Friday, 21 April 2017

The Little Rascal - Chris Tyler.

There's another side to the fishing industry to that of the many families born and bred to that way of life. Plato said, " There are three sorts of men, the living, the dead, and those that go down to the sea" - and a more extreme example of one of those attracted to go down to the sea for the adventure and rewards that fishing offered was a certain Chris Tyler.

At the time this was post the 60s Beatles, early 70s Beach Boys, Pink Floyd were always in the LP charts, Party 4s, Mateus Rosé and handful of illegal substances, the Vietnam War raged , 'discos' were the thing and a generation of teenagers was able to afford holidays far away from home.

Then, fishing provided a means to earn some money for anyone willing to take a chance, learn fast and graft.  As a young man barely out of an Essex technical college where he studied architecture, Chris found himself living in the far west of Cornwall financed partly through trips aboard local fishing boats as and when needed.  Practical, gregarious, willing, fun-loving and always on the look out for something different and new Chris fell in with a similar band of troubadours with one thing in common - surfing - at a time when you could count the number of good UK surfers on one hand.

In the wider world, the quietly and well spoken Chris is best known for creating the Uk's first surf club, Skewjack Surf Centre near Sennen in the early 1970s. Thousands of people all over the world no doubt fondly remember their time at Skewjack as the best ever - such was its reputation - though in the end, being featured on the BBC Holiday programme in '76 was its undoing as pure a Beach Boys, West Coast surf centre! However, for Chris there was much more to follow including recreating Skewjack as a holiday destination for disadvantaged kids and creating Penzance's own unique Chelsea style Arts Club in Chapel Street.

However, Newlyn will remember Chris as a fisherman or more accurately as a trawlerman, especially when he skippered his own boat, Le Petite Raleur (aptly translated as, The Little Rascal). Local surfers at the time like John Adams, Wog Wilson, Mike Cattran, Harvey Hall, Kevin Hanley and many others, some of whom, like Joe Crow, also fished - a heady mix of surfers, fishermen and many more frequented Newlyn's most notorious pub, the Swordfish - helping, in part, to develop its reputation as the pub for the hardest working and hardest partying punters in the west.

Today, in an age driven by due regard for Health & Safety and a myriad of legislative devices, fishing is not the unfettered bastion of the free spirited adventurer that it used to be - it is still one of the most rewarding and demanding of ways to make a living but not without the unfettered freedom that pervaded when Le Petite Raleur and her motley crew passed through the gaps - the world has moved on.

Chris died back in November last year with a passing touch of irony on Guy Fawkes day aged 77. Tomorrow, there is a memorial service at 1pm in Paul Church followed by a chance to toast the life of someone who was truly instrumental in giving the far west of Cornwall its own unique blend of creative, hard but fun-loving, work culture.  The Coastguard in Mousehole will play host to an after service session from 2.30pm.