations were followed by a storm which ruined their crops. And
yet, unfortunately, many of the stones have been removed by the
inhabitants from time to time for building purposes. The present pier
on St. Mary’s is said to be partly built with stones from these old

Dr. Borlase found “no bones, or urns, but some strong unctuous earth
which smelt cadaverous.” Other searchers have been more fortunate. On
the Gugh of St. Agnes barrows have since been opened, containing
coarse earthen pots with cinders and ashes inside, sepulchres no doubt
of the Bronze Age when cremation was the usual practice. In recent
times Mr. Bonsor opened another, of very great interest, on the same
peninsula. Inside were urns and skeletons in layers, one above the
other, the same grave having been used apparently by two different
peoples, those who cremated their dead and those who followed the
later custom of inhumation. The later generations seem often to have
turned out the earlier.

One of the most perfect kistvaens or cists in Cornwall was found by
Mr. Augustus Smith in a tumulus on the northern hill of Samson in
1862. It contained the lower and upper jaw of a man, and the remains
of human teeth, all of which had been subjected to the action of fire.

On the top of the hill above the Clapper Rocks, on the east coast of
St. Mary’s, is a barrow which was opened by Mr. Bonsor in 1903, and in
his opinion it is the finest specimen in the West of England.
Altogether in Scilly there must be nearly a hundred examples, and no
doubt many have been destroyed. The built graves lined with stones
are thought to be of earlier date than those formed of only one
large block. Very often there is a double circle of stones round the
mound, an inner and an outer, the covering slabs being in some cases
eight or nine feet long.

[Illustration: ST. MARTIN’S PIER]

On the summit of nearly every hill these desolate green barrows are to
be seen, reminding us of that far mightier barrow, the “great and
shapely mound” to Achilles, “raised on the high headland, so that it
might be seen from afar by future generations of men.”

For long the islands have been identified with the Cassiterides, or
tin-producing islands, mentioned by ancient writers. But there does
not seem to be sufficient evidence to prove this indisputably, and
experts are not satisfied that tin was ever worked in Scilly. Not only
so, but they go farther, and prophesy that it never will be--in fact,
to parody the Spanish proverb, that it would require a gold-mine to
work a tin-mine in the islands!

There has been much heated controversy on this subject of late; but
then, there were warm discussions concerning the tin trade as far back
as the second century B.C., so what can be expected nowadays? When
there are many different opinions, put forward by as many different
writers, all learned and all firmly convinced that the “other fellow’s
a fool,” what course is left for the unlearned multitude, after
hearing all that has to be said, but to retain an “open mind” on the
subject? To prove my open-mindedness, I will not omit to quote the
story about the Cassiterides which has usually been taken to refer to
the Islands of Scilly.

Strabo, who lived at the end of B.C. and the beginning of A.D., tells
us that the inhabitants of the Cassiterides obtained from their mines
tin and lead, which they used to barter for earthen vessels, salt, and
instruments of brass; that the Phoenicians found commerce with them
so lucrative that they kept it a secret from all the world, but the
Romans sent vessels to follow a trader on his voyage. To deceive them,
he ran his ship ashore elsewhere, and the whole crew nearly perished.
For this public-spirited act he was rewarded from the common treasury,
besides receiving the value of his lost ship and cargo.

But, according to Strabo, the Romans found out the trade at last.
Publius Crassus (whoever he may have been) sailed across to the
islands, ascertained that tin was near the surface, and indicated the
route for the benefit of traders, “although the passage was longer
than that to Britain.”

If we do not admit the identity of Scilly with the Cassiterides, we
have no proof that the Romans had dealings with the islands before
their occupation of Britain.


The origin of the name “Scilly” is wrapped about with mystery. Not
that there is any lack of suggestions; on the contrary, there is such
a plethora of them that one feels no “forrader” after having heard
them all.

One learned writer says with confidence, “The islands take their name
from the old Silurian inhabitants to whom they served as a last
refuge.” Other ideas are that the name is derived from “Sulleh,” a
British word meaning “rocks consecrated to the sun,” or from a Cornish
word signifying “divided.”

The inhabitants themselves seem to favour most the notion that the
conger-eels, locally called “selli,” have given their name to the

There are other suggestions; but as to which of the many is the most
probable we must leave antiquarians and topographers to fight it out
between them, and when they are all agreed we may conclude we have
arrived at a certainty of the truth; and that is, perhaps, only
another way of saying that we shall never know!

Most of the names of places in Scilly are Cornish, but the principal
islands were named after the saints to whom their churches were
dedicated. Tresco was at one time called St. Nicholas, from the
Benedictine Abbey which used to be there. The harbours of Old and New
Grimsby on Tresco may, like their namesake in England, owe their name
to the visits of the Northmen who were here in the tenth century.

The most common Cornish words found in the place-names of Scilly

Bre, a hill, as in Bryher, formerly called Brefar.

Carn, a pile of rocks, as in Carn Friars, Carn Near, etc.

Creeb or Creb, a crest, as in Crebawethan, the Creeb Rocks, etc.

Innis, an island, as in Peninnis, Innisidgen, Iniscaw.

Men or Min, a rock, as in Menawethen, Menavawr, Mincarlo, etc.

Pen, a head, as in Peninnis.

Porth or Per, a bay, as in Porth Cressa, Permellin, Perconger, etc.

Scaw, an alder, as in Tresco, Iniscaw.

Tre, a homestead, as in Tresco, Trenemen.

Vear, great, as in Rosevear, Holvear.

Vean, little, as in Rosevean, Cove Vean.

Unfortunately, the islands have no coat-of-arms; but if they had, it
ought to be all “or” and “azure”; for those are the “tinctures” that
seem to represent them best. An azure sea lying under an azure sky;
golden gorse and golden daffodils; rocks turned to gold in the
sunlight, bordered with golden sand, or covered with golden lichen.
Even the fishermen and farmers put on azure! especially those on St.
Agnes, whose blue linen blouses are quite distinctive of the island.



Here in Scilly, where so many of the place names are Celtic and there
is certainly some Celtic blood, one would expect to find abundant
traces of folk-lore and superstition. But these are very few, and any
that remain are fast dying out.

The people have been educated out of any old fancies they may have
had, for education, as is well known, has a way of killing
imagination. If it would but kill only the hurtful superstitions, and
leave the wayward play of fancy, and the poetical way of looking at

It used to be said that once the fairies danced on Buzza Hill; but if
so they must have fled when the windmill was built, for they have
never been heard of since. And this is the only vestige of a
fairy-tale that clings about the islands.

Just a few old fancies linger amongst the older folk. Thus, a cat
lying in front of the fire with its tail turned to the north is said
to be a sure sign of a gale of wind.

And there are weatherwise proverbs among the fishermen, such as

    “Southerly wind and fog;
    Easterly wind, all snug”;

and “You may look for six weeks of weather in March” is a hit at the
variable character of that month.

A few of the ancient customs also linger. Up to the last century the
old feast known as Nikla Thies was still celebrated when the last load
of grain was brought in, and they “used to dance and polka till all
was blue, to the tune of ‘Buffalo Girls.’” But now hardly any grain is
grown in the islands.

At Christmas there used to be the “goose-dancing” (_i.e._,
“guise-dancing”) in masquerade, when “the maidens dressed up for young
men, and the young men for maidens, and danced about the streets.”
This custom is still kept up in a modified form.

Midsummer night was celebrated by the lighting of bonfires and the
letting off of crackers. When the shipbuilding was in full swing there
was abundance of material for amusement in this direction.
Tar-barrels would be set afire and rolled blazing along the streets,
and lighted torches swung round on chains, high above the heads of
those who carried them.

The custom of going limpeting on Good Friday still exists, but more
for the sake of the fun of securing the limpet before he glues himself
tight than for the sake of eating him when cooked, as no amount of
boiling could make him palatable.

“Tough and elastic, like a piece of india-rubber, and if you don’t
mind, when you’re trying to bite it, it will fly back in your face and
give you a black eye.” So limpet-eating was described to me by one who
_had_ tried.

The crowning of the May Queen, which takes place every May Day, is a
very old custom in Scilly. The May-pole is now set up in the “Park” of
Hugh Town, and the children dance round it dressed in white and
garlanded with flowers.

There are still people who seem to think that the Scillies are almost
desert islands, where it is not easy to obtain good food and lodging.
But this is very far from the truth, for in Hugh Town there are two
comfortable hotels--Tregarthen’s, with its garden of tropical plants,
at the foot of Garrison Hill; and Holgate’s, overlooking St. Mary’s
Pool, at the other end of the town. There are besides a number of
good boarding-houses, and “apartments to let,” and one can also stay
at some of the flower-farms.


G. H. Lewes writes amusingly of his experiences in the matter of food
in 1857:--

“Beef _is_ obtainable, by forethought and stratagem, but mutton is a
myth. Poultry, too, may be had--at Penzance; and fish--when the
weather is calm, which it never is at this season. But market there is

“Twice a week a vegetable-cart from ‘the country’ (which means a mile
and a half distance) slowly traverses the town, and if you like to
gather round it, as the cats and dogs do round the London cat’s-meat
man, you may stock yourself with vegetables for three days.”

His landlady appeared to think him most unreasonable because he
objected to doing without meat for an entire day.

“Spiritually-minded persons, indifferent to mutton, may disregard this
carnal inconvenience, and take refuge in the more ideal elements of
picturesqueness, solitude, and simplicity; and I cannot say that the
inconvenience weighed heavily in the scale against the charms of
Scilly--the more so as an enlarged experience proved the case not to
be quite so bad as it seemed at first.”

Nowadays things are very different; but still if you decide to board
yourself, “forethought” if not “stratagem” is required for obtaining
meat, which in part comes from Penzance, and is exhibited for sale on
the ground-floor of the Town Hall--the only “butcher’s shop.” Once in
the fishing season I followed a group of Lowestoft fishermen all the
way down the street, and could tell from their talk that they were in
search of the butcher’s. “Not one in the whole blessed place!” I heard
them say in astonishment, which was not lessened when they were
presently directed to the Town Hall.

In Woodley’s time the “gentry” used to bespeak the different portions
of an animal before it was killed, so that the farmer was insured
against risk; just as nowadays in Egypt the would-be purchaser of
camel-flesh will chalk out in white his private mark, on neck or thigh
or shoulder, of the living beast, to show which is the joint he
desires to have when it has become meat.

Fresh fish is to be had when there has been a good catch, and is
hawked round in sixpenny strings. Milk and new-laid eggs seem to be
obtainable to any extent. Cornish cream, alas! with the advent of the
separator, is threatening to disappear.

I must not forget to mention one article of food which shows decided
originality--a twopenny loaf of bread, one half of which is brown and
the other half white!

In the old days the people lived almost entirely on scads (_i.e._,
horse-mackerel), dried and salted, and potatoes; and this gave rise to
the couplet--

    “Scads and taties all the week
    And conger-pie on Sundays.”

There is a story that a pilot was once asked “What is the population
of Scilly?” Now this was before the days of compulsory education, and
he had not the faintest idea what “population” meant; but he was not
going to confess ignorance to a stranger, so he made a random shot at
the meaning, and replied, “Scads and tates, sir!”

To this day there are islanders who say they would not exchange a good
conger-pie for a round of beef, and who regret that scads are no
longer caught. They are rich, oily fish, and used to be caught in
great quantities in the Cove of St. Agnes, which was hauled in turn by
the inhabitants of St. Mary’s, St. Agnes, and Bryher, while the men of
St. Martin’s and Tresco would spread their seines out amongst the
eastern islands. Ling and conger were also caught, and dried on the
stone hedges, or salted for winter use.

When smuggling was rife in the islands, intemperance was common; but
nowadays things are changed for the better. This is in spite of the
fact that no licences are required for selling beer and spirits.
Anybody who likes may keep an inn, with the permission of the
Governor. The same rule applies to the keeping of dogs, carriages, and
men-servants, the selling of tobacco, and the carrying of a gun:
licence duties do not exist.

No notes on Scilly would be complete if they failed to take account of
the character of the people, for their kindness, courtesy, and ready
good-humour add much to the attraction of the islands. Tribute has
been paid to them by many an old writer, and so far as I can learn, by
report and by experience, everything that has been said in their
praise is true to this day.

“I doubt not,” writes Heath, “but every stranger that visits the
islands will see honour, justice, and every social virtue exercised
among the inhabitants ... though there is never a lawyer and but one
clergyman in all the islands.”

Troutbeck quotes this sentence fifty years later (but without a word
of acknowledgment, as is his way), merely changing “one” clergyman to
“two,” to suit the altered times. He says elsewhere, “The present
islanders are commonly civil to strangers.” It would be quite as true
to say they are _un_commonly civil!

Doctor Borlase in 1752 speaks of “the civility natural to these
islanders,” and Woodley tells the same story.

Then there is the testimony of G. H. Lewes in 1857: “Not an approach
to rudeness or coarseness have I seen anywhere.”

Woodley most unreasonably accuses them of curiosity, but what respect
should we have for the members of any small community who did not take
a friendly interest in each other’s concerns? I am quite sure that by
the time Woodley had finished collecting material for his book of 338
pages he must himself have acquired a terrible character for asking

The desire for local bits of news must have been very much fostered in
the islands by the difficulty there used to be in obtaining any from
the outside world. It is said that Queen Elizabeth had ascended the
throne for several months before the news of the death of Queen Mary
arrived in Scilly! Nowadays the telegraph keeps them well in touch
with everything that is going on, and acquaints them with the state of
the markets for their produce.

I think the most prominent trait in the Scillonian character is a
cheerful kindliness of disposition, which makes the visitor feel on
his first arrival he is welcome, and soon makes him feel quite at
home. This kindliness is shown in many little ways, even when there
would be much excuse for contrary behaviour. A visitor and his wife
were once trying to scale a stone hedge--with no evil intent, but all
the same it was trespassing. An islander who was working in the field,
instead of stopping them, offered to take off the top stones of the
wall, “to make it easier for the lady,” and to replace them when they
were safely over. That is true Scillonian courtesy!

I have seen a tourist rush with his camera through a field of
daffodils, crying to the owner and his men, “Please keep on picking
and take no notice of me!” And they have done it, when anywhere else
he would have been requested, either politely or forcibly, to keep to
the footpath.

Another characteristic is the delightful Celtic leisureliness. One
kindly housewife only voiced the general feeling when she said,
“Where’s the need of hurry? What is not done to-day will be done
to-morrow.” We had sought shelter in her cottage from the torrents of
rain and were terribly interrupting her spring-cleaning; yet she not
only insisted on drying our clothes, but came and entertained us in
her best parlour with stories of the wrecks, and soothed our scruples
with the words I have quoted.

An American girl-visitor once noticed this trait. “You haven’t learnt
to hustle here,” said she to her boatman. “If the islands belonged to
_us_ we’d soon make things spin.”

“Could you hustle the tide in and out?” was the quietly humorous
retort. “Or could you hustle the fish into the nets, and the lobsters
into the pots?” And what a blessing it is that Nature cannot be
hustled, but will take her own time over her own work, however much
money-grubbing man may try to hurry her up: it is but little he can
do, with all his forcing-houses and schemes for premature development!

       *       *       *       *       *

Scillonians have no lack of humour--that saving sense of humour which
helps one over the roughnesses of life, little and big, and turns each
tumble on life’s journey into an occasion for a smile at one’s own

There are no “yokels” or “boors” in Scilly, such as one meets in parts
of rural England, who are rude or tongue-tied if one asks them a
simple question. They have a delightful way here of saying “Please?”
with a special intonation, if you say something to them which they do
not quite hear or understand. It sounds very pretty from the little

The children, on the whole, are quite charming and very friendly
without being rude or troublesome. They used to crowd round sometimes
when I was painting, but they never got in the way. Occasionally they
would plant themselves in the middle distance under the impression
that my eye was like a photographic lens, and that so long as they
came within the field of vision they must infallibly appear in the

In the spring they make chains and garlands of daffodils and narcissi,
with which they deck themselves: for to them these are the commonest
of common flowers, and on a par with buttercups and daisies.

