Welcome to Speedy Piran

Free interactive family adventure stories that help you discover more about Cornwall

During this story, you will get a chance to ‘ride and decide’ with Speedy Piran.  Try your best to learn as much as you can about pilchard fishing , so you can help catch enough fish for the town to eat!

Speedy Piran's little adventure about the Pilchard Shoal









Speedy Piran deserves a rest....

It is mid afternoon in Treeth, a small seaside town on the south coast of Cornwall, when Speedy Piran the motor boat receives a radio call.

“Captain to Speedy Piran”

 “Speedy Piran here, Captain. I’ve just finished my last job.”

“Good work.  Meet me at the quay for your next one.”

Aye aye Captain” says Speedy Piran, and off he zooms.

Captain Joe Kernow is waiting at the quay.  He is a big man, smartly dressed in his blue uniform, wearing strong brown boots, and his Captain's hat.    He brought  Speedy Piran to work in Treeth for him.

“Piran, you have worked hard today so you can have a bit of a rest.  Take the museum guide old Mr Crudge, and the trawler man’s son out to sea to fish for the rest of the day.    

“What is a trawler?” asks Speedy Piran.

“The local fishing crew use her to catch the pilchards that they eat and that we buy at market.  She’s due out this afternoon.  When she comes back it will be fish for dinner”” replies the Captain.

“I don’t know much about fishing” says Speedy Piran to Captain Joe. “Old man Crudge knows all about fishing.  You could learn about it from him.”

Soon Mr Crudge and a young boy of 12 turns up.  His name is Tom, just like his Dad, the skipper of the Paula the Trawler.  As they climb aboard, Young Tom admires Speedy Piran.

“You’re Speedy Piran, the Captain’s new boat.  He says you’re the fastest boat in Treeth.”

Speedy Piran feels proud that the Captain has been talking about him.  As they cast off he wants to show how fast he can be, but should he? 

Should Speedy Piran go fast or slow?















Speedy Piran goes fast....

Speedy Piran starts whizzing about and Young Tom starts cheering.  “Wheeee” he shouts as they race out of the quay and along the river.  The waves made by Speedy Piran zooming along rock the boats moored on the bank.  The customer in Ricky the rowing boat has to hold on to both sides as he is rocked by Speedy Piran’s waves.

Mr Crudge tells them off.  “You are both being selfish.  Your noises and waves will disturb the other users of the rivers and seas.   The fish will swim away there won’t be any fish for supper if you keep this up.”

Young Tom says sorry and so does Speedy Piran.  Both reckon they should have known better.

As Speedy Piran heads for the open water, he notices a white building at the top of the cliffs above the cove.  He reckons that old Mr Crudge would know a bit about it, but he dare not ask now that he has been told off.  Never mind.















Speedy Piran goes slow...

Speedy Piran keeps to a safe, slow speed as he heads out to the river mouth.  He passes Ricky the rowing boat with a customer enjoying a row up the river.

They pass between the castle upon the right hand side and the lighthouse on the left.  Beyond that is a tall cliff with a white stone building upon it.  Young Tom asks old Mr Crudge what it is for.

“That’s the old Huer’s hut, that is” says old Mr Crudge. “That’s where a watchman known as a huer would look for a shoal of pilchards to pass the coast.  He could tell there was fish to catch when the water turned red.  He would blow his trumpet to wake up the town and cry ‘hevva, hevva’ meaning ‘here they are’”

“Really?” asks Speedy Piran.  “Do they still do that today?”

“No need” explained old Mr Crudge.  “Today’s fishing trawlers have got special machines called sonar that can find fish shoals using sound waves.”















Settling down to fish....

Speedy Piran motored slowly out to sea.  Soon old Mr Crudge tells Speedy Piran to cut his engine. 

“This will do” he says quietly, and Mr Crudge and Young Tom get out their fishing rods and cast off their lines.

The gentle waves and the hot sun make Speedy Piran feel tired.  As his passengers catch fish after fish, Speedy Piran drifts off to sleep thinking that fishing seems an easy way to earn a living.

He is awoken by another boat passing nearby.  It is Paula the Trawler.  Young Tom, the trawler man’s son waves to his dad, Paula’s skipper, as they pass by.  After they had gone, old Mr Crudge declares that it is time to return back to the quay.

“We’ve caught enough fish for supper tonight” he says.  “It may even last until the trawler returns with their catch for market.”

“How long will that take?” asks Speedy Piran as he heads home.

“They  will be gone for a week.  The fish they find is put in trays with lots of ice to keep them fresh and cold.  That way they are tasty to eat when they return.”

