St Finnian

While he is celebrated as one of the founders of Irish Catholicism, and while he was born in Ulster, St Finian actually owes more to Wales, where he was educated by St David. He does not seem to have been a very placid man, getting into a quarrel with St Columna over a copy of St Jerome’s Psalter which Columba eventually had to surrender.

st finian

The problem is that there are two St Finnians of which Cluain Erairdat /Clonard is the primary! The second one, whose feast is on 10th September and who comes from county Donegal,  seems to have been educated partly in Rome and brought back a copy of the Vulgate with him to Ireland. He set up a school, Druim Fionn, on a sacred pagan site in Movilla at Maigh Bhile.

Where there two St Finnia? Really? Well, maybe not! There are simply many legends. Two many for one individual. Unless he be a shape-shifter and of great age, which was exactly the type of man St Finnian Two met on his travels around Ireland.

In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora

tuan MacCairill

Ovid introduced the idea of metamorphosis and, of course, Disney does it best in the alcoholic dream of Dumbo, with all those pink elephants, but metamorphosis was also alive and well in Celtic Ireland! Túan Mac Cairill is one of the first men ever to come to Ireland. He is one of the early heroes ranking with Cu Chulainn and Fionn Mac Cumhaill.

irish heroes

Túan Mac Cairill’s family and tribe die from various plagues and yet he survives. At various times over the next two thousand years, consumed with loneliness, he changes into a deer called Nemed, a wild boar and later a hawk and a salmon until he is eventually caught and eaten by the wife of Cairell, the king of Ulster; over time, he sees new groups invade and settle in Ireland. Finally, he is reborn as a baby again, the son of Cairell (a result of her eating the fish!) as a human and meets Finnian to tell him his story from start to finish.

He says: “Then I was fleeing from refuge to refuge and from cliff to cliff, protecting myself from wolves. Ireland was empty for thirty-two years. Age came upon me at last, and I could no longer travel. I was in cliffs and in wildernesses, and I had caves of my own.

“The son of Agnoman landed, my father’s brother. I used to see them from the cliffs, and hid from them: I was shaggy, clawed, wrinkled, naked, wretched, sorrowful. I was asleep one night. I saw that I went into the shape of a wild stag. I was there thereafter: I was young, and in good spirits, and the lord of a herd, and I made a circuit of Ireland with a great herd of stags around me.”

In the end, he meets St Patrick and converts to Christianity. Arthur Rackham illustrated the moment below that Túan Mac Cairill turns into a hawk: Echoes of the great Ursula Le Guin!





Importance of History

I attended an exhibition day on Wednesday at my old school, Ratcliffe College, and I was able to publicly thank the outgoing headmaster Gareth Lloyd for the spectacular turnaround in the School’s fortunes over the 7 years he has held the post. I will post some of my talk at a later date but the key point in all the speeches throughout the day made by the Headmaster, Fr President, the Chairman of the Governors and coincidentally by me too, was the importance of kindness. That is something that has been conspicuously absent in the referendum debate and the subsequent and chaotic fallout as politicians have scrambled over one another to sabotage the future.

ratcliffe cloisters

The occasion at Ratcliffe was, of course, dominated by talk of Brexit and quite alot of discussion about UKIP and my role in the UKIP story. (I think some people had rather cleverly checked me out on the internet) I was fairly honest in my response: while there are many good people attracted to UKIP and while its leader remains one of the few great orators in the country, it is, nevertheless, controlled by a balding militant thuggery snatched from the BNP and NF. This may have been a party ruled by bullies and twits, but it also attracted spectacular and honourable people like Douglas Carswell and Councillor Sean Connors. I count Sean as a good friend and a very honourable man. I also have time for Mark Reckless, now a member of the Welsh assembly. Credit where credit is due.farage ukipper flat

I joined UKIP with the intention of playing a leading role in the way it developed, or identifying and exposing the racism that everyone told me was there. In fact, I was offered both opportunities at about the same time. I chose to expose the racism.

The rise in racist and extremist abuse since the Referendum means that there are many who believe the racism in UKIP is endorsed by the “Leave” result. It is not, and there are many people in UKIP, who would be appalled by the suggestion that they have anything to do with, or would ever condone racism. More than that, there is extremism on both sides: my point is that it feels it has been sanctioned, and that is a message that needs to be addressed and condemned.