Honesty may almost be taken for granted in the islands. Heath’s
statement is still true: “There are no robbers, housebreakers, or
highwaymen.” For there is no real poverty, and no one who has not got
a character to lose. Once when visiting St. Agnes we were advised to
leave our luggage by a lonely road-side while we went round to look
for rooms. “We are all honest people on St. Agnes,” they told us, “so
it will be quite safe.” And so it was.

They have been accused by one or two writers of being grasping and
exorbitant in their charges, and altogether too fond of money; but I
can only say that I have never seen the slightest sign of this, and I
have had strong evidence to the contrary. But I have been told that if
you rub them up very much the wrong way they will take it out of you
by raising their charges.


“Neatness of dress,” says Woodley, “particularly on the Sabbath day,
is in many instances carried to an extreme, especially amongst the
younger females.” And he describes how those who on one day have been
scrambling, shoeless and stockingless, over the rocks, gathering and
drying ore-weed for kelp, may be seen on the next day dressed in
white, with straw hats and flying ribbons. I have always thought that
neatness of dress had no extreme, but represented the Aristotelian
mean between slovenliness and excess of finery! So in my eyes this
statement is one of unmixed praise. A local wag once made a hit at
this excessive love of “neatness” by parodying the lines I have quoted
above. He chalked up on the pier:--

    “Scads and taties all the week
    And _a green veil_ on Sundays.”

The days of scads and tates and scrambling for seaweed have now been
long past; but prosperity does not seem to have spoilt the islanders
any more than adversity. They keep their simplicity, and kindliness,
and freedom from vulgar display.

There is a delightful spirit of toleration in the little islands
amongst the members of the different religious denominations. Those
represented are Church of England, Wesleyan, and Bible Christian, with
a sprinkling of Plymouth Brethren. But all those who profess and call
themselves Christians seem to have learnt better than their fellows on
the mainland the art of sinking their religious differences.

A simple and kindly soul, whose acquaintance I made, gave homely
expression to the feeling which seems to be general; and I will repeat
the words as nearly as possible as I heard them:--

“This is the way I looks at it. Heaven is like that Castle on the
hill; there’s a many ways of getting there, and no two of us will ever
go quite the same way. Why, to begin with, we don’t start from the
same point.

“But this much I do know: you won’t get there any sooner by throwing
brick-bats at your neighbour who’s coming along another road; and if
you begin to do that, you may be pretty certain you’re off the track

“If only we’d all take hold on Christ and follow close to Him, we
shouldn’t go far wrong then; and we’d be so busy loving our neighbour
we’d quite forget he didn’t think just the same as us.

“I’m a Church-body myself; I was born a Church-body, and I mean to
remain one till I die; but I don’t see that’s any reason for thinking
hard things of the chapel-folk just because they likes to go to heaven
another way.”

A crude confession of faith, do I hear you say? But you will admit
that through it breathes a spirit of love and kindliness. And
more--that it embodies, in homely words, a great spiritual truth; for
is it not only by many different ways, and yet by the one Way, that we
can all arrive at our goal?

       *       *       *       *       *

The islands were for many years, as we have seen, under the abbots of
Tavistock, who held spiritual jurisdiction under the bishops of
Exeter. But not a single bishop ever set foot on them until 1831!

In a letter written by John Grandison, Bishop of Exeter, to the Pope,
in the reign of Edward III., he says that no bishops in person ever
visited these islands, but were wont to depute friars for that

Bishop Phillpotts of Exeter came in 1831, and again in 1838 to
consecrate the new church on St. Mary’s. The islands since then have
come under the diocese of Truro.

Troutbeck, writing of St. Mary’s in 1794, says: “The clergyman who
officiates has neither institution nor induction to this benefice, nor
visitation nor a licence from the Bishop of Exeter, but holds his
preferment at the will of his patron, the Lord-proprietor. Formerly he
was the only clergyman upon the islands; and children were brought
from the off-islands to be baptized, often at the risk of their lives;
but as the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge has sent an
assistant minister who resides at Tresco, and visits all the
off-islands occasionally in fine weather, the inhabitants are not only
benefited by his instructions and exemplary conversation, but freed
from the inconveniences under which they formerly laboured.”

The other off-island churches were only supplied by native fishermen,
who were appointed by the agent to read prayers and sermons agreeable
to the doctrines of the Church of England.

Bryher is now the only inhabited island on which there is no resident
clergyman; but a service is held every Sunday afternoon, and one
evening during the week by the clergyman from Tresco. On Sunday
mornings and evenings there is a service in the chapel, conducted by
one of the fishermen-farmers, at which, I was told, Spurgeon’s sermons
are read. “We’ve been having them forty years, and we aren’t tired of
them yet.”

I inquired whether the attendance was greater at the church or at the

“Well, you see, it’s like this: the people as goes to church is the
people as goes to chapel; and the people as don’t go to both don’t go
anywhere at all. Church and chapel aren’t ever open at the same time,
so there’s no rivalry.”

We once told a little girl on St. Agnes we were going to see the
church. “Oh, but you must go and see the chapel too,” said she. I fear
she would think it mere blind prejudice on my part that I have
included views of two churches in this series, and not a single

Woodley writes that in his day the people would repair to the
meeting-house in the morning, to church in the forenoon and afternoon,
and again to the meeting in the evening.

Tresco is the only inhabited island on which there is no chapel. For
many years the chapel-meetings were held every Sunday afternoon in the
Church-room, with the approval of the Bishop of Truro, as well as of
Mr. Augustus Smith, the Governor, who gave his consent willingly on
condition that those who attended should be regular at Church in the
morning and evening. The Plymouth Brethren now meet there in each
other’s cottages.

John Wesley visited the islands in 1743. His followers have a large
chapel and a resident minister at Hugh Town, and meeting-houses at Old
Town and Holy Vale.

The Bible Christians have chapels on St. Mary’s, St. Martin’s, and St.
Agnes, and three ministers, who do duty on each island in turn.



Scillonians revel in a wreck, just as the soldier loves a battle and
the fireman loves a fire. But theirs is a happier case than the
soldier’s, for their duty calls them to save life instead of to
destroy it.

I remember hearing of a girl near the Land’s End who had been
describing a wreck and how she had taken the little babies from the
arms of the rescuing seamen, and carried them up the shore, two at a
time, to where they could be warmed and cared for. “A wreck is
lovely,” said she; “I’d go miles to see one. Of course I’m very sorry
for the poor people, but oh, I do love to be there when there’s a

Here spake a true daughter of the sea, and the spirit that inspired
her is the same that animates the brave fellows who man our
life-boats. And it is the spirit of the Scillonians. The love of
wrecks is in their island blood. Centuries of wrestling with the sea,
and wresting from it the treasures it had stolen or was threatening
to steal, have made this a part of their very nature. And how much
better that it should be so; that the cry of “A wreck!” instead of
inspiring them with horror and paralysing their efforts, should fill
them with a kind of fearful joy, and nerve them to work wonders in
saving life and property.

There is no need to say that to save human life is always their first
consideration. If efforts in this direction are unsuccessful or only
partially successful, a gloom falls over the islands, and the
salvage-seeking loses much of its zest; but when all lives are saved
the joy is unmixed, and no pity is wasted on the insurance companies,
who are usually the chief sufferers.

There may or there may not be any truth in the stories that long years
ago Scillonians used to show their love of wrecks by doing their best
to cause them. Nowadays it is certainly true that they make every
effort to prevent one when they get the chance. But it too often
happens that the vessel is on the rocks before there is any
consciousness of danger or signalling for help.

Now that the great sea-lights encircle the islands, and warn all
vessels away from the danger-zone, it is seldom that any wrecks occur
except during a continued fog. Fog was the cause of the great
disaster in 1707, in which Sir Cloudesley Shovel lost his life, when
four ships of the British fleet were wrecked on the western rocks.
Fog, again, occasioned the loss of the “Schiller,” the German
mail-steamer that struck on the Retarrier Ledges in 1875, and went
down, with a death-roll of three hundred and ten. There are many who
remember the terrible gloom that hung over the islands at that time,
and the making of that sad array of nameless graves in the little
burial-ground of Old Church.

[Illustration: OLD CHURCH, ST. MARY’S]

And it was fog that caused the wreck of the “Minnehaha,” in April,
1910, when that great Atlantic liner, 600 feet long, and drawing six
fathoms of water--the largest vessel that has ever been wrecked at
Scilly--struck upon the Scilly rock. She was bound from New York to
London, and for three days it had been quite impossible to take
observations on account of fog. The look-out was searching eagerly for
the “Bishop” light when suddenly rocks loomed up close to the vessel
and the next moment she struck. The passengers, awakened by the shock,
rushed on deck in great alarm, but being reassured by the captain,
they went below again to dress. In a very short time boats arrived
from Bryher, and the passengers, who were already in the ship’s boats,
were safely piloted to that island, where they were treated with all
possible kindness. Provisions ran short, but fresh supplies were
fetched from the ship. So little inconvenience did the passengers
suffer that some of them declared that the nicest way of arriving in
England was to be wrecked! They could not speak highly enough of the
way in which they were treated by every one--and of the care that was
taken, not only of themselves but of their personal belongings, many
of which had been left lying about in their cabins.

This was just the right kind of wreck, from the Scillonian point of
view, for not a single life was lost, and there was a tremendous
amount of salvage-work to be done in the weeks that followed. For
further details I cannot do better than quote some letters I received
from a friend who was there all the time.

       *       *       *       *       *

“ST. MARY’S, _April 18th._

“The gun went last night or very early this morning. Of course I flew
out of bed, and if it had not been for my landlady’s nerves I would
have flown out of doors. The noise of the gun had hardly ceased to
vibrate when men came out of the houses and began to run, and it has
puzzled me ever since to know if the Scillonians sleep in their
clothes, for they had them on, and how they got into them passes my

“The life-boat I heard launched with a cheer about ten minutes after.

“It was a thick fog, and the boat, as you will see by the papers, is
the ‘Minnehaha,’ with a crew of 100, 64 passengers, and 300 cattle.
She struck on the Scilly Rock, near Bryher; and I believe everybody is
safe on Bryher by now. They hope to float the vessel off at full tide.
They have wired to Penzance for the ‘Lyonnesse’ to come and fetch the
passengers, so I don’t think she will worry about such trifles as our
mails to-day.

       *       *       *       *       *

(_Later the same day._)

“‘Wrecking’ is delightful work. I feel quite capable now of tying a
lantern to a cow’s-horn. All morning I have been out in the damp fog,
and all St. Mary’s also. The policeman had to _shoo_ the children into
the school.

“They are now landing the passengers’ luggage, and a cheer went down
the quay on the arrival of a large teddy-bear. The purser of the
vessel says they have been in fog three days. They struck just where
the cocoanut vessel struck before.

“All the boats rushed across to the wreck this morning, but the
captain stood with a pistol in his hand and dared the men to come on
board. When the vessel is proclaimed hopeless there _will_ be a
rush--thousands of tons of cargo on board, and they are throwing heaps
overboard to try and get her off, but the universal prayer is that
they won’t, as it will be a harvest for Scilly. All the same, there is
much sympathy with the captain.

       *       *       *       *       *

(_Later still._)

“The passengers have just arrived from Bryher, and considering they
were wrecked whilst in their beds, they look intensely respectable.
They were chaffing and joking as they came up from the quay. The crew
also are here, and sleeping, I think, in the Town Hall. Everybody is
half crazy with excitement. Tons of stuff are being thrown overboard,
and grand pianos and motor-cars are floating in Hell Bay. (Nice for
your sketch!)

       *       *       *       *       *

“_April 20th._

“Between one hundred and two hundred men have come over from the
mainland to help with the salvage, and they are sleeping in the Town
Hall, Church Hall, Rechabite Hall, etc. Most of the crew leave
to-morrow; the passengers got off yesterday, and will have reached
London last night.

“What with the custom-house officers, salvage men, and police it is
very difficult to smuggle anything, and so far I have only managed a
pencil, not from lack of zeal but from lack of opportunity. Motor-cars
and grand pianos are towed in--in cases. I believe a grand piano loose
is of a sulky nature when in the sea, and instead of allowing itself
to be towed it does its best to settle down comfortably at the bottom,
and takes the boat with it if the rope is not quickly cut--at least,
that is one experience of which I was told. The boats arrive laden
with everything under the sun--clocks, and food, and anti-pain
tablets, squirts, dress-lengths, wheels, typewriters, sewing-machines,
phonographs, boxes of jewellery, boxes of oranges, barrels of apples,
pencils, meat-skewers, and lots of tobacco and cigarettes. The
policeman is kept quite busy trying to puzzle out the contents of the
different boxes. One lady has lost a £1,500 motor-car. They say the
value of the cargo is greater than that of all Scilly and Penzance put
together. It is all insured, but unfortunately the vessel is not.

“The cattle are on Samson. The poor dears had to leap off the wreck
into the water--a height as great as from the top of the church tower.
To-day one could see the vessel quite well from here; it was not so
foggy. I am hoping to get out to her soon, but it would mean paying
pounds at present, as the men are all so busy.

“I think most of the boys have been bad from smuggled cigarettes, and
everybody is having a fine time.

       *       *       *       *       *

“_April 26th._

“I have just come in from the wreck; we went to Bryher this afternoon.
The ‘Minnehaha’ is this side of the Scilly Rock, resting on a plateau
of rock not far from Hell Bay. She does not look a bit as if she were
wrecked. I believe they are putting bags of air under her in hopes of
raising her to float her off on some high tide. The divers are at
work, but many do not expect to get her off unless they cut her in
halves. One diver landed on an old wreck--one that had struck on
Scilly some time ago.

“There is indignation amongst the men, as they have only been offered
£2 a head for the cattle they saved, and last time they had £5; and
they say these are larger and were more difficult to save.

“Wrecking is still the only topic with everybody. The goods are now
being taken out of the stores and shipped to London. There were
twenty-six carts working on Saturday, and they stretched from the Post
Office to the quay. Fifty tons of coffee was only one little item
of salvage amongst many others.”

[Illustration: SUNSET OVER SAMSON]

Later came the welcome news that the “Minnehaha” had been successfully
floated off. The rock was cleverly blasted away from inside of her,
and with the help of several tugs she got clear away. Finally, with
the pumps going all the time, she was able to make the journey to
Falmouth by her own steam-power.

Quite another kind of wreck was that of the “Thomas W. Lawson,” which
occurred at Christmas-time in 1907, and made a great and painful
sensation in the islands. She was a seven-masted sailing-vessel, one
of the largest in the world. Her sails were named after the seven days
of the week; they were worked by electricity, and could all be set in
three minutes. Her anchor was also raised and lowered by electricity.
She was bound for London from Boston, and carried a cargo of oil, many
thousands of gallons of oil, in tanks.

There was a heavy gale blowing, and she signalled for a pilot to bring
her into harbour. Pilot Hicks on St. Agnes was busy planting potatoes,
but he threw down his spade at once, and went aboard of her. She was
then out beyond Annet amongst the western rocks. A graphic
description of what followed was given to us by an islander:--

“We stood at the door and watched her; we could see her lights still
in the same place when we went to bed between ten and eleven o’clock,
but in the morning she was gone. It is supposed she dragged her anchor
in the night, or that the heavy seas broke both the anchor-chains. St.
Mary’s life-boat had been out to her, but their mast was broken, so
they went back to repair it. Otherwise they would have stayed by her
all night, and would probably have sunk with her when she went down.
It was agreed that a flare should be sent up from the vessel if help
was wanted from St. Agnes during the night, but no signal came. The
gale increased in fury, and the vessel went down, and the pilot and
nearly all on board were drowned.