“So do the families of the fishing crew get to eat all the fish when they get home?” enquires Speedy Piran.

“Yes, they will eat some of the catch, but not all of them.  They eat what they need and sell what is to spare at the market for us all to eat.”

By the time they get home, it is nearly dark.   Speedy Piran says goodnight to old Mr Crudge and Young Tom.

A week passes and Speedy Piran is busy with jobs around Treeth.  The Captain asks Speedy Piran to take old Mr Crudge out once more.  “You’ll need to go and get him from the museum” he tells him.

As Speedy Piran approaches the museum, old Mr Crudge is there with Young Tom.  They are working together to repair the cotton fishing nets that used to be used to catch the pilchards in the bay. 


When the nets are tidied away and the fishing rods are carefully loaded aboard Speedy Piran, old Mr Crudge starts talking.

“It has been many a year since those nets caught fish” he begins.  “I keep them to show the young folk how it should be done, but there is less interest in the old ways.  It’s all sonar and ice machines nowadays.”

“But how was it done?” asks Speedy Piran.

“Nets were used to catch pilchards that swam into the bay.  When the huer let out his cry, the boats would take the nets out to catch the fish.  The huer would direct the boats by waving bushes in each hand and they would shoot their nets on his signal.  The boats circled the fish and the two ends were brought together to keep them trapped.”

 “That’s clever” says Young Tom.  “What happened then?”

“The line that ran along the bottom of the net was pulled in to close it so the fish couldn’t swim down to escape.  The fishermen would work to get them out the nets and landed for market.  Another net was used to take the fish from the top and back to the shore for salting.”

“What is the salt for?” asks Young Tom.

“The salt is used to preserve the fish and keep it good for eating until it reaches the dinner table.  Pilchards from Cornwall can travel a long way in barrels before they are eaten.  For example, Cornish Pilchards have been a favourite in Italy for hundreds of years.

“Wow” says Speedy Piran.  “Our fish travel all the way to Italy.”

They had been motoring for some time by now and were well out into the bay.  Speedy Piran comes to a halt when old Mr Crudge tells him and he enjoys another afternoon relaxing on the waves.  It is already evening when they see Paula the Trawler return, but the fishermen do not look very happy as they motor by.

“We ought to return to find out what has happened” suggests old Mr Crudge.  “They haven’t brought any fish with them.  This will be a disaster for the town.  There won’t be any fish for tea tonight” he warns Young Tom.

They make their way back to the quay.  Old Mr Crudge and Young Tom hurriedly say their goodbyes and race off to find out what happened.

It’s already late and Speedy Piran can’t help so he heads back to his mooring in the quay. As he is drifting off to sleep he thinks that fishing might be a harder way to earn a living than he first thought.

Next morning, he sees the Captain at the quay again.  This time he doesn’t look happy. 

 “Morning Captain.  What happened to the trawler?” enquires Speedy Piran.

“Morning Piran.  The new ice machine is broken. We are awaiting a part from abroad but it will take a week to arrive.  Until then, we can’t catch any fish.” 

Piran heads off back to the quay, and as he motors up the river, he sees Young Tom sat on the bank looking fed up.  Speedy Piran motors over to him.

“I heard about the problems with the ice machine” he says, “is there anything I can do?” he offers.

“We need to catch a shoal of fish so everyone in Treeth can have their supper.  Last night I couldn’t have fish for tea.”

“Oh dear” thinks Speedy Piran.  He reckons that Young Tom needs a bit of cheering up.

“Let’s go and talk to the boats in the quay.  May be they can help” he suggests and so Tom jumps on board.

As they enter the quay, the only boats moored up are Ricky and Rocky the rowing boats, and Dotty the Yacht.

Should he talk to Dotty the Yacht or Ricky and Rocky?














Speedy Piran Dotty the Yacht....

Speedy Piran takes Tom over to a grand yacht that looks brand new.  She seems to have her nose stuck up in the air, and from her height, she has to look down at Speedy Piran as he disturbs her.

Hello Dotty.  Know anything about the problems with the trawler?

Excuse me, it’s Dorothy.  I’m not Dotty.

I have spoken to Paula.  I prefer to talk to more retired types, those will a touch more class.”

“Yes but do you know anything about the pilchard catch?” asks Speedy Piran.

“I met some pilchards once.”  She went on.  “I was just coming into the bay when I found a shoal of them in my way.  No consideration for other users of the waters around here, and not one of them is in charge either so there is no use talking to them.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, a gaggle of gannets came down to join them.  Not the nicest birds I can tell you.  Those pilchards have no taste in the company they keep.  As the gannets flew away my nice shiny deck was covered in..., well, let’s just say that I needed at lot of cleaning afterwards, I can tell you.  I was so flustered that I put some nice classical music on to calm me down.  It seems the fish don’t have any taste when it comes to music either because they cleared off as fast as they could.  Good riddance too, I say.