RobertBlay threats

As a Conservative, I find the libertarian aims of UKIP fairly laudable, but this is mixed with long-standing and often ill-considered ravings about the EU that in the end informed and dictated the tone of the recent referendum as well as giving structure to Conservative euro-scepticism, whether Farage was part of the official Leave campaign or not. I was in some difficulty throughout the campaign because I believed and continue to believe that, while the EU is seriously damaged, the European project, nevertheless, and because of our shared history, remains a fundamentally sound one. I felt that the Remain campaign was emphasising the wrong things (fear and greed), appealing to the wrong people (experts) and singing to a songsheet promoted by Farage. In the few debates I attended, the “remain” pitch was made by people peddling weak claims about something that had long since been dismissed as folly. In contrast some brilliant people, particularly our local MP Chris Heaton Harris, made a reasoned and impassioned case for “Leave”. And Chris was fairly unique in specifically saying he would not play the immigration card. If Chris had dictated the terms of the debate, I would have been a “Be-Leaver”. Indeed, at Chris’s encouragement, I contributed animated adverts at no cost specifically to draw attention to the appalling treatment by Europe of our fishing industry, something we must address whether we are “in” or “out”.


I was also appalled and have spoken and written about the abuse of Greece by Germany in particular (Greece had a referendum and Europe made it have another when the result was judged to be “wrong”). Our debate about Sovereignty was made clearer by seeing the sovereignty of Greece ripped away.

But it was Farage’s silence over racism and his indulgence of the powerful thugs in his party that convinced me this campaign would head in the wrong direction and that we might threaten or might leave Europe for the wrong reasons sending a very confused message. This has proven to be the case. The overall debate was controlled by Farage, and while Boris fought hard to wrestle the mantle from his shoulders, he must have found it tough to swallow the nonsense about Turkey’s accession and the £350 million that now Farage says he never endorsed (It was, nevertheless, in the literature I was given a year ago by UKIP). Believe me, I would have done the same thing – Boris had no choice and to his credit, I think, and in the end, Boris made the Leave campaign his own. More than that, he managed personally to avoid any hint of racism and indeed, as far as he was able, temper the debate.

I feared that whoever brought down a man as powerful as Farage was unfortunately doomed. And my fears have been fulfilled. Boris is a brave and noble man. He has taken one for the team.

BECAUSE there could have been nothing worse than giving Farage a place at the negotiating table or rewarding him with a role in government. Knight him and let him leave!

Farage demonstrated to me last year very clearly that he is a man wholly without honour and that those who follow his lead, also abandon honour and integrity. When one of his elected cronies made a foul and public racist comment against a sitting politician, Farage dismissed it as a joke.


More than that, when I took a stand to support Humza Yousaf, the Scottish minister for Europe, my family was attacked by a sinister local UKIP councillor who thought that a smear and a distortion of facts was an effective and proper response to my resignation. He offered no apology, and nor did his master, Farage.


Both promised to write to me after the election and neither did. Both promised to resign and neither did. Both said exactly what they thought the public wanted to hear at the time and then they did their own thing. This is demagogy and not democracy.



People do not always read the lessons of history. For example, both Napoleon and Hitler turned to the Plebiscite, today’s “referendum” to justify their actions. It may be a tool for democracy but it is also a weapon of tyranny. Today, the web is filled with cries of “foul”, and whimpers from people who felt they voted the wrong way, and now regret their vote, or claim that 63% of the youth vote simply did not bother to vote. Some people blame Jeremy Corbyn and others blame the Glastonbury festival for that!


A blueprint for tomorrow

But the Leave vote has happened and we should be looking forward to finding solutions that reflect the reality – ensuring at the same time that Scotland, Ireland and Gibraltar are fully anchored to the UK, and also keep their place in Europe. There is even a case for London to retain its place as the financial hub of the EU while at the same time, pulling back the tide of EU bureaucracy from the shires. The EU is either a supra-national entity or it is dependent on the Nation-state. I think this is an opportunity to show the way the EU can work around Nationality and work with rather than against National and regional sovereignty. It should not be a case of choosing the EU over our nation but of accommodating both if necessary and at various levels of association. This is also a blueprint for establishing fully devolved and fully accountable local parliaments. I wrote a few days ago about the absurdity of pitching Nationalism against Federalism. Actually, with some flexibility and some grace, we can embrace the best of both.


