Saturday, 25 April 2015

V is for Vocabulary various …

Who are the Cornish?  They are the second smallest of the six Celtic nationalities – the Irish, Manx and Scots (Goidelic Celts [Goidelic or Gaelic language]) and the Welsh, Bretons and Cornish (Brythonic Celts [Brittonic languages]).

The Cornish are the only Celtic 'country' to have lost their language (the last native speakers dying out in the 19th century).   Interestingly two other major Celtic settlements have retained some of their Celtic roots … one in Nova Scotia settled by the Scots, and one in Patagonia, settled by the Welsh.

For more information on this map
please see Wikipedia

These Celtic nationalities are all that is left of an ancient civilisation which left its mark from Asia Minor to Ireland.

A rhyming couplet gives us an introduction into Cornwall its place names and its peoples, a version of this was recorded by Richard Carew in his Surveyof Cornwall, published in 1602.

Carew says as the Cornish names hold an affinity with the Welsh, so is their language deduced from the same source, and differeth onely in the dialect.  But the Cornish is more easie to be prononounced, and not so vnpleasing in sound with throat letters, as the Welsh.

By Tre, Pol and Pen
Shall ye know all Cornishmen

Many Cornish surnames and place names still retain these words as prefixes …

Tre, a settlement or homestead
Pol, a pond, lake or well
Pen, a hill or headland

Richard Trevithick … we’ve met – the inventor of the high-pressure steam engine … with that wonderful Jword Jynjy for an engine house … I’m still no wiser as to how it’s pronounced … he was born at Tregajorran …

Dolly Pentreathyou metyesterday under “U”

Pentire Point taken
from Polzeath

Polzeath (ironically in Cornish meaning dry creek) … but with a very sandy beach, where we once had a surfing holiday.

St Piran's Chapel, Trethevy

Trethevy is a very interesting Cornish hamlet, this one being between Boscastle and Tintagel, with Roman occupation confirmed and still visible … and a Saint whom we have met under P for St Piran.  (More under X).

Penwith is the peninsula area: Helston and
Camborne and Redruth ( the mining areas)
are fall outside

I have to mention Penzance (Pennsans), or “Holy Headland” in the Cornish language in the Penwith district (penn: headland) with (wydh: at the end) ...

... where the railway terminus is and is the main town in the Penwith district of west Cornwall … and which was my mother’s base for a few decades, though her family were St Ives’ folk.

I have mentioned a few meanings, as I’ve posted, of Cornish names … but a few more to give you a flavour of the lingo:

Edhen:      Bird

Bara and Pysk        Bread and Fish

Tyak and Margh:       Farmer and Horse

Hogh and Bugh        Hog and Cow
Pons and Chy:    Bridge and House
Medieval Bridge, Newlyn: east of Penzance

Lor and Howl:        Moon and Sun

Yesterday under “U” you will have noted the resurgence in all things Cornish … also there are serviettes and tea towels, bearing words in the language …  and F for foods and drinks being given “Cornish” as an adjunct … I hope this has been a good way to glean a glimpse into the Cornish language: I’m not going into grammar …?!

Land's End to Cape Cornwall: the end
of Penwith and the Cornish mainland
… though I noted Deniz Bevan said she’d consider learning Cornish ... on top of wanting to learn Welsh … the woman has to be mad – or highly intelligent … I rather think the latter is the best description!!  Her comment appeared in my O post:  Onen Hag Oll and Oddities

That is V for Various Vocal Vocabultry as one of my brother’s, aged 7 or 8, described the Latin he was learning (it took us a long time to work out what vocabultry was?!) ... from Aspects of British Cornish …

Now here's a treat ... you'll hear a tyak talking about life on his farm with hoghs and emmets (see my O post) ... it's two minutes long .. but you'll hear the accent ... 

YouTube: John Benalleck - farmer from St Wenn village in north Cornwall  (it's only 2 minutes)

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 24 April 2015

U is for Unite the Realm …

Bounded on three sides by sea, partly cut off by the River Tamar on the fourth … Cornwall (Kernow) has always been a place apart.

Cornwall's Peninsula-like county

The Romans didn’t bother to try and administer it … and when the Tudors sought to Unite the Realm, the Cornish “proved Unbiddable” – twice rising up in armed revolt.

In the reign of Henry VIII … it was stated “In Cornwall is two speches, the one is naughty Englysshe, and the other is Cornysshe speche”.

A map showing the westward
decline of Cornish: 1300 -  1750

As for the Cornish Language, it was so prevalent that Elizabeth I learnt a few words with which to greet her West Country subjects.

Dolly Pentreath from an
engraved portrait of 1881

Dolly Pentreath (1692 – 1777) from Paul (west of Penzance) is meant to have been the last fluent, native speaker of the Cornish language.

