The Grand Bard was guest of honour at the Penryn Martyrs Commemoration on Saturday 29th August 2015. Here is her speech which honours Cornishmen who fought in conflict, whatever their rank.
Dohajydh da dhewgh hwi oll. Pys da yw genev bos omma yn Pennrynn arta rag an oferenn arbennik ma.
Good afternoon everyone. I am pleased to be here again in Penryn for this special service.
We are gathered here today, to remember Cornish men and women, who have given their lives in the service of their country. This stone is their memorial, and for some, the only memorial they have, as many are known only unto God. The Cornish have never had an easy life, in fact it has been a constant struggle against hunger, finding housing, rearing children and making ends meet, not forgetting to mention tax gathering rulers who inflicted demands on the Cornish, and took away their prayer book and the mass that they knew, which deprived them of the little solace they could find in church.
And even today in the time of food banks, lack of affordable housing and the lack of work, necessitating Cornish people having to find work outside of Cornwall, life for some Cornish people is still about suffering. Many have had to leave our beloved land to find work to keep their families, a lot of them were hard rock miners famed for their knowledge, but life was not easy when they got to their new lands. Australia for example has little fresh water and many died from lack of it, especially the women and children. But it is this struggle that has honed the character of Cornishmen and women and made them survivors. It has also made them strong to stand up and be counted, especially when they were needed to make a stand against injustice.
Today, we remember those who walked from St. Keverne to Blackheath in 1497 to complain about King Henry VII, raising taxes to fight the Scots. The suffering in the wake of this event was great. Many were executed for their complicity in the uprising, and their property seized. We remember the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549 and those who marched to Exeter to ask to keep the old prayer book with its service in Latin and 900 Cornishmen were slaughtered in ten minutes by mercenaries. Others were executed afterwards for complicity.
One can only imagine the hardship this caused back in Cornwall, bereft of 900 men in their prime, the breadwinners for their families. Last year we commemorated the First World War and we think of all those soldiers who left Cornwall to fight, so that we might live in peace. We remember not only those from these shores but also those from the Diaspora, who fought under another flag but were Cornishmen still, in their hearts.
In Australia last year I was able to go to the War Museum in Canberra. On the memorial plaques you could see many Cornish surnames who served with the Anzacs and three Cornishmen gained the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli, namely William Symons, William Dunstan and Albert Jacka. Recently, I opened my newspaper and there was a photo of Albert Jacka with an article about him and his exploits, bearing the headline, “Was this the bravest man in the war?” It said he was an Australian which is true, but he was a Cornishman living in Australia and I was very proud to see that headline. In Kernow, there were also three winners of the Victoria Cross. They were Horace Curtis, James Fynn and Ernest Pitcher.
On July 25th this year, we remembered the people who fought in the Battle of Britain, mostly young men who answered the call and demonstrated their bravery. There were many documentaries showing their daring flying, many of whom had few flying hours under their belt, before they found themselves in battle. This commemorated the worst day of the battle, when every plane they had was up in the sky defending our shores, Cornishmen amongst them, my own father included. We remember all those Cornishmen who fought in World War 2. Cornishmen and women continue to answer the call and show their bravery and commitment in the recent wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
We remember all Cornishmen who fought in conflict, whatever their rank and the families they left behind. We salute them all for their bravery.
Kernow bys vykken.
Steren Mor, Maureen Fuller, Bardh Meur Kernow, Grand Bard of Cornwall.