Introducing the new Arthur Quiller-Couch website

In normal times, Morrab Library would be hosting a large event (with lots of cake!) to celebrate the launch of this major new website exploring the life and works of Arthur Quiller-Couch. But instead, we’re delighted to tell our members all about it through this blog.



The site is curated by library member and leading researcher Andrew Symons, who has developed the articles and resources it contains in collaboration with Morrab Library, which holds collections of the works of Q and other members of the Couch family.

The product of many years’ study, the website offers the largest and most authoritative online collection of research into Arthur Quiller-Couch. It includes studies of many of Q’s literary works and the cultural landscape in which he worked.  You will also find short articles, maps, summaries, chronologies, biographies of Q and his family – and a wealth of other resources – all of which help to illuminate his writings.

Many people in Cornwall will be familiar with the name of Q but may not know the extent of his work. He was a popular novelist with an international reputation, a poet, a literary critic, an anthologist and an academic who championed the importance of literature in the education of young people. Born in 1863, he lived through an extraordinary period of British history until his death in 1944.  The lives of his grandfather, father and uncles also reveal much about the fascinating scientific and cultural history of Cornwall in the nineteenth century.

This site is designed to act as the fulcrum for wide-ranging study and exploration of Arthur Quiller-Couch and his writings. It welcomes submissions of original academic work from other researchers.

It is hoped that the website will also provide an introduction to the works of this outstanding figure in Cornish cultural life. Newcomers to Q may be surprised to find how contemporary his voice sounds today. Once known as the ‘Greatest Living Cornishman’, Q was a brilliant man who deserves to be rediscovered. The hope is that this important new website will help in that process.

Views from a Prison – archival treasures in Morrab Library

Library member Kensa Broadhurst is studying at Exeter University, and has been using Morrab Library’s extensive archive collections for her research since we re-opened. She came across two fascinating documents, written by prisoners of war. The library holds facsimiles of their diaries. Here’s Kensa’s take on them….


I have been working my way gradually through the archives at the Morrab Library whilst researching for my PhD. The letters, journals and notebooks held in the Morrab archives are a real window into the past and offer a fascinating view of not only daily life, but contemporary views on the wider world too.  

Two of the most interesting documents I have read recently concern Revolutionary France and the Napoleonic Wars.  John Pollard, a ship’s Captain from Newlyn, was a prisoner of war in France from 1794-95 who kept a journal for a large portion of his time in captivity.  Similarly, Captain James Quick was held captive from 1810-14.  He wrote a series of letters to his wife in St Mawes detailing his life as a prisoner.  

Pollard tells us that he began to write his journal only after several months of captivity and so it is unclear whether his account of this early time is copied from elsewhere or based on memory.  Pollard’s account not only details the trials, tribulations and practicalities of life as a prisoner of war, but offers a contemporary view of wider events in Revolutionary France.  Some of these are hearsay, or titbits of news picked up sometimes long after the events in questions, such as the death of Louis XVII, or the results of Naval Battles, but through Pollard’s journal we are also able to track the effects of inflation and food shortages on France at this time.  The price of bread steadily increases from 1 to 15 livres per pound for example.  I found it fascinating to discover that whilst the prisoners were given a certain food allowance each day, Pollard was also able to work and earn money.  Although there were times when he was unable to work due to illness, the weather or changes in regulations within the prisons in which he was held, at various times Pollard works as a gardener, builds roads, repairs fishing nets, heaves rubbish and works in a grocers, variously grinding pepper and coffee.  We also hear of other prisoners getting drunk in the local public house, starting a fight and breaking things!  Pollard also keeps track of the escapes, and attempts, of other prisoners.  Some of these are more successful than others.  

As Quick’s letters were written with an intended recipient in mind, his wife, they chart a wider range of emotions than Pollard’s journal.  We sense his frustration in the early letters when Quick has evidently not received any letters himself, then relief that he does finally hear from his wife, coupled with annoyance that his brothers do not think to write to him.  The letters also discuss the practicalities of receiving post (via the Transport Board seem to be the most reliable means), and the frustrations of not being a regarded a Prisoner of War by the Committee for Prisoners of War at Lloyds of London (and therefore able to claim money for support) as he had been shipwrecked on the French coast and then imprisoned.  The French view was that all were regarded as prisoners of war, whether shipwrecked, captured or forced to seek shelter in a French port by adverse weather.  Lloyds evidently wanted to avoid paying out any money!  Quick’s letters also give us an insight into contemporary networks within Cornwall.  In his letters he lists other Cornishmen with whom he is held captive and their hometowns in order that his wife and get word to their families of their situation.  As well as men from Mevagissey  we hear of several men from St Ives. We learn Quick spent his time in captivity learning French and some of the language begins to find its way into his writing.  

