It is unlucky to commence eating pilchards from the head down, which is ‘sure to turn the heads of the fish away from the coasts.’ The legitimate process is to eat the fish from tail towards the head. This brings the fish to our shores, and brings good luck to the fishermen.
For centuries pilchards provided both income and staple diet for the Cornish fisher folk. Indeed, a rhyme explained that:
Pilchards are food, money and light,
All in one night.
Cornwall’s fishing fleets are today reduced to little more than a handful of boats and even these generally supplement their earnings by transporting tourists to the diminishing fishing grounds. As with tin and copper mining, fishing in Cornwall has lost out to foreign competition and much of the folklore associated with this tough career has died with it.