The tiny village of Porthcurno (some seven miles from Penzance) is famous for three things. The iconic Minack Theatre carved out of the sea cliffs as the life work of a determined woman (Rowena Cade) and her subsequent gardeners and builders. There is also an idyllic beach which will be made even more famous by the second series of Poldark later this autumn. Beneath that same beach lay fourteen telegraphic cables that go to different places in the world. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Porthcurno was once the focal point of a communication network. People could send messages that were transmitted in morse code to places all around the globe where they were translated back and delivered to the door. The history of this so-called ‘Victorian Internet’ is brought to life in The Telegraph Museum which is housed in the old Cable & Wireless buildings up the valley.
Sadly for bus drivers, breaking down anywhere in the vicinity of Porthcurno nowadays is not recommended as the poem bears out.
PORTHCURNO STOP COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN STOP
Porthcurno…unblemished beach above which
Cliff-hewn Minack holds a dramatic pose;
Always mindful that the sea plays the fringe;
Everything can be upstaged, it knows.
The one-time world’s communication hub
Has realised it’s not so big an’ all.
Telegraphy’s dead…telephony rules
And it can’t even get a sig-a-nal.
© gray lightfoot
Hear Gray read the poem at …
Beautiful video footage of the Minack Theatre and Porthcurno beach
(courtesy of Paul Dinning)