TOM BAWCOCK’S EVE FESTIVAL 2023 TAKES PLACE ON SATURDAY 23 DECEMBER 2023 IN MOUSEHOLE. THIS MAY BE THE MOST CHERISHED CORNISH FEAST DAY OF THEM ALL THAT CELEBRATES TRADITION, BRAVERY AND CORNISH CUISINE
What are you doing on Saturday 23 December 2023? We know what we’re doing. We’re heading to the quaint harbourside village of Mousehole (pronounced ‘Mowzel’ please), just a few miles down the coast from Penzance, for the 2023 Tom Bawcock’s Eve Festival. Why? Because it’s a cracking night out that celebrates Cornish culture, cuisine and bravery. That’s why.
Tom Bawcock’s Eve is an annual event, always in Mousehole and always on 23 December. It acts as a memorial to a legendary village resident who showed tremendous courage and willpower to help feed his neighbours. Tom Bawcock braved a hellish storm, on his own, in his boat to bring in a massive haul of fish that helped lift a deadly famine from the village. Had he not have ventured out in those powerful waves then his neighbours may have died from hunger. His courage in the face of death saved the lives of others.
And so this festival celebrates Bawcock’s legendary actions that took place probably in the 16th century. It also celebrates Cornwall’s unique cuisine as the stargazey pie takes centre stage in the festivities. This frankly legendary pie, which is a mix of fish, potatoes and egg with an army of iconic fish heads protruding up from the pastry, is said to have originated as a way to mark Bawcock’s selfless act. Some say his whole monster catch on that day went into a pie and thus the stargazey was born.
Of course, Tom Bawcock may not have been real. He probably wasn’t, in fact, as it has been suggested by scholars that ‘Bawcock’ is simply an archaic name for anyone who acts as a ‘good sport’. He probably represents all those Cornish fishermen who have braved savage storms to bring food in for their customers and neighbours. But that doesn’t matter to us or to the residents of Mousehole. The fact is that since the 1950s, Tom Bawcock Eve has been a permanent fixture on 23 December in the village.
Expect a handmade lantern procession at Tom Bawcock 2023 in Mousehole. Expect some fun and festivities going on across the village too. Hopefully, there’ll be a local Tom Bawcock impersonator, some carol singing on the beach and hopefully the harbour lights will be turned off so everyone is able to see the lantern parade and other illuminations clearly.
And of course there will be plenty of stargazey pie. Your best bet for that is to head to the Ship Inn on South Cliff which traditionally cooks up a massive pie to share with all-comers as long as all-comers donate cash to the RNLI. Which brings it all full circle, really, as this celebration may be about Christmas, Cornwall, cracking pie and history but really, when all is said and done, Tom Bawcock Eve 2023 is about honouring all those souls who risk death on the high seas just to help others. Amen to that.