Cornwall’s unique welcome
MOWBRAY HEIGHTS, TASMANIA A SIGN bearing the words ‘‘Kernow a’gas dynergh’’ greeted us as we slowly went over the steel railway bridge built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel across the River Tamar, separating Devon and Cornwall.
‘‘Cornwall Welcomes You.’’ We hadn’t realised this county has its own ancient language, but we were to see it again on town nameplates, such as Porth Eia, added to St Ives.
In this seaside settlement, we actually heard the language spoken when about 200 bards of the Gorsedh Kernow assembled to celebrate their heritage and present prizes for poems, songs or stories in English as well as in Cornish.
They initiated new bards from across the Cornish diaspora, including Australia and the US, many the descendants of those who emigrated in the 19th century to work in copper or tin mines. Bards were honoured for their research into Cornish heritage and contributions to creative arts or sport. Others were rewarded for passing examinations in the language set by the bards.
Men and women, dressed in long, blue robes, with headdresses that would not be out of place in a nativity play, paraded through the town between lines of bemused holiday-makers to an arena behind the surfing beach.
They blew a horn and chanted to harp music. At the climax of their ceremony, all the bards advanced in a tight knot, each touched the shoulder of the one in front to gain contact with the replica sword of King Arthur and to swear allegiance to their homeland, in the belief that Arthur would return to lead his people to independence.
Our train passed under the battlements of Restormel Castle before the station stop at Lostwithiel, the seat of the first Duke of Cornwall, a title enjoyed by every heir to the English throne since the Black Prince in 1337, as well as Prince of Wales.
The castle above the town and the Duchy Palace within protected the Duke’s coinage, a tax on all the tin produced from the granite moors by clipping off a corner of each smelted ingot. Duchy status and the Stannary Parliament, which gave legal privileges to Cornish miners, has been interpreted by modern nationalists as an indication of Kernow’s independence.
But, however much Kernow longs to be separate from England, we found an inclusive welcome for all travellers. Send your 400-word contribution to our Follow the Reader column. Published columnists will receive OSA Brands’ Universal Travel Adaptor with USB ($39.95) and Tatonka Check In Bag ($29.95), ideal to keep documents safe, featuring zip compartments, belt loop and detachable shoulder strap. More: 1800 558 707; osabrands.com. Send your contribution to: travel@theaustralian. com.au.