In September 1858 the Royal Cornwall Gazette reported a sad accident.
'As Sally Menear, a widow, was taking coals from a vessel which was discharging, she fell and broke her leg. This is a very unfortunate affair, as she is the mother of nine young children, most of whom reside with her.'
Sally was then aged 46 and the widow of a mariner and clearly very poor. Unloading coal from the ships moored alongside her home on the quay in Polruan was desperately hard work. Male coal heavers were often unemployable in their forties through ill health. This accident could well have seriously disabled Sally as it is doubtful if she could afford any kind of medical treatment. What would become of the family now? She and her family survived. Three years later in 1861 she was still living on the quay in her home with just her two youngest sons, aged eight and six, but her occupation now was 'knitter and sewer'. This was the type of sedentary occupation that a non-skilled disabled person could manage. To add some small income she had taken a lodger, Mary Trembath, aged 80, who might also have been able to give some domestic support. By 1871 the situation had improved altogether, and Sally was living at a new address in West Street with just two of her older children, aged 24 and 28, who were both earning. Sally's occupation was now the slightly grander sounding (if incorrect) 'Master Mariner's widow'. She died aged 65 in 1875.
Research Helen Doe
Sources: Isabel Pickering, Some Goings On!, (Author, 1995); Geoffrey Best, Mid-Victorian Britain; 1861 Census Lanteglos by Fowey, Lanteglos by Fowey Parish Registers