The Fishermen’s Co-op was founded as a result of the FOS (Fishery’s Organisation Society) to promote co-operation among fishermen. The project was led by Mr William Lawry who had been Port Fishery Officer for St Ives. It was organised at a meeting of seventy fishermen on 14th January 1920. A Committee was set up and contributions of a minimum of £1 a shares were requested. Some people gave well in excess of this figure.
Early orders were placed for pilchard nets, mackerel nets, half a ton of carbide (for gas lamps), oil skins, oil skin aprons, sou’ wester hats and tar brushes. The business soon acquired its own bark house near the Island for tanning nets and lines.
Author Tom Richards has written about the Co-op: I recall it in the 1930s as an Aladdin’s cave, crowded with all manner of interesting things on the counter, the shelves, the floor and suspended from the beams. Oilskins, leather sea boots, lanterns, glass floats, ropes, nets, nails and screws all jostled for space, and overall was the distinctive…smell of a hardware shop mixed with paraffin and linseed oil.
The Co-op has been on the same site on the Wharf since it opened. It is still a thriving business but its wares are designed to attract the holiday makers rather than the fishermen.