Cornish Saints and Sinners: St. Ia and the Customs Men


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The Legend of St. Ia of St. Ives, Cornwall
by J. Henry Harris

S T. I A
A N D  T H E

C U S T O M S
M E N
The Saint on the Cabbage Leaf

St. Ia came across the Irish Sea on a cabbage leaf, and the wind and tide carried her gaily to King Tewdrig's shore, but when Customs asked her what she had to declare, she only held up the cabbage leaf. As she was a princess in her own right, and good-looking for an immigrant, the Customs officers were sad, but showed her a printed paper, rule forty-one, which stated that "foreigners without luggage, or visible means of subsistence, must not be allowed to land". The saint pointed to the cabbage leaf and argued that it was luggage and visible means of subsistence, and would have made good her point but for the King's Chancellor, who said that the cabbage leaf, being pickled, was a manufactured article and therefore liable to duty under the new fiscal regulations. St. Ia always left her purse at home when she travelled, so she was unable to pay the duty. Once more she committed herself to the mercies of the sea on her cabbage leaf, and was carried to St. Ives where she landed and was made welcome. She stayed there for a time, planted her leaf and was blessed with a wonderful crop of pickled cabbages, the like of which had never before been seen or heard of. She revenged herself upon King Tewdrig, however, by writing to all the papers. The saints, who deserted the King when they had almost eaten him up, then made a fine how-de-doo, and an "Irish grievance", and the bad name which they gave the King stuck to him. The saints wrote the books in those days, and those who came after repeated what they wrote, until the people believed it and called it history.

Next Cornish Saint or Sinner

Edited from "Cornish Saints & Sinners" (1906)





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