In Thomas Bond’s history of Looe, published in 1823, he talks of the fishermen of Looe drinking a concoction of two parts spirit, (usually gin) and one part black treacle to keep them warm on winter nights. The said drink was called Mahogany, probably due to the dark colour? Bond mentions a witness at the County Assizes telling (and puzzling) the judge by giving an alibi that he had been “eating fair-maids and drinking mahogany” (fair-maids being an old name for cured pilchards).
It is also known that at a dinner party held at Port Eliot in the mid 1700s, given by the artist Sir Joshua Reynolds, that Lord Eliot had a brew made up of, ‘a curious liquor, peculiar to his country, which the Cornish fishermen drink’, Attending the party was the writer and traveller James Boswell. He later described it as a “very good liquor” comparing it to ‘Athol Porridge’ a Scottish drink of whisky and honey. His friend Johnson stating that the Scottish version must be better as it has better ingredients!.
Our Looe museum survey has 48 hours left to complete and due to Lockdown 2 we have not got a captive audience in the museum that we can talk to. Our responses so far have been very helpful to us in learning what our visitors want from the museum, and if we could get some more that would really help us with what we provide in the museum and online in 2021. Thank you from all the Museum team for your support and help and we look forward to seeing lots more responses!!
In the late 1930s, with the threat of war on the horizon, the Negro singer John Payne came to stay in Looe, originally with the Hon Lady Cook at Porthallow, Talland. She had supported him when he first came to England and even helped him buy a house on Regent’s Park Road. The house soon became “the place to be” for African American who had come to Europe to establish professional music careers. This led to Payne recording a number of Negro spirituals for record companies including His Masters Voice (HMV)
Born in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1870s, he had arrived in England just after the First World War in the role of trainer for a spiritual choir who performed at the Philharmonic Hall for six months and later went on to train the choirs for both the London productions of ‘Uncle Toms Cabin’ and ‘Showboat’. It was during working on the latter show that he met Paul Robeson who then asked him to work on the films ‘Sanders of the River’ and ‘Jericho’ in which Payne also played a chaplain.
When Lady Cook died Payne moved into a flat on Hannafore Lane, West Looe, where he had a Steinway grand piano installed (with great difficulty!). He soon became something of a celebrity in the town helping local businessman Bert Middleton with fund raising concerts, and appearing on the Wilfred Pickles radio show. He would later go on to teach singing to local people including Jeanne Dingle, Bessie Currah, and Sybil Hooper.
He died at the Dawn Nursing Home in October 1952 and is buried at West Looe cemetery. His stone bears the inscription, ‘The song is ended but the melody lingers on’.
Additional info found at http://afrovoices.com/john-c-payne-biography/
Welcome to the new website for the Old Guildhall and Gaol Museum in Looe. We are going to be adding things as we go along, but would love to hear back from you on what you think of it so far!
If there is something you think we have missed, please don’t hesitate to tell us