Grand Bards

Henry Jenner

Gwas Myghal 1928-1934

Henry Jenner FSA (8 August 1848 – 8 May 1934) was a British scholar of the Celtic languages, a Cornish cultural activist, and the chief originator of the Cornish language revival. Jenner was born at St Columb Major on 8 August 1848. 

Robert Morton Nance

Mordon 1934-59

Robert Morton Nance was born in Cardiff of Cornish parents. He studied Art at Bushey, Herts under Sir Hubert von Herkomer, who designed the Welsh Gorsedd robes. He met Y Beili Glas at the Breton Gorsedh in 1927 (see Henry Jenner) and was also involved in the first Cornish Gorsedh in 1928, as was A.K. Hamilton Jenkin, then Secretary of the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies. Mordon is probably best remembered for his language work including the 1938 dictionaries. In 1911 he was one of the founders of the Society for Nautical Research and was an authority on maritime art and history.

E. G. Retallack Hooper

Talek 1959-64

E.G. Retallack Hooper qualified in Horticulture at Kew and used to write the gardening column in the West Briton. He worked in Spain. In later years he ran a school which pioneered the teaching of Cornish. For many years he edited the Cornish language newsletter An Lef Kernewek. He worked on many language issues with Caradar (A.S.D. Smith). During his time as Grand Bard he maintained close links with the Gorseddau of Wales and Brittany, as he was a member of both. He was responsible for introducing the children’s flower dance as part of the colourful Gorseth spectacle. He favoured the black Cornish kilt.

George Pawley White

Gunwyn 1964-70

George Pawley White was a Bank Manager and former Treasurer of Mebyon Kernow, of which he was a founder member. He emphasised the concept of a College of Bards with influence in every cultural activity in Cornwall to unite all the people of Cornwall in the service of Cornwall. He led Bardic Gatherings at Moonta and Ballarat in Australia and became a life member of the Cornish Associations of Victoria and South Australia. He is the author of a book on Cornish names. He was a long-serving Methodist local preacher, and vice-president of the Royal Institution of Cornwall and the Cornish Methodist Historical Association.

Denis Trevanion

Trevanyon 1970-76

Denis Trevanion was a schoolteacher in Callington and had two degrees. He did a lot to foster contacts with the 6 million Cornish overseas, and visited Cornish communities in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. He initiated moves to start an assembly of Cornish Bards in Australia. He was a supporter of Amnesty International. He was president of the Truro Constituency Liberal Party.

Richard Jenkin

Map Dyvroeth 1976-82 and 1985-1988

Teacher, lecturer, author, political activist and bard; Gorsedh secretary, Herald Bard, Deputy Grand Bard, Grand Bard twice 1976-82 and 1985-88; founder member Mebyon Kernow, chairman and parliamentary candidate; leader in most other Cornish and Celtic societies; fluent writer in Cornish and English and publisher of New Cornwall and other booklets (some with his wife Ann).

Hugh Miners

Den Toll 1982-85

Hugh Miners was a customs officer in Bristol and London, where he also ran Cornish classes. He spent some time seconded for duty in Nigeria. In 1978 he edited a booklet, Gorseth Kernow, The first 50 years, as an attempt to outline events and prefaced it with This is not a definitive history of the Gorsedh which has still to be written.

Dr John Chesterfield

Gwas Costentyn 1988-91

Dr John Chesterfield celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Gorsedh at Poldhu when he spoke on the radio to the deputy grand bard, Major Cecil Beer, in Melbourne, Australia. In 1901 Marconi had sent the first radio signals across the Atlantic from Poldhu. Dr Chesterfield was Sword Bearer for more than 20 years. He worked as an industrial chemist in Bristol. He is helping to translate the New Testament into Cornish.

George Ansell

Caradok 1991-94

George Ansell is a professional linguist and translator and has been the Gorsedh representative and Chair of the European Bureau of Lesser Used Languages since its inception in 1996. He pursued a policy of inclusivity for adherents of all language groups as bards.

Rvd. Brian Coombes

Cummow 1994-97

Rvd. Brian Coombes was the Gorsedh Chaplain. He is involved with Cornish church services and translation of services and the Bible into Cornish. He is secretary of the Bishop’s Ecumenical Advisory Group for Church Services in Cornish. As Grand Bard, he represented the Cornish Gorsedh at the Eisteddfod in Abergele, North Wales. He was the chief planning officer of North Cornwall District Council.