Our contribution to the EU

There are points to be made in favour of Europe and we may have to visit these over the negotiations. We need to look at ways to effect reconciliation rather than to drive a hard-bargain and we need to emphasise our overall contribution to the European project rather than posture as Farage has done and claim that European ministers have never had proper jobs. At the top of the list of contributions we have made to Europe is the Charter of human rights, the very thing that irritated so many people in my own party. The draft for this was written by a man called Maxwell Fyfe who became the Conservative Home secretary in Churchill’s peace-time cabinet. This was seen as the bedrock of a new EU-wide set of values, and it became our own in time. It was a British vision that anticipated the repeal of hanging, the institution of equality laws and the eradication of torture. This is a cornerstone to the modern Europe and I have successfully taken a case through the ECHR and helped to redefine the way the law is interpreted both internationally and nationally. I have a personal stake in this Charter.

Our role in History

More than that, I believe we have consistently gone to the aid of Europe in crisis, and to that end, fought two wars in Europe. Today, the Greek sovereignty issue is demonstration enough of the depth of crisis in Europe. Immigrants come and go and the immigration issue is actually a passing problem while the sovereignty issue drives to the heart of current EU abuse. It is not a time to be turning our back on Brussels but a time to engage fully with what happens across the channel and ensure that a long term-view, and that fairness, common-sense and goodwill are paramount. When Lord Fyfe wrote the charter, we were not a member of the EU. That clearly did not prevent us from playing a decisive role in the way the EU was established and the values it promoted.

Our Future

Whatever our legal relationship with the EU project, I think we should be determined to  play a pivotal role in securing the values we hold dear. It is in Europe’s interest and in ours to see that Europe works properly. It is not working properly now and nor are we. We can both do better and we need to work together.

Do not fear!

welbyI need to choose words very carefully here- I am stepping over (or into!) the shoes of the current Archbishop of Canterbury. I am certainly challenging what he said. Justin Welby preached “fear” and that, to me is a red line that should never be crossed. Gone are the days when the pulpit offered such entertainment. Today we can cast our minds back to “Hammer Horror” if we want a thrill, or we can look to the diet of films that have played out in the few years since the millenium. Here are a selection of such films for a man evidently hooked on “fear” like the current Primate of Canterbury- “The others” (2001), and Mulholland Drive (2001), “the Ring”(2002), “Orphan”(2009),  “the descent” (2005), “Bug” (2006), “Let the right one in” (2008) and its sequel “Let me in” (2010). We do not need fear-mongers in the pulpit and certainly not those who advocate principles that fly in the face of their own vocation. At a time when the TV is filled with the xenophobic rants of Trump, I believe Justin Welby makes a bad problem worse. In short, as the senior cleric in the UK and leader or guardian of our moral health, he had no right to sanction our fear of migrants.

Wesley’s rather than Welby’s “fear”

But, to be fair to Welby, “fear” is a confused word in the mouths of English Churchmen. “Work out your salvation”, says Paul in the King James Version, “with Fear and trembling”. It seems to me, for instance, that there is certainly room for this kind of “fear” in the next few months because we shall be making a collective decision at the Referendum that will determine the way this country works and to do that casually would be folly. We should be mindful and in the language of John Wesley, therefore, that might mean we should be “fearful”; in other words, we should be respectful and careful. My own name calls out the same message- “Timothy” comes from two greek words meaning literally to “fear God”, but the sense of this name is to be “respectful”, not to be cowering in terror or worried about whether God might steal my job.

Calling for fear in this debate is tantamount to a licence for racism or at least xenophobia and that must be wrong in the mouth of an Archbishop.

The Fear stuff comes in an interview published in “House” magazine where Welby concedes there is , in his words, “a colossal crisis” because of migration into Europe. That is perfectly reasonable. He then says that people who express fear about this migration are not racist -“There is a tendency to say ‘those people are racist’, which is just outrageous, absolutely outrageous.” He went on and added ” and the UK should be “taking its fair share of the load”. (well, thank God he concedes that much!)