The Cornish anthem, Bro Goth agan Tasow, to unite this westerly realm:

Old land of our fathers, your children love you!
Dear land of the west, what country is your equal?
Across the whole world, we are spread far and wide,
But our love is for you.

Cornwall! Cornwall, we love Cornwall!
As long as the sea may be
As a wall around you,
We are one and all for Cornwall!

Kingdom of King Arthur, ancient saints and the Grail,
No other land is more beloved by us;
In you every tor, valley, mountain and house
Speaks to us in Cornish.

In the darkness of the mine and on the waves of the sea,
When we are wandering through overseas lands
In whatever place, and in however many countries,
May we turn our hearts to you.

The view from Carn Brea in Penwith
- the westerly tip of Cornwall

There’s a resurgence now … with Cornish names appearing in streets, welcome signs, on touristy goodies, Cornish language courses taking place … “Better Together” isn’t just a slogan: the kingdom is at its strongest when its parts feel secure, and respected.

The logo

Long Eared Owl
c/o the Screech OwlSanctuary

This unique county will retain its identity by uniting under the Cornish banner of all things pertaining to Cornwall.

That is U for Unite this Realm, the Unique county that is Cornwall with Unbiddable residents, where the Ula keeps watch – the wise owl ... from Aspects of British Cornish …

Re Marja's comment ... I'll be explaining where the language comes from tomorrow ...!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday, 23 April 2015

T is for Tin Miners, the Tin Miners Rebellion and the Stannery Parliaments and Courts …

Historically extensive tin and copper mining has occurred in Devon and Cornwall, as well as arsenic, silver, zinc and over 30 more minerals … kaolin in recent times has been the most important economically.  (In the Bronze Age 4,000 years ago arsenic was often included in bronze, which made the alloy harder).

Workings at bottom of Cligga Cliff, Perranporth
c/o Mining in Cornwall 

Originally tin was found as alluvial deposits before shallow cuttings were used to extract the ore – then tin lodes were found outcropping on the cliffs, with mines being dug from the 1500s.

The tin trade was controlled by the Phoenicians, who kept their sources secret.  About 4,000 years (2,000 BC) trade was flourishing here ... the Roman, Diodorus Siculus, described ancient tin mining – while the mining resources contributed to the Romans invading Britain.

Ore of tin: Cassiterite

There are few remains today … the later workings have destroyed the earlier ones … a few leats can still be found – water being supplied to a mineral outcrop.

There are a few stone hammers to be found at the ZennorWayside Museum ... while it is thought that mining was mostly undertaken with shovels, antler picks and wooden wedges.

Domesday Book - large and smaller volumes
rebound and lying on their 'Tudor' bindings

Much of the land and the rights were owned by the Crown and were not known about ... there is no record in the Domesday book (1086) of tin mining in Cornwall ...

King John (1166 - 1216)

However in 1201 King John granted a charter to the tin miners confirming their “just and ancient customs and liberties”.

The Stannary Parliament and Stannary Court were legislative and legal institutions in Cornwall reflecting how important the tin mining industry was to the English economy.

The privileges of the Stannaries were confirmed by Edward III (1312 – 1377) on the creation of the Duchy of Cornwall in 1337.  This confirmed that the tin miners were exempt from all civil jurisdiction other than that of the Stannary Court.

Edward III as head of the
Order of the Garter
In the 1490s there was a popular uprising by the Cornish in response to taxation by Henry VII (1457 - 1509) on the impoverished Cornish to raise money for a campaign against Scotland: Cornwall is still miles away from Scotland!

The tin miners were angered as the scale of taxes overturned the previous rights granted by Edward III which exempted Cornwall from all taxes of 10ths or 15ths of income.

The Cornish rebelled!  They garnered an army of men and started walking to London – gathering more supporters en route … 15,000 marched into Devon …

They went to Taunton (Devon), Wells and Bath (Somerset), Bristol, Salisbury (Wiltshire), Winchester (Hampshire), Guildford (Surrey) and on to Kent …  (essentially across the width of southern England)

… Henry had not been idle and gathered a force at Hounslow Heath (west London – where Heathrow airport is) …

All in all things started to fall apart for the Cornish and the Battle of Deptford Bridge took place on 17 June 1497 … the Cornish lost, were cut to pieces and put to flight …

Prisoners were sold into slavery and estates were seized and handed to more loyal subjects.  In due course Crown agents pauperised sections of Cornwall for years to come ...

Showing the Isle of Dogs loop on the Thames
Blackheath/Deptford in the broad area of Greenwich Park

In 1508 Henry VII restored the privileges in return for payment from the tin miners of £1,000 an enormous sum to support his war on Scotland.