Examining documents from the past not only makes me realise how privileged we are to have a wealth of archives, such as those held at the Morrab, but also make me feel more connected to the past.  As I drive around Penzance and the local area, places which feature in the documents I have read now jump out at me as I think about the people who lived there and the events which took place which I have discovered. 

Row Boys Row

Cornish male vocal group, the Bryher’s Boys, recently collaborated with Morrab Library to create a video for one of their recordings. Using evocative images from the Library’s extensive historic Photo Archive, they were able to capture the essence of their song in pictures, and they’re delighted to share the finished product with us. The story follows below…


How did this video come about?

Bryher’s Boys are a busy Cornish male vocal group so the restrictions of the Covid Crisis have hit us hard! We’ve adapted by producing our own videos, both for our fans and, sometimes, to use in place of planned live performances which could now not take place. The Morrab Library Photo Archive was invaluable in helping us with a video we were asked to produce by the organisers of Yn Chruinnaght – The Celtic Gathering, a festival we’d been invited to represent Cornwall at in the Isle of Man. The song we chose – Row Boys Row – is all about Cornish maritime heritage, and the history of pilchard fishing here, so we wanted to marry the music with some images which would evoke that period. Thanks to the Archive’s 10,000+ photos covering many elements of vintage Cornish life – all available and searchable online – we were able to assemble a series of images to summon up that era, which perfectly complement the song. We’re very grateful to the Library for permission to use this resource which has helped disseminate this little piece of Cornish heritage to an audience of thousands, worldwide.

Backgrounder for Bryher’s Boys

Bryher’s Boys formed back in 2017 when the Tenor and Bass sections of several Cornish choirs were press ganged to form a new crew especially designed to navigate the choppy waters of Sea Shanty singing!

Their collective love of the established folk repertoire, both Nautical and Cornish, proved an immediate hit with West Cornwall audiences, clocking-up almost 200 performances to date in venues as diverse as private parties, weddings, crowded pubs, festivals, community events, large scale concerts – even aboard the Royal Fleet Auxilary ship Lyme Bay!

Although firmly rooted in the male vocal tradition, their trademark style of free harmony ensures that no two performances sound exactly the same.

Named after bandleader Trevor Brookes’ youngest daughter, Bryher, the Boys do not hail from the Scilly Isle of that name, but come from all over West Cornwall, from Newlyn to Truro.

The group are proud to have been selected to officially represent the Duchy of Cornwall at Europe’s largest music festival, Festival Interceltique Lorient, in 2019, taking their unique mix of Traditional Cornish songs, shanties and shaggy dog stories to a new audience of more than 800,000 attendees, singing to 9,000 people at a time!

Last year, they recorded and released their first CD, The Ballad of the Boy Jacq.

September 2020


Welcome to our September newsletter. There’s lots to share with you, despite having been closed for four months….

From the Trustees

Dear Morrab Library Members,

How delighted we were to open the Morrab Library’s doors to you again, and on behalf of the Trustees, I would like to thank you all for continuing to support the Library over the past few months. The Annual General Meeting seems an age ago now. That successful, sunny afternoon, at the beginning of March, where we said goodbye to trustees who were leaving, thanking them for their hard work for the good of the library will not be forgotten.

Over the last few months we have gained two new trustees. We welcomed Myfanwy Barrett, who has taken over the post of Honorary Treasurer and Daniel Garside, who some of you may have already met, if you have ventured upstairs to our theology section. Both Myfanwy and Daniel bring skills and experience to the Management Committee. A full list of current Trustees can be found on our website: Alas, we do still need a new Chair so don’t be shy if any of you feel that you would like to join us; contact Morrab Library now. On this note, the Trustees are always looking for members with expertise; specifically building maintenance skills, personnel work, fundraising ideas or event management drive, then please step up now.

As many of you know, we have been plagued by roof leaks over the last two or three years. Indeed as we write, yet another one has occurred, serious, but not damaging to our lovely books. Perhaps ironically it has happened at the right time as a major roof repair is in progress (you might have seen the scaffolding at the Library) and hopefully a robust long-lasting repair can be achieved.

