During the ‘Tallys a Tir’ project, we collected stories from around Cornwall… some were written, some recalled and some passed down through generations. For those whom had written stories, we managed to secure a slot in the professional recording studio at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus, allowing these to be read out and recorded.
One of the people who we recorded was the lovely Audrey Caust from St.Austell. Audrey put in a mammoth stint and managed to record 14 of her stories… which is no mean feat, even with a cup of tea in the middle!
When Audrey phoned me a few weeks later to discus the possibility of putting these onto CD to raise money for charity, it was a pleasure to help make this happen… below is the text that some of you may have read in local press…
Some of you may also have heard Audrey on BBC radio Cornwall in their coverage of the Royal Cornwall Show.
Audrey’s Cornish tales have a happy ending for charity
She was brought up a true Cornish lass. And over the years grandmother Audrey Caust has become well-known for her recitals of Cornish ditties about the rural life of her childhood.
Now 75-year-old Mrs Caust from St Austell has recorded her stories on to a CD and is selling them to raise money for Bowel & Cancer Research.
Listening to ‘Tales of a Cornish Maid’ is a 58-minute journey into the past – a life when a sow called Bertha was a much-valued wedding gift, and making rhubarb wine was an annual event.
In her warm Cornish dialect, Mrs Caust spins a yarn as well as poet Pam Ayres and sprinkles her script with droll humour and affectionate observations of characters from her past.
She chose to support Bowel & Cancer Research because she is a bowel cancer survivor.
“I was going to record just a few CDs for my children so they’d be able to hear their mother’s voice after I’d gone. Then my husband suggested I do it for charity because I’ve been through my illness and come through. He’s very supportive, although the last time I put the CD on he fell asleep,” she said.
She and husband Vivian made the CD with the help of Sarah Chapman, who collected and recorded stories about Cornwall for the ‘Tallys an Tir – Traditions and Stories of the Land’ project. Mrs Caust had so much material that she recorded all 14 tales in one sitting.
Brought up on a smallholding in Bethel near St Austell with her sister, Mrs Caust’s childhood was simple. “We had goats and pigs, chickens, ducks and turkeys. We used to grow veg and flowers – everybody in Cornwall had a garden in those days. There was no electricity and no running water. We had a tin bath and a copper to heat the water from the outside tap. And we used an oil lamp and a hurricane lamp at night. That was the way of life then. It was hard because my father was in bad health for three years with TB and my mother worked when she could. But that was it.”
Her memories provide a rich seam of material for the stories she began to write more than 20 years ago. She honed her story-telling skills with recitals for WIs and at concerts given by the Mid-Cornwall Ladies Choir.
She was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2010 and, after an operation, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, has been given the all-clear. “When I was ill, I had a picture of my baby granddaughter by my bed in the hospital and decided I had to be strong because I wanted to see her grow up. That kept me going. Now she’s five years old and I give thanks every day that I’m still here,” she said.
The Chief Executive of Bowel & Cancer Research, Deborah Gilbert, thanked Audrey for her support: “It’s good to know that Mrs Caust has survived bowel cancer, a disease which claims the lives of 16,000 people in the UK every year. At Bowel & Cancer Research, it’s our mission to ensure that a lot more people will survive in future.”
Anyone who wants to buy Tales of a Cornish Maid can contact Audrey on firstname.lastname@example.org