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K is for Kernow

Famous for pasties and pirates, Cornwall (Kernow) and the Cornish have always been a bit different from their Devon fact they don't really consider themselves as English. As an ancient Celtic race, the Cornish have more in common with the Bretons of France and the Welsh than the rest of England. As a separate "country", of course they have their own national anthem "Trelawny" . Also known as The Song of The Western Men, it was written by Rev Hawker (of nearby Morwenstow) in 1824, with much of it based on older folk songs. Trelawney is thought to refer to a Cornish Royalist leader who was imprisoned in The Tower of London in 1628.


Having died out as a first language in the 18th C and in danger of being lost forever, in recent times, the Cornish language (Kernewek) has enjoyed a recent revival, helped by the Cornish Bards and Gorsedh Kernow. Now on your travels through Cornwall you will see many road signs with town and road names in Cornish as well as the traditional Cornish Place names that you will be familiar with.

"By Tre, Pol & Pen, Shall Ye Know All Cornishmen" goes the rhyme recorded by Richard Carew in his survey of Cornwall in 1602

Trelissick Gardens Polzeath Penzance

How many of these Cornish prefixes will you spot on your travels?

Tre - Homestead

Pol - Pool

Pen - Headland

Porth - bay or harbour

Perran - from St Piran

St Piran

The patron saint of tin miners and one of Cornwall's three patron saints, is St Piran - a 5th C abbot who is supposed to have been banished from Ireland (thrown in the sea) and washed up on the coast of Cornwall. The Cornish flag is know as St Pirans Flag. St Piran "rediscovered" tin smelting when his black hearthstone produced white tin whilst he was heating it (hence the colours of his flag) Piran is believed to have lived for 200 yrs and supposedly died by falling down a well (he liked his drink!). St Pirans day is celebrated throughout Cornwall on the 5th of March.


Cornish culture and traditions are drawn from two very different aspects of Cornish heritage. The (slightly!) more modern traditions such as male voice choirs & shanty singers, Brass bands (and obviously pasties!) have their roots in the Cornish mining and fishing communities. Some more ancient Cornish traditions have their roots in paganism and ancient celtic rituals. The Padstow 'Obby'Oss festival in May and the Montol Festival in Penzance are two such events which are thought to have pagan origins.

With a long history of prolific Cornish poets, songwriters and also hymn writers, these traditions are now carried on by Gorsedh Kernow & the Cornish Bards. The first Cornish Gorsedh ceremony was held in 1928, where people were recognised for promoting Cornwall and it's identity, and were made Bards of the Gorsedh. This ceremony has been held every year since.

This year Bude has been chosen to host the Gorsedh Kernow Esedhvos in September - a festival of Cornish culture which will also feature the Bardic ceremony.



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