21st March – Fishing stories

We had a whole stitching week thinking about the fish of the Lugg. Luckily for us, one of our distance stitcher’s Elaine, had become interested in the project because her Granddad Milton Roland ‘Cosmo’ Barrett (1895 – 1962) had been a famous fly fisherman on the Lugg which runs through Presteigne, and had invented two successful fishing flies. Below she tells his story and also provides us with a poem that she wrote in tribute to him.

Milton Roland Cosmo Barrett (1895 – 1962) with his fishing flies on his lapel which Elaine comments were not a comfortable ‘cwtch’ as a little girl!

Elaine gave permission to use the material she had posted to me about her Granddad that included his descriptive writing about the Lugg and his love of fishing, excerpts from magazines about him and fishing on the Lugg, and some of his writing and his fishing fly designs which she felt could be interesting to embroider in themselves. Her Granddad had moved from Crewe in 1926 and had a cabinet making / upholstery business Barrett Bros. of Presteigne and through this did much work in the local character houses, including one I used to work at, the Jacobian Manor house owned by Lord Rennell of Rodd in 1950’s and now part of Sidney Nolan Trust, the manor house being gifted to the nation in 2019 and so belongs to all of us! 

Cosmo’s fishing flies are called Barrett’s Bane and Professor. Here is his ‘Fishing card’.

Eliane’s Grandfather’s ‘Fishing card’
The Trout fly ‘invented’ by Elaine’s grandfather Cosmo Barrett and a description of a reverse-hackled fly.
Famous flies and how to fish them‘ from Trout and Salmon magazine, April 1996, sent in by Elaine.
Image of different flies from ‘Famous flies and how to fish them‘ from Trout and Salmon magazine, April 1996, sent in by Elaine.
Reading from Heritage Flies newsletter (2016) sent in by Elaine
Herirtage flies advertisment sent in by Elaine featuring the ‘Cosmo’ fly

Here are some family photographs of Cosmo Barrett copied for us by Elaine.

Elaine’s photo of her Grandfather in his fishing ‘gear’
Elaine’s photo of her grandfather in the garden of the Radnorshire Arms, Presteigne, he is on the left, circa 1930
Elaine’s photo of Peter Flint (rod in hand) and her Grandfather Milton Roland Cosmo Barrett in a pensive, quiet, fisherman mode.

Elaine gives an example from her Granddad’s writing which she feels he wrote from the heart. His writing ‘Thoughts on Fishing’ by Milton Roland Cosmo Barrett was found in a Challenge Duplicate receipt book for his business.

The glowing warmth of the pale early Sun begins to revive the sleeping earth, later to penetrate to the dormant roots of the grass and flowers, gently releasing them from the Winter’s cold grip, inviting all nature to prepare to rejoice’

Cosmo Barrett

Elaine’s stitching and poem and snowdrop connection

Elaine went on to embroider two beautiful snowdrops for the project although she said it was such a long time since she had done any embroidery. She also shared a personal snowdrop link in that her Dad, Colin Barrett had been commemorated in his lifetime in snowdrops planted on the Warden in Presteigne by ‘Friends of Warden’ in his initials C.B. He had donated to the purchase of bulbs thinking they would be planted randomly! Elaine explains he in turn loved Presteigne and had done much for the town.

Elaine’s Dad Colin Barrett celebrated in snowdrops by his local community in Presteigne

Elaine then wrote her own poem as a tribute to her Granddad and Maggie kindly read it out whilst we stitched.

‘Amidst the Reeds’ by Elaine Millard 2022, read by Maggie Crompton

What of the fish in the river today?

Here’s a photo of a salmon caught in the Wye in 1996

Elaine’s newsclipping from January 26th, 1996

Elaine sent in a lovely article which I read to the stitchers from Trout and Salmon Magazine written by Jon Beer

Jon Beer’s writing about fishing in the Lugg in Trout and Salmon magazine.
Image from John Beer’s article article sent in by Elaine.

Kate Green loaned me this book Trout in Dirty Places by Theo Pike which has a whole chapter about Leominster and the admirable work of the Angling trust, so I read this to the stitchers too.

Reading of chapter 18 from ‘Trout in Dirty places’ by Theo Pike
I love this book title, book lent to me by Kate Green, includes a chapter about Leominster and the fabulous work of the legal team of the Angling Trust fighting for the ecology of Britain’s rivers.
Photo of ‘a Kenwater grayling, sight fished with a tiny nymph betwen flowering rafts of ranunculus’, taken from Theo Pike’s Trout in Dirty Places book (2012:116)
Photo of ‘A wild trout form the Kenwater’ taken from Theo Pike’s Trout in Dirty Places book (2012:114)

If you would like to read more about fishing and flies Elaine recommends two books: ‘Trout flies of Shropshire and the Welsh Borderlands‘ by Michael Leighton, and Fishing the Welsh borderlands by Roger Smith.

Huge thanks to Elaine for illuminating the life of fish in our rivers and sharing her Grandfather’s personal connection to the Lugg.

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