“When she was knocked to pieces on the rocks, the tanks of oil escaped
from her hold and burst open. The oil floated upon the waves; we could
see it washing up here on the shore. At first we could not think what
it was--it made the water look black; but soon we learnt from the
smell--in fact, we were almost driven away by the smell. They say if
it had caught fire it would have cleared the islands, it would have
been like a sea of fire, and the smoke would have suffocated all the
islanders. As it was, many of the rabbits and birds on Annet were
killed by the oil, and lay dead upon the shore.

“It was a horrible time. Everything seemed to reek of the oil. The
very spray on the windows ran down in oily blue streaks for long
after, and even now, when eighteen months have passed, we can still
smell it at times.”

The pilot’s son went off in a boat with some hope of finding his
father, and then swam through the boiling surf with a rope round him
and succeeded in rescuing two men, the captain and the engineer. They
had been washed all along the west coast of Annet to Hellweathers,
where they were picked up. A third man was saved, but he lost his
reason and died. All of them were simply saturated with the oil,
besides being terribly beaten about, and with limbs broken.

The pilot’s son had two magnificent gold watches sent him from
America--one from the President of the United States, and the other
from the owners of the vessel; and he was also awarded a silver medal
for his bravery.

Sometimes great risks are run in doing salvage work. In August, 1909,
there was a thick sea-fog, which lasted from Friday night to Sunday
morning, and stopped the “Lyonnesse” from sailing. A grain-boat lost
her bearings and struck on Lethegus’ Ledge, off St. Agnes. The crew
were all saved; but a man and a boy from Hugh Town who were at work on
the cargo went down with the vessel when, without warning, she sank.
If she had lasted a little longer, forty or fifty islanders would have
been occupied in saving the bags of grain, and must infallibly have
been drowned. This tragedy attached a sad import to the notice which
was posted up on the warehouses for weeks afterwards--“Maize for



The sea-birds are everywhere in Scilly. All the year round the gulls
fill the air with their cries, and cormorants and shags skim the water
and dive beneath its surface.

No “Scilly-scape,” if I may use the word, seems complete without a few
gulls. We see them circling and wheeling high above us; dropping,
suddenly, to rest upon the dancing waves; chasing each other in turn
from the tops of the chimneys; sitting in rows on the ridges of the
roofs; quarrelling for fish over St. Mary’s Pool; following the plough
or harrow in greedy quest of worms; or standing stock-still on the
rocks or sands, at equal distances from each other, and all primly
facing the same way.

Herring-gulls, black-headed, and great and lesser black-backed are all

The black-backed gulls are fierce and savage fellows. They will carry
off young guillemots and kittiwakes in their powerful beaks when the
parent-bird is out of the way, and kill and eat them; and they are
ruthless robbers of eggs.

The great cormorant, or sea-crow (from the French of which latter
name, “corbeau marin,” his ordinary name is taken) is not so common in
Scilly as the smaller kind, the green or crested cormorant, or shag.

Shags may be seen in great numbers round the islands, swimming so low
in the water that they look only like the tops of walking-sticks above
the waves; and propelling their thin and keel-shaped bodies forward by
using their wings as oars. Suddenly they disappear head first into the
water, reappearing after what seems a very long time, in quite a
different direction, and some distance away.

All cormorants are voracious (is not their very name a by-word for
greed?), and they consume great quantities of fish, so they are no
friend to the fisherman.

Shags are amongst the earliest breeders, and they are worth watching
during their love-making, rubbing their snaky heads together and
performing strange, ungainly antics. They make rough, untidy nests,
with three or four eggs, on many of the uninhabited islands. If you go
near them when they are sitting on their eggs, they will hiss at you
like geese.

[ Illustration: A SHAG PARLIAMENT]

In spring tens of thousands of visitors arrive in flocks, for the
breeding-season--puffins, Manx shearwaters, guillemots, razor-bills,
terns, storm-petrels, and many non-resident gulls.

The island of Annet (_i.e._, Little Agnes) is the largest
breeding-ground. It is a low-lying, sandy tract, serpentine in shape,
rising towards the north to a height of sixty feet, and surrounded by
dangerous rocks. It is covered with bracken and tufts of the
sea-thrift, which latter is in full flower during the breeding-season,
making a bright pink background for the white and black plumage of the

Annet is known by the name of “Bird Island,” from the immense numbers
that breed there. In the early summer the sea all round is black with
puffins and razor-bills, their white breasts being hardly noticeable
as they sit on the surface of the water; and the air above is dark
with clouds of gulls, and full of their ceaseless cry. Puffins (also
called sea-parrots) have bred on the islands from time immemorial. An
old name for them was “Coulter-neb,” from the peculiar shape of their
beaks, which were thought to resemble the coulter of a plough.

They were formerly much esteemed for food, chiefly pickled and salted,
because by this means their rank and fishy flavour was disguised; and
one imagines the three hundred puffins payable at Michaelmas for the
rent of the islands in the time of Edward I. must have been destined
for treating in this way rather than for eating fresh.

William of Worcester, writing in 1478, records the presence of
“pophyns” on Rascow (_i.e._, Tresco); and Richard Carew (1602) says:
“The Puffyn hatcheth in holes of the cliffe, whose young ones are
thence ferreted out, being exceedingly fat, kept salted, and reputed
for fish, as comming nearest thereto in their taste.”

Their flesh used to be allowed by the Church on Lenten days.

It is a most ludicrous-looking bird during the breeding season, for
then its beak becomes enlarged to double its usual depth, quite out of
proportion to the dimensions of its owner. And not only is the size of
the beak remarkable, but it is gorgeously coloured with carmine,
blue-grey, and yellow; so that for a bird which carries a sober
yellow-brown beak all the winter it must be almost embarrassing to
appear in such a garish guise! The legs are a bright orange-red, a
ring of carmine encircles the eye, and altogether, with his black coat
and white waistcoat, he presents a very striking appearance.

The puffin is entirely an oceanic bird, only coming to land to breed.
It lays its solitary egg at the end of a long burrow dug in the sand
or peat. The isle of Annet is simply honeycombed with these burrows,
so that it is impossible to walk even a few steps without finding the
ground give way beneath one’s feet, and sinking, sometimes knee-deep,
into the soft soil. The springy tufts of sea-pink which cover the
island offer more resistance and a firmer foothold than the sandy

By the end of April the birds are busy digging a new hole with their
sharp nails, or overhauling that of the previous year. In making the
hole they throw themselves upon their backs, and with their bills and
claws burrow inwards, until they have made a hole perhaps eight to ten
feet long, and sometimes with several windings and turnings.

A week or ten days after the hole is ready a single round white egg is
laid. Both birds assist in digging the burrow, and also in hatching,
which takes about a month. Sometimes a forsaken rabbit-hole will save
the pair the labour of digging out a habitation for themselves; and
occasionally, where a spot between three stones has been carefully
chosen for excavation, one may see a lintel and door-jambs of granite
forming the entrance into the burrow! Puffins and Manx shearwaters
will sometimes share the same hole; or they will have a common
entrance with passages branching out in several directions, as in some
of our “desirable residential flats.”

They feed their young on the fry of certain fish, and are particularly
fond of the lance, or sand-eel. The parent bird may be seen returning
to the burrow, with numbers of small fish hanging from its bill. How
it could retain its hold of, say, the first nine caught while
capturing the tenth used to be a subject for wondering conjecture: but
an examination of the inside of the beak has shown an arrangement of
barbed hooks projecting backwards, on which each fish is speared as it
is caught. The discovery of this wonderful provision of Nature is due
to Mr. C. J. King of St. Mary’s.

Visitors are only allowed to stay an hour at a time on Annet during
the breeding season, out of consideration for the birds; and the
Governor strictly forbids the shooting of the birds or the taking of
their eggs. If, in defiance of this or out of curiosity, you thrust
your hand into one of the burrows, you will very likely get a piece
bitten out of it, and it will serve you right!

The shearwater becomes very eloquent when disturbed in its hole, and
pours forth guttural melodies, the sounds of which are imitated in the
nicknames of “Cockathodan” and “Crew,” bestowed upon it by
Scillonians. Goldsmith compares the disagreeable sound they make when
taken to “the efforts of a dumb person attempting to speak.” This bird
is largely nocturnal in its habits, resting or sleeping on the water
during a part of the day, and fishing chiefly at night.

The guillemot breeds on several of the rocky islands, Gorregan and
Mincarlo among the number. It lays its large and beautiful egg on
narrow ledges of the bare rock, without any sort of protection, so
that it soon gets dirty and can sometimes hardly be distinguished from
a lump of clay. But for the long and pointed shape of the egg, which
causes it to roll round in a circle when disturbed, it would probably
never remain on the ledge long enough to be hatched; for if it were
round, like puffins’ eggs, at the slightest touch it would roll over
into the sea beneath. The colour of the egg varies very greatly; it is
dark blue, a lighter or greenish blue, white, or even claret colour,
but always covered with black spots and markings.

The graceful terns, or sea-swallows, visit Scilly in great numbers in
the spring, as also do the razor-bills (otherwise known as the common
or black auk). The latter may be seen sitting in rows on the rocks in
company with puffins and shags. The ledges of rock rising one above
another, and the birds sitting on them, have been compared to the
shelves and pots of a chemist’s shop. Like the puffin and the
storm-petrel, razor-bills rarely leave the sea except for breeding.

The storm-petrel is a visitor in Scilly, and may be seen there
“walking on the water” in the strange way peculiar to it; and on
account of this habit it is supposed to derive its name from that of
the Apostle Peter.

The scarlet-legged oyster-catcher, or “sea-pie,” makes Annet its
breeding-ground; as also do many of the terns. The oyster-catcher’s
eggs are laid on the loose shingle, and from their close resemblance
to the rounded pebbles of the seashore they are not easily noticed,
even if you search carefully for them.

Any one who has not before had the opportunity of seeing a
breeding-ground of the sea-birds will find a visit to Annet in the
early summer quite a revelation, for no imagination could picture
these myriads of birds, darkening the air with their wings, as they
wheel and hover, screaming, over their temporary home.



When you come to Scilly you naturally land first upon St. Mary’s
Island, for there is the quay, where the steamer from England unloads
her passengers and cargo.

You may or you may not on first arriving feel capable of appreciating
the picturesqueness of the stone walls and gateway of the quay, with
Star Castle appearing on the hill behind; but through this gateway you
must pass in order to enter the town. The pier now in use has only
been built just over seventy years, and was lengthened twenty years
ago; yet already again the sand is silting up against it, and making
it less serviceable.

From the pier you can see the houses of Hugh Town stretching in a long
line round the curve of St. Mary’s Pool, the back walls of many of
them rising straight out of the sea, if it happens to be high-water of
a spring-tide.

This Hugh Town on St. Mary’s Island is the metropolis, port, and
shopping centre of the little archipelago, and, generally speaking,
the hub of the Scillonian universe. Formerly the presence of the fort
behind it gave it yet another kind of importance, and made it the
centre of the military as well as of the civil life. It is built
chiefly on the narrow sandy neck which unites the promontory of the
“Heugh” or “Hugh” (now better known as Garrison Hill) to the rest of
the island.

Over and over again the prophets of evil have foretold that one day
there would come some big sea and wash the little town away. Several
times in days gone by the sea has entered the houses, carrying off the
furniture, and driving the inhabitants to the upper floors; the waves
have even swept across the isthmus from Porth Cressa to St. Mary’s
Pool; but the banks have been raised since then, so still the little
town stands, and the inhabitants seem to entertain no fears for their
safety. The houses were built when the people feared foreign foes more
than they feared the sea, so they clustered close under the shelter of
Garrison Hill and Star Castle that crowns it.

The formation of Hugh Town is of necessity strictly determined by the
shape of the land on which it is built. There is a group of houses
just under Garrison Hill; and then a narrow, winding street runs the
length of the sandy strip between the two bays, with a few short
branch-streets where there happens to be room. As the isthmus widens
out to join the main island the principal street also widens and
divides into two branches, one of which soon ends in the country road
leading to “Old Town” (of which more anon), and the other follows for
a short distance the curve of St. Mary’s Pool, but also soon becomes a
country road, and leads into the heart of the island.


It has been suggested that the Hugh, which gives its name to the town,
was once, like Plymouth Hoe, the station for the “huer,” who stands on
high places to indicate to fishermen by a particular “hue” or cry the
approach and direction of shoals of fish; and that the Gugh, a similar
promontory connected with St. Agnes, is a corruption of the same word.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the fork of the main street there is an open space known as “The
Parade,” because it was there that the soldiers used to drill. When
the garrison no longer existed this space was used as a dumping-ground
for salvage from wrecks, and for years it looked like an untidy
shipwright’s yard, with all manner of appurtenances and portions of
ships laid out to be sold by auction. In the houses on all the islands
you may often come across relics of the wrecks; perhaps a lock from a
cabin-door, or even a whole door; and sometimes the partition between
two rooms will show clear signs of a nautical origin. “The
inhabitants,” says Lieutenant Heath, “have wreck-furniture of various
kinds sent them by the hand of Providence.”

Now the centre of the Parade is a grass-plot, surrounded by shrubs and
beds of flowers, and is dignified by the name of “The Park.”

Nearly all the houses in Scilly are built of the grey granite of which
the islands are formed. They are generally roofed with tiles or slate,
to which a hoary appearance is given by the addition of a coat of
cement as an extra protection against the weather. The old way of
roofing was with thatch, tied on with ropes, crossed in a chessboard
pattern and fastened to iron or wooden pegs driven into the chinks of
the stone walls a little way below the eaves. This was necessary to
keep the roof from being blown away. Still here and there in Hugh
Town, and more frequently in Old Town and on the off-islands, these
picturesque thatched cottages are to be seen.

Duke Cosmo, to whom a thatched roof was quite unknown in his native
Italy, was much impressed by those he saw in Scilly, but he altogether
misunderstood their construction! He says: “The house-roofs are
nothing but a simple mat, spread over the rafters, drawn tight all
round, and fixed firmly to the top of the walls.”

On one of the off-islands there is a very primitive device for
weighting down the slate roof of a chapel by the sea--just a stout
rope thrown across the ridge, and tied at each end to a large mass of
granite on the ground, with sods placed underneath the rope at the
sharp edges to prevent its being cut.

It is said that formerly the houses of Hugh Town were built of turf
with thatched roofs; but once in the summer, when all the men were out
at sea, a fire broke out and the town was burned to the ground; so
since then the houses have been built of stone.

The streets of Hugh Town are lighted with oil lamps, for which the
necessary funds were partly raised by means of a concert. The
inhabitants paid for music, and they got illumination into the
bargain! These lamps are not burned in the wasteful way to which we
are accustomed in London and elsewhere. I asked a Scillonian, half in
fun, whether they _always_ kept their lamps alight as late as
half-past nine. He replied in sober earnest: “Oh no, only if there is
no moon; and on clear moonlight evenings we do not light them at

But though the lights are put out early, the lamp-lighter is (to use a
mixed metaphor) no cut-and-dried automaton, bound with red tape, and
devoid of human feelings. If he sees you returning home as he goes his
round, he will wait to see you safely indoors before letting the
velvet dark drop down like a veil over the streets.

Not far from the quay a steep little hill bordered by trees leads up
to the Garrison, which is entered through a strong stone gateway.
Above it hangs a bell, used formerly when there was no public clock,
to announce the time of day. There is a tablet beneath the bell with
the inscription “G.R. 1742. F.G.” Lower down are two larger initials,
“A.T.,” those of Abraham Tovey, the master-gunner, under whose
direction the works were constructed, and who, being the “man on the
spot,” saw to it that his memory should be kept green by letters of a
larger size than those which commemorated the King and the Governor.

Star Castle, on the top of Garrison Hill, is not a very imposing
building. Its name, which used to be “Stella Mariæ” (Star of Mary), is
derived from the star-like plan of its projecting bastions, which
surround a dwelling-house with corresponding projections. The walls
are loopholed for musketry at every possible point, ninety-six
loopholes altogether. Above the entrance are the initials of Queen
Elizabeth, “E.R.,” and the date, “1593,” when the Castle was built.

