Tucked away in West Cornwall, the pretty fishing village of Mousehole is famous for many things. From the picturesque harbour that looks like a painting in the summer months to the Christmas lights that turn the scene into a Christmas card in December, Mousehole is worth a trip at any time of year.
There is, however, one night a year that warrants a special visit as the whole village gathers to celebrate one of Cornwall’s most famous and beloved stories, Tom Bawcock’s Eve.
History of Tom Bawcock’s Eve
First written about in 1927, Tom Bawcock’s Eve commemorates one man’s heroic efforts to save Mousehole’s villagers from starvation by braving a winter storm after bad weather had kept the fishing fleet in for weeks.
Not wanting the children to go hungry at Christmas, he risked the wild and dangerous seas, determined not to come back without a catch. After realising his boat was missing, everyone lit candles and lanterns in their windows to guide him home to safety, and when he triumphantly returned with a haul of seven different types of fish, a stargazey pie was baked in celebration.
Honouring the anniversary of this brave tale, Mousehole holds Tom Bawcock’s Eve on the 23rd of December every year, with all the local pubs joining in the celebrations.
What is stargazey pie?
Stargazey pie, or starry gazey pie, is a traditional Cornish delicacy that’s become synonymous with Mousehole and the story of Tom Bawcock. The pie features a classic fish pie filling of fish, potatoes, and hard-boiled eggs, with the rather iconic topping of pie crust peppered with protruding fish heads, usually pilchards. The fish heads are decorative, so if you’re a fan of fish pie, this celebratory dish should be right up your alley. Best enjoyed with a pint of Cornish ale and the festive Mousehole harbour as your backdrop!
What happens during Tom Bawcock’s Eve?
Part re-enactment, part living heritage, it’s one of the highlights of the Cornish festive season, with its message of generosity and bravery shining bright like a lantern in the window.
Coloured festoon lights line the approach to Mousehole, with the iconic Christmas lights adding a variety of images to the scene, from stargazey pies to a cat that harks back to the beloved children’s book The Mousehole Cat (an enchanting tale you can either read or catch live every Christmas in Mousehole).
A handmade lantern procession adds even more colour to the festivities, while a local resident dresses up as Tom Bawcock as the Ship Inn dishes out stargazey pie to hungry patrons, bringing this story in full circle. Carol singers can often be found on the harbour beach throughout the evening too, offering plenty of opportunities to get into the spirit of the evening.
Travelling to Tom Bawcock’s Eve
With people coming from far and wide to celebrate Tom Bawcock’s Eve in Mousehole, the small village can get busy, especially the car parks. Arrive nice and early to nab yourself a space, or there is a lovely, wheel-friendly path from Marazion, through Penzance and Newlyn, all the way through to Mousehole, offering a beautiful coastal walk into the village.
Tom Bawcock’s Eve is such a magical evening that totally encapsulates the Cornish spirit, so whether you love Christmas lights, raucous singing, or fish pie and a pint, make sure to add this fun-filled affair to your diary.
View all our beautiful holiday cottages in Mousehole for an extra special stay, or take a look at our Mousehole webcam for a sneak peek at the famous Christmas decorations that light up the harbour throughout December.