Heritage Plaque pays tribute to naturalist and founder Bard of Gorsedh Kernow John Coulson Tregarthen.

Wearing her distinctive copper regalia former Grand Bard of Gorsedh Kernow Ann Trevenen Jenkin, Bryallen, Penzance Mayor David Nebesnuick and former Penzance Mayor and Bard Phil Rendle, Baneroniethor, were among the guests who officially unveiled a Heritage Plaque in memory of naturalist, teacher and founder Bard of Gorsedh Kernow John Coulson Tregarthen.

The plaque was installed outside the Tremenheere pub, Penzance, once the site of Tregarthen’s home at 4 Market Place.

John Coulson Tregarthen Heritage Plaque ceremony, Penzance.
John Coulson Tregarthen Heritage Plaque ceremony, Penzance. Photo Greg Martin.

John Coulson Tregarthen, born in Penzance on 9th September 1854, was a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London (founded in 1826 by, among others, Cornishman Humphry Davy) a British field naturalist and author and has been described as “the best loved Cornishman of his time.”

He was initiated as a Bard at the inaugural Gorsedh Kernow ceremony held at Boskawen y’n Woon on 21st September 1928, taking the Bardic name of Mylgarer, Lover of Wild Animals.

Tregarthen was the son of James Tregarthen of St Mary’s, Scilly, and Morrab Road, Penzance, and Susan Bevan, the daughter of John Coulson of Penzance. He was educated at Penzance Grammar School and Wren’s, and graduated with Mathematical Honours from London University in 1878. When he retired to Cornwall in his late forties, the energetic Tregarthen was able to pursue his naturalist interests fully, and began to write about the wildlife he saw around him. His many books include ‘Life at the Land’s End’ (1904), ‘The Life Story of a Fox’ (1906), ‘The Life Story of an Otter’ (1909) which predates Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter and was republished in 2005 and ‘The Story of a Hare’ (1912).  He is listed in the Oxford University Press “Who’s Who”.

In 1923 he wrote ‘John Penrose – a Romance of the Land’s End’. Of John Penrose, Tregarthen wrote: ‘My hope is that the book will appeal to every son of Penzance, and to the solitary dwellers in the western parishes, and – may I add – on remote ranches and lone mine settlements beyond the seas. I have tried to hold aloft the torch of local patriotism, and to hand down my recollections of my beloved land. It is my legacy to Cornwall.’

He was also President of the Midland Cornish Association in 1901, President of the Royal Institution of Cornwall (1927–29), a Fellow of the Zoological Society, a county councillor and JP.  He married in 1881 and had one son.  He spent his final years at his house, “Rosemorran”, which is in Edgecumbe Gardens, Newquay. He died in Newquay on 17 February 1933 and was buried at St Columb Minor.

John Coulson Tregarthen is a very important figure in the history and on-going life of Gorsedh Kernow, and was considered by the first Grand Bard of Cornwall, Henry Jenner, to be one of only a few distinguished Cornishmen and women invited to become the first Bards of Cornwall, alongside such notable figures as Robert Morton Nance, Canon Gilbert Doble, Mrs Annie Pool and A.K. Hamilton Jenkin.