Cornwall is Celtic. It’s one of several areas settled by the Celts as they moved from Scotland along the western side of the British Isles, through Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man and Cornwall, then onto Brittany in France and Galicia (north west Spain). Like many other Celtic ‘nations’, Cornwall has maintained its own identity, many cultural traditions and heritage.
Important note. The information on this page is only a brief guide to things Cornish. It is not a definitive academic treatise! For example, the Cornish language has been through several metamorphoses which involved changes in both spelling and pronunciation. In 2002 it was officially recognised within the EU with minority language status. Currently there are around 2000 fluent speakers of Kernewek (or Kernowek!). A Standard Written Form was adopted in 2008. Cornwall is special – so much so it was granted ‘minority status’ in 2014. This means that the Cornish people will now be recognised as a “national minority” under the terms of the Council of Europe’s ‘Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities’.
The ‘national’ anthem of Cornwall is known as ‘Trelawny’ – based on John Trelawny (a Cornishman) one of seven bishops jailed in the Tower of London by James II in 1688. The words are from The Song of the Western Man by Rev R S Hawker, Vicar of Morwenstow.
Click here for a brief but informative article and the words. When you visit, it’s well worth finding where local shanty groups sing, and you’ll be most welcome to join in. See Singing/Sea shanties below
Beast of Bodmin (Moor)
Based on reported sightings of a panther-like animal that mutilates livestock on Bodmin Moor. Is it related to the Beast of Exmoor or the Hounds of the Baskervilles? Does it exist? Why not have a holiday in Cornwall and see if you can spot it (then it might become a leopard!)
Binyon, Laurence (Poet 1869-1943)
The Ode to the Fallen was written by Binyon while sitting on the cliffs between Pentire Point and The Rumps (near Polzeath, North Cornwall.) [They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.]
Not to be confused with feeling pleased – but the Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, a member of the crow family with red legs and beak, and the bird that appears on the arms of Cornwall Council. Once widespread around the UK coastline, it disappeared from England in 1950s although still fairly common in Wales. In 2002 it returned to Cornwall, nesting near Lizard Point, and started breeding. The site is monitored by volunteers to prevent nest-raiding.
It’s bordering on sacrilege to come to Cornwall and not have a cream tea with Cornish clotted cream! As to its origins, it’s uncertain, possibly dating back 2000 years. The folk on the other side of the Tamar say that they were the first; others say it is based on a Middle Eastern delicacy; or it was brought to Cornwall by Phoenician traders. What is undisputed is that more clotted cream is made in Cornwall than anywhere else; Rodda’s produce up to 25 tonnes (about 55,000 lbs) daily!
Dedh Da (or Dydh Da)
Hello or Good day (Note: the ‘dh’ is pronounced as ‘th’)
Oft used phrase when needing a tradesman – “I’ll be up dreckly” though not as soon as one would like.
Be assured that the locals aren’t all destitute and we know that poverty exists in many parts of the world (and in the UK), but due to the above average age population, coupled with a dependency on seasonal industries such as tourism and agriculture, Cornwall is one of the poorest areas of the UK (based in income levels) and has the second weakest economy in the country based on GVA (Gross Value Added) data from 2009.
A pre-Christian (possibly pagan) festival to celebrate survival from the dark, cold winter into the new life heralded by the arrival of Spring and new life. Traditionally held in Helston on 8th May or the previous Saturday if the 8th falls on on a Sunday or Monday. Note: The ‘u’ in Furry is pronounced as in up. And remember it’s “Flora Day”, or “The Flora” – if you call it the Floral Dance, local pedants might tell you to get the L out of there!
Dialectic colloquialism for “You must be joking/having me on!”
Gig Rowing (and Racing)
A ‘Gig’, more correctly, the Cornish Pilot Gig – is a 32 foot long, six-oared rowing boat built originally as a working boat. They were used to take pilots to guide incoming ships arriving from an Atlantic crossing and possibly at risk of running aground. Payment would go to the gig that first got the pilot on board – the basis for the sport of gig racing today.
Gurney, Sir Goldsworthy
Said by some to be Cornwall’s most prolific inventor, but he was also a surgeon, chemist, lecturer, consultant, architect, builder and prototypical British gentleman scientist. But for Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, we may not have the term ‘limelight’. He invented the method to generate a bright incandescent light by forcing oxygen into the flames of burning lime. This became known as Bude Light and the method was used in theatres – hence ‘in the spotlight’ or ‘in the limelight’. The British Houses of Parliament used this form of lighting (just three lights replacing 280 candles) for 60 years, right up until 1926 when superceded by electricity, some 30 years after it became a popular form of lighting. In the 1820s Gurney also developed steam powered road vehicles. As an architect and builder, he designed and constructed his own house – The Castle – on sand dunes in Bude using an innovative concrete raft. The building is in use today as Bude Heritage Centre housing the Bude Museum.
Hawker, Rev Robert Stephen
The much heralded, albeit eccentric, Vicar of Morwenstow (North Cornwall, only a few miles away). Heroically he would scale the steep cliffs to bring the bodies of drowned mariners to his church to give them a Christian burial. He was also a poet and writer (See Anthem above). He built a retreat using the wood salvaged from wrecks, where he would sit for days, writing or contemplating, allegedly smoking substances stronger than tobacco. This retreat, now known as Hawker’s Hut, is the National Trust’s smallest property. It’s on the cliff top, a short walk from the church, and well worth a visit. Known locally as Parson Hawker, he would dress in bright colours, talk to birds, take his nine cats into church and he kept a pig as a pet. He built himself a remarkable vicarage, (now privately owned) with chimneys modelled on the towers of the churches in his life: Tamerton, where he had been curate; Morwenstow and Welcombe; plus that of Magdalen College, Oxford. The old kitchen chimney is a replica of Hawker’s mother’s tomb. Starting in 1843, Hawker also introduced the Harvest Festival service as it is known today.
