The Chester Courant and Advertiser for North Wales 10th October 1906
INVASION OF ABERDOVEY.
PARKGATE FISHERMEN’S ADVENTURES
The comparative failure of the mussel fishery in the Dee estuary this season has caused much disappointment among the local fishermen on the Cheshire side, and has led them to look further afield than usual for the delicious bi- valves for which the manufacturing centres so readily barter their gold and silver. Longing glances have been cast across at the Principality, in whose snug, tide-swept coves and harbours there lay, so it was believed, shelly treasures untold. All along the much-indented Welsh coast, it was whispered, vast skeins of mussels were anxiously waiting their divorce from the rocky ledges to which they so affectionately clung, and only the plunge of the long rake was needed to bring about this desirable consummation. The more enterprising of the bread-winners in the old packet station, after many an informal exchange of views, at last decided upon a plan of action, and this was nothing less than a sudden descent upon Aberdovey by eight fishermen with boats, long mussel rakes, and every other implement necessary for a successful invasion of the land of promise. Having made good their footing, they would no doubt quickly be followed by others, until the temporary depopulation of Parkgate would be an accomplished fact. The now famous eight were William Fewtrell, Thomas Robinson, Jonathan Mellor, senr., John Robinson. Lemuel Mellor, Jonathan Mellor, junr. Joseph Mellor and John Robinson. Jonathan Mellor, junr., was accompanied by his wife. The eight men and one woman set sail from Parkgate for Liverpool, en route for Abordovey, in four punts, early on Thursday week, and returned home again on Thursday evening this week, after a series of adventure’s that have furnished good copy for the daily journals and have cost them their punts for the present at least, The four boats, in fact, shattered and bruised, rest on the Common at Aberdovey, fully half-a-mile from the shore, where they act as a monument of the brief visit of the Parkgate men and of the hospitality of the highly civilised community that took them from their anchorage and dragged them thither over the rough country roads. Thos. Robinson, W. Fewtrell and Lemuel Mellor (Parkgate) were seen by our correspondent immediately on their return, and gave an interesting account of what had transpired after they left Neston. They set off from Parkgate, as stated, about 5 a.m. on Thursday, and arrived in Liverpool 3.30 to 4 p.m. The “Dora,” a steamer that runs to Aberdovey once a week, was lying in the Clarence Dock, and leaving their punts in readiness for the boat, the party returned to Parkgate until Friday, when they returned to the Clarence Dock, and about 9 a.m. they and their belongings, including the four punts, mussel lakes, anchors and some nets, embarked on the steamer. Aberdovey was reached about 5.30 a.m. on Sunday, and about 9 a-m- they took lodgings together at a Temperance House kept by a widow named Morris. About 3 to 4 o’clock the captain of the steamer came to the Temperance House and asked the Parkgate men to take off the punts. On reaching the jetty where the steamer lay they proceeded to take off the boats and to anchor them with an anchor fore and aft. This operation was watched by a large crowd of men. women and children, who shewed their hostility by jeering and laughing at any little mishap while the boats were being taken off the steamer and moored. The Parkgate men afterwards returned to their lodgings and went to bed, and about one o’clock on the following morning they took to thier boats in the moonlight and set off in search of the mussels, of whose whereabouts they were up to now quite ignorant. They found them without difficulty a few yards away, and state that both the mussel-beds and the mussels themselves were some of the finest they ever came across.
“A GOLD MINE”
one of them enthusiastically described them. When they returned to the jetty at 5 o’clock they found that their few hours’ work had yielded them 35 bags of fine mussels, measuring from 2 to 3 inches and even 4 inches. At 11.30 they set out again. the harvest on the second occasion being 28 bags, or a total of 63 bags on the two tides. They returned to their lodgings for dinner without molestation, but about 8 p.m. the land- lady came to them in a very excited and alarmed state to say that there was a great scuffling and tumult in the street, mingled with cheers. About the same time two respectable townsmen waited upon them, and advised them not to leave the premises if they valued their lives. About 2 a.m. the following morning they set off to their boats with the object of returning to the mussel beds, but neither boats nor rakes were to be soon, and after a fruitless search extending over several miles they returned to bed. About 9 o’clock they set out to seek the boats again, and met P.C. Jones, who told them that the
BOATS WERE ON THE COMMON.
and on proceeding to the latter place they found the missing punts in a badly damaged condition, owing to the rough manner in which they had been dragged over the roads, while the contents were missing. There was missing from Robinson’s boat 14 fathoms of rope, the anchor, two rakes of 241b. each, two staffs and two row- locks. The articles missing from the other boats were very similar. On returning to the beach they found two rake shafts sawn off and lying at the high-water mark. Constable Jones, in reply to questions, said that he witnessed the boats being dragged off and damaged, but as he was alone, he was powerless to interfere. He had, however, taken a number of names, and had reported the matter to headquarters. On Wednesday the two townsmen already referred to waited upon the Parkgate men with an offer to collect sufficient subscriptions to take them home, if they would consent to leave. They replied that they were willing to work. They had their wives and families to consider, and simply wished to work without molestation. The two afterwards left, and shortly after came back with a collection amounting to £2. 10s. This was afterwards increased to £3 and finally the Parkgate men signed a statement to the effect that they would return home on receipt of £3 for the railway journey, on condition that the boats were delivered carriage paid to Parkgate Station, and that the five gaffs should be replaced. The Parkgate men, however, made no agreement as to proceedings for damages, and they are about to take legal advice on the matter. It is stated that the Aberdovey fishermen are engaged in many other ways, and that their custom is not to commence to gather the mussels until November. While there is some excuse for their irritation at seeing the Parkgate men swoop down upon their mussel-beds as if they had fallen from the clouds, there is none for the manner in which they despoiled their rivals of the implements of their trade and their sole means of providing for their wives and families. No such treatment has been meted out to the Welshmen and others who have from time to time despoiled the Cheshire mussel-beds, and the Parkgate people are very indignant at the inhospitable and brutal spirit shewn to their own fishermen. The rakes used by the Aberdovey fishermen were only about a fourth of the weight of the huge rakes used by the Parkgate men. The iron portion of the Parkgate rakes weigh about 241b. each, and carry the gigantic handle down with them to the mussels, whereas the Aberdovey rake heads are so light that they have to be pressed down to the beds. On the whole the Welshmen should benefit by the invasion, for the Parkgate men have shewn them many “wrinkles.” The former seemed to be astonished at the energy the visitors put into their work, while the latter were amused at the-easy- going ways of the “Taffys.” The contrast evidently struck one of the proprietors of a large business place, who remarked, to the Parkgato men, “You ought to stop, for they are too lazy to get the mussels.” The behaviour of the Cheshire men throughout the whole of the trying circumstances appears to have been admirable. The expense of bringing the boats back to Parkgate will be considerable, as each of the four boats will require a truck to itself.