“Fear is a valid emotion at a time of such colossal crisis.

“This is one of the greatest movements of people in human history. Just enormous. And to be anxious about that is very reasonable.” (*TW: note how he’s already back-tracking. anxiety rather than fear, so he knows he said the wrong thing!)

However, it seems to me that fear is not a valid emotion in this context (though I admit there are instances where migrants have behaved badly) and in a country where there is actually a good deal of wealth, we should be better placed to manage people’s insecurities and at the same time, offer significantly more hope to those who have turned to us with outstretched arms, looking for a better life or looking for any sort of life at all!

These words, of course, play well in the hands of the BREXIT group- as Ian Duncan Smith intoned-

“These are rational comments from the archbishop – they’re to be welcomed – but you wonder just how late they’ve come from various people in institutions, so I congratulate him. If you think back, for far too many years what’s happened is that in a sense the elites have all said ‘It’s terrible to talk about immigration and if you do you’re racist’, so they’ve shut down the debate for many, many years.”

But we should not be engaged in this debate and certainly it should not have been started or been licenced by the Archbishop. Welby’s job is to preach the Gospel, and he would do well to heed the message in Matthew 25:36- to provide for the needy, the poor, to visit prisoners, the sick and the dying. He might also look at Gen 23:4, Ex 2.22, Lev 25:23, 1 Chron 29:15,Ps 39:12, 119:19,  Hebrews 11:13 and reflect on the fact that we might all migrants and all in need of shelter. There, but for the grace of God…

The Greek example:

I also refer the Archbishop to the example of the villages on Lesbos, Kos, Chios, Samos, Rhodes and Leros who have good reason to fear for their security in an economoc crisis frankly imposed on them by Northern European bullies. These islanders have routinely shown migrants pouring on to their shores the hospitality and shelter that Welby ignores.There may be fear- but it is Welby’s job to preach an answer to fear, and that answer is kindness.

The islanders in Greece deserve a nobel prize in the same way that Welby deserves to be stripped of his office (or at least suspended for the duration of the Referendum). This is what Spyros Limneos said,

“By opening their hearts the islanders sent a powerful message that humanity is above races, above nations.”

Humza Yousaf, up in Scotland, has the right idea, of course! Certainly he’s ready to debate the idea without all this “fear” nonsense. But really, he is not alone. We may talk about the many things we must thank the waves of migrants for over the years- from fine tailoring to fish and chips but we must still also be ready as a Nation to help those who need help now, and- as for economic migrants: well, many of those we need too- they are the ones with the vision and maybe the skills to kickstart our economy. Fear-mongers are just plain wrong!


Oh, and unless it looks like I advocate a migrant “free for all”, not at all. Our responsibility is to be ready without fear to welcome these strangers but the response to our kindness and hospitality is also responsibility and people who come here have their own responsibility to learn our language, promote our values and engage in our society.

Migration is not part of the Referendum

I understand many of the arguments put forward by BREXIT as also by the “staying in” camp, but there are enough valid issues to be discussed without touching on that of migration: economics, fishing, farming, political independence and so on. Moreoever, the migration issue was surely done to death last year by the nasty brigade that lurks within UKIP (Believe me, there are some very good and noble UKIPpers who, like me, think the migration issue should be off-limits). Migration is a separate deal that will be solved by finding a Syrian peace, and by working in harmony with our neighbours to deal with the flow of migrants: the migration issue will continue whether we are “in” or “out” of the EU and the Archbishop gives a very cheap and simplistic lead in what he says today. What he also says is categorically against the spirit not only of Christianity which he represents, but of Judaism and Islam. It is wholly wrong. Leave it to others to preach fear if he must. BUT If he intends to stay in office, or indeed leave office with any honour, this garrulous priest needs to shut his mouth for the rest of the summer.