Lastly, Trustees would like to reassure members that, in this uncertain world, the Morrab Library will survive, and its future is bright. During closure Morrab Library has received a very generous grant and a rate reduction from Cornwall Council, which offset the loss of income and we have been overwhelmed by the kindness of library members, who have made donations large and small.

Morrab Library Management Committee look forward to the day when members no longer need to make appointments to change their books and when that day comes, there will be an open day of celebration, so that we can thank you all in person.

My absolute best wishes,

Jak Stringer, Vice Chair

Library Update

As you know, 2020 has been somewhat disrupted by a certain virus, and we are delighted to be open again, albeit in a limited capacity. We are currently open by appointment on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. You’ll have seen our messages outlining our booking process for borrowing books or using rooms in which to work – all the information you need is on our website, or if you don’t have access to that, give us a call and we can explain your options. We shall continue to adapt our service as circumstances (hopefully) improve and we’ll keep you updated on any changes. Unfortunately at this time we are unable to schedule any talks, events or classes in the library where groups would gather. We will rely on Government guidance and make appropriate decisions around resuming these in due course.

Whilst most of our volunteers have not been able to return in the current situation (and we miss you greatly!), we would like to express our thanks to those who have been helping us in various capacities since we reopened to keep the library’s operations ticking over.

The Library team continued to work from home all through lockdown and a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work was able to be completed during this time. One of the most important reflections from this experience was the amount of support and goodwill we received from you, our members. It kept us going during an uncertain time, and inspired us to do everything we could to reopen as soon as we were able and to welcome you back to this wonderful space. An enormous thank you from the library team.

Life in the Photo Archive
Thanks to all the safeguarding measures put in place by Lisa we have been able to resume our work in the Photo Archive. We are restricting the number of volunteers in at any one time and we have separated our work stations. At the end of each session we meticulously clean our own areas. Otherwise things are fairly normal, and we are scanning images and responding to requests for photos from the general public. You will soon be able to see the Zennor Collection (from the Wayside Museum) and other discoveries from our collections.

We are always pleased to hear from members about any matters concerning our photographs. We are planning a calendar for 2021 and I would be interested to hear from anyone with memories of the ‘At Home’ events at the Library in the early 1960s. Also does anyone know anything about Dorothy Cake (possibly her married name) who moved away during WW2? We hope to get the newly scanned photos online soon. Don’t forget you can search for many of our images online at:

David Puddifoot, Photo Archive Manager

New shelves and furniture
Just before lockdown our Honorary Librarian Harry Spry-Leverton and talented maintenance man Kane Emslie worked together to create some new shelving in the Jenner Room. Our Cornish collections were fast running out of room and the addition of these above the fireplace has allowed us to create some wriggle room for all of our lovely new future acquisitions. We were also able to spend a small grant from Cornwall Council’s Community Chest scheme, which allowed us to buy some wonderful new bean bag sofas for the children’s room. They’re brilliant for our young members to lounge on when perusing the collections, and will also prove very useful when our Super Storytime sessions can resume.

New books
Our Book Selection Working Group met (virtually!) just after we reopened and chose a wide and varied selection of new titles to add to the collections. We’re in the process of cataloguing them all now and we’ll email a full list of new titles to members once they have all been processed and are available for loan in the next few weeks. For those not on email, a full list will be available on request, please just contact library staff. A reminder that we welcome suggestions for new books to be added to the library collections.

Lockdown stories
We thought we would like to capture something of the spirit this unprecedented time – the longest period the library has ever been closed in its 202 year history. We’d very much like to hear your lockdown stories – how did it affect you, did you create something artistically or literary? Did the library being closed affect you – what did you miss about us? We would like to collate people’s stories and images and add them to our Archives collection for future generations to gain some insight into how the pandemic changed our lives. Get in touch with Lisa if you would like to contribute or for more information.

A few reminders

  • If you weren’t able to renew your membership prior to lockdown in March, we ask that you still might consider doing so now. At £30 (£20 for students), membership will cover you to the end of the year, ready for renewing annual memberships again in January.
  • New members are welcome to join the library at a cost of £15 (£10 for students) for the remainder of this year, so please spread the word.
  • If in the past you haven’t supplied us with an email address, and you would like to do so now and be added to our regular mailing list, please contact the library. Similarly, if you now find you are eligible to agree to Gift Aid on your membership or donations, please do let us know. Gift Aid allows us to claim an additional 25% on your contribution, so it’s incredibly helpful to us.
  • While access to the library is restricted, it’s possible for members to borrow back issues of journals we subscribe to, including the Times Literary Supplement, The London Review of Books and many Cornish journals. Get in touch for more information.
  • We’re still not able to accept large quantities of book donations at this time, but get in touch to discuss options if you would like to donate a smaller number of titles (i.e. no more than a bag!).
  • Although somewhat stalled by Covid, the fundraising appeal towards the acquisition of a public access defibrillator in the Morrab Gardens continues. Cash or cheques can be given in at the Library, with cheques to be made out to `Hypatia Trust defibrillator account’. Contact the library for more information.