Prisoners from the mainland have been confined here from time to time;
Dr. Bastwick, of Colchester, in 1637, by order of the Star Chamber,
for writing against the Church and Government; in 1655 John Biddle,
the Unitarian, was sent to Scilly by Cromwell to keep him out of the
way of his persecutors, and allowed a pension of 10s. a week; and in
1681 seven “Popish priests” were removed thither from Newgate.

It is a very beautiful walk round Garrison Hill--a walk of which one
can never tire. Heath compares it to “the Mall at St. James’s, where
people walk for health and amusement”; but to the Nature-lover the
Mall is dull indeed compared with Garrison Hill. The circuit can
easily be made in half an hour, for the distance is not more than a
mile and a half; and yet in that short time a sight of nearly all the
islands, and a good idea of their relative position, can be obtained.

From the north one looks down on St. Mary’s Pool, full of brown-sailed
fishing-boats in the early summer, and never without a sprinkling of
craft, large or small, upon its bosom. Beyond the Pool, to the right,
may be seen the country-side of St. Mary’s, and following on, one
after the other from east to west, St. Martin’s Isle; Tean; St.
Helen’s, with the lighthouse tower of Round Island showing over its
head; the wooded slopes of Tresco, and Cromwell’s Castle low down on
its western shore, clearly visible across three miles of sea; green,
hilly little Bryher; and the twin peaks of Samson.

As one bears round to the west and south-west, there are St. Agnes,
and Annet, and the grim rocks of the western archipelago, with the
white foam ever, even in the calmest weather, playing round their
feet, and flying over their heads. On clear days the waves may be seen
leaping up the slender shaft of the Bishop Lighthouse, more than five
miles away.

On the south there is the illimitable ocean; and as the east side is
reached there come into sight, first the rocky head of Peninnis, and
then the curve of Porth Cressa, overlooked by Buzza Hill and the
ruined windmill that crowns it. A little farther on, and the massive
walls of the Garrison reach their highest, and are draped and
curtained with mesembryanthemum; while beneath their shelter there are
orchards full of fruit-trees, carpeted with daffodils; and one can see
the columns of blue smoke rising from the chimneys of Hugh Town, which
lies below.

In making the circuit of the hill we have kept our eyes fixed seaward
all the way; but if we turn towards the hill itself we see that almost
everywhere it is afire with gorse: and sorely it tempts me to tell
again the oft-told tale of Linnæus and Putney Hill!

The gorse is one of the great glories of the islands; it grows on
almost every open down, and on the slope of almost every hill. On a
calm summer’s day, when the hot sun brings out the sweet and heavy
odour, and the drowsy hum of myriads of bees, garnering their store
from the golden blossoms, mingles with the gentle lapping of the sea
upon the shore, then Scilly becomes a veritable land of the
lotos-eaters, and one feels content to do no more than lie upon a
slope of springy heather, and “watch the crisping ripples on the
beach, and tender curving lines of creamy spray.”

It is only since the latter part of the sixteenth century that Hugh
Town has become the capital of the islands. Before that time there was
another town whose houses clustered round the Castle of Ennor, a mile
away from the present capital. The village that now remains is known
as Old Town, and the bay on which it stands as Old Town Bay.

There is a tradition that when Old Town was the chief town of St.
Mary’s, and when the chief landing-place of the island was in this
bay, the monks levied a toll on all persons landing, and a chain was
stretched across from Tolman Head to bar their entrance until the toll
had been paid.

Great complaints were made to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, of the burden
of this charge, which was levied even on priests and pilgrims, and on
every fisherman when he came in with his catch. In answer to these
complaints the Earl came himself, disguised as a pilgrim; and being
refused entrance, he leaped over the chain, and in the heat of his
anger struck the Prior who had thwarted him a mortal blow. The old
priest with his last breath called down vengeance on his murderer, and
to this curse was attributed the gradual decay of Old Town and its

A portion of the old church near Old Town is still standing, but it
now serves chiefly as a mortuary chapel. It dates from very early
times, for there is a Norman arch at one end; and it was used,
although sadly in want of repair, until a new church was built in Hugh
Town in 1838. This little churchyard by the blue waters of Old Town
Bay is still the burial-ground of St. Mary’s, and contains sad
memorials of many wrecks. The graves are overshadowed by dracæna
palm-trees, and round them grow aloes and euonymus-shrubs, all symbols
by their evergreenness of the immortality of the soul; while the
elm-trees which look so dead and lifeless now, but which will soon
burst into fresh life at the touch of Spring, remind us of the old
story which is ever new, and speak to us of the hope of resurrection.

Of the Castle of Ennor, which was built probably by the Earls of
Cornwall under the Norman kings, and where, as we know, Ranulph de
Blankminster lived six hundred years ago, scarce one stone is left
upon another. From Hugh Town one comes to all that is left of it by a
road bordered (as most roads are in Scilly) by flower-fields on the
right and on the left; past masses of fragrant wallflowers and beds of
sweet violets, until the curve of Old Town Bay is reached, with the
houses of Old Town grouped together at its farther end.

The Castle Rocks rise steeply from the midst of the houses, and up
them one must clamber. There is nothing whatever to show what was the
original way of entrance into the fortress, but probably it was on the
east side, where the ground slopes up more gently. On the north and
west the approach would be impossible, for there a mass of solid
granite rises boldly from the plain below.

When Leland visited the islands, somewhere about 1539, this castle was
a “moderately strong pile,” but it is said that many of the stones
were carried away for the building of Star Castle, later in the same
century. Now the pile of rocks, and the slopes leading up to the
rocks, are all covered with vegetation, beds of narcissi and
daffodils, sheltered by veronica hedges, and large patches of
carnations, not yet in flower; while mesembryanthemum ramps all over
the place, covering nearly every bit of wall and uncultivated ground,
and pouring itself down in thick cascades of green from the topmost
summit of the Castle Rocks.

From half-way up can be seen, spread out beneath, field upon field of
yellow daffodils, stretching away across the island almost as far as
to Porth Mellin; and beyond the streak of blue sea are the twin hills
of Samson.

It is very quiet and peaceful up here, and yet if one sets oneself to
listen, numberless sounds may be heard, so many that it is difficult
to disentangle them.

There is the gentle plash of the waves on the sands of Old Town Bay
behind; the shrill cry of the gulls, sounding for all the world like
the clamour of children let loose from school; the distant panting
of the fussy little motor-boat which takes the trawlers out to sea;
the lowing of cattle in the neighbouring farmyard, with pigs and
poultry joining in the chorus; the twitter and rustle of birds in the
veronica hedge; the liquid love-song of a thrush as he puts the
important question, ”_Will_ you, _will_ you, _will_ you?” and answers
it himself with a sudden change of note, “She _will_, she _will_, she
_will_.” And lying beneath and all around all other sounds are the
myriad gentle murmurs of the Spring, that wondrous stirring and
pulsation of life which can be felt but cannot be defined. And now a
human note breaks in upon the rest. From a cottage near by there rises
the song of a little girl, mingling with the clatter of cups and
saucers as she washes up the breakfast-things, because mother is busy
in the tying-shed.

    “With smiles of peace and looks of love
    Light in our dwellings we may make,”

shrills the childish voice; and so on through every verse to the end,
till she finishes with a quaintly quavering and long-drawn-out,


There is a very human legend which connects this old Castle with the
convent that is said to have stood in Holy Vale.

The story runs that the Earl of Cornwall once had a young and
beautiful ward, whom he kept shut up in the Castle of Ennor in charge
of an ancient duenna. No one knew who the lovely girl was, but she was
thought to be of noble birth.

There was a page in attendance at the Castle; and it is not to be
wondered at if the hearts of this young pair, isolated as they were
from others of their age and station, were drawn together by a mutual

Signs of this did not escape the lynx-eyes of the ancient dame, and
she straightway sent a message to the Earl in Cornwall by the hands of
the page, who little knew that he was the bearer of that which sealed
his own fate and that of her he loved. He was detained on the
mainland, and made an esquire in the Earl’s following, while she was
ordered to be sent at once to the convent of Holy Vale.

She remained sad and silent during the year of her novitiate, taking
interest in nothing except the tending of a rose-bush, which she made
her special care. When the time came for her to take the vows, she
mysteriously disappeared from the chapel where she was keeping
midnight vigil, and was seen no more until, many years later, she was
found in that same chapel, lying dead before the altar, with no sign
of age upon her pure face, and with a cluster of roses in her bosom.

Her lover is said to have been killed in battle many years before.

There is still a rose-tree growing up between the stones at Holy Vale,
which the children used to look upon as the bush of Sister Mary.

There are no remains of the convent at Holy Vale, and there is only
tradition to tell us that it ever existed. Whitfeld, writing in 1852,
does indeed speak of the top of a freestone arch which he saw there,
covering the entrance of a pig-sty, and which he supposes to have been
a relic of the ancient monastic buildings. It is a beautiful sheltered
spot, the most sheltered in the island, hidden away in a hollow, and
surrounded by tall trees. Two farm-houses lie close together in the
valley, near to a pond of fresh water under the trees; and on every
side there are the fields of flowers, now the chief produce of the

One of the pioneers of the flower industry, Mr. Mumford, used to live
at Holy Vale.

The other, Mr. William Trevellick, lived at Rocky Hill on St. Mary’s
until his death, in 1910, and was always ready to show his beautiful
gardens to any one who wished to see them. Rows of palm-trees grow
along the hedges at Rocky Hill, and form the boundary lines. “Look
well at this,” Mr. Trevellick used to say. “It is not often that you
will see in the British Isles a field surrounded by palm-trees.” He
dearly loved his garden, and spent most of his time there. The robins
knew him so well that even in summer-time at his call of “Dick, Dick”
they would come and eat from his hand the food he kept ready for them
in his capacious pockets.

Mr. Trevellick was also keenly interested in antiquities, and had
collected at Rocky Hill a number of relics of the past of every
description--ancient stone querns, quaint gaily-coloured figureheads
from wrecks, Parliamentary cannon-balls, and a Druid trysting-stone,
through the hole in which lovers used to clasp their hands when they
plighted their troth. This last is in two halves, both of which had
been built into a stone hedge; the second half was not discovered till
many years after the first, and if you know anything of antiquarians,
you can picture the joy with which its discovery was hailed! It was a
day’s work to pull down the stone hedge, to secure the treasure, and
then to build the wall up as before.

It was always a matter of great interest to Mr. Trevellick that an
old Roman road runs through the Rocky Hill gardens, the large, evenly
laid paving-stones showing very few signs of their age.

St. Mary’s Island is supposed to be nine miles round, but I would defy
any one to restrict his first walk round it to nine miles. One is sure
to be decoyed into many a By-path Meadow--but not of the kind in which
there lurks a Giant Despair!

For beauty-spots are to be found in such plenty on St. Mary’s that it
would be impossible to name them all. I have already spoken of the
gorse-covered Garrison Hill, which is itself a little nest of
beauty-spots. So in its way is Peninnis, “head of the island,” that
wild and rugged peninsula which juts out between Porth Cressa and the
Old Town Bay, and is sometimes thought to be the most beautiful part
of St. Mary’s. It is strewn and scattered all along its coast with
rocks and boulders of immense size, and of endless variety of form. I
have already referred to two of these, which go by the names of the
Pulpit and the Tooth. Close to the Tooth, on the head of Peninnis,
there rises from the sea a huge rock, which is known as the Monk’s
Cowl, from the fancied resemblance of the summit to a hooded head.
From this point there is one of the finest views of the many-coloured
rocks, covered here and there with shaggy grey-green lichen, standing
boldly out of the sea or tumbled about in every direction, and with
the little island of St. Agnes bordering the horizon. During a big
storm the waves will dash right over the top of the Monk’s Cowl, and
will swish along the top of the down behind it, before retreating in
cascades of foam.

Not far away, hidden amongst a mass of other rocks, is the largest
logan-stone in Scilly, which is estimated to weigh 313-1/2 tons. It is
at least 15 feet high, and forms one side of a cavity, known as
“Sleep’s Abode.” It can easily be rocked by two or three persons
together, but was only discovered to be a logan-stone in 1893, when a
man who was leaning against it in a high gale, felt it moving gently
to and fro beneath him.

A small iron lighthouse has recently been erected on Peninnis, to take
the place of the St. Agnes Tower, which has been declared

The rugged coast-line of Peninnis may be followed, past the Pulpit
Rock, to where the ground slopes down towards the Old Town Bay, on the
shores of which will be seen the old church, partly hidden in

There are many other spots on St. Mary’s which are well worth a
visit. There is the beautiful, peaceful bay known as Porth Hellick,
almost closed across its mouth by a reef of rocks, so that when the
sea is raging without it may be quite calm in the bay. But peaceful as
it looks, it has now and again seen some sad sights.

[Illustration: MONK’S COWL ROCK, ST. MARY’S]

It was here that the body of Sir Cloudesley Shovel was washed up, and
found, but not recognised, by a soldier and his wife, who gave the
great Admiral a nameless grave in the sand of the seashore. Later the
body was dug up, and identified by means of a ring on one finger; and
now it is buried, as all the world knows, in Westminster Abbey. But it
is said that the hollow in the sand would never fill up, and the grass
would never grow again over the place where the grave had been. Within
recent years two blocks of quartz have been placed to mark the spot.

There was another remarkable happening at Porth Hellick in 1840. A
vessel was found on the rocks, bottom upwards, by some farmers
gathering seaweed for manure. One of them thrust his hand into a hole
in her side, and was terrified to feel it grasped from within. This
capsized vessel had entombed four men for three days and nights! They
were crouched close together under the keel, with the water up to
their waists. They had tried to cut a hole in the hull for the sake
of getting air, but fortunately their knife broke, for the confined
air alone prevented the vessel from sinking altogether.

Some pilot-boats had taken her in tow the previous afternoon, and
brought her in towards the islands; but having no suspicion that she
bore a living freight, they had abandoned her on account of bad

Porth Hellick may be reached from Old Town over Sallakee Downs,
following the line of the wild and rocky coast, and then past Giant’s
Castle, the ruined remains of one of those ancient “cliff-castles,”
such as are common on the Cornish coast.

The beautiful bay with its sandy beach comes upon one with quite a
surprise, when first from the top of the downs its shimmering blue
waters are seen.

Or it may be approached another way, through the undulating
flower-fields of Sallakee Farm, past the whitewashed farm-house and
its gnarled pollard elm-trees, and along a narrow lane whose hedges in
summer are sweet with honeysuckle and pink with campion. This lane
will bring one right out on the low grassy moorland which borders the

Porth Hellick is the mouth of a valley which cuts into the island at
this point, and in which lies the pond of the Upper Moors, the largest
expanse of fresh water on St. Mary’s, surrounded by marshy ground
grown with reeds, and the home of many water-fowl.

Overhanging the bay there is a fine carn of rocks, known as Dick’s
Carn, also called “The Loaded Camel,” from its shape.

The rocky ramparts of the isle begin again immediately beyond the bay,
with a wild confusion of mighty boulders, trembling on the brink of
precipices, or poised upon the grassy slope, as if ready at any moment
to crash into the seething waters. Here one may listen to the booming
of Nature’s guns, as the sea thuds into the caverns it has hollowed
out for itself.

And then, farther to the north, there is Toll’s Island, in Pelistry
Bay, at low water joined to the main island, like the Gugh of St.
Agnes, by a narrow strip of white sand, which is covered at high tide
by the waves. Here, if one is young enough for such employ, one may
build on the sand Hugh Towns in miniature, with Toll’s Island to
represent Garrison Hill, and then watch the waves creeping, creeping
slowly up on either side until they meet and embrace, and mingle and
merge into one even flow over the ruins of the sand-houses. Or one may
seek for shells on the sandy strip, and small as is the hunting-ground
the variety is infinite--deep golden yellow, coral-pink, purple, and
blue. There are remains of an old battery on the island, “Pellew’s
Redoubt,” so called after the captain who commanded in Scilly during
the last French War.

