St. Germans May Tree Fair- is almost here


This weekend coming is the annual excuse to get out into the sunshine with our books, set up the pop-up bookstore, enjoy the music, enjoy the local beer, enjoy the food, and enjoy some traditional Cornish silliness.  It’s the Maytree Fair at St.Germans, time to get the oak leaves ready. It is also an excuse to put the South Caradon Series of posts to one side, and have a look at the traditions surrounding this Cornish event.

May Tree fare procession at St. Germans

Traditions old and new

A long history hides behind this weekend of fun at the East Cornwall Village of St.Germans. It is one of those fascinating mixtures of Traditions historic and modern that peppers the Cornish calendar. So in true blog-post form, here is two lists, one of the old, and one of the new.

Traditions OldMayTreeLeaves

  • The Fair was held at the foot of a large walnut tree
  • Cattle from all over Cornwall was sold at its base each 28th of May
  • A basket swing was hung from its branches after the cattle sale for children to play on
  • On the 28th of May a mock Mayor, after much drinking, was paraded through the village on a hay wain or cart
  • Oak leaves were worn by everyone in the village
  • Anyone not wearing an oak leaf was dunked in the horse trough

Unfortunately the but tree no longer stands, nor do cattle chew cud beneath its branches, but some of the Traditions are still live on in modified form, and some new ones are growing.

May Tree Banner 2018, at the 'Rec'

Traditions New

  • A mock Mayor is still elected
  • The village is decorated with leaves
  • May Tree Dancing, tug of war and other festivities gather the parade together
  • Oak leaves are worn by villagers in the parade
  • The tree is represented by a re-creation that is paraded through the village to end up at the back of the pub
  • The Mayor is paraded from the The ‘Rec’ to the pub, with pause to visit the Priory Church. Musicians accompany the parade playing The May Tree Fair Tune
  • The parade has a Cornish Myth or tale theme
  • Stalls, food, and games are set up at the back of the Eliot Arms (That’s where our Bookstore will be)
  • A music stage is built for live music
  • Water pistols have replaced the trough

But, since it’s restoration the fair has adapted, the fair has changed, the fair’s traditions have changed, and no doubt so this year and next year will evolve again.

Click here to visit the May Tree Facebook Page>


And this year’s theme is-

Dando and his Dogs

After mermaids, giants, and fish, it is time that St.Germans own character to make an appearance, Dando the monk. Dando was not a a pious Monk to be celebrated by the religious, Dando was not a pillar of virtue to follow as a role model, and Dando did not meet an end suitable for any Saint.

His tale is a one of warning against that perils of sin and loose words. It is his tale that is the theme of this year’s fair and it his effigy, along with his dogs  will  lead the parade.

I will tell more of this tale in a later post, so follow along if you are tempted to know more.

The Pop Up BookstoreBook cover of the Mermaid of Seaton

Navsbooks and Kidz Kernow pop up bookstore will be at the fair this year, and will feature the following sections to explore:

New Books

  • Cheryl Manley’s Children’s Books
  • John Manley’s Cornish Industrial History Books
  • A selection of Trevithick Society Publications

Second Hand Books

  • Maritime
  • Railways
  • Travel

Our Books on Amazon

If you cannot make the fair, and your local independent bookshop do not stock ourWebb and Geach Book Cover books, then here are their Amazon Pages.

Cheryl Manley’s Books

John Manley’s Books



The Man engine returns to Cornwall

The Man Engine drinks

Cornish Mining Heritage inspiring the future

A brief pause in the South Caradon Mine posts; but a pause that is justified, and a pause that is relevant. 

Last weekend I had the chance of sharing the experience of seeing Will Colman’s amazing Man Engine puppet resurrect itself  above a soggy field at the Cornwall Show ground. It was an experience I shared with thousands of other hardy onlookers, one of which was my young grandson. It was an experience he would never forget, and that was surely the aim of all the event.

A reflection on the show

This showmanship, with its mixture of awe, Cornish humor,  facts, and a hint of fear The Man Engine Resurrection Tourforged a link in his memory with the now, and the past. A link that maybe would inspire him to explore the past, and the landscape around him.

Far more importantly though, the razzmatazz on that rain sodden field would give him, and all the other children in the field an alternative view of the future.

Cornwall was in the past was a place of invention, engineering and  industry. Great engineers and engineering came from the land west of the Tamar.  And today, the mineral wealth beneath the feet of the crowds watching the man engine is calling investors, calling skills, calling speculators. Drilling rigs are working across Cornwall, The Man Engine and St.Piran's flagand pumps are about to start removing the water that fill long silent levels and shafts.

So perhaps, just perhaps, some of those younger members of the crowd in that wet field will grow up with more options to find work in their home country than their parents. And perhaps, the man engine would have played a part in inspiring some of them to become engineers- this country needs its engineers back.