Social media
Don’t forget that information about Morrab Library can be found on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. We use these platforms to share images and information about treasures from our collections, and we recently celebrated our 1,000th new follower on Instagram!

Book and Archive cataloguing update
Work progresses on developing the pilot programme for our KOHA book cataloging project. And even during lockdown some of our volunteers continued to work from home creating electronic records of our paper archives index. We recently featured in a case study for the National Archives, which gives an insight into how the archive cataloguing work is done, and why it’s so important for us:

Congratulations to the PLHG
Warm congratulations to the Penwith Local History Group, who meet regularly at the Morrab (usually!), on their nomination in the annual Gorsedh Kernow Holyer an Gof publishing awards. The awards were established to promote books about Cornwall, set in Cornwall or in the Cornish language. The PLHG’s latest book, Growing Up in West Cornwall, was nominated in the Social, Cultural and Political History Section. Copies of the book are available to borrow, or purchase through the library.

So finally…
An enormous thank you once more for your support and encouragement to the staff and for the library. We would be nothing without our members and volunteers, and we look forward to welcoming more of you back in better circumstances in the future.


Visiting the Library

You may like to make a cuppa to get you through this long document! But please read on carefully as it does contain a lot of important information.



Visiting the Library

We are delighted to say that Morrab Library is open again, although in a very limited capacity. The necessity to keep staff, volunteers and members as safe as possible is our first priority, and we will need to continue to work within the context of health and safety legislation and best practice guidelines for libraries to achieve this. So please bear with us as we take a careful and steady approach over a period of time to try and get everything back on track. 


We will take gradual steps, offering more services over a number of stages. In this way, we can trial each step, and make sure it’s working effectively, before moving on to the next level.This takes into account factors such as staffing levels and extra time needed for additional tasks.


Sadly of course, this means that things can’t be as they were, at least initially, before we closed. But we hope you understand and will be patient with us as we take these actions, to both mitigate risk and ensure that we’ll be able to get things back on track, as far as possible. We are working within a constantly evolving situation, and the service we can offer will change alongside this.


From current thinking, COVID-19 is transferred via respiratory droplets, and breathing these in presents the biggest infection risk. The more people in an area and the longer they stay, the greater the risk of passing on the disease. Therefore, we will need to limit the number of people in the building, so entry at this time will be by appointment only.


It needs to be said that while the staff will do all it can to make the library as safe as possible, we cannot of course guarantee it 100%, so each member will need to make their own decision about whether they feel they can visit.


At this stage, it won’t be possible for volunteers to help us at the front desk – this goes against guidelines and best practice around safeguarding and multiple people handling the same objects, in our case items such as the loans cards, date stamps, sharing desks etc. so the staff will be extra busy – we ask for your patience.


The following outlines our first stage on the path to one day being fully operational, explaining the action we are taking. Once we have tested the process and see how things work, we’ll then be able to move on to the next stage, and offer more. 


Opening hours and access 

    • The library will open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10.00 am to 3.00pm. This reflects staff capacity, the necessity to spend more time cleaning the library each day, and completing essential tasks when less people are about . 
    • The library will be open for book loans and returns, and for readers who wish to book a workspace on the first floor.  
    • Entry will be by appointment only. We need to be very strict about how many people can safely be in the library and share spaces at the one time. You can email us at : or telephone 01736 364474 and leave a message with your name and contact entails – staff will contact you to arrange an appointment. 
    • Please don’t try to visit unless you have received confirmation of your appointment time. We do not want you to have to queue outside for any lengthy period, especially if the weather proves as erratic as it has been of late.
    • Please book for an appointment as far in advance as you can to avoid disappointment.


  • You do not need to make an appointment if you are only returning or collecting books and do not wish to enter the building beyond the entrance foyer.



For members wishing to borrow books:

  • We will be able to welcome you for a visit of 30 minutes. This will hopefully allow enough time to select books to borrow. We need to keep the permitted time short so we can allow as many members as possible to access the building safely over the course of the day. Our statistics show that 75% of all of our loans are from our fiction collections, which is centred in one room, so we need to be aware of how people will be in that room at the same time. Numbers and timings will be constantly reviewed.
  • If you are isolating as a household, a couple or family can come in together. 


