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Donkin's World: Shelley The Mevagissey Oyster

Richard Donkin and his family enjoyed a sunny day in Mevagissey.

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In Gill's family, the name Mevagissey is synonymous with the archetypal holiday wet weekend - the sort when you spent half your time in a pacamac, pushing a pram around from puddle to puddle. It rained so much in Mevagissey when the Barracloughs visited during the early 1960s that they paid three visits to the aquarium in a single afternoon.

This is no easy task since Mevagissey aquarium consists of about half a dozen tanks housed in the old lifeboat shed. Its prize exhibit, as far as I could see, is Shelley, a 7 ins in diameter, 3 lbs in weight oyster, described in the accompanying notice as "the largest retained specimen in the UK".

I'm not sure what that word "retained" means. Largest in captivity? Can you capture an oyster? Keeping one seems no problem. Shelley wasn't going anywhere. There isn't much danger of theft either as Shelley's best friend, sharing the same tank, is a conger eel that looks as if it doesn't take prisoners.

It was sunny in Mevagissey so there was plenty going on to keep us out of the aquarium. The most popular sport seemed to be catching crabs from the harbour wall. Some of the local boys were jumping in to the sea from the end of the jetty. Today this kind of thing has a name - tombstoning - associated with danger and recklessness. But here it was just kids jumping in the sea. I did it when I was young and I hope my grandkids, when I have some, enjoy doing the same.



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