Mebyon Kernow = the party for Cornwall
A political party, leading the fight for the self-government of Cornwall through the establishment of a legislative Assembly and campaigning for a political programme that offers an alternative to the London-centred parties. The aim is to get a better deal for Cornwall, with policies founded on the core values of prosperity for all, social justice and environmental protection. Mebyon Kernow web site
‘Obby ‘Oss, to English speakers, is a hobby horse. The ‘Obby ‘Oss is a ritual festival celebrated in Padstow annually on May Day – to herald the start of summer. Much singing, music-making (by drums and accordions), some maiden-chasing, a little drinking plus dancing round the Maypole – all based on the old ‘oss and the new ‘oss. It’s centred on The Golden Lion Hotel in Padstow; click here to see (and hear) more.
The Cornish pasty – along with Champagne, Parma Ham, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies now has EU protected status – granted in 2011. Yes, you can make your own but to be genuine, they must follow the rules. A genuine Cornish pasty must be made in Cornwall, has a distinctive ‘D’ shape and is crimped on one side, never on top. The texture of the filling is chunky, made up of uncooked minced or roughly cut chunks of beef (not less than 12.5%), swede, potato, onion with a light seasoning. The pastry casing is golden in colour, savoury, glazed with milk or egg and robust enough to retain its shape throughout the cooking and cooling process without splitting or cracking. The pasty is slow-baked and no artificial flavourings or additives must be used.
“By Tre, Pol and Pen, ye will know most Cornishmen.”
Tre = Settlement or homestead – as in Trevalgas, Trelissick
Pol = Pool, lake or pond – as in Polperro, Poldark, Polzeath, etc
Pen = Hill or headland – as in Penzance, Pentire
Eglos = Church as in Lanteglos, Egloskerry, Egloshayle
Hayle – means estuary
Perran – as in Perranporth is based on (St) Piran
Porth = bay, port or harbour – as in Perranporth, Pothleven
Lan = sacred place ie church, monastery such as Lanhydrock
and there are others, but too many to list here.
For Doc Martin fans, it’s Port Wenn – but it’s also the home of shanty singers Fisherman’s Friends. For more about FF, click this link and if your are here in the summer, you can hear FF live in Port Isaac on Fridays evenings.
Saffron cakes and buns
Visitors may notice that local bakers have more Saffron cakes and buns than bakers in other parts of the country. While some saffron may be grown in Cornwall and neighbouring Devon, it’s more likely to have been a traditional trade-based development. Some sources suggest that it goes back to the Phoenicians trading spices for tin; alternative views relate to nearer home – bringing saffron from Spain and going back with Cornish fish!
The patron Saint of Cornwall – and also of tin miners. St Piran’s Day is 5th March
There are several local singing groups. In Bude, we have the Bencoolen Wreckers, who appear most Tuesday evenings at the Bencoolen Inn (named after the Bencoolen, wrecked in 1862). Friggin’ Riggin’ are also in Bude – usually on a Wednesday evening in the Falcon Hotel. Also most Tuesdays, the Boscastle Buoys will be in the Napoleon Inn, Boscastle and the Fisherman’s Friends are based in Port Isaac.
In latin, stannum = tin. Stannary therefore means pertaining to tin mines ie Stannary Parliament, Stannary Courts and Stannary Law – hence the areas where tin was mined became know as the Stannaries. Wrangling persists about the relationship between the extant Stannary Law and the Duchy of Cornwall, and the complex history.
Inventor of the steam locomotive – and it was here, in Cornwall! No, it wasn’t James Watt (who in 1769 led the way in the development of steam powered engines (to drive pumps) nor George Stephenson, who designed/built steam-powered engines to haul loaded wagons from mines. This later lead to practical development of locomotives, when in 1825, he pioneered the commercial passenger-carrying locomotive ‘Rocket’. Trevithick built his first road steam-driven locomotive in Camborne in 1801 and another in 1803, before the machine that ran on rails at the Penydaren ironworks in S Wales in 1804. Trevithick ran a demonstration passenger carrying steam locomotive in Euston, London as early as 1808! Read all about it!
From Wikipedia … “Cornwall has the mildest and sunniest climate in the United Kingdom, as a result of its southerly latitude and the influence of the Gulf Stream. Winters are amongst the warmest in the country due to the southerly latitude and moderating effects of the warm ocean currents, and frost and snow are very rare at the coast. Summers are however not as warm as other areas in southern England. Due to its proximity to the sea, Cornwall’s weather can be relatively changeable.”
Bude has a micro-climate which is the polite way of saying that local weather forecasts are unreliable. Bude was the sunniest resort in the UK in 2013!
In the Cornish dialect it’s “wrasslin” – or Omdowl Kernewek for Cornish speakers. It has a long history, and matches and events still take place, including demonstrations at the Royal Cornwall Show held annually in early June.
We had at least to have a Z item. Zennor is a small village on the North coast not far from Land’s End now largely rural although very much involved with tin mining in the past. The field systems around Zennor, with Cornish granite hedges, date back to the Bronze Age (4000 years ago) and are the oldest living artefacts in the world.
Doesn’t all this tempt you to come and have closer look at those ‘minority status’ folk in the Duchy of Cornwall?
Trevalgas Cottages is a small complex or well-equipped holiday cottages with on-site indoor pool – ideal for a holiday at any time of the year.
- heated indoor pool
- games room (pool and table tennis)
- outdoor play area
- Free WiFi
Trevalgas Cottages are set in rolling countryside on the outskirts of Poughill village – with the local pub in easy walking distance. Bude town centre and superb sandy beaches are about 1½ milesaway. Peace without isolation.