Sunday, 8 March 2009

The Ely Eel Catcher and The Media Circus

It is said that Ely derives its name from 'eel' and '-y' or '-ey' meaning island, i.e. an island where there were a lot of eels. This may be true, due to the position of Ely, an island in low lying fens, which were historically very marshy and rich in eels. It has even been claimed that, during the 11th century, monks of the town used eels as currency to pay their taxes.

Peter Carter is an Eel Fisherman,
Willow Merchant & Mole Catcher.

He makes traps and nets for his own use and also for sale.

The eel traps are at the front and to their right the tapering piece of fluted wood is called a "chair" and is used to start the weaving. The green ones lying down at the back are for catching crayfish. He is going to be in next weeks episode of Time Team.

Like me, Peter was also brought in to make the Craft Market look more interesting for the TV cameras. A new TV channel called Blighty are making a series of programmes called "Best of British" where a 'famous' person chooses their favourite market town. The producer told me that apparently I was doing an interview and rigged up the microphone so when a lady approached and started quizzing me about what I was doing I suddenly realised that this was the famous person. Faye Ripley played the part of Jenny Gifford in the series Cold Feet - not a programme I ever watched. One of the questions she asked was "Why are you here" - I nearly said "Because of you" but managed to come out with some other reasons.
Of course this succeeded in alienating us from the other crafters who attend the market every week and felt totally ignored. There was quite a hostile atmosphere as we packed up to go home.

The programme is going to be shown on Tuesday 14th April at 9pm - available on Sky Channel 534 and Virgin TV 206. So I won't even be able to see it !

These are the chunky chisels that Brian gave me. I'll be able to use the skew (1 1/4") but not sure about the round nose scraper - perhaps I'll save it for when I get an electric lathe ?


Anonymous said...

Robin, there is a bit more about Peter Carter at

It shows some more of his tools including an interesting plane for making a strip of willow of a consistent thickness.

Anonymous said...

Doh, just noticed you've got his link on your page, he has recently changed it and I have the old link, sorry.

Fenlander said...

Hi Robin, Peter mentioned you have made a Cleave. I am now trying to make one myself from a piece of Yew. Any tips or advice gratefully received!!

Robin Fawcett said...

I suppose the best tip is to turn them on a lathe.
I form one on either end of a billet and leave them on this to hold them in the vice to cut the grooves.

Fenlander said...

Do your cleaves split the wands into four or three?

Robin Fawcett said...

I haven't made any cleaves for a while but normally make them with 3 grooves - some with 4.
How many do you want !