Wednesday, 25 November 2009


The razor shell is a curious fish. It lives vertically, buried in the sand, and the sea brings it its food, tide by tide. Dawlish Warren is a great place for the shells of razor shells. Whether the fish are there I have not yet discovered.

John Cremer Bellamy was a young doctor in Plymouth, he died when he was only 29, who took an interest in the fisheries of Devon and Cornwall and who wrote a book, published in 1843, the year after the year of his death, entitled "The Housekeeper's Guide to the Fish Market for each month of the year; and an account of the fishes and fisheries of Devon and Cornwall, in respect of commerce, economy, natural history, and statistics." The little book with the big title is full of good things but nothing better than the account of how to catch a hack. "Hack" is the name John Bellamy gives to the razor shell.

Here is John Bellamy's account:

"Hacks or Razor fish can only be secured at low water of spring tides; the fisher provides himself with a pocket full of salt and an iron rod about two feet long with a barb at one end; finding a hole where a Hack is lodged, he drops in some salt, on which the creature, a few inches below, thrusts forth its body (in all likelihood from pain) and, as it advances upwards, he drives the spear perpendicularly through it and then, with a slight turn of the instrument, to effect a hitch in the creature's flesh, he drags it out of its habitation."

Happy hunting!

Tomorrow: a pretty poem about catching a hack.

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