My Art School
by Max Barrett
memories are of the harbour, beaches, woods, fishermen from Belgium and
lugworms fetched a fair price from the fishermen who frequented the two
pier heads. The “spidge” (non-ferrous metals) fetched the best price
of all. This was to be gleaned from the “luggy” where they unloade d
the barges that brought the scrap from the Warspite that was being
broken up near the Mount. I used to collect brass and copper nuts and
bolts, load them on my buggy, and sell them to one of the scrap dealers.
There used to be dozens of dealers about in those days with names like “Fagin”,
“Snowy” and “Smuts”, they were great characters. I think if they`d
had some education they would have been top businessmen. But perhaps then
they would have lost their joy of life. Most of their “deals” were
done in the pubs. They always smelled of beer and “roll-up” baccy, and
mostly wore oil stained doubled breasted blue serge suits. If you had a
deal with them, they always showed you their wad of dirty ten bob and
pound notes. Great characters, with plenty of time “Marco” took a load
of iron to the Albert pier scrap yard. He had a pony and cart. When he
tried to back the chart so that he could turn, the whole “shebang”
fell into the harbour. Luckily there was only three feet of water in at
the time, and Marco was pissed up had to go into the harbour and lead the
pony up the slip. Fagin reckoned the pony was so hungry that he saw a loaf
of bread in the water and dived in after it.
was Fagin who got me the pram wheels for my buggy. We had a deal. I made
my buggy myself, it was my most prized possession. I had to use a red hot
poker to make the hole in the front as I had no drill.
coal boats unloaded coal into big lorries at the inner harbour. If you
tried to pick up the spilled coal from the docks, the dockers would give
you a “wiz” and send you off with a sore ear.
was a sharp corner near the harbour and the road cambered the wrong way.
When the overloaded lorries edged their way around the corner, sometimes
some coal would spill onto the road, there would be a big scramble of
women and kids to pick it up. It used to take a long time to fill my buggy.
So I went around the corner out of sight. The lorries would come groaning
up the incline slower than walking pace. It was here I would dart forward,
throw a house brick under the back wheel. The lorry would lurch and I`d
have enough coal to fill my buggy in no time.
also loved to go to Newlyn fish market when the trawlers were landing.
one memorable occasion, I went into the marked and saw this huge Skate
amongst the fish waiting to be gutted. I had my fishing line with me with
a conger hook. I unobtrusively slipped my hook into the monster and
casually skated out through the double doors. Once outside I Hauled in the
line and ran like hell with half the fish dragging on the road behind me.
I could hear the men laughing as I went.
I didn`t look on it as stealing. It came to me as naturally as it did to the gulls. I think in those days people only took what they needed, be it fish, a few broccoli or rabbits.