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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Cornwall

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Hue and Cry

Hevva! Hevva!

Huer scanning the bay for pilchards.
© St Ives Museum, Cornwall
Each fishing concern had its own huer, and on sighting a shoal he would alert the crew below by shouting, through his long trumpet, "Hevva! Hevva!" ("Here they are!").

This 'hue and cry' also alerted people in the villages nearby, and some of the local rhymes passed down over the years give us an impression of the excitement the huer's cry created.

A huer signalling from the cliff
© St Ives Museum, Cornwall
The huer also directed the movement of the boats at sea. His semaphore-like signals made with two 'bushes' - originally small furze bushes covered with cloth - were clearly visible from the water. The bushes were sometimes used to signal news to local men on passing ships too, like the birth of a child to their wives! Learn the huer lingo.

The external steps on the hut at Newquay allowed the huer to climb up for an even better view. It would have been baffling for a stranger to see the huer atop this stone building, waving two bushes around. Wilkie Collins, the 19th Century novelist, thought the huer would look like "a maniac of the most dangerous character" to an outsider! (Collins, W., 'Rambles Beyond Railways', 1851.)

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Detail of the huer's hut, Newquay
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