Boris lightened the tone today by referencing Welby’s comments and saying that after the referendum, we may need prayer. We certainly need unity and we need to work on that now. the referendum may well energise our democracy but we must be careful that it does not fracture our society as indeed the Scottish referendum threatened to do. We need to engage in this debate without fear, and look at both sides so we can reach a decision that leads us to make a reliable and informed vote in the summer. It is the role of the churches and faiths to bind us together during this process: we will remain a single Nation and British whether we are “in” or “out”. I would like to see us become a better Nation for this debate.

to the Queen

queen1There is a great moment in the play “A Man for All Seasons” by Robert Bolt when Thomas More is finally brought to trial for treason and faces Sir Richard Rich (played in the film by John Hurt), the man who has perjured himself and More asks, “Is it probable that after so long a silence on this the very point so urgently sought of me, I should open my mind to such a man as that?” As Richard prepares to leave the chamber, More looks at his new chain of office- “the red dragon?.. Why Richard it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world, but for Wales?”

This exchange is very much in my mind as I read about the alleged indiscretion about EU by Her Majesty the Queen. Quite apart from the fact that private conversations are by custom never made public, the question lingers- why would a monarch who has spent 63 years carefully avoiding political controversy open her heart to the people at lunch that day on 8th April 2011? I simply find it unbelievable. The Queen is above party politics and this story should not have been splashed over the front page of The Sun. But as it was, it is worth looking in a bit more detail to see that is actually alleged to have been said-

In 2011, the Queen is supposed to have told Nick Clegg that she believed the EU was going in the “wrong direction”. She was apparently very forceful in the presentation of her views. This was when the Euro was in full-blown crisis, with a deeply dodgy Italian Prime Minister clinging on to office despite a gathering sex scandal, and just before the first IMF bailout to Greece. The lunch took place on 8th April so a quick trawl through the internet shows that on 7th, Portugal joined Greece in requesting financial help. So, (a) Her Majesty’s alleged views well-precede any serious discussion on a Brexit, and are long before the PM called a Referendum and (b) are little more than a statement of fact. I cannot imagine anyone with sanity believes that EU has been infallible or foolpoof and indeed, most people would agree with the Queen, even today, whether they advocate an “in” or “out” option in the Referendum. If she said anything at all, then some serious “spin” has been added to the telling.

However, both Lord Mcnally and Nick Clegg deny that any such views were expressed at all at the Lunch. Nick Clegg said on TV this morning, ‘It is not true. I have certainly, absolutely no recollection of a conversation like that, which I suspect I would have remembered if it had taken place. I just think it’s wrong that people who want to take us out of the European Union to now try and drag the Queen for their own purposes into this European referendum debate.’

However, there can be no doubt at all that the EU has followed “the wrong direction” and requires (radical) reform, so that simple statement, whether made by the Queen or not, neither supports a BREXIT nor a “stay in” vote. It is simply common sense. I hope enough noise is now made about the referendum that, whatever the result, the EU tidies up its act significantly. There should never have been reason to campaign for the fishermen in Cornwall, but their livelihood is in danger as indeed is the whole British Fishing industry. The way Europe has treated Greece is deplorable and its handling of the Syrian refugee crisis has been tardy, sanctimonious and foolhardy. There are times when urgent action is demanded and instead, the EU has observed a number of serious crises, from the banking crisis to the humanitarian crisis that is Syria and, frankly, fiddled. “The wrong direction?” Most certainly!

But to draw from this comment in 2011 the conclusion that the Queen favours BREXIT in 2016 is absurd and cheap. A number of people today are being exposed as the possible source of this Palace leak- and how petty, weak and insignificant they appear – dragging the Monarch into a debate she never entered and scoring a cheap home-goal.

Among those who deserve a smack is the otherwise admirable Rees Mogg: He was reported in the original Sun report as saying “I’d be delighted if this was true and Her Majesty is a Brexiter.” He later tweeted “The Queen will be mortified to have been manipulated thus. It does Brexit enormous discredit.”So, let’s hope Mr Rees Mogg was also been mis-quoted by the people in the Sun. It wouldn’t be the first time.


Apparently, beyond Mr Clegg and another Liberal, Lord McNally (both champions of the “In” campaign anyway), there are two likely candidates for leaking the alleged comments- they are, firstly as forerunner and chief suspect, Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary and a prominent “outer” who says he had “no idea” where the claims came from and whose department underlined his innocence  this morning with the statement that, ‘We don’t comment on private conversations with the Queen.’ Secondly, the Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillian, who, so far, has issued no denials – what should we conclude?

