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VI - Tales of Ardevora I - Prisoners of War in France

During the conflicts with Napoleonic France, a large number of British fishermen and naval personnel were interned as prisoners of war as were private citizens who were unlucky enough to have been in France when war was declared. A number of the fishermen were from St. Ives of whom two cousins, John Tregethern Short and Thomas Williams were imprisoned for ten years. Regular, enforced, movements meant they both endured a march totalling over 1200 miles. Both kept diaries, detailing daily events, descriptions of the towns and villages in which they were imprisoned and their attempts to escape, which they completed when they finally managed their return in 1814 following Napoleon’s abdication.

Almost exactly a century later a Cornish shipping magnate, Sir Edward Hain, followed their journey at a time when the continent was on the verge of what became known as “The Great War”. Hain published his description of his travels following the route taken by Short and Williams together with their diaries.

Q used their experiences in a brief story called A Tale of Ardevora (his name for St. Ives from the Cornish ar devra, ‘Upon the haven’). Although his description of their troubles in France was fairly accurate he was, I believe, unfair in his description of the two men but it is worth reading as it is yet another example of his fiction being informed by real but now largely forgotten events.

This volume, the first of two containing Q’s tales of St. Ives begins with Q’s tale and is followed by a report of Sir Edward Hain's travels and the diaries of John Tregethern Short and Thomas Williams together with notes describing the places visited, characters and events.

Both diaries are beautifully written and Mr. Short continued his diary until his death and an edited and shortened version is also included in this volume. In the original volume there were, understandably, some apparent spelling and typographical errors, many of which I have corrected.

Some events recorded in the diaries such as the arrival of fishing boats, details of the installation of gas lighting in St. Ives, records of fish catches etc; which although of interest detract from the main events but the diaries are fascinating. For example, although St. Ives is now famous as a lovely holiday destination and for the 20th century’s ‘St. Ives School’ of painters, Mr. Short details contemporaneous accounts of fascinating events including,

  • Electoral fraud and bribery of voters as well as constituency changes due to the 1832 Reform Act;
  • Refugees from the Portuguese civil war;
  • The defrocking of the Anglican curate of St. Ives for what now appears a trivial reason;
  • The visit and preaching by a native North American Methodist preacher;
  • Public support for the treatment of Caroline of Brunswick by King George IV;
  • Industrial, mining, developments;
  • Terrible storms and gales and resulting shipwrecks;
  • Pen portraits of some rather, ‘eccentric’ characters such as John Knill.

Series I                      Series II                     

I         The Arrest of Captain Bligh

II        The Roll Call of the Reef

III       The Last Siege in England

IV       Tales of The Looe Die-Hards I - The Short Stories

V        Tales of The Looe Die-Hards II - The Mayor of Troy

VI       Tales of Ardevora I - Prisoners of War in France

VII      Tales of Ardevora II - Smugglers and Elections

VIII     Tales of Ardevora III - Ia

IX       Christmas Tales

X        Highwaymen