11.06.17 Grand Bard’s visit to Kernewek Lowender, South Australia, May 2017

The Grand Bard, Merv Davey, Telynyor an Weryn, visited South Australia recently as the official representative of the College of Bards of Cornwall, to attend the bi-ennial Kernewek Lowender Festival which was held from 19th to 21st May.

During the Festival it was announced that the region had been awarded National Heritage status which places it well on the road to being recognised alongside Cornwall as a World Mining Heritage Site.

The Kernewek Lowender Festival is held in the “Copper Triangle” – Moonta, Wallaroo and Kadina in South Australia. During his stay the Grand Bard and his wife were invited to luncheon on Friday 26th May at Government House in Adelaide with the Governor of South Australia, Mr Hieu van Le.

Guests at the luncheon included those shown in the picture, from left: Noel Carthew, Map Caddy; Diana Hancock, Palores Tramor; Merv Davey, Telynyor an Weryn, Bardh Meur Kernow; Margaret Johnson; Hieu van Le AC, Governor of South Australia; Lan Le; Alison Davey, Corolyores; Matt Curnow; Jan Lokan; Margaret Curnow; Liz Coole, Myrgh Moonta; Carlene Woolcock, Dyskadores; Lilian James, Ula Ruthvelen; Peter Woolcock.

Bardh Meur Merv Davey, Telynyor an Weryn, with Governor of South Australia May 2017
Bardh Meur Merv Davey, Telynyor an Weryn, with the Governor of South Australia May 2017

Following a subsequent newspaper report, bard Noel Carthew, Map Caddy, penned the following letter to the Yorke Peninsula Country Times.

The Editor, Yorke Peninsula Country Times

The Cornish Association of South Australia was well aware that in planning for Kernewek Lowender 2017 some ‘hard decisions had to be made’ along the way, and while we were concerned about some of those decisions and processes taken, we were pleased to participate once again, and join in the congratulations to President Lynn Spurling and the Kernewek Lowender committee, and to Executive Officer Tayla Daniels, for a job well done – and we look forward to involvement in Kernewek Lowender 2019 and beyond.

However, I was a little disturbed to read in the Country Tines editorial (16th May) “.. Gathering of the Bards is a very traditional ritual held entirely in the ancient Cornish language. While an event such as this is targeted specifically at Bards from around the world, there are plenty of other activities more suitable for the general population.” We need to remember that Kernewek Lowender is a Cornish festival – while at the same time reflecting just what we might mean by celebrating ‘Cornish heritage’! The ties between the Copper Coast and Cornwall are strong, and strengthened by the recent addition of the Moonta and Burra mining areas to the National Heritage List; the next step from there is inclusion (with the mining heritage sites in Cornwall) in the World Heritage List.

We are not immune, though, from the current political situation in Britain. The Westminster government in London has made a few attempts over the last 20 years or so to change county boundaries in Britain, part of which would form a new county of ‘Devonwall’ (though the current push for that reform is ‘on hold’ during the current election campaigning.) This seems contradictory to the official recognition of Cornwall as having minority status, similar to the other Celtic nations of Scotland and Wales, and it would surely be rather odd to celebrate the heritage of Cornwall if that entity no longer officially existed – but it remains part of the UK Government’s plans.

One of the strongest voices for Cornwall in this and other debates is that of the Grand Bard, speaking on behalf of the Bards of Cornwall; bardship is bestowed in recognition of service to Cornwall and to Cornish culture and heritage (not just in Cornwall; there are something like 30 Australians who are Bards of Cornwall). It was a little disappointing that the recent visit to Kernewek Lowender of the current Grand Bard, Dr Merv Davey, didn’t seem to attract much publicity – though he & his wife both thoroughly enjoyed their visit and are looking forward to learning more of the Cornish heritage in Australia on future visits.

In other words, while some aspects of Cornish culture and heritage might seem rather removed from our everyday life, the Northern Yorke Peninsula is perhaps ‘more Cornish than Cornwall’ and we have a part to play in making the rest of the world know that our heritage is important to us, and that this heritage is worth preserving.

Long may Kernewek Lowender continue!

Noel Carthew, Secretary, Cornish Association of South Australia.

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