For members wishing to book a workspace:

  • Rooms on the first floor will be available to book for members to use for research, study or work.
  • Most rooms will allow for solo occupancy, some of the larger rooms will accommodate two people, with appropriate social distancing measures in place. 
  • You will need to book a room in advance, specifying the time you will want to spend in the library. We will need time between appointments to clean the workspace thoroughly before the next person.
  • As well as your own thermos or bottled water, you may want to bring your own cushion for the chairs, as ours have had to go into storage! Please see the Amenities section below for more information about available facilities.
  • We will try as best we can to accommodate your room preference, but bookings will be made on a first come first served basis.
  • We ask that you remain at the desk you have been allocated, and let us know if you move or touch anything outside of this area.


Other considerations

  • Only library members (or members of their household) will be able to access the building – we will sadly not be able to welcome any visitors at this stage, unless they are expressly wishing to join as a new member.
  • We cannot accept any book donations at this time.
  • The Photo Archive will not be open to visitors on Thursday mornings at this time, but please email, or call the library and we can pass on any enquiries.


While you are with us

  • It will not be possible to remain in the library beyond choosing or returning books. 
  • Hand sanitiser will be on offer at the front door, and we will ask that you make use of it BEFORE entering the building. Alternatively, you are very welcome to wear your own gloves. 
  • If you are able to do so,you will be asked to wear a face covering whilst moving around the building. If you are then working in a room on your own, your mask can be removed at this time.
  • There will be additional hand sanitising stations throughout the building.
  • Social distancing practices will be in place (working to the 2 metre rule) and staff will be working behind a temporary screen. We don’t relish this latter prospect, but it is sadly a necessity at this time in order to mitigate any risk to staff.


Loans and Returns

  • If you are returning library books, please bring them in a bag (preferably one you don’t want back), and include a note with your name on it. There will be special boxes in the foyer where you can leave them – in keeping with health and safety guidelines, they will need to be quarantined for 72 hours before staff can process them. 
  • The lifting on restrictions on the number of loans will remain, meaning you can borrow more than six books at a time. If you don’t feel comfortable coming to the library yourself, you can nominate a fellow member, friend or family to borrow and collect books on your behalf.
  • We will be offering a collection service. If you send us a list of titles you are seeking, we can check our holdings and the shelves, and if they are available, we can bag them up and leave them for you or a friend or family member to collect from the foyer, so you won’t have to come into the rest of the building. 
  • The magazines and newspapers normally located in the Reading Room will be moved to the tables in the Jenner Room, and be available for loan. 



  • The ground floor toilet will be available, but we ask that it be accessed only if completely necessary. Please leave the space as clean as possible after use. A hand sanitising station will be located just outside.
  • Sadly, the kitchen will be closed to members, and not accessible.
  • Lockers will not be in use. Bags must remain with you. They cannot be left at the desk or elsewhere. Again, we are obliged to avoid multiple people touching the same objects. 
  • The till will be in operation for book and other sales, donations and new memberships and renewals. Payment by card is our preferred option, although we will accept cheques and cash. Appropriate hygiene measures will be in place for using the till.
  • The photocopier will only be available for the use of library staff, but we will happily copy anything you need on your behalf.
  • The lift will be in operation and hand sanitising stations will be available in the foyers on each floor.
  • Parking at the library should generally be possible during this time, although if you would  like to be guaranteed a parking spot, please let us know when you make your appointment.



  • Library staff will carry out regular cleaning of ‘hotspots’ around the building throughout the day, such as door handles, stair bannisters and the toilet. 
  • We will also undertake a deep clean of the library after hours each day. 
  • Desks, chairs and other items will need to be cleaned in between different people using them.


Please contact Lisa (, or leave a message on 01736 364474 and I’ll call you back) if you have any questions or concerns.  A detailed reopening plan is available on request for those who might like to see it.


We would also like to offer my assistance to any of you who will need to continue to self-isolate and won’t be able to visit, or do not have anyone who can borrow books on your behalf. Please get in touch so we can find a way to help you if we can.


I know this is not an ideal situation, but hopefully this is just the beginning of a gradual return to the normality of the Morrab Library we all love so much. Thank you so much for your wonderful support throughout lockdown, and as we move forward into this rather unknown territory!


Lisa Di Tommaso