Ann Trevenen Jenkin

Bryallen 1997-2000

Wife of Richard Jenkin (Map Dyvroeth); teacher/librarian, writer, lecturer and poet; first woman Deputy and Grand Bard; chair of Gorsedh Archives ; former Cornwall and GB Chair, School Library Association; one of the main leaders of the Keskerdh Kernow March to London (1997); editor of Kernow Bys Vyken/Cornwall for Ever, millennium book for all Cornish school children; chair of first Dehwelans 2002/Homecoming of Cornish exiles; travelled extensively among Cornish overseas; supports most Cornish societies, and writes and publishes much about Cornwall.

John Bolitho

Jowan an Cleth 2000-2003

John Bolitho had three phases to his working life: the Royal Navy, the theatre, and business. As Grand Bard he visited Cornish bards in Australia and was made patron of the Cornish Association of Victoria. It is due to his enthusiasm and support that a website was created for Gorsedh Kernow.

Rod Lyon

Tewennow 2003-2005

Born and bred in Cornwall, Rod Lyon was trained as a civil engineer, and although spending some early years at sea, he worked until retirement as a Local Government Officer. His involvement in Cornish matters revolves mainly around the furtherance and strengthening of the language, which includes work on the radio and writing. He sits on the board of the Cornish Eisteddfod and various committees within and associated with the Gorsedh.

Vanessa Beeman

Gwenenen 2006-2009

Vanessa Beeman was not born in Cornwall, but in Nairobi, and the family spent most of her childhood with her family in Tanzania. Whenever they returned to the UK, they stayed with her paternal grandfather, Sidney Hocking, who was proudly Cornish and had Henry Jenner’s A Handbook of the Cornish Language amongst his many books on Cornwall. Later, she studied prehistory at Manchester and Liverpool, and for a Post Graduate Diploma in Education in Wales before teaching at a school in Truro, going on to a post with the Federal Department of Antiquities in Nigeria, and afterwards to teach at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. In 1986, she and husband Robert came back to Cornwall to be near her parents, and she and her father joined Hilary Shaw\’s Cornish Class in Penryn. The language was a fascination from the beginning, and she and her father Kaspar Hocking became Bards in the same year. After seven years working at St Mawes Castle, she then worked as company secretary for her husband’s engineering business.

Michael Kenneth (Mick) Paynter

Skogynn Pryv 2009-2012

Born in Cornwall in 1948 he has lived most of his life in St Ives. He was educated in St Ives, Humphry Davy Grammar in Penzance and at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. For a short time he lived in London and Exeter before his return across the Tamar to work in John Heathcoat’s factory at Pool. For the next 30 years he was a tax officer, first in Redruth, and later in Penzance, where he was involved as a Trade Union Representative. He began learning Cornish in 1999, becoming a Bard of the Gorsedh in 2003 at Launceston. He has written three books of Cornish verse and is the language sub editor of Poetry Cornwall/Bardhonyeth/Kernow. He is supporter of all things Cornish and of our precious language and culture.

Maureen Fuller

Steren Mor 2012 – 2015

Saltash Junior School, where she remained for 39 years, although latterly it was renamed Brunel Primary School, when it merged with Longstone Infants. Maureen has always been interested in all things Cornish and at 10 years old, could be found interviewing great aunts, great uncles and grandparents about her family history. Her mother’s family hailed from Coverack, on the Lizard and St.Mawes on the Roseland peninsula. They gravitated to Falmouth and were instrumental in establishing the pilotage. One great grandfather was a popular Harbourmaster of Falmouth, whilst the other regularly piloted the Cutty Sark into Falmouth. At the same time, great grandmother was cook to Lord Falmouth at Tregothnan. Her father’s family are descended from Boscastle fishermen. After watching a TV programme on Cornish speakers, she was hooked on the language and decided to learn when she found a teacher. In 1973, on returning to Saltash, she joined Wella Brown’s Cornish class and became a language bard at St. Columb in 1977 by Richard Jenkin, Map Dyvroeth. In 1981, Maureen joined Kesva an Taves Kernewek (The Cornish Language Board) and soon became the exam secretary, a position she held for 29 years. In 1991, she was asked to be Senior Steward in the Gorsedh, in 1994 Junior Marshal and in 1997 Gorsedh Marshal, organising all the Gorsedh ceremonies, a post she very much enjoyed. In 2009, she became the Deputy Grand Bard at the Gorsedh in Saltash, in Longstone Park, where she played as a child.