“Why Cheryl, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world, but for Wales?”


PS: here is a link to a Breitbart article. This organisation is very pro-UKIP so I think more reliable than most to stress the Queen’s pro-EU thoughts. It claims her speech was written for her, so does not express her views… but I think it restores balance and frankly is in tune with the Queen’s approach to what matters- unity and kindness. Whatever our views on the referendum, we must now look beyond that to ensure that unity in our country is fully restored as soon as any decision is made.

“Since 1945 the United Kingdom has determined to number among Germany’s very strongest friends in Europe. In the intervening decades, Britain and Germany have achieved so much by working together. I have every confidence that we will continue to do so in the years ahead.

“Our work together includes every part of life, from politics to commerce, from industry to every aspect of the arts, in particular, music, museums and education.

“In our lives we have seen the worst but also the best of our continent. We have witnessed how quickly things can change for the better. But we know that we must work hard to maintain the benefits of the post-war world. We know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it in the West as well as in the East of our continent. That remains a common endeavour.”

“Since 1945 the United Kingdom has determined to number among Germany’s very strongest friends in Europe. In the intervening decades, Britain and Germany have achieved so much by working together. I have every confidence that we will continue to do so in the years ahead.

“Our work together includes every part of life, from politics to commerce, from industry to every aspect of the arts, in particular, music, museums and education.

“In our lives we have seen the worst but also the best of our continent. We have witnessed how quickly things can change for the better. But we know that we must work hard to maintain the benefits of the post-war world. We know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it in the West as well as in the East of our continent. That remains a common endeavour.”

More on Fishing

Current UK Fishing Industry Issues

by Deborah Cowley (illustrations by TIM)

Richard Ede

After speaking with fishermen, skippers, officials and DEFRA it is clear that the industry is hanging by a thread. The ever changing ‘out of touch’ quotas that favour the highest bidder has led to a genuine apathy and depression among the fishermen. It used to be rage but many have now given up the will to fight a system where they are but small fishes in a big EU regulated pond. One of the industries highest officials told me he goes to Brussels regularly and feels so frustrated with the red tape he encounters each time. So far, he’s the only one I’ve found who still has any energy left for an industry he cares deeply about, being from a 5th generation fishing background. But yet the men are still out there, with their humiliating quotas, trying to keep tradition and their birth rights alive. As the younger generation are being urged by their parents to pursue other careers, eventually there won’t be any UK fishermen left with the knowledge past down from their ancestry. By leaving the EU and gaining back control of our land and our seas the fishermen stand a chance. But we need to begin supporting them now, before it is too late, and this wonderful tradition is lost forever.



Fishing problems in Cornwall and why Captain COD’s campaign is so important

Screen shot 2015-10-13 at 22.08.40

Deborah Cowley writes the following,


Cornish fishermen have hit local and national press twice in the last few weeks. Blue fin tuna, worth millions of pounds, spotted off the Cornish coast and a Newlyn Trawler, forced to throw back its accidental 10 tonne haul of spurdog shark because of EU legislation. This is good news for our fishermen in one sense, as it highlights the frustration they face on a daily basis, forced to comply with an impractical ‘tangled net’ of restrictions, currently imposed on the UK.

  • An unrealistic quota system resulting in vast quantities of a discarded natural resource
  • Friction between the UK and other member states due to large fleets of foreign super-trawlers with access to our waters under the CFP (Common Fisheries Policy)
  • Subsidies that benefit countries with a higher volume of modernised commercial vessels at a disadvantage to UK fishermen and the taxpayer by default
  • Expensive licenses, operating costs and fluctuating market prices, leading to low income, job losses and a steady decline of traditional small scale British fleets
  • Questionable scientific research relating to zero TAC (Total Allowable Catch) applied to species such as spurdog, abundant in Cornish, as well as other UK waters, according to the fishermen

paul and deborah

Paul Trebilcock, Chief Executive of CFPO (The Cornish Fish Producers’s Organisation), is especially concerned with zero TAC’s on spurdog, introduced by the EU in 2010 because of stock status fears.


