Mother Ivey


Mother Ivey was a white witch living at the back of Trevose Head, the other side of the headland to Harlyn Bay. A vocal member of the community, Ivey tried to sort out any trails or misunderstandings as best she could. She used her charms and spells for righting harm and wrongs and was very seldom angry. One man who lived in Harlyn tried Mother Ivey’s kindness. Bad idea to try a witch, even a white one.


In those days Harlyn's  wealth was in silver, the silver of pichards caught and salted and sent to Italy for Catholic folk to eat on fish Fridays and in Lent. The silver lined the cellars of the fish merchant, but when the fish went to Italy it didn't fill the bellies of the Cornish fishermens' families.


The fish merchant lived at a house called The Fish Cellars, still there at Harlyn Bay today, and he had a very successful business selling pilchards. His house had a motto carved into the granite lintel over the door, it said, ‘Profit smells sweet’. In contrast to the success and profit made at the fish cellars, the villagers were starving.


One week, a ship carrying a large cargo of pilchards was returned from Italy unsold. Every villager came to see the ship in, hopeful their bellies would soon be filled. The Fish Merchant took the fish off the ship and up the hill to his farm. Mother Ivey pleaded with him to allow the villagers to eat the fish as it was still good enough to eat even though it could not be sold.


Instead, the fish were ploughed into a field as fertilizer. Mother Ivey was very angry, the people she spent her years helping were in desperate need of the food that had just been denied them. She went to the Fish Cellars and cursed the merchant's field:


"Break the soil, Death will follow,”


and it did. The next year, the merchant ploughed the field and planted corn. A few weeks later his eldest son was out riding his horse, when he fell off and was killed. Profit smelled sour. No one has taken a spade or a plough to the field since, for fear of what may happen. The field lays fallow to this day.


 But Mother Ivey's kindness lives on as well as her curse, kindness in the hearts of the lifeboat men stationed at Mother Ivey's bay, willing to risk their lives to save their fellow men from the silvery sea.


retold by Anna Chorlton and Sue Field

Source - Jenny in the Office, Padstow School

  • Padstow