It’s three years ago now that I picked up Love in the Sun in the library. I didn’t know who Leo Walmsley was then; I looked at the book because it was on the Cornish shelf, because my mother used to have friends called Walmsley, and I wondered if there was a connection. There wasn’t but I thought the cover was lovely and when I looked inside I found the warmest introduction written by Daphne Du Maurier, a sometime friend and neighbour of the author. When I started reading I was smitten too.
I went on to read the book that had been sitting next to ‘Love in the Sun’ – Paradise Creek was a companion piece, also set in Cornwall, written some years later. And then I read the two books that filled in the story that came between those two books: The Golden Waterwheel and The Happy Ending.
What I should explain is that these books are fiction, but they are very close to the facts of the authors life. That they are all now in print, courtesty of the Walmsley Society. And that I continues to be smitten.
I wasn’t sure where to go after that lovely quartet of novels. I had an earlier volume of short stories. I had a later novel. But when I learned that the third of an earlier trilogy, was soon to be reissued I had my answer.
I ordered ‘Three Fevers’ – the first book of the Bramblewick trilogy – from the library.
There’s a quote on the back of the book that says exactly what needs to be said:
“In opening Mr Walmsley’s book, readers have fallen into the hands of a perfect yarn-spinner. They are in the position of the wedding guests and the Ancient Mariner; so long as he goes on they have to listen.”
But I will elaborate just a little.
This is another story drawn from life, drawn from memories of the 1920s, when he worked with one of the two families fishing from a village in the north of England that he calls Bramblewick. The real village was Robin Hood’s Bay, and there are just enough details to bring it to life.
The two fishing families are the Fosdycks, whose roots are in the area and the Lunns who are relative newcomer.
There are dramatic events – shooting lobster pots in a wild sea, rescuing a collier in danger of hitting the rocks – but this is a book that captures fishermen’s lives as they were lived, at home and at sea.
I never doubted that the author was there, but he stayed in the shadows. His later books were his own story; this book places others at the centre of the story.
I learned recently that Leo Walmsley’s father, Ulric, studied art in Newlyn under Stanhope Forbes. and that pointed me to the best way that I could explain why this book is so readable: Leo Walmsley captured his fishing community in words every bit as well as Stanhope Forbes and his contemporaries captured the fishing community in Newlyn.
Next comes ‘Phantom Lobster’ ….