Here, as everywhere, there are flowers. The daffodil-fields run down
close to the sea, and the little lane leading to Toll’s Island blazes
with gorse on either side, so that the blue waters of the bay are seen
set in a frame of gold.

Watermill Bay is another beauty-spot, with no watermill, but only a
tiny stream trickling down to the sea, through the midst of bracken
and bramble.

I must not try to describe it all, or I would tell of the lovely walk
along the west coast of St. Mary’s, where the golf-links are, whence
one can look back on Hugh Town, which from here seems to be a slender
thread linking Garrison Hill with the main island.

And I would tell you, if I could, of the gorgeous, indescribable
sunsets, which turn sea and sky into flaming fire, and cast a magic
glow over the land, bewitching and glorifying even commonplace
things, and making each little distant island a fairy palace of
enchantment, to which one longs to sail.

But long, long before it could be reached the illusion would have
faded, the sun would have set, and no enchanted palace would be found,
but only a barren rock set in a dangerous sea, with the darkness
gathering around.



In old days the island of Tresco was singled out from all the others
to be the site of a monastery and its accompanying church, and on this
account it acquired a reputation differing from, if not greater than,
that of the other islands.

Nearly three hundred years after the departure of the monks, Tresco
was again singled out from all the others, this time by Mr. Augustus
Smith, the Governor, who made his home there, building a house near
the ruins of the old abbey church, and planting round it the gardens
which have since become famous far and wide.

Two determining factors were probably common to both decisions--the
central and sheltered position of the island, and the abundant supply
of fresh water in the large “Abbey” Pond and its smaller neighbour.

Of the Abbey of St. Nicholas, built by the Benedictine monks of
Tavistock, no signs are to be seen. Only two pointed arches of
reddish stone and about 25 feet of granite wall are left to show us
where the abbey church once stood; the monastery itself has entirely
disappeared. In point of decoration, these arches are so very plain
that it is not easy to date them; but, judging from their proportion,
we cannot be far wrong in assuming that they were built during the
fourteenth century. At that period the abbey must have reached the
zenith of its prosperity, declining again to what Leland calls “a poor
celle of monks” before the dissolution of the monasteries.

The church is thought to have been burnt down--perhaps by Cromwell’s
forces in the Civil War. Towards the end of the eighteenth century a
large piece of a bombshell and some charred timber were found amongst
some stones and rubbish at the west end of the ruins, by a man who was
clearing the ground to make more room for burying the dead; and
cannon-balls have been dug up near by in the gardens from time to

As late as 1820 the people of Tresco were still burying their dead by
the ivy-covered ruins of the old church, with the idea that its great
age gave the neighbouring ground a greater sanctity than the
churchyard of their parish church. Troutbeck tells us that in his time
the earth upon the old flagstones of the floor was sufficient in
depth to dig a reasonable grave.

Flowers now run riot round the tombstones--agapanthus, blue and white;
hydrangeas bearing pink and blue blossoms on the same bush; and the
sweet-smelling lily-of-the-valley: cluster-roses try to bury once more
with their petals the already buried dead, or thrust out their
branches and tender young shoots to creep beneath the covering slab,
forcing it up by slow degrees, as if they would anticipate the general

The gardens which surround the old ruins contain all manner of rare
tropical plants, shrubs, and trees, which in this warm corner only of
the British Isles will consent to grow and flourish out of doors. I
cannot attempt by any description to do justice to these marvels of
the vegetable world. The botanist who can recognise at sight a
podocarpus andina or a pittisporum tobia will here find himself in
paradise; but to the uninitiated the homelier and more familiar
growths are more attractive--the blazing masses of rhododendrons and
azaleas, the sheets of narcissi under shadowing palm-trees, the tall
hydrangeas and camellias, fuchsias and myrtles that border the paths.

And what no one can fail to appreciate is the situation of the
gardens, which rise in terraces from very little above the sea-level
up to the height of 100 feet. As you mount to the upper terraces and
look back, you will catch sight of the sea, through and beyond the
masses of flower and leaf; and from the very top you will see spread
out beneath you the surrounding islands, showing pearly grey-green or
with a tender warmth of colour against the sea, and each with its
little rim of white sand at low tide, except where the rocks run down
to the water’s edge.

We have come to stay on Tresco, and have landed at the pier beneath
Carn Near, with almost as large a boat-load of people as the dinghy of
the launch will hold. We have to go and look for lodgings, so we soon
part company from the rest, who turn off to the right for the Abbey
Gardens, while we keep to the left. We have been recommended to stay
at the “Canteen,” in other words, the “New Inn,” but it is enough to
call it _the_ Inn, for Tresco boasts no other; and this one combines
the advantages of a general shop as well.

It is about a mile’s walk to the Inn--a lovely walk by the sea, and
one that we know well, but cannot know too well. It takes us first
over sandy downs, covered with long grass, and a little farther on
with sheets of the mesembryanthemum edule, whose mass of fleshy green
spikes will soon be spangled with large pale yellow blossoms. In the
autumn the air is full of a sweet and rather sickly smell (something
like American apples) given out by the Hottentot fig, which is the
sequel to the yellow blossom. As the fruit ripens, the green spikes
around it turn to flaming orange and crimson, so that the plant seems
almost to have burst again into bloom. The soft and creamy-coloured
fruit, which will readily shell out from its enclosing green case, is
in shape very like the sycamore fig. It contains a mass of brown
seeds, like the seeds of a fig, held in a thick, sweet, transparent

I may say of it, as Mark Twain said of the tamarinds of Honolulu, that
only strangers eat it, and they only eat it once! I always like to
speak from experience where possible, so I played the stranger’s part
and tasted the sticky mess, but I cannot honestly recommend it!

Our path still follows the coast-line; and soon Cromwell’s Castle
comes into view in the distance, and plays bo-peep with us round the
headlands for the rest of the way. This old fortress in its beautiful
setting seems to have the art of always looking its best. Whether it
shows up pearly white in the distance against the blue of sea and sky,
or grey-brown in the diffused light of a cloudy day; touched with warm
glow by the sunset, or stern and gloomy beneath the thunder-cloud;
whether one catches sight of it from above or below, from sea or
shore, from Tresco or Bryher, from north, south, east, or west, it
always has the same indefinable attraction.

Presently we see before us the harbour of New Grimsby, with houses
built round the bay, on the shores of which the Parliamentary forces
encamped in 1665. The large fresh-water pond a little farther inland
is known as the Abbey Pond. Those old monks might always be trusted to
settle near a good supply of water, and the eels and tench it
contained would not be despised by them. The reeds which grow round
this pond are used by Tresconians for making very high fences to
protect their flower-fields from the wind--very like the fences of
African villages, so that one could almost imagine Kaffir kraals
instead of flowers to be hidden behind them.

The skeleton of an old derelict still hangs together on the shore of
the bay. She was a coal-schooner, carrying a cargo of furnace-coal,
and was dismasted outside the islands one New Year’s Day about
eighteen years ago. The crew were at breakfast when she came to grief,
but they hurriedly left their tinned meat and coffee (left also, I
regret to say, their dog, which was found on the wreck), took to
their small boat, and were picked up by a passing vessel. The derelict
was found by men of Bryher, and was afterwards towed into New Grimsby
Harbour. Thither came her captain to examine her, but he found her not
worth repairing, and sold her as she stood to the Governor. Now her
cargo has been used up, and she herself has contributed to the making
of fences, etc., and is pretty nearly used up too.

But we are a long time getting to our inn; and when we do at last
arrive it is only to find that every room is occupied. Until yesterday
they were without visitors, but a recent influx of two ladies has been
sufficient to fill all their available space! So we are fain to seek

And it requires some search, for the flower-season is not the best
time for getting rooms on the off-islands. Space, as well as time, is
much occupied with the flowers; and sometimes every downstairs room is
stocked with pots and basins, jars and bottles, full of daffodils and
narcissi, while the ordinary furniture is pushed just anywhere to get
it out of the way.

We are beginning to lose hope. Every one is very kind, but “no space,”
“no time,” or “no food” is always the difficulty. (Provisions, as a
rule, are obtained weekly from Penzance.)

Must we retrace our steps to the little post-office, and ignominiously
wire to the launch to come and fetch us and our baggage back again to
St. Mary’s? But no; at last, in a little four-roomed thatched cottage
at the farthest extremity from the beginning of our search, we find a

We are now on the east side of Tresco, on the shores of “Old Grimsby,”
which is almost opposite the harbour of New Grimsby on the west side.
From the windows of the little cottage there is a lovely view across
the bay. On the headland which shuts it in on the south there are the
ruins of an old fortress, called by Troutbeck “The Block-house”; in
the distance is St. Martin’s Isle, with other smaller islets--mere
barren rocks--dotting the intervening sea. I know not when the view is
lovelier--when the fortress stands out dark against a rosy dawn, or
when it glows red in the shafts of the setting sun.

All round this part of Tresco, on the waste lands, and at the edges of
the sea, grow great bushes of the tree-mallow, or lavatera arborea,
covered in summer with purple and mauve blossoms. (Is it as bad to
talk of a “mauve mallow” as of a “pink pink” or a “violet violet”?)

When the seed-vessels are formed the rats will run up the woody stems,
and eat the green “cheeses,” as we used to call them as children. It
is a pity all their tastes are not as innocent, for they are a menace
to the young chickens, besides stealing eggs and robbing potato-sacks
when they can. But I do not think there are any rats nowadays so
voracious as those that Leland describes on Rat Island--rats that
would think nothing of eating a live horse!

Here also are fringes of tamarisk, and other low trees, along the
shore. St. Martin’s men come over in boats and cut off the branches
for making crab and lobster-pots--“trimming our trees for us,” as the
Tresconians put it.

Of course every cottager has his patch of flowers. One may see the cut
blossoms, in pots and bottles, set outside the cottage doors, or in
the windows, to open in the sunshine, before being sent to “England.”

The Tresco flower-fields are, perhaps, on the whole, less picturesque
than those on the other islands, on account of the careful way in
which they are protected from winds and storms; but you may find many
a cluster of narcissi of Nature’s own planting, wayward ones that have
preferred to choose their own shelter in the lee of a pile of grey
rocks jutting out into the sea, or hidden in a little copse of trees
by the shore--trees slender of girth and small of stature, and
destined, like Peter Pan, never to grow up.

[Illustration: GIMBLE BAY, TRESCO]

The northern part of Tresco is wild and rocky and uncultivated, with
bare brown downs stretching across from shore to shore.

On the east, where these downs slope more gently towards the sea,
there is the beautiful Gimble Bay, facing towards the islands of
Menavawr, Round Island, St. Helen’s, and Norwethel; and lying just
outside the bay is the long reef known as Golden Ball Bar, over which
the waves are ever breaking in flying foam and with the sound of

On the north the downs end abruptly in a steep and rock-bound coast.
Here is a wonderful cavern known as “Piper’s Hole,” which penetrates
inland for a distance of above two hundred feet.

To enter it one has first to descend an iron ladder fixed to the rock,
and then to clamber, bent double, along a dark passage, over large
stone boulders, worn smooth by the action of the waves. At length the
passage opens out into a cavern thirty-four feet high--plenty of room
to stand upright now! Here there is a large pool of fresh water, on
which a boat is kept during the summer, so that one can be ferried
across it and land on the smooth beach of white sand at the far end of
the cave.

It used to be said that this Piper’s Hole communicated by a passage
under the sea with the small and insignificant cave of the same name
on St. Mary’s; that men had entered there and never returned; but that
dogs had successfully accomplished the journey, and had reappeared
safely at Tresco, at the expense of most of their hair!

There are several other caves along the north coast of Tresco, but
none so large as Piper’s Hole.

On the western edge of the downs there are the scanty ruins of
Charles’s Castle, which is probably the one described by Leland as “a
lytle pyle or fortres.”

As we stand by the ruins and look down we can see below us, on a ledge
of rocks jutting out into the sea, our old friend Cromwell’s Castle--a
strong little tower, with walls twelve feet thick. The flooring and
other woodwork of the interior has mostly disappeared, and what
remains is green with damp; but the outer walls are just as strong as
ever. The flat bomb-proof roof, once armed with a battery, is now
overgrown with grass and brambles.

Beyond the Castle, in the midst of New Grimsby Sound, is a pile of
rock known as Hangman’s Island, because the Republican officers hanged
a batch of mutinous soldiers there. The path from Cromwell’s Castle
southwards to New Grimsby lies close to the sea, parting a tangle of
bracken and bramble; and there in the autumn may be found the finest
blackberries that grow in the islands.

The sands on the east coast of Tresco, between the Block House and
Skirt Point, are famous for their shells, especially for
“guinea-moneys”--pretty little shells of the cowry shape, which are
much sought after by Scillonians for making into necklaces. They are
found in considerable numbers along this shore, but are nowhere so
plentiful as not to require a careful search.



Bryher, with its five hills, is one of the prettiest of the islands.
All Scillonians will tell you so, even those (and there are some) who
have to confess that they have never been there!

There are about ninety inhabitants, of whom the greater number live in
Bryher “town,” as they will tell you it is called, with a
half-apologetic smile at the importance of the name.

“You won’t find this like Hugh Town,” says, with a twinkle in his eye,
the boatman who has brought me across, as he carries my luggage up the
steep little street. “You’ll find it pretty dark when you come home
from the theayter at night.”

There are only two houses in which one can stay on Bryher, and they
stand side by side at the top of the hill. From their windows there is
a fascinating view of the Outer Islands, peaked and jagged barren
rocks, standing out of the water, black and threatening; Maiden Bower,
Seal Rock, Illiswilgig, Castle Bryher, and the rest.

At the northern end of Bryher is Shipman Head, a huge mass of rock,
100 feet high, the home of many sea-birds, and separated from the main
island only by a narrow chasm, through which the sea whirls and eddies
with great force. It is possible to jump across this chasm from Bryher
on to a rock on Shipman Head at a slightly lower level; but it is not
advisable to make the leap unless you do not wish to return, for
jumping back again is quite another question!

In this part of the island is Hell Bay, so called from the terrific
force of the sea during a high wind, and the many wrecks which have
been washed ashore there. Most of these have struck on Scilly Rock,
from which the whole group takes its name. This mighty mass of granite
lies off to the west, nearly a mile outside Hell Bay. It is divided in
two by a narrow channel, through which, in very calm weather, a small
boat can be made to shoot.

It was here that the huge Atlantic liner, the “Minnehaha,” of 13,400
tonnage, struck in April, 1910, as already described.

Some years ago two vessels struck there in one night. The first of
these was a sailing-ship on her first voyage, carrying a cargo of rice
and manned by a black crew, all of whom were saved by boats from
Bryher. Being new, she did not quickly break up, and the light
burning on her mast misled another and smaller vessel, and drew her to
her destruction. Her cargo consisted of cocoanuts, thousands of which
were washed up in Hell Bay and on the shores of Tresco, and were
gathered into heaps to be sent to the mainland.

Yet another time a cotton-ship was wrecked, and Hell Bay was full of
iron-bound bales of cotton.

It is a magnificent and awesome sight to watch the waves breaking in
Hell Bay during rough weather. They mount with a mighty roar almost to
the top of Shipman Head, flinging their spray high into the air, and
falling back in foaming cataracts, only to renew their onslaught with
still greater force.

This is the wildest and most barren part of Bryher. Farther south the
hill-slopes are cultivated, and are sheeted with flowers in the
spring, while their summits are crowned with gorse.

