Mowzer The Mousehole Cat – Tom Bawcock – Cornwall – Stargazy Pie
Illustration © Nicola Bayley
Mousehole (pronounced ‘Mowzel’) is a small fishing village in West Cornwall about three miles South of Penzance. Every Christmas Mousehole’s pretty harbour is decorated with a spectacular display of lights. As well as the harbour, the surrounding pubs, shops and houses are decorated and the illuminations extend up the road leading out of Mousehole to the South.
As well as familiar Christmas themes, the lights are based on old Mousehole stories and legends. On the harbour wall below the Ship Inn you can see a Stargazy pie. Legend has it that this local fish dish was originally prepared in honour of Mousehole fisherman Tom Bawcock, who braved persistent storms to land seven different types of fish, much to the relief of Mousehole residents who’d gone without for a fortnight. Every year on 23rd December – Tom Bawcock’s Eve, Stargazy pie is cooked and served at the Ship Inn.
To the left of the Stargazy pie you can see the Mousehole Cat, the subject of the well-known children’s book by Antonia Barber.
You can see beautiful pictures of Mousehole at the “Look around Cornwall” page below.
Following is a short summary of the actual story by A. Barber, as told by by Lynne Trembath, Leicester, UK
There is a small village at the very top of England, on the Cornish coast. It is known as Mousehole (pronounced Mouzel) because its harbour has a very narrow entrance, like a mouse’s hole.
There lived in this village, a beautiful black and white cat with silky fur called Mouzer. She shared a cosy cottage with an old fisherman called Tom. Mouzer loved Tom because he gave her fresh fish to eat everyday, which helped to keep her fur shining. Mouzer and Tom ate marinated pilchards, grilled sardines, cod pie and every variety of fish you can imagine. They loved fish!
In winter, the weather in Cornwall can become very stormy. Once, in the weeks before Christmas, the weather became very bad. The wind rushed through the village of Mousehole,waves crushed into the harbour and all the fisherman had to stay at home. As the days moved on,the weather grew worse and worse. The villages in Mousehole were running out of food. No one dared to go out to sea in the fishing boats for fear of being drowned in the ferocious sea.
On the night before Christmas Eve, Mouzer the cat looked out of her cottage window at the sea. She could see the storm stirring up the water, making the fishing boats toss and turn in the harbour. Mouzer’s stomach rumbled. She was very hungry – she missed her fish dinners.”Mouzer”, said Tom, “There is no food left in the village. The people are starving. There is nothing else for it – I am the oldest fisherman. I must go and try to catch fish. If I am drowned, at least I have had a good life.”
Mouzer hated the thought of losing her Tom. If he was going out to brave the storm, she would go with him. So Mouzer followed Tom to his fishing boat in the harbour and, before he could stop her, she leapt into the boat with him.Tom untied the rope which kept the boat attached to the querry, and they set out to sea through the narrow entrance to the harbour.The waves were enormous and the rain beat down heavily.The storm cat threw Tom’s boat into the air. Tom was frightened for his life, but he had to find food for his neighbours. Mouzer was scared too, but she had an idea.She made her way to the front of the boat and began to sing as loudly as she possibly could. She sang and sang until the storm cat stopped to listen. The sound of Mouzer’s voice calmed him – it was heaven to his ears, he stopped stirring the sea and instead began to pour constantly
Tom was amazed that the sea had become calm. He took the opportunity to cast his nets over the side of the boat and when he drew them in, they were full of fish.Mouzer continued to sing until the boat was full of fish and she and Tom had made it safely back to the harbour.
All the villagers were standing waiting with lanterns and worrying about Tom and Mouzer. The villagers set to work baking and cooling fish pies for an enormous feast. Tom and Mouzer were heroes!
And, to this day, on the night before Christmas Eve, the villages of Mousehole eat fish pie and celebrate the bravery of Tom and Mouzer which saved them from starving.
You may be able to find “the Mousehole Cat” on You Tube to watch.
Recipe for Stargazy Pie can be found at