Tin mining increased again in the 1540s when German miners came over who had knowledge of new techniques.  Thomas Epsley, a Somerset man, developed a method using gunpowder to blast the very hard granite loose, using gunpowder with quill fuses: it revolutionised hard rock mining.  A third boom occurred in the 1700s when shafts were dug to extract the ore.

A Cornish mine in Mexico -
Acosta Mine Museum

In the 1800s Cornish mining reached its zenith before foreign competition depressed the price of first copper, and later tin.

Many miners went off to use their skills in the Americas, South Africa and Australia …

During the 20th century various ores became profitable … but no working mines remain today – though surveys are still conducted as more technology is developed.

Tin Mining c 1890

Geevor Mine is run as a Heritage Museum and is an Anchor Point on the European Route of Industrial Heritage.

Camborne School of Mines was founded in 1888 and has an international reputation … built on the knowledge of miners from earlier centuries … Cornwall is one of the most important and influential metalliferous mining regions in the world.  

c/o Old Cornish Mines Match Box Labels

The geology influenced the knowledge acquired – while the training provided in the 20th and 21st centuries was recognised and has ensured it consolidated its position as a leading international education institution, under the auspices of Exeter University.

Tin leat at Trevelloe, up above
Mousehole, Penwith

This has become a potted history of Tin Mining, the Cornish Rebellion and the Stannary Parliament …

Zennor - Tin Miners Arms pub,
church and wind swept tree

The rebellion was referred to in Wolf Hall – as the protagonist, Thomas Cromwell, remembers the panic caused by the approach of the rebels, when he was a young boy …

That is T for Tin Miners, the Tin Miners Rebellion and the Cornish Stannery Parliament and Court … the po –t-t- t- ed history … from Aspects of British Cornwall …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

S is for Smuggling …

Cornwall is renowned for its smuggling … so a-smuggling shall we go …

Grublin Games Publishing
Penzance - a Kickstarter company ...
I just appropriately found

In England smuggling first became a recognised problem in the 13th century, following the creation of a national customs collection system by Edward 1 (Edward Longshanks) 1239 – 1307.

From this period onwards taxes were required to fund extremely expensive wars with France and then with the United States …

iphone photo of a postcard on Cornish highlights
from a David Hobbs illustration
Medieval smuggling knowledge has been based on official sources – which as a researcher commented ‘the trouble with these is they only detail the activities of those dumb enough to get caught’; wool, hide, grain were smuggled out avoiding tax …

The high rates of duty levied on tea, wine and spirits, and other luxury goods coming in from Europe, Asia and the Americas made the clandestine import of such goods and the evasion of duty a highly profitable venture … and for a while unrecorded …

"The Harbour, Polperro" by
Edward Frederick Ertz

… the smuggling industry was more economically significant than legal activities such as farming and fishing.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped” commented: “Few places on the British coast did not claim to be the haunts of wreckers or mooncussers”. 

Cornwall suited the trend … its long rocky coast, with tiny coves, creeks, inlets, wide bays and beaches all ideal for thwarting any revenue men who might be around …

A postcard
However early on smuggling involved the local gentry, who might turn a blind eye, or get fully involved and reap the benefits.  Cargoes were landed on shore … goods were dispersed … tea, brandy, gin, rum, tobacco and even pepper … spice being a highly valued commodity.

Ships would drop anchor off-shore and sell china, silk and cotton goods free of local tax to the local seafarers …

After 1800 the Revenue became more organised, which is when the tactics changed … smuggled goods were dropped off at remote locations and picked up again when the coast was clear. 

Smugglers needs - a barrel, a buoy for finding
the floating contraband, a flagon, a candle

Tunnels and passages were dug out of the rocks to expedite the dispersal of the contraband … much of which went up country … a rough journey in the days before tarmac.

Jamaica Inn is one of the staging posts well known today as the setting on Bodmin Moor for Daphne du Maurier’s novel … where perhaps the bleak setting, the grey thick mists hanging heavy, the lure of the wind whistling across the bruised and craggy landscape … added to the myth and truth about the smugglers – innocent fishermen, or villainous smugglers, thugs or chancers …

The Pub sign
The risks were high ... transportation to the colonies, or worse: hanging, or hanging and left as an example to others …

There are some horrendous stories of famous smugglers and their families … some so cruel it almost beggars belief: the exertion of power and control.

Smugglers’ beaches are a-plenty … on the north coast .. is Pepper Cove … Hell’s Mouth … as long as there was a landing space, a beach to unload, a way up the cliffs … where they were unsighted from land or sea …

Smuggling characters form the Grublin Games

Trencrom Hill, Lelant … had a granite cottage, which was used as a 19th century kiddlewink (a beer shop): smugglers excavated a cave alongside for the concealment of contraband.