A discard ban, in force since January 2015, now obliges fishermen to land by-catches of saleable fish in excess of quota to help preserve and maintain a viable economy. As regulation allows quotas to be sold, leased and exchanged between fishermen, this is a welcome step in the right direction for the industry. Past preservation measures and successful resting mean many stocks are now flourishing. The new EU parliamentary rule is to take effect in stages from now until 2019. This ruling, however, does not apply to species with zero TAC’s, including those considered to be endangered, such as spurdog. Paul said “This is a waste of a perfectly good food resource clearly not in line with CFP principles.” He added: “There is no question in my mind that spurdog populations are increasing throughout Western Approaches and beyond.” Together with scientific agency CEFAS and DEFRA (Department for Food & Rural Affairs), Paul and his team are hoping to address this issue with a pilot project using a real time reporting system. This will enable the fishermen to document an increasing number of spurdog accidently caught and provide scientists with the evidence necessary to a land a limited amount of a dead marketable resource without incentivising targeting stock.

THis is not a “FISHERMAN’S TALE”


Skipper, Phil Trebilcock, is certain there is “no short supply of spurdog” (recorded in his logbook). “A recent haul in Newlyn had to get a crane to lift it out as the drum couldn’t take the weight. Good quality, healthy fish, ending up as crab bait. It’s a shame there wasn’t live TV coverage so the public can see what’s out there too.” Spurdog breed fast. They eat mackerel, pilchards and anchovies, heavy in Cornish coastal areas, so it’s no surprise the fish appear to be flourishing. Phil estimates that with a reasonable quota it could be sold at £1.00 a kilo. “Enough for a decent income for Cornish fishermen.” The fourth generation mariner is adamant our men would “fish sensibly” and give it adequate resting time to replenish stocks, as they do with other fish. The skipper firmly believes there “should be regional management of quotas.”

Ben Eglington said: “We are jumping through a lot of hoops, really struggling. One of the problems with our quotas is weather; it governs how we catch. If conditions are good for a certain fish, and we’ve already reached our quota, there’s nothing we can do. We are throwing money away, over the side of the boat, and that’s just daft.” Ben, 27, is among the minority of young fishermen in Britain today (average age around 50) Most have to take second jobs in order to earn a living. “Hardly any young people are going into the industry anymore. Their families are advising them not to. So there will be a shortage of fisherman here in the future.”



Tension with regulation is the same at Mevagissey Harbour. Andrew Trevaraton said: “Last year we had to throw away 2,400 haddock, most of it dead, as we were out targeting lemon soul. Afterwards, one of our other boats went out with CEFAS to show them how many there are and caught ¾ of a tonne in just an hour and a half. Our monthly quota for haddock is only 250 kilos and there are thousands of tonnes of it in the Cornish Coast. Smaller boats, restricted by weather, don’t need to be travelling hundreds of miles away when resources are here on our doorstep.”

Fishing since the age of 5, William Shugg, agrees with Andrew. “Haddock is a big problem here. Three years ago our monthly quota was 4 tonnes. Last week I caught 200 kilos in one day. Before that, 600 in a day; more than double the quota. I sent a message to DEFRA about this problem but had no reply. Without complicated rules our jobs would be so much easier. The industry allows us to sell and swap quotas but this is time consuming and not always possible. Earning a living is extremely hard. Fluctuating prices for some fish, like mackerel, can go from 20p a kilo to as high as £6.00. We can’t budget which is why most fishermen have second jobs.” When asked about spurdog, he said: “We see it all the time. My friend had a substantial by-catch recently in Falmouth Bay. It’s also here in Meva but we have to throw it back.” Echoing the words of Phil Trebilcock, William concluded: “Fisherman should be able to govern quotas themselves. Swap and help each other with regional committees. It would be much fairer system.”

Harbour Master, Matthew Wheeler, is hopeful that a few places now offering training schemes will help encourage young people into the industry. “Many from a traditional family fishing background now choose different career paths as it’s an easier way of making money.”


