In St Stephens Churchyard, next to Ann Glanville, lie one Mrs Mary Blake and her daughter Mary May. Today there is little trace of these two hard-working women who never rose above their humble station in life, but they were obviously well-known and respected in their own time.
Written in the parish register at Saltash are the following anonymous verses:
"Where Tamar's waters roll along,
O'er muddy banks and rocks,
The ancient Town of Saltash stands,
Well known for pickle cocks.
It claims the right to shrimp and dredge,
Within the headlands round,
From Shagstone up to Ogle Tor,
The Bay and Plymouth Sound.
Throughout the spring and summer months,
The shrimp net and the rake
Are used to catch a livelihood.
'Twas so with Mary Blake.
Each morning Mary passed the gate,
True as the best of clocks,
The Barrack children knew the cry,
"Will 'e buy my pickle cocks?"
So half a century passed and she
Cared not for wind or rain,
Blest with the best of health and strength,
Her trade she did maintain.
Worn out with years no more she'll stir
Mid kettles, pans, and crocks,
No more on Kinterbury's back
Rake up the pickle cocks.
A Cockle Woman; Verses On Mrs Mary Blake, D 1841"
The "gate" referred to in the poem was that of the Royal Marine Barracks at Stonehouse. Mary Blake gained such a following there that the Band of the Royal Marines, together with a firing party of 19 men under a Sergeant, attended her funeral in 1841. The Band headed the large funeral procession from Tamar Street to St Stephens and played the 'Dead March' as the cortege moved from the Church to the grave. At the close of the service the firing party fired a volley over the grave. Twenty years later the Band came again to her daughter's funeral. This time, however, no volley could be fired, owing to a change of regulations.
The headstone at their grave is inscribed:
"This stone is erected by
non-commisioned officers and men of the Plymouth Division Royal Marines.
IN MEMORY OF MARY MAY
WHO DIED, 2ND OCTOBER, 1860, AGED 76 YEARS, AND ALSO OF HER
MOTHER, MARY BLAKE,
WHO DIED, 7TH JUNE, 1841, AGED 80 YEARS.
The mother and daughter supplied the Royal Marine Barracks, Stonehouse, with shell fish for more than half a century, and gained the esteem of all their customers by their sterling honesty and kind and unassuming demeanour."
page updated 2016-06-07