They are an unlikely collection of words, but together they amounted to an unexpected and extremely generous donation to St Senara’s Church in Zennor, famous for its mermaid, just because the church doors weren’t locked.

It was back in 1981 when a young man, who wants to remain anonymous, decided to walk the Coastal Path from Penzance to St.Ives with a friend.

In his own words, “Neither of us had any connection with Cornwall but set off, ill-equipped and optimistic. We averaged 12 miles a day and the weather was kind to us. However, later that week, as we hit the northern coast, the weather turned and we had a tough day in wind and rain to reach Zennor.

“We set up our tent near the Church (without permission) before dark and headed to the Tinner’s Arms for supper. We retired to our tent and managed to get a few hours of sleep. But about 4:00am the wind and rain reached a crescendo and we left our collapsing tent and made for the church.

“Mercifully the door was open and we spent the hours until daylight shivering in the (still) cold but dry church, eating Spam from a tin!”

The story didn’t end there. Thirty-four years later the hapless camper returned to Zennor with his wife and went into the church again and was moved to write a letter. In it, he explained how his life had been blessed in so many ways and that he wanted to thank to the church that had provided him and his friend with shelter and comfort all those years ago. And so, he donated £15,000, with the hope that it would continue to be there to do the same for others.

“It was a miracle really. We’d just discovered that the side wall in the Mermaid Chapel was crumbling and needed urgent repair, and we did not have the money. Then this wonderful gift was given!” Revd Elizabeth Foot


The money was also used to complete the side Chapel as it was dark and hard to see the famous mermaid carving. The wooden floor was also rotten and when the floor was taken up for repairs, they discovered bones! As Revd Elizabeth says, “I’m sure they were the the mermaid’s as there were no leg bones!”

The Chapel at St Senara’s Church, Zennor. Who knows where a random act of kindness can lead?