The Devil in Torpoint *

Monochrome image of Crumbling, decaying detritus in the foreground with the river behind

* Suitable for a bedtime story

There was a famine in Cornwall. The fields were as dry as last week’s pasty crust. Not a blade of anything edible poked its head up to be scythed down. All around the Rame peninsula rumbling tummies and burping bellies drowned out the sound of St Martin’s bells.

People were afeared. They knew that the ground was responding to the hoof beat of the Devil on his way down Devon towards Cornwall.

The tin miners who were sparrow mumblers tore their lips to ribbons trying to suck the juices out of the tiny birds they popped in their mouths to strip their feathers before crunching down still alive. But even they needed the salty tang of blood to send the down the gullet.

The good folk of Cornwall decried the past time, saying such cruelty would bring the Devil down on them faster for did he not love a juicy morsel tinged with blood?

 The people denuded the land in their attempt to stave off the hungry Devil. They baked everything they could think of into a pie. There were lamby pies, parsley pie, and herby pie, piggy pie, conger pie and pies without number.

 A cry went up for help. The Devil was still on his way. What could they do to throw him off course? The markets were empty of goods but for one barrel of flour and the  well water.

 One type of pie hadn’t yet been made- the stargazy pie! People rushed to drag what fish they could out of the roiling boiling sea.

In the market place a pastry crust had been made and a bed of withered vegetables covered the bottom of the pie. The fish was gutted in a trice and laid on top before the remains of the pastry were moulded around the heads and the tails sticking up, looking at the sky.  For any fool knows that pilchards need to be eaten tail to head or they will swim away from the harbour.

It was finished none too soon. The people of the Rame felt the ground heating, hoof beats were heard pounding. The Devil was on his way down through Devon. He paused on the banks of the Tamar. He sniffed the air.

“Something is cooking,” his gastric juices squirted.  One leg stood in Torpoint, the other on the bank of the Lynher. A long spoon came out and dipped down in to the freshest pie , steaming in the market place- stargazy pie.

 “What is this?” cried the Devil. “Is this what Cornish people eat?

They make pies out of everything that lives in the sea. They eat the live birds from the sky, there are no animals left to eat on the land. If I stay they will be making pies out of me! I don’t want to hear of no Devilly pie! I’m off!”


 He turned around and pounded his way back up Devon and never came near Cornwall again.


 retold by Liz Berg

  Source : Robert Hunt,  Popular Romances of the West of England 

  • Rame Peninsula