Robert Stephen Hawker

Robert Stephen Hawker (3 December 1803 – 15 August 1875), often known as Stephen Hawker, was a Anglican clergyman, poet, antiquarian of Cornwall, and reputed eccentric. He is best known as the writer of "The Song of the Western Men", that includes the chorus line "And shall Trelawney die? There's 20,000 Cornish men shall know the reason why", which he published anonymously in 1825. His name became known after Charles Dickens acknowledged his authorship of "The Song of the Western Men" in the serial magazine "Household Words".


Hawker was born in the vicarage of Charles Church, Plymouth, on December 3, 1803, the eldest of ten children and the grandson of Robert Hawker, vicar of Charles Church. By the age of ten he was already reading and writing poetry. He was educated at Liskeard Grammar School and Cheltenham Grammar School. As an undergraduate, aged 19, he was married to his godmother, Charlotte I'ans, aged 41. The couple spent their honeymoon at Tintagel in 1823, a place that kindled Hawker's life-long fascination with Arthurian legend and inspired him to write "The Quest of the Sangraal". This marriage, along with a legacy, helped to finance his studies at Pembroke College, Oxford. He graduated in 1827 and won the 1827 Newdigate Prize for poetry.

He took Anglican orders in 1831, becoming curate at North Tamerton and then vicar of the church at Morwenstow, where he remained throughout his life. When Hawker arrived at Morwenstow there had not been a vicar in residence for over a century. Smugglers and wreckers were apparently numerous in the area. A contemporary report says the Morwenstow wreckers "allowed a fainting brother to perish in the sea without extending a hand of safety."

His first wife, Charlotte, died in 1863 and the following year, aged 60, Hawker married Pauline Kuczynski, aged 20. The couple had three daughters. Hawker died in January 1875, having converted to the Roman Catholic Church on his deathbed. He was buried in Plymouth's Ford Park Cemetery. His funeral was noteworthy because the mourners wore purple instead of the traditional black.


Hawker was regarded as a deeply compassionate person giving Christian burials to shipwrecked seamen washed up on the shores of the parish. Prior to this, the bodies of shipwrecked sailors were often either buried on the beach where they were found or left to the sea. At the entrance to Morwenstow churchyard stands the figurehead of the ship 'The Caledonia' which foundered in September 1842. The figurehead marks the grave of nine of the ten man crew. Hawker described the wrecking in his book "Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall". Nearby stands a granite cross marked "Unknown Yet Well Known", marking the mass grave of 30 or more seafarers, including the captain of the "Alonzo", also wrecked in 1842.

The Harvest Festival that we know today was introduced in the small village of Morwenstow in 1843 by Hawker. He invited his parishioners to a Harvest service. He wanted to give thanks to God for providing such plenty in a more fitting way. This service took place on the 1st of October and bread made from the first cut of corn was taken at communion.

"Parson Hawker", as he was known to his parishioners, was something of an eccentric, both in his clothes and his habits. He loved bright colours and it seems the only black things he wore were his socks. He built a small hut (that became known as Hawker's Hut) from driftwood on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, where he spent many hours writing his poems and smoking opium. This driftwood hut is now the smallest property in the National Trust portfolio. Other eccentricities included dressing up as a mermaid and excommunicating his cat for mousing on Sundays. He dressed in claret-coloured coat, blue fisherman's jersey, long sea-boots, a pink brimless hat and a poncho made from a yellow horse blanket, which he claimed was the ancient habit of St Pardarn. He talked to birds, invited his nine cats into church and kept a huge pig as a pet.

He built himself a remarkable vicarage, with chimneys modeled on the towers of the churches in his life: Tamerton, where he had been curate; Morwenstow and Wellcombe; plus that of Magdalen College, Oxford. The old kitchen chimney is a replica of Hawker's mother's tomb.


*"Tendrils" (1821),
*"Records of the Western Shore" Oxford (1832)
*"Ecclesia: A Volume of Poems" Oxford (1840)
*"Reeds Shaken with the Wind" (1843)
*"Echoes from Old Cornwall" (1846)
*"The Quest of the Sangraal: Chant the First" Exeter (1864) from an unfinished Arthurian poem
*"Footprints of Former Men in Cornwall" (1870 - collection of papers)
*"Cornish Ballads & Other Poems", Introduction by C.E. Byles (1908)
*"Selected Poems: Robert Stephen Hawker". Ed. Cecil Woolf (1975)


*"The Vicar of Morwenstow" (1875) by Sabine Baring-Gould
*"The Life and Letters of R. S. Hawker (sometime Vicar of Morwenstow)" (1906) by C. E. Byles,
*"Hawker of Morwenstow" (2002) by Piers Brendon, Random House ISBN 0543960234
*"The Wreck at Sharpnose Point" (2002) by Jeremy Seal ISBN 0-330-37465-6
*"Hale, A., "The Land Near the Dark Cornish Sea", Journal for the Academic Study of Magic, Issue 2, Pages 206-225

External links

* [ Various texts by Hawker] from Project Canterbury
* [ Four Cornish Songs by R.S. Hawker]
* [ The Daily Telegraph article on Hawker and the Harvest Festival]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Robert Stephen Hawker — (1864) Robert Stephen Hawker (* 3. Dezember 1803[1] oder 1804[2] in Stoke Damerell (heute Plymouth), England; † 15. August 1875 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert Stephen Hawker —     Robert Stephen Hawker     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Robert Stephen Hawker     Poet and antiquary; b. at Plymouth 3 December, 1803, d. there 15 August, 1875, son of Jacob Stephen Hawker, M. D., who took orders soon after the birth of his son… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Hawker, Robert Stephen — (1803 1875)    Born in Plymouth, Devon, the son of a doctor, he was educated at Cheltenham grammar school and graduated M.A. from Magdalen Hall in 1836. Ordained in 1831, he was appointed in 1834 as vicar to the Cornish parish of Morwenstow,… …   British and Irish poets

  • Hawker, Robert Stephen — • Poet and antiquary; b. at Plymouth 3 December, 1803, d. there 15 August, 1875 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • HAWKER, ROBERT STEPHEN —    a Cornish clergyman and poet; was vicar for 40 years of Morwenstow, a parish on the N. Cornwall coast; author of Cornish Ballads ; was a humane man, of eccentric ways, and passionately fond of animals; was the author of several works besides… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Hawker, Robert Stephen — (1804 1875)    Poet and antiquary, ed. at Cheltenham and Oxf., became parson of Morwenstow, a smuggling and wrecking community on the Cornish coast, where he exercised a reforming and beneficent, though extremely unconventional, influence until… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • Robert Hawker — (1753 1827) was a Devonian vicar of the Anglican Church and the most prominent of the vicars of Charles Church, Plymouth, Devon. His Grandson was Cornish poet Robert Stephen Hawker.Of all the ministers of Charles Church this man is the most… …   Wikipedia

  • Hawker — may refer to: * Hawker (dragonfly), a family of dragonflies in North America and Europe * Hawker (trade), a single food stall or the occupation * Hawker centre, an Asian open air market of food stalls * Hawker Aircraft, a British aircraft… …   Wikipedia

  • Hawker — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Elizabeth Hawker (* 1976), britische Extremsportlerin Harry Hawker (1889–1921), australischer Flugpionier Lanoe Hawker (1890–1916), britischer Militärpilot Robert Stephen Hawker (1803–1975), britischer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Hawker Hurricane — Hurricane Hurricane Mk I (R4118), which fought in the Battle of Britain Role Fighter …   Wikipedia

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