The real man engine and William West

William West (The Last Great Cornish Engineer) played an important role in the W50development of the original man engine.  One of my earlier posts in this blog tells that story.

South Caradon Mine was the site of one of his engines, I have some pictures of the site on the page on Jope’s Shaft.

My next post in this series will explore the location of the other shaft associated with a man engine, Kitto’s shaft.



The Last Great Cornish Engineer

To learn more about William West of Tredenham, the inventor of the man engine, have a read of The Last Great Cornish Engineer– a paperback published by the Trevithick Society.

Click here to find a copy on Amazon>

Or ask at your local independent bookstore.

The President Steam Engine- an index of posts so far

screenshot_2017-06-13-12-11-12_kindlephoto-18516640.jpgA Cornish Engine in the USA

“The only two non-William West lattice beams I know of is the Harleem Meer Engines in the Netherlands and the President Engine in the USA. The former was influenced by his Austen’s engine, and the latter designed by his nephew, John West”  From a talk given to the Friends of Luxuylan  Valley

This was my sole knowledge of the President Engine before I started this short series of posts; some throw away lines that I soon discovered greatly undersold this very important piece of Industrial heritage.  Before this blog moves on to new topics, I will gather together the posts in an index. 

The President Engine

The President Engine was claimed to be the largest stationary engine in the world, and is

The engine house in 2017

the it is the only remaining Cornish Engine house still standing in the USA. It was built by John West from Cornwall, forming an important example of how the Cornish engine concept being developed to meet the needs of North American mining industry.

This is an engine that deserves more recognition; a site that forms not only an important part of the USA’s industrial heritage, but also that of Cornwall’s rich engineering history.

The President Engine posts

Related Posts

External links


PresidentPostcardDuring the writing of these posts I discovered that there was a large amount of activity underway in the USA to preserve the President Engine house. I will update this blog with progress of that work, and hopefully will sometime in the future have the pleasure of hosting a post starting with the title “Reasons to visit the President engine house”. Meanwhile, if any readers know of websites or publications relating to the engine please drop me a message and I will gladly pass on the information here.

And finally, many thanks to  Mark Connar for providing much of the information within these recent posts. Good luck over there across the pond in preserving this wonderful piece of mining heritage.


To learn more about John West’s famous Uncle

Here are two publications on William West of Tredenham, the last Great Cornish Engineer; one a paperback, one a Kindle publication.

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Happy St. Piran’s one and all

A brief pause in the preps for the fast approaching talk to wish all this blog’s followers a Happy St. Piran’s, wherever you are.

As St. P’s flag is flown all over Cornwall today, so is poking around beneath its surface underway. Perhaps this time mining may return to the home of hard rock mining, perhaps this time a real industry may be re-born. And maybe, just maybe, real hope of work for the next generation.  We should not be just a land for property developers, empty holiday homes and boarded up seasonal cafes.

Not sure how long that flag will last on An Scaff in this wind though! 

Click for the Cornish History Kindle Book Shelf

A new Cornish Children’s book – The Legend of Tamara


A quick detour away from the word  of serious history, to the magic of Cornwall.

Here’s a book with a Cornish-Devon ( or should it be Cornish English theme) from Cheryl Manley. It tells the magical story of how the Rivers Tamar, Taw and Tavy came to be. A traditional tale told in a wonderful way that young children will love.

A Kindle version is on its way.

Click here for more information about the book  on Cheryl’s blog>


Webb and Geach explored- The miscellaneous mines

A wander through the ‘History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District’


That is the final post covering the mines within the miscellaneous section of Webb and Geach’s book  completed. So before this blog leaves the topic for some William West related topics here is an index of the posts.

These posts explores some of the smaller mines described within Webb and Geach’s  book of the Liskeard mining district in east Cornwall. This 1863 publication is currently available in paperback from the Trevthick Society, ISBN 978 0904040 88 3.wpid-wp-1441052784407.png

Each of the posts explores the mine sites through maps available on the internet, so by following the links a virtual exploration of the locations can be undertaken. The mines covered are all listed in the section titled ‘Miscellaneous’ within the book ( pages 98-102). In describing these mines Webb and Geach state-

“Several lodes in various parts of this district have been formerly worked, mostly for tin, but are now abandoned, many of them for long periods.”

Predictably, many of this mines have little or no evidence on maps, even by the 1880’s little remained on the Ordnance Survey maps. Tantalising traces do remain however, of some of these unsuccessful attempts to mine in the area around Caradon Hill.

Brwestcraddockmoorsymonsenton Symons’ map of 1863 contains evidence of many of these mines, and a copy of that amazing Victorian Cartography forms part of ‘The Liskeard Mining District in 1863‘ publication.

Its been great fun exploring these little known Cornish mines through the screen of my Kindle Fire. But William West of Tredenham, The Last Great Cornish Engineer is again requiring some fresh research. So this blog will be leaving Webb and Geach for a while, but will return in the future to look at some of the more successful mines of the Liskeard District.