Until last year the “oldest inhabitant” of the islands lived on
Bryher. She had reached the great age of ninety-six, but she carried
well her weight of years. She was known as “Aunt Charlotte,” for on
the off-islands they still follow more or less the custom noticed by
Heath, of using “Aunt” and “Uncle” as nicknames, on account of the
scarcity of surnames. And her son-in-law with whom she lived is “Uncle
Sampy,” named after the neighbouring island of Samson.

Aunt Charlotte could well remember the kelping days, but even the
mists of seventy years had no power to cast a glamour over them.

There is excitement on Bryher just now, for an itinerant draper’s shop
has arrived in a barge, towed by the steam-launch. The draper has
spread out his goods in Uncle Sampy’s flower-house, and every one is
flocking to take the rare chance of doing some shopping. The
glass-house is soon nearly as full (for its size) as a London shop at
sale-time; and it is almost as gay as when it was stacked with

But instead of tiers of narcissi and daffodils, under the vine-leaves
and climbing-roses, there are rolls of white calico and scarlet
flannel; straw hats of every colour of the rainbow, gay blouses, and a
good display of toys for the children. To St. Mary’s, St. Martin’s,
and Bryher this floating shop is taken about three times in the year.
On rocky little St. Agnes the draper dare not try to land, for fear of
the risk of spoiling his goods, and Tresco is forbidden ground.

I shall not soon forget returning from Bryher one very stormy morning
in a sailing-boat, sunk almost to the gunwale, for in addition to her
load of flower-boxes, she carried a dead bullock, resolved into its
component parts ready for sale on St. Mary’s--which resolution had
taken place in my landlady’s kitchen the previous evening. As the boat
tacked the cargo shifted from side to side, and parts of my
fellow-passenger, sewn up in sacking, kept threatening to roll on the
top of me. The waves dashed continually over the sides, and in spite
of the oilskins with which the sailors covered me, I was drenched
before I reached Hugh Town.

I have also vivid remembrances of the toughness of my fellow-passenger
when I had a piece of him for dinner that evening.

The island of Samson, with its two conical hills, makes a good mark
for seamen. It was formerly inhabited, but by 1855 the late Governor
had by degrees removed to St. Martin’s and St. Mary’s the few families
whom he found living there. Some of them objected strongly to being
moved, and one old man barricaded himself in his cottage, and vowed he
would shoot any one who interfered with him. But he had to go in the

Various reasons are given for this action on the part of the Governor.
It is said that the inhabitants were quarrelling amongst themselves,
and were better separated; that the younger men having left the
island, those who remained were getting too old to manage the boats
and make a living; also, that there being no school on Samson, the
children could not be properly educated.

[Illustration: ARMOREL’S COTTAGE]

To-day the principal inhabitants are black rabbits; but the ruins of
several houses may still be seen. One of them is known as “Armorel’s
Cottage,” after the heroine of Sir Walter Besant’s novel, _Armorel of
Lyonnesse_. It stands, a mere shell, roofless and crumbling, at the
foot of the southern hill. Bracken and bramble have encroached on all
sides, within and without, blocking up the doorway and leaving no
traces of a floor. An elder and a tamarisk alone show where the
cottage-garden used to be.

It is a pretty spot for a home, on the edge of the narrow plain which
connects Samson’s two hills, with a full sight of the sea and of the
neighbouring islands on the right and on the left. Now the ground is
covered with wild violets and the air is heavy with the scent of the
gorse; later, when summer comes, tall foxgloves will rise in
battalions from the midst of the fresh green bracken, which as yet
shows nothing but tiny tender spirals above the dark earth.

It is over twenty years since Besant’s book was written, but still you
may see new-comers to Scilly clasping each his copy of _Armorel_. The
original of “Peter the boy” is still living on St. Mary’s, and is
still known as Peter, though that is not his real name. Still he
answers to Besant’s description, looking no older, probably, than
twenty years ago. He had a terrible blow on the head from the crane of
a steamer, which knocked him insensible, and after that all his hair
fell out, and never would grow again. But the accident had one happy
result: he had been subject to fits, and this blow on the head worked
a complete cure! It is such a simple though drastic remedy, that all
doctors and surgeons ought to know of it!

The “girl” who is credited with having been the original of Armorel,
for the sole reason that she was the last girl to live on Samson, was
married and in the North of England long before Besant came to Scilly.
With most unreasonable annoyance, she declared she would scratch his
eyes out if ever she met him, thus proving that she had no resemblance
in character to the Armorel of fiction. As for “Peter,” he was “noways
particular,” to use his own expression.

Not far from Armorel’s Cottage there are the ruins of an ancient
building, which is supposed to have been a church; but as to when and
how it was built, and to whom dedicated, who can tell?



If you want to visit the little island of St. Agnes, you had better
choose a fairly calm day, for the coast is so rocky that in rough
weather it is not easy to land.

There are two ways of getting there from St. Mary’s: either in your
own hired sailing-boat, when you can choose your own time; or else you
can be “delivered with the mails” by the steam-launch, in which case
you must be ready for starting soon after the arrival of the steamer
from Penzance. Very energetic people can also go in the launch when
she fetches the mails, leaving St. Mary’s at 6.30 in the morning.

The launch is naturally more independent of the weather than the
sailing-boats, but even she has been known to come to grief in a high
gale, and has been ignominiously towed in by a trawler; and if you do
venture out in her when there is a lot of sea on, she may take up or
land her mails and yet refuse to run the risk of landing _you_. Mails
can be thrown, but you cannot; and her dinghy does not long keep its
coat of royal blue paint amongst the rocks around St. Agnes.

The whole past history of this island is one of a series of
shipwrecks; and we cannot wonder at this when we see the gaunt and
grim monsters that lie in wait for storm-driven or befogged vessels to
the west and south-west. The very names of some of them are
significant: Hellweathers, Old Wreck Ledge, Tearing Ledge, and the
Crim Rocks (I am told that “crim” in Cornish means a creeping,
trembling, shuddering feeling, as from fear).

But who would ever expect to be wrecked on islets bearing the innocent
names of Daisy and Great and Little Rose? And yet these rocks have
also had their toll of human lives; in fact, there is scarcely one but
serves as tombstone to some poor fellow--a tombstone which has brought
him to the grave it marks.

Heath makes a quaint comment on the frequency of wrecks near this
island; “which,” says he, “makes the Inhabitants of it some Amends for
their Forlornness of Abode.”

There are stories that in the old days the islanders recognised so
keenly the value of this “Amends” that they would drop propitiatory
pins down St. Warna’s Well, praying to her to “send a wreck before
morning.” This Saint, who is said to have come all the way from
Ireland in a coracle of wicker and hides, was supposed to be
instrumental in sending the wrecks, and generally to preside over and
direct the good fortune of the islanders. She seems a much more
suitable patron-saint for the stormy little island than the meek St.
Agnes with her lamb. But how came this bold, adventurous dame to be
accredited with such a weakness for pins?

There are stories still more sinister: of ships lured to their
destruction by false lights; of a lantern tied between the horns of a
cow to lead mariners astray by its wandering gleam; and of other
devices of the devotees of St. Warna, who evidently believed in the
maxim of Æschylus, that the gods help those who help themselves. But
whatever strange and wild doings there may have been in the past,
nowadays none are more ready than the men of St. Agnes to risk their
own lives in endeavouring to save others.

They have a life-boat of their own, which is launched from a slip just
below the church--a slip which they claim to be the longest in the

The lighthouse is much the oldest in the islands, and one of the
oldest in the British Isles, having been built in 1680. For more than
two centuries it formed a guiding-star by night, but at first it was
lighted merely by a coal-fire, which was sometimes allowed to go out.
In 1790 oil-lamps and reflectors were fixed, which supplied a
brilliant light. But recently it was found to be in need of much
repair, so it has been placed on the “retired list,” and its work of
warning and guidance is now given over to the new tower erected on

In past times the inhabitants of St. Agnes were frequently cut off
from all communication with the outer world for weeks together, and
had to depend very much on their own resources. They had to grind
their own corn with round stone hand-mills, or “querns,” and often
they ran short of bread altogether, and had to make up with potatoes.
They had no fuel but the dried bracken, fetched in boat-loads from the
neighbouring isle of Annet unless a chance wreck provided them with
firewood; and fish-oil and seal-oil, prepared by themselves, were all
they had for artificial light. One old lady still speaks feelingly of
the privations of her early days. “I never could abide potatoes for
breakfast,” she says, “but there was often nothing else to be had.”
The seals’ blubber for candles was boiled down out of doors, for the
smell was too abominable to have in the houses. Seals weighing six or
seven hundredweight and “nearly as big as bullocks” have been
caught round the islands. Nowadays any that are caught are sold to the
Governor at 5s. a head, large and small alike.


Early potatoes are still grown on St. Agnes for export, and now a good
deal of business is also done with the flowers.

As the launch draws near the landing-place in Perconger during the
flower-season, you may see a long string of carts and barrows
following each other down the hill to the sea-shore. These contain the
wooden boxes of flowers which are to be loaded on the barge and towed
back to St. Mary’s ready for the next day’s steamer.

We found very comfortable quarters on the island with the wife of the
pilot’s son who so distinguished himself when the “T. W. Lawson” was
wrecked, as described in another chapter. The accompanying
illustration shows their little three-year-old girl trying to help her
parents in the tying-house.

The very names on St. Agnes seem to be suggestive of the wild and
rocky character of the island--names such as Camperdizl Point,
Campergurling, and the Carns of Kestillier.

And is not Wingletang Down a picturesque and suggestive name?

A heather-clad stretch of open down, dotted with bushes of “whin,” or
gorse, and with a fringe of “tang,” or seaweed, washed up all round
it; great boulders of granite strewn over its surface, and bare
patches of the living rock showing here and there through the
soil--that is Wingletang Down, in the middle of which stands the
strange rock called the Giant’s Punch-bowl.

In the sands of the little bay at the edge of the down it is the
custom to search for beads, just as one searches for beads in the
sands of the Egyptian desert. But these are not mummy-beads! only
wreck-salvage from a vessel that was lost over two hundred years ago,
and its wreckage was washed up in what has since been called “Beady

On Wingletang Down one may, perhaps, see large blocks of granite
drilled with rows of holes ready for quarrying. Until recent times the
blocks were severed by driving wooden pegs into these holes, and
wetting them until their swelling forced the stone asunder--just the
same method as was used in ancient Egypt thousands of years ago!
Nowadays slips of steel take the place of the wooden pegs.

The bay on the south of St. Agnes is known as Santa Warna Bay, because
there, according to tradition, the Saint put in, in her little
coracle, on her arrival from Ireland. On its shore is Santa Warna’s
Well, now an insignificant little hole almost choked with dead bracken
and weeds, and half-covered with a flat stone, but once considered the
most important spot in the island. For, formerly, every year on the
day after Twelfth Day, the well was cleaned out by the islanders and
devotion paid to the Saint. This was still done in Heath’s time, and
he says they used “certain superstitious ceremonies in their
thanksgiving, which being ended they make a general feasting and
rejoicing throughout the island.” It was here that, in the old wild
days, the young girls used to come on foggy nights, before going to
bed, and drop pins down the well, chanting--

    “Good-night, father; good-night, mother;
    Good-night, friends and foes;
    God send a ship ashore before morning.”

There is a tradition that the destruction by drowning of the entire
population of St. Agnes, as recorded by Leland in the sixteenth
century, was a judgment on a long course of wrecking.

The little church of St. Agnes stands by Priglis Bay, which is
sometimes called Pericles Bay, and is supposed to be a corruption of
Portus Ecclesiæ. Scillonians have a way of softening the sound of
words; thus Porth is nearly always reduced to Per; so it is easy to
see how Portus Ecclesiæ became Priglis.

Leland says there was a chapel here in his time, from which the island
took its name. This is supposed to have been beaten down by the
Parliamentary forces. It lay in ruins many years, and then, on the
same spot and with the same materials, was built a dwelling-house,
which was washed away by a high tide in 1744. People still living in
1794 could remember having seen the chancel arch of the old church
standing, built of fine freestone, in the same way as the arches in
the ruins of Tresco Abbey church.

Another church was built in 1685, with salvage money received for
saving a French vessel. This fell into decay, and was replaced by the
present building early in the last century.

Just outside the church wall the men of St. Agnes make and stack their
crab-pots. One may sometimes see a mountain of these creels piled up
by the life-boat slip, and a group of men hard at work making more;
others, perhaps, standing by and looking on with their hands in their
pockets; waiting, with the unequalled patience of the fisherman, for
some job to turn up.

Whenever there is a fog in the islands, whether by day or night, you
will hear every five minutes a loud booming roar, like the report of
a gun, sounding across the sea from the south-west. This warning comes
from the Bishop Lighthouse, four and a half miles from St. Agnes, and
is caused by the explosion of “tonite,” a kind of gun-cotton. It
serves to warn off ships when the light is quite hidden in the dense
fogs, which sometimes last for days.

Think what it must be for those men in the lighthouse to have this
roar sounding close to their ears every five minutes for days

The Bishop Lighthouse is the tallest in the world, besides being one
of the most exposed in situation. The first attempt to build a tower
on this rock was made in 1849, but before the building was complete a
heavy sea swept away the wrought-iron rods and columns of which it was

A masonry tower was next built, and finished in 1859. It was 120 feet
high, but even at this height the sea would actually be breaking over
the lantern for many hours together during a heavy gale; so after a
time the tower was encased with additional masonry, and raised to its
present height of 167 feet. It sways like a tree in the wind during
one of the terrific storms which sometimes beat upon it.

Altogether there are seven sea-lights to be seen gleaming out round
the islands after night has fallen. There is this of the Bishop, away
among the western rocks; the new light on Peninnis; the ruby glow from
Round Island; the light-ship moored by the Seven Stones; the “Wolf”
Lighthouse, half-way between Scilly and the mainland; and the lights
of Longships and Pendeen, off the Cornish coast.



Nowhere do the flowers bloom so early as on the sunny southern slopes
of St. Martin’s Isle; and as one draws near from St. Mary’s one may
see the varied colours of the flower-patches, from palest lemon
through all the shades of yellow down to deep orange, clothing the
face of the hills.

It is a great advantage to St. Martin’s, this long series of slopes on
the south, facing towards the roadstead, warm and sunny and sheltered.
At one time the drifting sand from the flats had so covered the soil
as to make much of it barren, but it seems fertile enough now. The
sand-flats extend for a mile in the direction of St. Mary’s, and at
very low water of a spring-tide it is possible to walk across them,
and to wade through the remaining mile of separating sea.

The Eastern Islands are well seen from the flowery slopes. They run in
pairs of “Great” and “Little”--Ganilly, Ganinick, Arthur, and
Innisvouls--there is a Great and a Little of each. Hanjague, the
“sugar-loaf” island, away to the very east, stands quite alone--in
name, and character, and situation. I remember being asked by a
boatman soon after I first came to Scilly whether I knew “Ann Jigg.” I
knew the sugar-loaf well by sight and its name on paper, but the
orthodox pronunciation was strange to me, and I replied with
puzzlement that I had never met the lady!

The northern slopes of St. Martin’s, exposed to all the fury of the
Atlantic gales, are almost uncultivated, possessing one little
flower-farm only, at Pernagie. On this coast, “at the back of St.
Martin’s,” there are caves which were formerly thought to be old

It is a wild and beautiful and lonely coast, with rounded bays, shut
in by rocky headlands, and slopes clad with heather and gorse between
the patches of bare grey granite. The bold mass of St. Martin’s Head
is nearly the highest point of the islands, and from it what old
Leland calls “the very westeste point of Cornwalle” can often be
clearly seen. The Cornish hills are plainly visible on a very clear
day, even from an open boat in the roads.

