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When I was the ‘Composer in Residence’ for Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge I was commissioned to compose a Christmas carol for their 2006 Christmas concert in Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge. I wrote the carol for brass quintet, organ and full choir (soprano, alto, tenor and bass). I approached my good friend Graeme Smith to write the words and I gave him complete freedom in the subject matter. He had read the story of the Mousehole (‘mauzel’) cat and thought it would be fun to write a carol about the Christmas lights of Mousehole village in Cornwall, England. Graeme had also been moved by the very tragic story of the Penlee Lifeboat which was lost in 1981 and wanted to compose a carol that was about the sea.

Anyway the story does not end there….

A few years later the Mousehole Male Voice Choir contacted me and asked if they could perform the carol at their Christmas Concert in Mousehole. It was a fantastic honour to be asked, and that Christmas both Graeme and I attended the Cornish premiere of our carol. It was a wonderful occasion and the small village church (St Paul de Leon, Paul) was packed. The carol went down extremely well with the community and the following year the Mousehole Male Voice Choir released a Christmas CD featuring this carol, and this is the recording you hear in this link.

The Christmas Lights of Mousehole

Words By Graeme Smith

Music By Sheridan Tongue

In the tiny village of Mousehole

At Christmas every year

The harbour’s lit with special lights

Folk come from far and near.

They celebrate a fisherman

A man both brave and strong

They say he worked a miracle

His spirit will live long

Chorus:

Shine the glorious lights of Christmas

Shine to show the way

Light the path to our salvation

Save us on this day

A storm raged up the Cornish coast

For all of Christmas week

The families of Mousehole town

Had nothing left to eat

Tom lived alone with just his cat

That night he heard a voice

“Put to sea Tom catch some fish

There isn’t any choice”

(chorus)

Tom’s boat was small against the waves

Against the screaming wind

Time and again he cast his nets

And fought to pull them in.

With baskets full to brim with fish

He turned to run for home

the waves grew even bigger still

The sky was flecked with foam

(chorus)

“Help me Lord” old Tom called out

above the wild winds cry

a miracle then came about

the storm began to die

As Tom grew close to harbour walls

With light they were aglow

Men with lanterns stood the length

To safely guide him home.

(double chorus)

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