Monday, 6 September 2010


In the second chapter of ‘Redcliff’ young Joe Parable, wanting to find out about the life of the village to which he has come, pops into ‘The Cat and Canary’ for a quick pint. A local fisherman, James Blaker, tells him about his work.

“As for fishing,” he said, “there’s all sorts and some be good fun – like seining for salmon in the estuary – and some be infernal hard work, like going to sea in bad weather. We fish with hooks and lines, with drift nets and with trawls according to what we’re after. Drift nets be for herring and sprat only and trawl nets for the bottom. We catch dabs and plaice and ray and brill and soles in them – ground fish. Mackerel, which we’re after now, we catch with hook and line on a bobbin pale. Then, when we’re after salmon in the tidal waters, our net is a heavier mesh and stronger than herring net. That’s the fishing I like, though it’s harder work than just sailing with your lines running astern.”

‘Redcliff’ is Eden Phillpotts' name for Lympstone and the above is an example of his writing at its most journalistic. In the year 1922 he literally did wander around the village with a notebook and pencil and put people into his books.

But what was a 'bobbin pale'?


  1. But what was a 'bobbin pale'?

    It might well be dialect for "bobbing pole". The method for catching mackerel described in James C Wilcocks' 1868 The sea-fisherman (see page 131 onward) fits both location and description: hooks and lines trailed behind the boat from poles called "bobbers".

  2. You're spot on, I'm sure. Stephen Reynolds writes of "the fisherman who singlehanded can sail his boat and manage five mackerel lines at once - one on the thwart to lew'ard and one to windward; a bobber on the mizzen halyard and two bobbers on poles projecting from the boat."(APMH Chapter 6.) Don't think 'bobbin pale' is dialect though. It's just Eden, would be my guess, mishearing 'bobbin' pole' and getting it down wrongly!

  3. ...or it may be 'pale' for 'pole' is just a typographical error!

  4. PS Small world: yesterday Clare (Mrs Girvan) went to see a production of Eden Philpotts' The Farmer's Wife at the New Theatre. She said it was very good: Douglas Mounce (in drag) and Tony Beard in the lead roles.