Speedy Piran and Young Tom had heard enough and decided to leave.

“Well, she is not very nice” says Speedy Piran to Young Tom. 

“Not sure how useful that was either” replies Young Tom.

“At least we know how to scare fish” says Speedy Piran. 

“Dotty is enough to scare anyone” jokes Young Tom.  They both laugh and Speedy Piran is pleased to see that Tom is cheering up a bit.















Ricky and Rocky the Rowing Boats....

Speedy Piran heads over to the two rowing boats.  They are arguing between themselves so Speedy Piran listens in to the conversation.

“I thought I was Ricky” says one of them.

“Well I thought you were too, but the Captain called me Ricky and so it must be me instead.” says the other.

“Well, who am I then? says the first.

“You must be Rocky” says the other.

“But I thought I was Ricky” says the first one, again.

“So did I” says the second, and then he notices Speedy Piran and shushes the other one.

“Quiet, we’ve got a visitor” he whispers and smiles at Speedy Piran.

“Er, we were just wondering if you knew anything about pilchards?” says Tom.  We need to catch some” he added.

“A pilchard tried to eat me once” the first one declared. 

“Really” says the other one, “what happened?”

“It was horrible, I was really scared. It had bad breath and a mean look in his eye.”

“I think you’ll find that a pilchard is really small and not very scary at all.  Are you sure it wasn’t a shark?”

“Might of been.   Don’t really know.  Doesn’t matter anyway because I scared it off with my oar by splashing it about, just like this” and with that he raised his oars and brought them down into the water, splashing the other boat, Young Tom and Speedy Piran, who backed away as quick as he could.

As they retreated away from the rowing boats, Young Tom burst into laughter.  “They’ve been put in with the bread and took out with the cakes, as my mum would say” and he chuckled.

“They certainly seem to be a bit daft” agreed Speedy Piran, guessing what Tom’s mum might mean. 

“Not sure what use that was though” he continued, “except to know how to frighten fish with a bit of splashing.”















Speedy Piran has an idea....

As they head back out of the quay, a friendly face is just returning.  They see Doug the Tug and he smiles.

“It’s a right shame about the problems with the Trawler” he starts.

 “It’s all the worse because I heard from a cargo ship this morning that they passed a shoal of pilchards heading our way.  It’s more of a pity we haven’t got the nets to land ‘em like we used to in the olden days” he finishes.

That gives Speedy Piran an idea.  “If only we could get old Mr Crudge’s nets out into the bay, we could catch that shoal of pilchards ourselves.”

“I could make my way up to the huer’s hut and shout out if I see them” suggests Young Tom. 

 “But what about the fish?  How will we know where they are?” asks Young Tom. 

“You will be the only one who can see them” says Speedy Piran.  “You will need a way to direct us to where the fish are” he says slowly, thinking about how this could be done.

“But how will I direct you?” Young Tom asks.  “In the olden days, they used to use those bushes that grow at the top of the cliffs.  Should I use those?”

What should Piran say?  Should he suggest that Young Tom uses the bushes like they used to?  Or does he give him a radio instead?














Speedy Piran decides to use bushes....

“Let’s do it like they used to.  Grab some bushes when you get up there and wave them about” he suggests.  Young Tom nods and starts off for the huer’s hut.

It isn’t long before the horn is sounding and the cries of ‘hevva, hevva’ can be heard across the bay once more.

Speedy Piran looks up.  Young Tom can be seen above the Smugglers Cove waving the bushes, but Speedy Piran doesn’t know what the signals mean.  He needs help from old Mr Crudge so he races back to the old museum to collect him. 

Old Mr Crudge climbs aboard and they head back to the bay to see what is going on.

Old Mr Crudge can see that the water in the cove mouth is red.  The pilchards were in the cove, but now they are leaving. 

 “It’s a shame that you wasted time coming to get me, but I think we can save enough if we block the cove entrance” says old Mr Crudge.

Oh Dear.  Speedy Piran has let some of the shoal escape. 















Speedy Piran decides to use a radio....

“Bushes worked in the past, but I reckon you need to agree what the signals mean in order for it to work.  How about you take a radio instead?” suggests Speedy Piran and Young Tom agrees.  He takes a radio and sets off for the huer’s hut.  It isn’t long before the horn is sounding and the cries of ‘hevva, hevva’ can be heard across the bay once more.

