SCRIMSHAW AND LOVE TOKENS
PILCHARDS AND TROYL
THE CRIES OF LONDON
ROMANTICISM AND REVIVAL
HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM
CABINETS OF CURIOSITY
PILCHARDS AND TROYLS
Fishing has been an integral part of the culture of Cornwall, and the national economy in the UK general for hundreds of years, finding particular importance by the Tudor rule in England.
Pilchard fishing was generally most popular throughout the 18th and 19th century, before a decline saw fisherman diversify their catch in order to survive. However, in its heyday, fisherman saw their successful catches packed in salt and sent primarily to Italy, where they were seen as a delicacy..
A traditional fishing practice known as seine netting, requires the ultimate team effort. Huers had the job of looking out for shoals of fish, shouting “Heeva” to signal to the fisherman it was time to haul in their catch. Huge boats would position the large seine nets to catch the fish. On all accounts, this was an incredibly labour intensive process, employing many fisherman, women and children to carry out. When the catch came in the pilchards were pressed in oil and salt, packed and exported.
So, after an intense and laborious fishing season, a celebration was definitely called for. Celebration came in the form of a troyl. The origin of the word seems to be generally contested online, but generally refers to a feast and dance.
Individual packing cellars would hold their own feasts, which would be followed by games, music and dancing. Various first hand accounts of these events speak of the level of deserved hedonism that took place, claiming that these troyls would continue throughout the night and early into the morning. Some account even talk about competitive dancing that would end with dancers falling onto their backs.
Despite the inevitable decline of the industry due to fisheries closing and our new-found consciousness regarding overfishing, sustainable pilchard fishing seems to be on the rise, and the tradition of troyls has seen somewhat of a revival since the 1980s. So as we cautiously step into some level of normality, perhaps we can all hope to have our own troyls of sorts.