Merv Davey

Telynyor an Weryn 2015 – 2018

Merv Davey grew up in extended Newquay family with a long connection to Cornish music and folk tradition. The family were very conscious of Cornwall’s distinct identity and took delight in exploring the origins of Cornish language place names and dialect words. Like many contemporaries Merv was forced to leave Cornwall in his teens to attend college and find employment. It was whilst living in London that his interest in Cornwall and the Celtic world was re-ignited and where he first attended Cornish classes.Merv returned to Cornwall in 1975 and worked in a variety of Social Care settings from mental health social worker to managing Cornwall Council’s Sensory Team. He was made a bard in 1978 at Merry Maidens, St Buryan and in 1983 was invited to become honorary piper for Gorsedh Kernow, a position which he held until becoming Kannas Bardh Meur in 2012. Together with his wife Alison, bard Corolyores, he was involved in setting up the Lowender Peran Festival in 1978 which celebrates all aspects of Cornish culture and its links with the other Celtic nations. In 2005 Merv took the opportunity to undertake postgraduate research in traditional Cornish music and dance at the Institute of Cornish Studies and was subsequently awarded a doctorate for his thesis. Merv continues his involvement in a wide range of Cornish music and dance activity from the medieval sound of “Pyba” to the modern youth dance group “Tan ha Dowr” as well as playing regularly with the “North Cornwall Ceili Band”. He was Deputy Grand Bard from 2012-2015 and became Grand Bard in 2015.

Elizabeth Carne

Melennek 2018 -2021

Elizabeth Carne was born in Newquay but moved to Devon with her family when her father took a job in Exeter. Her father was staunchly Cornish and told her from a young age that Cornwall had its own language. She decided that one day she would learn it. She trained as a teacher and began her career in Truro, before moving to Trevisker Primary School at St Eval. While in Truro she enrolled in Cornish classes with John Page. On passing the Cornish Language Board exams she was made a Bard at the Merry Maidens in 1978. She immediately started teaching Cornish language evening classes in Newquay which she continued for ten years. She later became Old Cornwall Society Representative on the Kesva an Taves Kernewek.  On taking early retirement she once again began teaching Cornish evening classes in Newquay which continue today. As a Bard she was appointed steward to the Lady of Cornwall and the Dancers in the late 90s which she very much enjoyed. In 2015 she was elected Deputy Grand Bard and became Grand Bard in 2018.


Pol Hodge

Mab Stenek Veur 2021 – date

 Pol Hodge was born in Redruth but grew up in Troon, Camborne.   

He studied Chemical Engineering at South Bank Polytechnic and PGCE Science at Bath University.

Pol has been a Science Teacher in Looe, Youth Worker in the Clay District, a TA at Penrice School, Arts Worker at Truro, Lab Technician in St Austell, Education Officer for the Cornish Language Office and Cornish Language Officer for Golden Tree Productions, based in Redruth.

As a Cornish speaker, Pol has worked for Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek and Kesva an Taves Kernewek for over 30 years and has served with the Translation Service as well as Signage, Terminology and Board of the Akademi Kernewek.

Pol has taught Cornish at Camborne, St Austell, St Columb Major, Padstow and Truro for over 35 years.

Pol is also a performance poet and as a member of Dew Vardh (with Bert Biscoe, (Vyajor gans Geryow) has performed at nearly 500 gigs all over Cornwall and internationally.   

Pol has played the part of Thomas Flamank in the Bodmin Play, Kap’n Pol at Penzance, Tebel Santa in Liskeard and St Piran himself at the annual pilgrimage on the towans.

Pol was barded at the Roche Gorsedd in 1991.  He has served for more than twenty years as Sword Bearer and acted as a Judge on the Competitions Pannel.  He was elected to Council in 2018 and then made Deputy Grand Bard, 2018-2021.  Pol became Grand Bard in 2021 at the Bude-Stratton Gorsedd.

Pol lives with his wife Jane Ninnis, (Kesklywores) at Lambriggan in Pydarshire, Cornwall.