I arrived in Looe, Cornwall for the first time in April of 2018. I didn't know then that I would quickly be changed by the town and its people and had yet to experience its magic. Shortly after I arrived, I wandered down to the local pub (the oldest pub in Looe, established in 1516) called the "Jolly Sailor", which hosts music nights twice per week. I was so enchanted by these evenings and two characters in particular: Mrs. Margaret Fiddik and her Magic Boot.
Margaret is 87 years old. She first arrived in Looe in 1958 while vacationing with friends when she was swept off her feet by her future husband and has been in Looe ever since. Margaret is a prominent member of the Looe Valley Singers Choir as well as several
local music groups including the Minor Quay Shanty Group (who perform at the Jolly Sailor every Thursday). She also volunteers weekly at the Looe Lifeboat Station and frequently contributes her time to other local organizations.
Margaret is impossible to miss, a tiny woman with a big character, a soft smile, and a marvelous magical boot. I had the special opportunity to have lunch with Margaret and discuss her musical boot and what makes it so special.
"The Boot", as she calls it, she built herself from a broom handle, a traditional Cornish Minor's boot, metal bottle caps, nails, and washers. It is played with a textured wooden stick (that was specially made for her) by hitting the stick against the broom handle to make the washers and caps rattle while simultaneously hitting the boot against the floor. The result is spectacular. (In fact, it would not be unreasonable to assume that Margaret and her Boot actually jumped right off the pages of a Terry Pratchett novel).
A former pianist and violinist, Margaret developed arthritis in her later years which made playing difficult. A friend suggested that she take up a more percussive instrument. One day, Margaret saw someone playing a similar-type "Boot" at a local music venue and she knew she had to have one. With the assistance of her late husband, Margaret designed her very own Boot from scratch and has been playing it all over Cornwall since, becoming a bit of a local celebrity. Currently on her 3rd boot, Margaret makes her way down her massively steep hill week after week to make her stunning appearance at the Jolly Sailor, impressing locals and tourists alike.
It is characters like Margaret and her magic boot that make Looe special and contribute to the unique local and Cornish culture. I feel privileged to have met Margaret and to be able to experience her music week after week and I look forward to continuing to participate in weekly music nights with Margaret and other talented and unique players. Check her OUT!!!