On the summit of St. Martin’s Head is the “Day-mark,” built in 1683 by
Thomas Ekins, the first steward of the Godolphins to reside on the
islands. It is a round tower with a conical top, painted all the way
up with alternate bands of white and Indian red, and it is quite the
most hideous object to be seen in Scilly! But we must forgive its
ugliness, for no doubt it has done good service to seamen in times
past; and though the neighbouring lighthouse on Round Island has made
it less necessary, still it is a “land-mark,” and as such it must
remain. It was used as a signal-station in the last French War, a
century ago; near by are ruins of the houses occupied by the soldiers.

These downs around St. Martin’s Head are beautiful in their autumn
garb of purple; they are no less beautiful in the spring, when the
heather forms a carpet of velvety-brown, here slightly greenish, there
again rich as burnt-sienna in colour, with bushes of gorse scattered
about upon it; and around them always lies the blue and emerald circle
of the sea.

St. Martin’s men are great potters, and divide their time between this
work and farming. Piloting used to occupy them a great deal; and still
standing all along the shore, but fast falling into ruin, are the rows
of sheds where the pilot-boats were kept.

White Island, the most northerly of the Scillies and a wild, weird
spot, can be reached on foot from St. Martin’s at low tide. It
contains yet a third “Piper’s Hole,” better known as “Underland
Girt,” a dark and gloomy chasm, frequented by sea-birds.

There are three little rocks off the south coast of St. Martin’s,
which bear the sinister name of “The Three Damned Sinners.” One can
fancy that the name goes back to the time when superstition was rife
in the islands, and when it was thought that the spirits of the
shipwrecked who had done evil in this life would never rest; and the
shrieking and skirling of birds around these rocks would have been
attributed to the yelling of restless spirits, till the rocks
themselves came to be called after them.

I do not know why it is, but St. Martin’s seems to be less visited
than the other islands. It certainly is not less attractive, and those
who go there soon find that it has a charm of its own. Its inhabitants
are very proud of their island, and very willing to give a welcome to

There is at least one man on St. Martin’s who has never been to the
mainland, and to whom motor-cars and trains would be a great novelty.
For motor-cars are never seen in Scilly except in the form of
wreck-salvage! And trains are, of course, unknown. But perhaps he
would as resolutely refuse to be surprised as the sturdy Scillonian
who, on his first visit to England, would only say, “Everything is
very like Scilly, only bigger, and more of ’em.”

St. Helen’s Island lies off to the north-west of St. Martin’s; but St.
Helen has by rights neither part nor lot in this island which bears
her name. It appears to have been originally dedicated to St. Elidius,
who, as William of Worcester tells us, was buried in Scilly, and very
likely on this island.

In Leland’s time the name had been shortened to St. Lide’s, and the
sex of the Saint was already forgotten, for he speaks of “Saynct
Lides Isle, wher yn tymes past at _her_ sepulchre was gret

St. Elidius was Bishop of Llandaff in the sixth century, and during
the yellow plague he went to stay in Brittany with his friend St.
Sampson, the Bishop of Dol, to whom the neighbouring island of Samson
is dedicated. He was in his old age called Elios, “for that his
doctrine shone like the sun.” This name, St. Elios, appears to have
become, by different stages, St. Teilo, St. Dillo, and St. Dellan,
whence it easily passed into St. Helen.

Dr. Borlase mentions a church on St. Helen’s as the most ancient
Christian building in Scilly. He thus describes it as it stood in

“It consists of a South Isle, 31 feet 6 inches long, by 14 feet 3
inches wide, from which two arches, low and of uncouth style, open
into a North Isle, 12 feet wide by 19 feet 6 inches long. There are
two windows in each Isle; near the Eastern window in the North Isle
projects a flat stone, to support, I suppose, the image of the saint.”

Little but the foundations of the church can now be traced, which is
all the more to be regretted, since it probably dated back to the
eighth century, or earlier. Many of the stones were taken away early
in the last century, to build a garden wall for a naval officer
stationed in the island.

St. Helen’s Pool was appointed the quarantine station in 1756. The
Council of Scilly had appealed two years before that it might be made
so, in the stead of New Grimsby Sound, where the presence of infected
persons was a great source of danger to the inhabitants of Tresco and
Bryher. The Pesthouse on St. Helen’s, standing deep in bracken, is now
in a state of ruin, and it is hardly safe to enter on account of the
falling of slates through holes in the roof. It seems a gruesome sort
of place to have been used by picnic-parties, but in its better days,
we are told, they often boiled their kettles in the hospital ward!

Rats abound on St. Helen’s, as a foolish pair of honeymooners
discovered when they went to spend the night there a short time
ago. In the morning they found their basket of provisions had been
quite emptied by the rats, “and it’s a wonder the rats had not eaten
them up too,” said she who told the tale.


Not far from the Pest-house there is a deep well of water; and the
surface of the island is scattered thick with limpet-shells--two facts
which may seem to have little connection, but which I have reason to

We had come to St. Helen’s by sailing-boat, and I was preparing to
sketch Round Island from the northern shore when I found my
water-bottle was empty. This was a great damper, for the water in the
old well was much too far down to be reached without a rope. But we
happened to notice the limpet-shells. There had been a heavy shower in
the night, and every little shell was brimful of rain-water, so by
collecting a number of them and straining out the dead ants, my wants
were easily supplied.

We wondered whether modern scientists might not consider this
decoction of ants a likely cure for rheumatism, on account of the
formic acid it must have contained!

There are fine views of Round Island and Menavawr from St. Helen’s,
the best that can be had, unless one went quite close in a boat, and
this is only possible in very calm weather.

Menavawr, with its three jagged peaks, is one of the grandest of the
barren rocks, and towers up to a height of 140 feet, on one side
almost sheer from the sea. It is cleft with two channels, the wider of
which, like that which divides the Scilly Rock, can be navigated, with
great care, after a long spell of calm weather.

The name means simply “Great rock,” from the Celtic “men,” a rock, and
“vawr,” great; but it has been corrupted to “Man-o’-War,” from a
fancied resemblance to a ship in full sail, and this is the only
pronunciation one ever hears.

It is but a barren rock, but it is wondrously beautiful. It is seamed
and scored and weatherworn with thousands of lines and markings, and
touched with many tints of colour, which make it look in the sunshine
like a mighty precious stone with the light gleaming on its facets.

And round this opalescent jewel the sea-birds are ever whirling and
skirling, and flying in and out of its crannied sides; and round it,
too, the sea is ever dashing and foaming, as the waves chase each
other through the channels that divide it.

Round Island, less than a century ago, was described as “utterly
inaccessible,” and “truly appalling”; but now, with a turn of
Fortune’s wheel, its character is quite different. For more than
twenty years it has had a claim to be reckoned as one of the inhabited
islands, since two men are always living on its rocky summit. They are
the keepers of the lighthouse, which flashes forth its ruby light as
soon as darkness begins to fall.

Scarcely a blade of grass will grow on this barren rock; and it is
said that the few rabbits which exist there have learnt to gnaw bones
like a dog, on account of the scarcity of other food.

One hundred and sixty rough-hewn steps lead up to the top of the
island, but even with this artificial aid it is not an easy ascent.

Compared with the Bishop, this is a paradise to live upon; for the men
have plenty of room to walk about on the rock, instead of being always
confined in a slender tower, and the storms do not assail them with
such terrifying violence.



To-morrow we leave for the mainland, and how shall we spend this our
last day, precious as last things nearly always are?

It is a lovely day, with a clear, pure sky, and just enough breeze to
ruffle the sea into crisp little waves, and make it wear its
many-twinkling smile. Just the day for sailing in and out amongst the
islands for the last time; but not one upon which we may venture
beyond the roads; for round the outer rocks we can see the foam
surging high, and making broken white lines along the surface of the

So we will go sailing within the roadstead, and take a last look at
the islands from this sheltered inner side.

How sorry we are to take leave of them all! Of St. Mary’s, which with
every visit has come to feel more home-like, where nearly every face
we meet now seems to look familiar and friendly, and where the bustle
and stir of life seem in comparison so very great when we return to
it from one of the off-islands!

For there is always some small excitement going on at Hugh Town.

One day it is a French fisherman who has been seized by the “Argus,”
the little man-of-war that lies in wait for poachers. He has been
found fishing within the three-mile limit, and is punished, perhaps,
by a fine and the confiscation of his fish.

Another time it is the arrival of a vessel from Scandinavia, laden
with wood for flower-boxes. She is an antique Dutch scow, in shape
like a flatiron, and with a hold like the bottomless pit, out of which
are emptied two hundred tons of wood, all ready cut into tops and
bottoms and sides, and needing only to be nailed together. She comes
waddling in one Sunday morning long after she was expected, having
been delayed by bad weather; and there is a fine row with the captain,
who has left too much of his cargo at the Channel Islands en route,
and now wants to receive full pay in Scilly for a deficient supply.
But Scillonians know better! Or there is the arrival of the crew of a
steam-drifter, which has struck on Gorregan in a fog. The men, fifteen
in number, and natives of Brittany, got off in their small boat, and
when daylight dawned were rescued by St. Agnes islanders. They are
thoroughly enjoying themselves now that their painful experience is
over. Clothes were lent to them temporarily on St. Agnes, but now they
must be reclothed by the agents of the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society,
and it is amusing to see them being trotted round in a body to be
outfitted. There are not enough coats and waistcoats to go round, but
this does not matter at all. They revel in exhibiting their gorgeous
embroidered braces, and their feet, encased in bran-new leather boots,
probably for the first time in their lives.

These are just typical everyday happenings; but now and then there is
some big event, which stirs the islands to their depths.

So who could ever find the islands dull?

Who indeed could be dull, with such a sea on which to sail, with such
free and lonely downs on which to roam, and such a wealth of islands
to explore! Only those, I think, who pack their dullness in their
portmanteaus and carry it with them wherever they go.

And now we must say goodbye to it all. First we will sail to Tresco
and take leave of the few friends we have made there. One of them
gives us as a parting gift a bunch of Cynosures--“Shiny-shores,” _she_
calls them; and surely a more poetical name for this lovely golden
narcissus than the one it really bears--“dog’s tail,” if we carry it
back to its original meaning.

[Illustration: OFF TO ST. MARTIN’S]

To Bryher next, just to gather a few early buds of sea-pink from the
downs by Hell Bay, and to wave farewell to those we know who live in
Bryher Town.

It is as we are flying merrily along to St. Martin’s that I remember I
have made no sketch of this sailing-boat on which we have spent so
many happy hours. And yet she is a thing of beauty, and well deserves
recording. Perhaps even now it is not too late.

Did you ever try to make a sketch of a sailing-boat in full sail from
the very doubtful vantage-ground of the dinghy attached behind--with
the painter let out to its fullest extent to give you sufficient
distance? If you ever do anything so foolish (I admit it was foolish),
I would advise you to persuade all your weightiest friends to
accompany you; for so your cockleshell would gain a little in
steadiness, and dance a little less lightly on the waves. And then,
perhaps, your brush-strokes would not so often be made half an inch or
more from where you meant them to be! In my case the forepart of the
boat rose high out of the water, at intervals bobbing down with a
splash, and I had the opportunity of trying the effect of a mixture
of salt water with my paints.

I have heard a story of a lady who said, in describing a certain
painting made on the Mississippi, “I know it _must_ be like the place,
for the man who painted it had made his colours out of the earths from
the very river-banks he was painting.” On this principle sea-water
_must_ be the proper medium for painting the sea!

We must not stop long at St. Martin’s, for time is going fast, so we
will content ourselves with climbing to the top of Cruther’s Hill
above the pier, and letting our eyes, instead of our feet, roam over
the island once more.

And now to St. Agnes, which has a special corner in our hearts. So we
will sail all round it, for the wind has slightly dropped, and get a
glimpse of every part before we land in Perconger.

A flying visit to the lighthouse top, to look down once more on the
fields and gardens, rocks and headlands of the little isle; a scamper
over Wingletang Down, with the fresh sea-breeze in our faces; and a
last peep at the little lonely church by the shore. That is all there
is time for, if we wish to reach St. Mary’s before dark. And packing
still to be done!

As we sail homeward, looking back we can discern on the Gugh that
strange and fearful-looking rock, the Kittern, also called the Turk’s
Head; fearful-looking, I say, because its shape recalls to me so
strongly Watts’ dreadful Minotaur, crushing the life out of the
innocent, as he overlooks the sea.

How can I end on such a note as that! It is but a strange and idle
fancy that has come into my head; and there is nothing gloomy about
the islands to justify it.

Here is something which is much more typical of them, our boatman’s
two small--very small--sons, who have come down to the quay to “help”
anchor the boat. Their bright faces are full of light and life and
sparkle, like the islands bathed in noonday sunshine, and encircled
with “the innumerable laughter of the sea.”

They are true children of their island-home; their joyous freedom
finds an echo in the joyous freedom of the Life around them; in the
spirit of the wild sea-birds; in the leaping, restless, shimmering
waves; in the fresh sweet breezes that blow across the downs; and not
least in those dancing myriads of flowers, flowers, flowers; those
“hosts in the sunshine,” sent, as God’s messengers, “to set our hearts


    Saga of King Olaf Tryggwason, by Snorri Sturluson, 1222.

    Itinerary of William of Worcester, 1478.

    Itinerary of John Leland, written 1533-9; first published 1710.

    The Survey of Cornwall, by Richard Carew, 1602.

    Voyage of Duke Cosmo III of Tuscany, 1669.

    Memoirs of Lady Fanshawe, 1676.

    A Natural and Historical Account of the Islands of Scilly, by
      Robert Heath, 1750.

    Observations on the Ancient and Present State of the Islands
      of Scilly, by Dr. William Borlase, 1756.

    A Survey of the Ancient and Present State of the Scilly
      Islands, by the Rev. John Troutbeck, 1794.

    History of Cornwall, by the Rev. R. Polwhele, with Supplement
      by Whitaker, 1804.

    A View of the Present State of the Scilly Islands, by the Rev.
      George Woodley, 1822.

    A Week in the Isles of Scilly, by the Rev. I. W. North, 1850.

    Scilly and its Legends, by the Rev. H. J. Whitfeld, 1852.

    A Londoner’s Walk to the Land’s End, by Walter White, 1855.

    Sea-side Studies, by G. H. Lewes, 1857.

    Rambles in Western Cornwall, by J. C. Halliwell, 1861.

    Rambles beyond Railways, by Wilkie Collins, 1861.

    Cornwall and its Coasts, by Alphonse Esquiros, 1865.

    The Age of the Saints; a Monograph of Early Christianity in
      Cornwall, by W. Copeland Borlase, 1893.

    Book of the West, by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, 1899.

    Cassiterides and Ictis--where were they? by Thurstan Peter, 1909.

    Armorel of Lyonnesse, by Walter Besant.

    Major Vigoureux, by A. T. Quiller-Couch.


