A Gold Catch

There was once a fisherman who worked hard and who always had a crust of bread for the birds, a song for the wind and a salute for the sea. As it was a month with an r in it the fisherman knew it was time to rake the mussels from their beds. He was skilled at his trade and knew the right spot to fish, but one morning however hard he tugged he could not rake the mussels up. On the quayside there was a gathering of fishermen who’d been unable to lift their lobster pots, and fishermen whose nets were too heavy to haul in, and two others who’d had to dive in to rescue a boy after a crab on a line dragged him under the waves.


Peering down into the water the fisherman could see the glint of gold. Gold clung to every rock and cockle, and gilded fish sunk to the seabed. The fisherman knew that in his grandfather’s time fairy gold had been known to sweep down the river with the rain. It sparkled like light, but weighed heavier than stone. It would bring no riches and the town would starve if the flow of it couldn’t be stemmed.


The source of the fairy gold had to be found and the fisherman was determined to do it, but his boat’s propeller was crusted with gold and wouldn’t turn. The fisherman called for the birds and asked for their help. Jackdaws and gulls took ropes in their claws and heaved the boat upriver until they could fly no further.

The fisherman called for the wind and asked for its help. A strong southwesterly gusted through the bay and pushed the boat upriver until it was so heavy with gold that the wind could blow it no further.


The fisherman called for the sea and asked for its help. With a rumble, then a roar a spring tide rushed in and carried the boat far upriver, to a hillside the tide had never touched before. There the fisherman found the field where fairy gold streamed with the rain down into the river. The fisherman set about catching the gold at once, stretching twelve great nets from one fence post to another. The gold caught and the nets strained, but they held.


The fisherman sat back to rest and admire his work, but all around his boat the river was filling with the salt of the sea. Salt clung to every rock and fern, and crystallised fish sunk to the riverbed. The fisherman saw the salt would do as much harm there as the gold in the bay, so he called for the tide to turn and set out back downriver to the sea.

This project was supported by  EPSRC grant EP/L023636/1 which is related to EP/L023555/1 and EP/L023237/1