Young Tom stands above Smugglers Cove looking down on the bay. 

The radio bursts into life as he says “How lucky, they have all just swam into the cove.”

Speedy Piran is glad that Young Tom took the radio.  If they can block off the entrance to the cove, the whole of the shoal can now be caught.















Speedy Piran helps trap the fish....

Speedy Piran realises that they need to make sure as many pilchards as possible stay in the cove while the nets are put in place.   They need to frighten the fish away from the entrance to keep them in the cove.

Dotty the Yacht and the Ricky and Rocky the rowing boats have arrived to help, but who does he use?















Speedy Piran chooses Dotty the Yacht....

He motors over to Dotty the Yacht.

“Dotty, we need your help” he asks.

“Excuse me, it’s Dorothy.  I’m not Dotty” she squeals in her high pitched voice.  Piran doubts this but he doesn’t have time to waste so he is as polite as possible.

“Dorothy, pilchards will escape from the cove unless you can stop them” he explains.  “Turn your music on please.”

“I don’t want those horrible fish anywhere near me” she complains.


“Then make sure it is loud and they will stay away” says Speedy Piran.  Dotty does what he suggests and just in time the pilchards are frightened by the loud noise.  They are trapped and none of the shoal escapes.  Well done Speedy Piran.















Speedy Piran chooses the Rowing Boats...

He motors over to Ricky and Rocky the rowing boats.

“We need to stop the pilchards from escaping.  Will you splash your oars about in the water to frighten the fish please?”

The rowing boats agree to help, but is not sure who should start.

“You go first” says the one of the left.

“After you, I insist” says the one on the right.

“No, please, after you” replies the first.

“SPLASH YOUR OARS” shouts Speedy Piran, “The fish are escaping!”

“Alright, alright.  I am better at it than Ricky so I will start” says the second. 

“Are you Ricky, I thought you were Rocky” says the other.

“JUST SPLASH YOUR OARS” shouts Speedy Piran again, losing his temper.

“Alright, alright.  There is no need to burst your ballast” says Ricky and they both start splashing their oars.  The splashing causes quite a disturbance, but some of the shoal has already escaped under the boats.    The rest turn back and are trapped in the cove.

Oh dear.  Speedy Piran made a poor choice.  The rowing boats weren’t very effective.















Speedy Piran thinks about how well he has done....

Speedy Piran and Doug the Tug work together.  They drag the fishing net from the back of the museum and out into the bay.  They take one end each and stretch the net across the cove entrance.  The net is supports by the corks that float on the water, and the lead weights sink to the ocean floor to stop the fish swimming underneath.  The fish are trapped!

How did Speedy Piran do?  Did he learn enough about fishing to stop the shoal escaping, or did some of them get away?

Did some of the shoal escape? Or none of the shoal escape?















None of the shoal has escaped....

Speedy Piran motors up to the jetty and the Captain is there to greet him.  He is joined by old Mr Crudge, Tom, the trawler’s skipper, the fishermen and their families.  Everyone has come down to the beach to see what is going on.   As Speedy Piran arrives the crowd start clapping and cheering. 

“What a brilliant idea” says the Captain.  “A whole shoal trapped in the cove.  It’s just like it used to be.”

“There must be a million pilchards in here” says the skipper.  “You have trapped enough fish to feed the town, with some to spare and sell at the market.  It is fish for supper!” and with that the fishermen set off to work.  

When they have left, old Mr Crudge smiles at Speedy Piran.  “You have done really well tonight Speedy Piran.  You and Young Tom have caught enough fish to feed all of Treeth.”















Some of shoal has escaped....

As Speedy Piran motors up to the jetty, the Captain is there to greet him.  Old Mr Crudge joins him and Tom, the trawler’s skipper is there as well. 

“It was a good idea Piran, but I am sure you realise that fishing is harder than you think” says the Captain.

“You have managed to trap enough fish in the cove to feed the town” says the skipper.  “Thanks Speedy Piran” and he sets off to work to land the fish.


“Good work Piran” says old Mr Crudge, and smiles.  “You and Young Tom have done enough to feed the fishing families of Treeth and should pleased with your efforts tonight.  But if you had made the right choices, you could have caught even more.   Never mind.”















Fishing is hard work after all.....

As he leaves the cove, he sees the fishermen begin their work of landing the Pilchards from the cove.  With a smile on his face, Speedy Piran heads back to the quay for a well earned rest. 

As he drifts off to sleep, he thinks “This fishing is hard work after all” and he is asleep before his engine has cooled down.

The end.













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