Described as “hardy and resilient” by James Incledon, of channel 4’s popular documentary, The Catch, fishermen at one of the UK’s largest marine ports are equally tied up in bureaucratic knots. Beam trawler Skipper, Sean Porter said: “We are one of the richest fishing grounds in this country and MP’s are not doing enough. Until the day one of them actually owns a boat, we’ll forever be speaking a different language. Ministers should be appointed with expert knowledge in their fields. It’s like having a Minister of brain surgery with no medical training.” Sean said that when one of the European Ministers visited the harbour, he was shocked to learn they “steam out non stop with up to seven hauls a day.” The skipper said this was yet another example of why we shouldn’t be dictated to by Brussels. “CEFAS only come out on each of the boats twice a year.”

There are numerous species the Newlyn fishermen can target when quotas for certain fish are low so they are more fortunate in this aspect. Not so fortunate though if the men find themselves temporarily out of work due to injuries. “If we can’t go out, we don’t get paid and the benefit system doesn’t look after us like they do in France. We are treated like second class citizens here. I spent nearly three months without any pay once. The French wouldn’t put up with that.” Surprisingly, the ‘resilient’ skipper hasn’t lost his sense of humour. “I said to officials that with all the extra paperwork we’re having to do every day, they can go out and buy me a size 26 blouse and skirt and pair of high heels, because if I’m going to be a secretary I may as well dress like one.”

Steven Sately (nicknamed ‘Cod’) said: “Quotas don’t work with mixed fisheries like Newlyn. And changing quotas every month makes things worse. The people who make the rules don’t even know the rules themselves half the time. There is enough fish out there for everyone if it was worked out carefully. But in this country we are dependent on DEFRA to do this for us. ”


Retired fisherman, Richard Ede, left the industry ten years ago as he’d “had enough” of the “out of touch with reality rules imposed by the CFP.” Richard said: “We sacrificed an industry back in 1973 (when Britain entered the EU). The UK has a habit of doing things to the letter, and beyond, much to the detriment of our nation. Quotas are not a major concern for those with stronger fleet duration. Policy makers shouldn’t sell away resources to the highest bidder. A lot of fish is caught by huge foreign trawlers before it is even fully grown. It is no wonder stocks are dwindling. Before the seventies, when we had control of a 200 nautical mile radius of the waters around Britain things were very different. We should turn the clock back and become the guardians of our seas again.” Richard cites Norway as an example of a how a self regulating fishing industry thrives by managing its own stocks.” In his opinion, the CFP is fundamentally flawed as it limits landings, not the catch, therefore “not protecting stocks.” He said: “It is a scandalous waste of resources, money and labour.”

Cornish MP and Minister of DEFRA, George Eustice said: “The marine environment is incredibly complex. No man-made policy designed to manage it and deliver sustainable fisheries will ever be perfect. The science will never be perfect.”

“If we want sustainable fisheries, there is no alternative but to have some kind of catch limits on vessels and some kind of quota system. Whether we are in or out of the CFP we would have that quota system, just as Norway, the Faroe Islands and other states pursue catch limits. And we would still have arguments with other countries about allocation of fish stocks and seek reciprocal access arrangements.”

Richard benyon

The Fisheries Minister said: “We should all pay tribute to the great work of my predecessor in this post.” (Richard Benyon) “Who I believe made some important breakthroughs on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.”

“Even I, a strong Eurosceptic, recognise that good progress was made on CFP reform.”

Cornish fishermen have no argument that catch limits and quotas are required. After all, it is in their interest to preserve stocks for the industry to survive. They will argue, however, that policy made in Brussels is giving them an unfair deal. The new Landing Obligation will go some way to rectify this but still unclear as to how much fish will be wasted on dry land. With a growing population and a record number of people relying on food banks this is simply an unacceptable practise. As a traditional, sea-fairing nation, we need to do all we can to support these hard working men, out there day and night in dangerous conditions, so that we can enjoy what ends up on our plates.

Sanjay Kumar, founder of School of Cornish Sardines and major supporter of the UK fishing industry, agrees that quotas need to be re-distributed according to natural resource of artisanal fishermen. He said: “It is the fisherman who is the endangered species, not the fish.”

Captain Cod is part of the “BETTER OFF OUT” campaign and a mascot for our endangered Fishing fleet.