• A “Penwith shout”?


    Above, a YouTube video of Mr Chris Fleischer playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” which all BG readers will know has been adopted by the EU as it’s anthem. When not used to infuriate Mr Nigel Farage and his associates, the tune is also used in churches for the hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” – “Thee” being the Almighty and NOT President Tusk!

    At 4AM on Sunday 9th February 2014, I reversed my old Merc’ (now gone) from it’s parking space on the driveway of the bungalow I had been a lodger in since the end of the first week in December 2013, and out into the main road know as “Street Lane”. The car was pointing against the oncoming traffic but that early in the morning was not a problem. A light but steady drizzle accompanied the start of this very important journey in my life. Dawn was not going to break for some hours and I would be well south of the West Riding of Yorkshire when it did. This was the start of a journey from my life that saw me residing in Leeds to the rest of my life in the far west of Cornwall. This was not only part of my own personal history but of the Rogers family history for a Rogers (from my immediate family) was returning to take up permanent resident in Cornwall for the first time since 1916.

    This was NOT a case of me moving to an area of the country I did not know. I knew the area quite well as I had visited it on holiday several times in recent years and regularly in terms of annual holiday-making throughout my life. This was because my late father, although resident in Leeds since the start of the 1950s had never really “settled” in what he called “the North”. He always saw himself as “a Southerner” – which was not to say he was in any way unfriendly or stand-offish. He was not. “Dad” would dearly have liked to move “south”. This did not necessarily mean Cornwall or Devon (where the family moved to in 1916) or Hampshire where he worked in the 1930s and 1940s.

    I suppose one could define the area his mind’s eye encompassed as the “move to zone” and it would have encompassed the area to the south and west of the following line; from Gloucester to Farnborough and south to Bognor Regis. “Dad” never made the move as life kept on getting in the way. As a result, he died in Leeds and the one thing “Mum” and I could do for him was to scatter his ashes at a well known landmark overlooking the village of Golberdon where he was born.

    “Dad’s” family had lived in and around Callington for generations. The family had left Cornwall halfway through WW1 in 1916. I was moving to Cornwall at the start of 2014. During the 98 years, things in Cornwall had changed!

    Strangely, one of the things that an observer from another continent might assume otherwise, the Cornish language had actually grown in the 98 years since the Rogers family crossed the Tamar from west to east and me crossing it from east to west. Along with the Cornish language the whole aspect of Cornish identity had developed. During Queen Victoria’s and King Edward VII’s reigns and that of King George V, the flag that would have flown atop public buildings and church towers would, if not the Union flag, be the flag of Saint George. Now it is the flag of St. Piran. Indeed, there is now active resistance to the flying of the flag of St. George on the part of certain organisations in Cornwall. For instance, the Geevor Mine in Pendeen has two flagpoles upon which the Union and St. Piran flags are regularly flown. Some time back when 23rd April passed without the flag of England’s patron saint been flown, I complained and asked why. To be told that St. Piran was the patron saint of Cornwall and not Saint George.

    St Piran’s Day is on 5th March and celebrations and a street parade take place in Penzance and Helston and other towns. Those (a very small number) who can speak Cornish speak it.
    This rise of Cornish nationalism is reflected in a political party called Mebyon Kernow.
    GOTO: https://www.mebyonkernow.org/
    It HAS to be re-stated: These developments have all occurred AFTER my family left Cornwall.

    One of the things that had been written and performed before 1916 was something called “The Song of the Western Men”. Now commonly known as “the Trelawny shout!”
    The history and the writer of the song can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Song_of_the_Western_Men
    The song is now sung regularly on St. Piran’s Day. Personally, I find it ridiculous. Had it been written at the time – either 1628 or 1688 – there would be some anachronistic sense to it. But to sing a song recording dubious events that was written by an eccentric more than a century after the later event is just silly.

    Indeed, I have taken to making a spectacle of myself when in the church service on the Sunday before or after the 5th March – I stay seated (and silent) in the pew as the rest of the congregation dutifully obey the command of the vicar and stand and sing this ridiculous piece.

    Yesterday however there was another choral work that I did indeed stand and sing. This was at a “team service” held in what is known as “the Miner’s chapel” in St. Just in Penwith. It was sung to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” These are the lyrics:
    Sing to God whose word was spoken
    Here in Kernow’s farthest west;
    Where Cape Cornwall gazes seawards
    To the islands of the blest;
    Here where granite moors have guarded
    Seams of copper, lead and tin,
    Penwith pilgrims still are gathered
    Feast day anthems to begin,
    Sing to God our patron’s praises,
    lestyn, Justin, just his name,
    Son of Geriant, noble chieftan,
    Through the Celtic lands his fame.
    Sing to God our patron’s mission,
    First in Roseland’s dwelling fair;
    Next to Breton shores he travelled,
    Peace and virtue preaching there,
    Then the call of God his maker
    Drew St Just to Penwith ground,
    Where, his wealth and power renouncing,
    He, in service, blessings found.
    Sing to God, all Penwith pilgrims,
    Like the saints of former days
    we with them can glimpse God’s glory
    Raise our voices now in praise.

    This is a most excellent hymn for the good folk of Penwith to sing!

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