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Here in St Ives, we are blessed to have glorious sand. The texture varies slightly from one beach to another, but you would have to go a long way to find better. However, it does tend to have a mind of its own, and move around! You only have to look at the photo to see what I mean.

Most years, in the spring, the town council has to arrange for the sand to be levelled at the eastern end of Porthmeor beach, but I don’t think there has been anything quite like the build-up of sand that had to be dealt with in March 1952. Apparently, a mountain of between 18,000 and 19,000 tons of sand had to be removed using two very powerful bulldozers. The sand had built up heavily — possibly over the war years — and was now pressing again the artists’ studios and other properties. The process took many weeks to complete.

A Porthmeor Sand Fund was set up by the St Ives Times, and donations were received from locals and hotel guests alike. For example, the Pedn Olva Hotel sent along 7 guineas (£7. 35p in today’s money) which had been raised by holding a whist drive.  There was also a donation of 3s (15p) from a schoolboy living is Isleworth, Middlesex, which was very generous for 1952, when I imagine most children would have had, at the most, only 6d (2½ p) a week pocket money. The total raised by mid-March was £200.7s, but the cost of removing that amount of sand was in the region of £1,500 — a very large sum in 1952.

I’m sure you will enjoy the following poem, Sand, by St Ives Bard and poet, John T Barber: many thanks to his daughter, Irene, for giving the Archive permission to use it. The poem was written with the sand mountain clearance in mind, originally as a song, entitled Song of the Sand.  An article in the St Ives Times of 7th March, 1952, describes the song as having “an appealing tune in a minor key”.

The work to demolish the sand ‘mountain’ in 1952

Sand

Sand, sand, sand sand,
Beautiful silvery sand,
All our visitors say it is grand;
When summer is here and the beaches are swarming,
The sea is so cool and the sun is so warming,
That folk far and near from all over the land
Come to play and relax, and they say it is grand,
On our beautiful silvery sand, sand, sand, sand,
On our beautiful silvery sand.

Sand, sand, sand sand,
Beautiful silvery sand,
What a power it has to expand,
When winter is here and the north wind is blowing,
The sand takes the air and then there is no knowing,
Asleep in your bed, of the danger at hand,
Being buried alive by the beautiful sand,
By the beautiful silvery sand, sand, sand, sand,
By our beautiful silvery sand.

Sand, sand, sand sand,
Beautiful silvery sand,
An impossible thing to command,
It fills up the streets and it chokes up the drain,
While the poor people Down-a-Long struggle in vain,
As they bend to the task, broom and shovel in hand,
In an effort to cope with this terrible sand,
With this beautiful silvery sand, sand, sand, sand,
With this beautiful silvery sand.

Sand, sand, sand sand,
Beautiful silvery sand,
More than mortals are able to stand,
You eat it for breakfast, you drink it in tea,
It fills up the eyes till you barely can see,
While folks far and near in all parts of the land,
Tell of wonderful times and they say it is grand,
On our beautiful silvery sand, sand, sand, sand,
On our beautiful silvery sand.

This extra verse refers specifically to the Sand Appeal:

Sand, sand, sand, sand,
Beautiful silvery sand,
But we now have a project in hand,
So spare what you can, if it’s only a bob
It will help the bulldozers to finish the job,
Then we’ll put up the shutters and call out the band
And we’ll all sing together The Song of the Sand
Of our beautiful silvery sand, sand, sand, sand,
Of our beautiful silvery sand.

Sand can be found in Johnny Barber’s wonderful book Cousin Jack Afloat and Ashore and Other Poems.

Jan Harris

St Ives Archive’s Research Centre is based at Wesley Methodist Church, St Ives Road, Carbis Bay, St Ives, TR26 2SF. It is due to re-open to the public in early August. For more information, phone 01736 796408, email admin@stivesarchive.org, or visit www.stivesarchive.org.

The Archive opened in 1996 and is staffed by volunteers. We are always looking for people to join our enthusiastic team — there are opportunities to learn new skills, carry out research, assist visitors, and take part in fundraising events. We offer a valuable service for anyone wishing to obtain historic information about the town, free of charge. The Archive holds over 20,000 photographs and numerous documents covering fascinating subjects, such as art, maritime heritage, tourism, and traditional customs, and we also have extensive resources relating to the history of St Ives families. Why not come and visit us?