I found the photo .. now cannot find the beer
ah well!!
A smuggler drove a cart load of silk up to the Angel Inn pub, but the landlady warned him of a party of searchers awaiting his arrival.  The smuggler’s son was sent off with the cart, while the smuggler walked into the bar and bought the revenue a round of drinks to keep them talking …  his son meanwhile went off and hid the silk, so when the cart was searched the provisions were all legal.

Another Museum for you:
Polperro Heritage Museum of
Smuggling and Fishing
Wreckers ensnared ships to the coast by tricking them with the use of beacon lights, which were purposely installed … once the ships foundered they were looted by the wreckers, with the contraband being quickly dispersed along the bridleways and lanes of inner and coastal Cornwall.

Numerous type of hideaways were used, cliff caves, dug-outs, mine shafts, secret tunnels, safe houses, pirates’ dens … the wreckers operated along the Cornish coasts … with Cornwall being very aptly described as the “haven of smugglers” in view of its topographical features of “rocky coves, sheltered bays, tumultuous waves and wild and untenanted landscapes”.

Some of the towns and areas
I've mentioned in the posts

Smuggling villages, settlements ready for some smuggled contraband  ….

That is S for Seasoned and wizened, Sozzled and Soaked, Salted Smugglers who Seized and Sneaked Supplies from unSuspecting vessels to Seek fair trade with oft-Starving Sufferers in the Settlements abounding the Shores of Cornwall … from Aspects of British Cornish …

A website about Cornish Smuggling

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

R is for Rhythm and Rhyme …

A riddle and devilish rhyme as a light-hearted post for R: rhythm and rhyme …

As I was going to St Ives,

I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each cat had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were there going to St Ives?

Answers on a postcard please!!!

This a traditional English-language nursery rhyme in the form of a riddle.  Its Roud Folk Song index number is 19772.  I wrote about the Roud data base and the unknown Royal babe at that time on 22nd July 2013 – the index is not Cornish, but that baby will be anon, but it’s interesting information (well I think so!).

Part of the Rhind Papyrus - now in the British Museum

A similar problem to this riddle is found in the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus (problem 79) dated to around 1650BC.  I shall stop here ... and let you wander over to Wikipedia to check out the answers to the Roud, Rhind, Riddle …

Looking east towards Plymouth, Devon
from Torpoint
Now we take on the devil … he who dared cross the Tamar, the river boundary between Devon and Cornwall, rapaciously rambling towards Launceston … who but rapidly turned on his heel back to Devon for fear of ending up as pasty filling?!

Depiction of the Devil as seen
in the Codex Gigas: The Devil's
Bible (13th C Bohemia)
The poor devil having sweated to get down to Cornwall found that the Tamar was a damp and miserable barrier – and to his horror … that various kinds of pie were customary; he feared that devilly pie might be up next on the Cornish menus.

He was also dumbfounded to come across another blogger in this confounded A-Z Challenge, those 21st century bods write about, in that April Fool of a month ... and that is Annalisa Crawford, who would have goaded the devil on, as he hot-footed it past her town of Essa (Saltash), with the devilly encouraging words of we need new blood ... 

The legend is set to music in the traditional Cornish folk song:

Fish and Tin and Copper

Old Nick, as he was wont to do
Was Wand’ring up and down
To see what mischief he could brew,
And made for Launceston-town.


For ‘tis fish and tin and copper, boys
And Tre and Pol and Pen,
And one and all we may rejoice
That we are Cornishmen.

Across the Tamar he had come
Though you might think it strange,
And having left his Devon home
Tried Cornwall for a change.


Now when to Launceston he grew near,
A-skipping o’er the sod,
He spied a rustic cottage there
With windows all abroad.

Chorus: ...

And in the kitchen might be seen
A dame with knife in hand,
Who cut and slashed and chopped, I ween
To make a pasty grand.

Chorus: ...

“Good Mornin’, Missus, what is that?”
“Of all sorts, is a daub.
‘Tis beef and mutton, pork and fat,
Potatoes, leeks and squab.”

Chorus: ...

“A Cornish pasty, sure”, says she,
“And if thou doesn’t mind,
I soon shall start to cut up thee
And put ye in, you’ll find!”

Chorus: ...

In fear he turned and straight did flee
Across the Tamar green
And since that day in Cornwall
He has never more been seen!

Chorus: …

c/o Tin Fish, California
That is R for Rhythm and Rhyme with a Riddle for Rhind, mathematical Rumblers, all recorded in the Roud Index … from Aspects of British Cornish …

Roud Index – my post: “PuppyDog’s Tails or Sugar and Spice” … and the next one will be born soon … Sugar or Spice?

Wikipedia – “As I wasgoing to St Ives …

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories