Q and Fowey

3: Castle Dor

A third local feature which is closely linked to Q is the earthwork of Castle Dor, situated near the road from Fowey to Lostwithiel. A stone pillar, orginally found during archaeological explorations at Castle Dor, bears an inscription which appears to refer to Cunomorus, another name for King Mark of Cornwall, This stone is now very accessible, being located by the roadside (A3082) on the approach to Fowey.

Q was very familiar with this royal Celtic fortress and in 1925 linked it to the legend of Tristan & Iseult as the story for a new novel. In the event he never finished this – possibly because he was suffering from partial blindness at that time – and it was not until 30 years later that his daughter Foy asked her friend Daphne du Maurier to complete the story (Castle Dor, 1961).

King Mark’s actual palace was believed to be at Lantyan, just below Castle Dor on the bank of the River Fowey. In a lettter to A L Rowse, Q explained his excitement at “renew-ing old explorations of the real (Q’s choice of adjective) scene of the Tristan and Iseult business. “Is there anything .. jollier than happening on a trifle of confirmatory evidence that has lain latent for hundreds of years and dodged the antiquarians?”. His mischievous comment came because he had just found a meadow marked as “Mark’s Gate” on an old field map produced by a local farmer. Q also knew that Golant parish church is dedicated to the Celtic Saint Sampson, who is recorded as passing through here on his way from Brittany to Ireland.

4: Some other local places referred to by Q

Polruan: known as ‘Ruan’ in “Once Aboard the Lugger” ( ‘Old Fires – Profitable Ghosts’) (use the passenger ferry from Whitehouse Slip, just below The Haven).

Lerryn & Cliff: where May Day was celebrated in ‘The Spinster’s Maying’ (‘The De-lectable Duchy’) and in ‘The Mayor of Troy’ ( motor boat from the Town Quay).

Bodinnick: called ‘Little Ferry’ in ‘The Mayor of Troy’ (use the car ferry from Caffa Mill).

It is not difficult for a student of Q  to see the relationship between ‘author’ and ‘place’ when travelling around the area. However, many would suggest that the best way to begin to understand “Q the writer” one just has to sit and look at Fowey harbour – Q’s harbour!

It was ‘his’ world because Fowey harbour was central to so much of his life. A little poem that he wrote in response to a lady who had asked for something for her album includes the lines:
And so I went and pitched my tent
Above a harbour fair
Where vessels picturesquely rigg’d
Obligingly repair.

The harbour is not mine at all:
I make it so – What odds?
And gulls unwitting on my wall
Serve me for garden-gods.

On another occasion he wrote: ”Of all views, I reckon that of a harbour the most fascinating and most easeful, for it combines perpetual change with perpetual repose. It amuses like a panorama and soothes like an opiate.”