    Abbey of St. Nicholas, Tresco, 25, 140

    Abbey Pond, Tresco, 145

    Abbey Wood, 66

    Abbot of Tresco, 23

    Abbots of Tavistock, 26

    Accommodation for visitors, 16, 82, 83, 146

    Allet, John, and Isabella, 29

    Annet, Isle of, 72, 111, 116, 124

    “Ann Jigg,” 170

    Apple-trees, 66

    Armada, tradition of, 70

    _Armorel of Lyonnesse_ quoted, 157

    Armorel’s cottage, 157

    Arthur, Great and Little, 63, 169

    Arthur, King, 62

    Arums, 13

    Ashford, the name, 72

    Athelstan, King, 23

    Attractions, 11

    Aunt Charlotte, 154

    Ayscue, Sir George, defeated, 36

    Azure colour, presence of, 79

    Barrentine, Drew de, appointed Governor, 27

    Barrows, 74, 75

    Bastwick, Dr. John, a prisoner, 123

    Batteries, built on St. Mary’s, 33

    Battle of Flowers supplied, 56

    Beads, search for, 164

    Beady Pool, St. Agnes, 164

    Benedictines, 23, 25, 28, 29, 30, 32, 51, 140

    Besant, Sir Walter, quoted, 157

    Biddle, John, a prisoner, 123

    Bird Island, 111

    Birds, number of, 109

    Bishop Lighthouse, 20, 124, 167

    Bishop of Exeter, visit of, 94

    Bishop of Truro, 95

    Black auk, 115

    Blake, Admiral, defeat of, 36

    Blankminster, Ranulph de, holds the isles, 27

    Block-house, the, 147

    Boatmen, industry of, 14

    Bonsor, Mr. George, opens a barrow, 74

    Borlase, Dr., quoted, 67, 73, 87, 173

    Bovy Isle, 32

    Bowl, the, 65

    Bridges, 68

    Bronze Age, the remains of, 74

    Bryher, 61, 68, 94, 152

    Bulbs, 53, 59

    Bullock, a dead, a passenger, 156

    Butcher’s shop, the only, 84

    Buzza Hill, 80, 124

    Camperdizl Point, 163

    Campergurling, 163

    “Canteen,” the, 143

    Carn Near, 37, 143

    Carns of Kestillier, 163

    Cassiterides, 75

    Castle of Bryer, 38

    Castle Rocks, 127

    Caves, 150, 170

    Celts, 70, 80

    Chair of Prince Charles, 34

    Chapels, 95, 96, 121

    Character of the people, 87

    Charles’s Castle, 150

    Charles, Prince, a prisoner, 34

    Cherry-tree, 66

    Children, 90

    Christians, the first, in Scilly, 22

    Churches, 94, 141

    City of Lions, 62

    Civil War, effects of the, 34, 36, 141, 166

    Clapper Rocks, 74

    Coal schooner, wreck of, 145

    Cockroaches, 69

    Colepepper, Lord, 34

    “Colossus,” wreck of the, 38

    Colour of Scilly, 11

    Conger-eels, 85

    Cormorants, 110

    Corn, exportation forbidden, 40

    Cornish words, list of, 78

    Cornwall, Earl of, 26, 126, 127, 130

    Cosmo de Medici, Duke, quoted, 37, 66, 71, 120

    Coulter-neb, 111

    Council of Scilly, 35

    Crab-pots, 148, 166

    Crim Rocks, 160

    Cromwell’s Castle, 15, 37, 144, 150

    Crow Bar, 62

    Crow Sounds, 37

    Cruther’s Hill, 182

    Customs, ancient, 81

    Daffodils, 13, 60, 67, 88, 128, 138, 155

    Daisy Rock, 160

    Davers, a gentleman, 31

    Daymark, the, St. Martin’s, 170

    Defence of the Isles, 33

    Denominations, 92, 94, 95, 96

    Dick’s Cam, 137

    Distress in 1819, 46

    Dorrien-Smith, Mr. T. A., 50

    Dracæna, 66

    Draper, an itinerant, 155

    Drew de Berrentine, 27

    Druid trysting-stone, 132

    Education in Scilly, 80

    Edward the Confessor, 25

    Edward I, grants of, 26, 28

    Edward III, 29

    Eggs, orange-flavoured, 49

    Ekins, Thomas, 170

    Elizabeth, Queen, grants a lease, 33

    Ellis, the name, 72

    Ennor Castle, 27, 125, 127

    Entertainments, lack of, 16

    Excursions, 15

    Exeter, Bishop of, 93

    Fairies, 80

    Fanshawe, Lady, quoted, 34

    Felons, treatment of, 29

    Fisheries, 14, 46

    Flower fields, 13

    Flower harvest, 12, 13, 53, 57

    Flower houses, 59

    Flower industry, beginnings of, 14, 49

    “Flower of Kings,” 63

    Flower picking and tying, 55

    Fogs, 107, 166

    Folk-lore, 80

    French poachers, 31, 179

    Fruit trees, 66

    Fuchsias, 67

    Garrison, the, 122

    Garrison Hill, 54, 122

    Geraniums, 67

    German vessels, visits of, 49

    Giant’s Castle, 136

    Giants’ Graves, 73

    Giant’s Punch-bowl, 64

    Godolphins, the, 33, 37, 47, 170

    Goldsmith quoted, 115

    Goose-dancing, 81

    Gorregan, 179

    Gorse, 12, 125, 138, 170

    Grandison, Bishop, 93

    Granite, 64

    Granville, Sir John, made Governor, 36

    Grimsby, New, 145, 146, 147, 174

    Grimsby, Old, 147

    Gugh, the, 74, 137, 183

    Guillemots, 115

    Guinea-moneys, 151

    Gulls, 31, 109

    Hand-mills, 72, 162

    Hangman’s Island, 150

    Hanjague, 169

    Heath, Lieut., quoted, 18, 41, 86, 90, 120, 123, 160

    Hell Bay, 153

    Hellingy Downs, 72

    Hellweathers, 160

    Henry I, grant of, 26

    Henry III, 27

    Henry VIII, 20

    Hermit, a story of, 23

    Herring-gulls, 109

    History of Scilly, 22

    Holy Vale, 28, 129

    Horse-mackerel, 85

    Hotels, 143

    Hugh, the, 33, 38

    Hugh Town, 96, 117, 118, 125

    Human remains found, 72

    Iberians, 69

    Industries, 14, 42

    Inisschawe, 32

    Inn, the New, Tresco, 143

    “Insect,” a dying, 21

    Instantius, Bishop, 22

    Islands, number of, 11, 30, 61

    Isle of Elder, 32

    Itinerary of Leland quoted, 30

    Jenkins, the name, 72

    Kelping, 42

    Kindliness of Scillonians, 87

    King, Mr. C. J., discovery of, 114

    Kistavens, 74

    Kitchen-middens, 72

    Kittern, the, 183

    Language, 71

    Leeds, Duke of, gives up lease, 47

    Legge, the name, 72

    Leisureliness, 88

    Leland, John, quoted, 29, 30, 70, 128, 150, 165, 166, 170

    Le Poer, William, 28

    Lethegus Ledge, 108

    Lethowsow, 64

    Lewes, G. H., quoted, 83

    Licences not required, 86

    Lifeboat, 161

    Lighthouses, 20, 124, 161, 167, 168, 170, 177, 182

    Lighting of Hugh Town, 121

    Lilies, growth of, 14

    Limpets, 175

    Ling, 85

    “Loaded Camel,” the, 137

    Losses, 60

    Lyonnesse, legend of, 12

    “Lyonnesse,” the, 19, 20

    Mackerel fishery, 15

    Maiden Bower, 152

    “Major Vigoureux ” quoted from, 42

    Marguerites, 67

    Mary, Queen, news of her death, 87

    Maximus, Emperor, his treatment of Christians, 22

    May Queen, the, crowning of, 82

    Meat, scarcity of, 84

    Menavawr, 175, 176

    Mesembryanthemum edule, 143

    Midsummer Eve, 81

    Military establishment, 38

    Mincarlo, 115

    “Minnehaha,” wreck of the, 99, 153

    Monk’s Cowl Rock, 133, 134

    Mordred, 62

    Mumford, Mr. Richard, 52, 131

    Nag’s Head, 65

    Names of islanders, 71

    Nance, a pilot, introduces kelp, 36

    Narcissi, 13, 148, 155

    Naval base, Scilly as a, 23, 38

    Neatness, 91

    Nikla Thies, 81

    Northmen in Scilly, 23

    Norwithel, 36, 149

    Olaf Tryggwason, saga of, 23

    Oldest inhabitant, the, 14

    Old Town, 125, 126

    Old Town Castle, 126

    Old Wreck Ledge, 160

    Ornatus narcissus, 13

    Outer Islands, 152

    Oyster-catcher, 116

    Parade, the, Hugh Town, 119

    Park, the, Hugh Town, 120

    Parliamentary forces, the, 36

    Parsonage, the, Tresco, 41

    Passage to Scilly, 15, 17

    Pelistry Bay, 137

    Pellew’s Redoubt, 138

    Pendeen Lighthouse, 168

    Pender, the name, 72

    Peninnis 64, 133, 134

    Pennis Lighthouse, 134, 162, 168

    Penzance, 17, 58, 159

    Perconger, 163

    Pericles Bay, 165

    Pernagie, 170

    Pest-house, St. Helen’s, 174

    “Peter the boy,” 158

    Philpotts, Bishop, visit of, 94

    Pilot Hicks, story of, 105

    Pilot, story of a, 85

    Piloting, 40, 48, 171

    Piper’s Hole, 149, 150, 172

    Pirates, 33, 36

    Place-names, list of, 78

    Ponds, 68

    Porth Cressa, 124, 133

    Porth Hellick, 54, 135

    Porth Mellin, 128

    Portus Ecclesiæ, 165

    Potatoes, exportation of, 46, 163

    Potting, 14, 171

    Prehistoric remains, 72

    Prices of flowers, 58

    Prigis Bay, 165

    Prisoners in Star Castle, 123

    Privations of islanders, 162

    Prosperity of islanders, 39

    Proverbs, 81

    Provisions, 146

    “Prudence and Jane,” the, 19

    Publius Crassus, 76

    Puffins, 27, 31, 111

    Puffins as rent, 27

    Pulpit Rock, 64, 133, 134

    Quay, St. Mary’s, 117

    Querns, 162

    Quiller-Couch, Sir Arthur, quoted, 42

    Rabbits, 26, 31

    Rat Island, 31, 32

    Rats, 69, 174

    Reginald, Earl of Cornwall, 26, 126, 127, 130

    Religious toleration, 92

    Richard III, inquisition by, 29

    Rivers, absence of, 68

    “Road,” the, 48

    Rocky Hill, 131

    Romans in Scilly, 22, 76

    Rose-bush of Sister Mary, 131

    Rose, Great and Little, 160

    Round Island, 124, 168, 171, 175, 176

    Saga of King Olaf, 23

    Sailing-boats, 18, 181

    Sailors, imprisoned, 135

    St. Agnes, 30, 54, 61, 64, 70, 72, 85, 90, 96, 134, 159

    St. Agnes Church, 165

    St. Agnes Lighthouse, 134

    St. Elidius, 26, 173

    St. Elios, 173

    St. Helen’s Isle, 62, 124, 173

    St. Helen’s Pool, 174

    St. Lide’s, 173

    St. Martin’s, 54, 62, 85, 96, 124, 147, 169

    St. Martin’s Head, 61, 170

    St. Martin’s men, 70

    St. Mary’s, 30, 61, 64, 96, 117, 133, 178

    St. Mary’s Church, 94

    St. Mary’s Pier, 73, 117

    St. Mary’s Pool, 15, 109, 119, 123

    St. Nicholas Isle, 32

    St. Sampson, 26, 173

    St. Teon, 26

    St. Warna, 165

    St. Warna Bay, 164

    St. Warna’s Well, 160, 165

    Sallakee Downs, 136

    Samson, 61, 74, 103, 156

    Saynct Lide’s Isle, 31, 173

    Scads, 85

    Scandinavians, 70

    Scenery, character of, 12

    “Schiller,” wreck of the, 99

    Scilly, origin of the name, 77

    Scilly Rock, 153, 176

    Scilly Whites, 51, 52, 53

    Sea-birds, 109

    Sea-crow, 110

    Sea-pie, 116

    Sea-sickness, 17

    Sea-swallows, 115

    Seal Rock, 152

    Seals, 162

    Serpents, absence of, 69

    Seven Stones, 62

    Seymour, Lord Admiral, 32

    Shags, 110

    Shearwaters, 114

    Shells, 72, 151

    Shelters, planting of, advised, 67

    Shipbuilding, 47, 48

    Shipman Head, 153

    Shovel, Sir Cloudesley, drowning of, 99, 135

    Sister Mary’s bush, 131

    Skirt Point, 151

    “Sleep’s Abode,” 134

    Smith, Mr. A., becomes Governor, 47, 50, 140

    Smith, Mr. T. A. Dorrien-, the present Governor, 50

    Smuggling, 40, 41

    Snorri Sturluson, story of, 25

    Soleil d’ors, 53

    Spaniards, 31, 70

    Spurgeon’s sermons, 95

    Star Castle, 33, 68, 122

    “Steamer-morning,” 54

    “Stella Mariæ,” 122

    Stoker, the story of a, 20

    Storm-petrel, 116

    Sugar Loaf, 170

    “Sulleh,” 77

    Sulpicius Severus, 22

    Sunsets, 138

    Sunshine, floods of, 13

    Tavestoke Abbey, 30, 32

    Tavistock, monks of, 29

    Tean, 124

    Tearing Ledge, 160

    Terns, 115

    “Thomas W. Lawson,” wreck of the, 105

    “Three Damned Sinners,” 172

    Tiberianus, Bishop, 22

    Tin, presence of, 75

    Toleration, religious, 92

    Toll’s Island, 137

    Tolman Head, 126

    Tooth Rock, 64, 133

    Tovey, Abraham, master-gunner, 122

    Tree-mallow, the, 147

    Trees, scarcity of, 66

    Tresco, 29, 61, 85, 95, 112, 124, 180

    Tresco Abbey, 25, 28

    Tresco Gardens, 15, 142

    Trevellick, Mr. W., 52, 131

    Trevilian, story of, 64

    Trippers, 15

    Troutbeck, Rev. J., quoted, 18, 41, 68, 69, 94

    Turk’s Head, 183

    Uncle Sampy, 155

    Underland Girt, 172

    Upper Moors, the, 137

    Van Tromp, Admiral, tries to gain Scilly, 36

    “Vasty deep,” the, 12

    Vegetation, 182

    Visitors, 14, 15, 16, 49

    Voyage to Scilly, 17

    Watermill Bay, 138

    Wells, 68

    Wesley, John, visit of, 96

    White Island, 171

    Whitfeld, Rev. H. J., quoted, 131

    Whitington, gentleman, 31

    Wich, Richard de, gift of, 26

    William IV, 47

    William of Worcester, 112

    Wingletang Down, 163

    Wolf Lighthouse, 108

    Woodley, Rev. G., quoted, 19, 45, 91, 95

    Wrasse, 73

    Wrecks, right to, 26

    Wrecks, 26, 97, 145, 153, 161


       *       *       *       *       *



“This is an acceptable volume, in which the author succeeds both as
artist--in her pleasing and careful water-colours--and in her
entertaining account of the scenery, the industries, and the people.”


“This is a charming book about a very charming place. The Scillies are
not by any means so well known to the people of the mainland as they
deserve to be. But the authoress has given us an informing
introduction to their manifold attractions, their scenic beauty, their
old-world simplicity and social quaintness, the romantic associations
of their history and the picturesque character of their staple
industry of flower-growing. The twenty-five water-colours scattered
throughout the pages are not only dainty in execution, but are
admirably illustrative of the letterpress.”


“Miss Mothersole has been captivated by the islands, their story and
their people; and she has succeeded in conveying a distinct impression
of this charm to the pages of her book, including those pages which
contain the twenty-five reproductions in colour of her water-colours
of land, sea, and ‘flowerscapes.’”


“Those of our readers who are looking for a suitable book as a present
for a friend could not do better than purchase this handsome volume.”


“A delightfully chatty volume, introducing us to a land that to the
great majority is a veritable _terra incognita_. The pictures,
reproduced in colour, are the work of a genuine artist who sees nature
in all her beauty. The letterpress is full of interest, and the
conversational, almost colloquial, style makes the book delightful


“The pictures are charmingly done, and inspire a desire to make the
Scillies the scene of the next summer holiday.”


“To most people it seems a far cry to the Scilly Isles, and it is
therefore all the more desirable that some competent person should try
and realize for us the atmosphere, colour, and outstanding features of
such a story-haunted nook. This has been adequately done by Jessie
Mothersole, who with pen and pencil has produced a charming account of
this sea-worn district.”


“With the colour of the Scilly Islands Miss Mothersole has been really
successful; she has reproduced much of that warmth and richness and
harmony of hue which cling in the memories of everyone who knows these
coasts. The water, the sky, the flowers, the cottages, lend themselves
to the colourist, and Miss Mothersole has made some most attractive

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