A dry, sunny but chilly St Austell witnessed a unique Cornish tradition last Saturday 11th April 2015 when the Cornish Gorsedh held the first of its gatherings in the town. A warm welcome from St Austell’s Mayor, Cllr Derek Collins, ensured a happy start to Gorsedh Kernow’s Proclamation ceremony which was held in the town’s newly restored Cemetery Park after a procession of more than 85 blue robed Bards through the busy streets of the town.
“The Proclamation heralds the coming of the Gorsedh later in the year,” said Grand Bard of Cornwall, Maureen Fuller, Steren Mor “and we are very honoured to be here in St Austell as guests of the Mayor, Councillors and townspeople who are all working hard to support our needs this year. As the name suggests Cemetery Park is the last resting place of many people from the town. Gorsedh Kernow respects and recognises this sacred site and wishes to express profound respect to those who lie here.”
Mrs Fuller spoke warmly and admiringly about the efforts and achievements of the many famous names of the town including bards of Gorsedh Kernow bard A.L.Rowse, Lef a Gernow (Voice of Cornwall), barded in 1968, poet Jack Clemo, who took the name Prydyth an Pry (Poet of the Clay) when made a bard in 1970, along with the famous Cornish aviator Captain Percival Phillips, and with a nod to the present day, John Nettles, the actor who was in Midsommer Murders and also played Bergerac, who was born in the town.
“But perhaps the most famous person was the founder himself, Saint Austol, a 6th century Breton missionary who gave his name to this place,” said Mrs Fuller.
“St. Austell was lucky to have such a variety of minerals in the ground surrounding it, beautiful coastal and inland scenery and be on the main railway line with a port to the sea to send what it produces worldwide, enabling it to capitalise on its assets. Of course there were dark times when the tin industry waned, but through grit and determination, the people of St Austell have survived in ingenious ways.”
Emphasising this resilience and ingenuity the Grand Bard urged the people of Cornwall to be resourceful and make the most of our minority status so it does not become an empty gesture.
“What is needed is education. We need to educate people that there are five nations in the United Kingdom, Cornwall is not England, we are Cornish and our flag Baner Piran should fly beside all the other national flags on the occasions when they are flown together.
“What’s more, the new £1 coin, announced by HM Treasury five months after our minority status was granted, will feature four nations of the United Kingdom. No, there are five nations now: Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall and England.”
Following spirited applause, the Grand Bard accepted an invitation from the Mayor to hold the Bardic ceremony in St Austell in September and presented to the Mayor a framed original poem, in Cornish describing their town, as a gift for the people of St Austell.
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Further notes for Editors
Gorsedh Kernow exists to maintain the national Celtic Spirit of Cornwall and to give expression to such spirit, to encourage the study of Cornish history and literature, the Cornish language, to foster Cornish art, music, dance and sport and to link with other Celtic countries.
The tradition of preserving a history and culture of a Celtic people stretches back to the story tellers – Bards of ancient Celtic countries, and these traditions are marked each year by a unique open air Cornish Bardic ceremony in September which is preceeded by a Proclamation ceremony the previous April.
The main Bardic ceremony, where awards and prizes are presented and bardships conferred, will be held on Saturday 5th September in Poltair Park, as part of Gorsedh Kernow’s Esedhvos Festival of Cornish culture, which runs from Tuesday 1st – Sunday 6th September 2015.