The long hot summer of 1976 started in the April when not a drop of rain fell throughout Cornwall for the whole month. Doc Shiels was out and about down the Helford busy conjuring Morgawr and we had the Easter holiday to look forward to. As soon as Redruth Comp broke up, me and my three schoolmates (for the sake of eternal obscurity I shall call them Manny, Moe and Jack) were off down St Ives for the day on the train as Moe had said that David Bowie was staying with a friend in one of the big houses on The Terrace, and we thought that we might get the chance to harass him. Besides, we had also heard tell that there was supposed to be some Jimson Weed growing wild down there too. Who should we see on the train that day but Frank Sidebottom, talking to Bill Oddie (off on one of his trecks to the Scillies) about the Great Grey Owl of Lappland. Frank was still very much an unknown in those days, but we took a shine to the novelty-headed performer, and soon we were friends.
It turned out that Frank was staying for several months at the Sunnyside B&B on Treluswell Roundabout near Penryn (twinned with Chernobyl). Bored of studying the cars on the roundabout, and in the adjacent petrol station, he too was looking for adventure. Later that day, he returned with us to Moe's house on Falmouth Road in Truro and there we hatched the plan for the Owlman of Mawnan.
The next morning we hit the streets. Me and my friends would regularly chat up the girls in Truro, but none were more gullible than the emits, and shortly we hit on two sisters from Lancashire who had come to Truro to see the alligators in Paul's Pet Shop in Little Castle Street. They told us that later that day they would be visiting Mawnan Church. The plan fell into place. That afternoon we stanked off to Mawnan with Frank in tow. We borrowed a large black cape from a friend of ours (don't ask!) and fashioned a bungee from nylon braided, rubber shock cord (a full two years before the Oxford University Dangerous Sport Club supposedly invented the bungee).
When we got to the woods Jack climbed as far as he could up the highest tree behind Mawnan Church and tied the bungee to one of the larger top branches. Frank, wearing the cape, then climbed about three-quarters of the way up the tree and the rest of us hid in the bushes thereabouts. Before too long the two sisters could be heard chatting and laughing in the distance. As soon as they were about a hundred yards away I gave the signal to Frank and down he came, gave a great big hoot and promptly shot off back up to the tree tops, the cape crackling with static electricity as it rubbed against his synthetic head. The girls were petrified and the story of the giant Owlman was soon circulating. It wasn't long before Doc Shiels got wind of the sighting.
With the summer fast approaching we decided that we needed to arrange another sighting of the Owlman of Mawnan. This time we roped in two older girls, friends of Manny's. We arranged for them to witness a sighting of the bungee jumping Frank Sidebottom in early June. Sally and Barbara were highly amused by the prospect. We all stayed at the Sunnyside B&B that night, eating vast quantities of Space Dust, as we had heard that Doc Shiels would be on Parson's Beach, waving his stick about, the following day. The two girls tracked down Doc the next morning and told him their tale, even drawing for him what can only be regarded as fairly accurate sketches of Frank while me and my friends stood at the other end of the beach sniggering and throwing pebbles at the sea monsters which would sporadically appear out in the Helford. Meanwhile, unknown to us, Frank had decided to do a bit of solo bungee jumping back at Mawnan that day. It happened that two sisters from Southport spotted him. This was an unexpected bonus.
Soon the Owlman was all over the Falmouth Packet and a legend was born. Frank came down again about two years later and insisted that we repeat the exercise. We tried it a couple of times, just to keep him happy, but by now we had lost the buzz, though I must admit that the two French girls were a hoot. Anyway, there the story ends, but below you will find a photo which Manny took in April 1976, just before our first outing to Mawnan. I think you will find it proof enough of the veracity of my tale.
Frank Sidebottom at Mawnan in April 1976, just prior to attachment of the bungee cord.
Posted by Vibracobra23 on 28 Jul 2009 01:22
TAGS: cornwall doc-shiels frank-sidebottom hoaxes mawnan owlman
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