Saturday, 26 April 2014

Is Cornwall an Island?

Should we consider ourselves so very special and so full of self importance that we want to be separate from the rest of the country? Or should we be saying "Welcome to our county, we are breathtaking in our beauty, fascinating in our customs and have a history to die for. We are proud of ourselves and we are proud to be part of a United Kingdom.

This week has seen Cornwall's individuality recognised, with the Cornish being granted a minority status, but what affect will this have and what will it lead to? Recently I read: 

"Feel that, boy," said the grandfather as he clutched a handful of Cornish soil. "that's the beating heart of Cornwall."

 This statement could not get any closer to the way I feel about this county if it plunged its hand into my chest and squeezed every drop of blood from my heart. My photograph, taken last year, has me standing on the bank of the Tamar, Cornwall's 'border' established by King Athelstan in the 936. As a little girl, I thought this river cut Cornwall off from England completely, thus leading me to believe Cornwall was an island. My ancestry dates back to the year dot in Cornwall and that makes me feel special, but with age I realised that the county of my birth is not an island and as much as I feel special, I am in fact, not.


An article the Guardian eloquently sums up many of the reasons I am proud to be Cornish, however this  particular statement worries me, he writes:

"To many Cornish nationalists, this week's recognition of the Cornish people as a minority, alongside the Welsh and Scots, is merely a step on the path to a devolved assembly, the re-establishment of the old Stannary Parliament" as does "the Cornish are not really English, and Cornwall is not really England."

With regard to Cornwall, but it applies generally as well, I don't think that nationalism is the way forward, there are more negatives aspects than there are positive. The main problem for me is that it supports the view that peoples only responsibility is to their own and not the rest of the world, thus creating a "them and us" society. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your nationality, as I am indeed proud to be Cornish, Cornwall is different, it has its own language, its own customs and like the article says "Cornwall's particularity lies in its abiding and diverse sense of place. No other region of England offers such a range of dramatic landscapes, nor carries such a freight of mythology and projection" and this has been acknowledged in its new status. That should be enough. We don't want to encourage the view charity begins at home or even worse I'm alright Jack!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Bells of Croyland Abbey

I was lucky enough yesterday to record part of Croyland Abbey bells chiming, to hear them click on the image at the end below.

The bells of the abbey originally numbered seven and each had their own name. The great bell was cast on the instructions of Abbot Turketyl and named Guthlac after one of the two saints the abbey is dedicated to. Egelric, who was abbot from 975 to 984 added six more bells whose names are Bartholomew, Beccelm, Turketyl, Tatwin, Pega and Bega. These seven bells were housed in a central tower that, in 1091, was destroyed by fire as was a smaller belfry a many years later. There are now six bells at Croyland, the tenor bell being cast in 1430, not only are they unique in the fact that they were the first tuned peal occurring here in England also the sound of them ringing were one of the first to be broadcast to the nation on radio in 1924. The bell ropes, also seen in my video, have one of the longest draws in the country being ninety feet long.

The Croyland Chronicle has among its pages a Miracle of Guthlac that is associated with the bells of the abbey:

"At this period, there happened in our monastery a circumstance of everlasting remembrance, which some of the most intelligent, even, ascribed to a wondrous miracle. The greater bell-tower had been newly built in the western part of the church, in which it was intended that the bells before-mentioned should, by the skill of the carpenters, be hung. At this time it was not covered in at the very top, nor was it in any way closed by the intervention in it of any lower floor. Having put together, on the ground below, a certain machine for the purpose of winding and drawing, they endeavoured to fix in the summits of the walls an immense beam, held by ropes and pulleys, to act as a supporter of the whole work. By dint of great efforts on the part of those winding, the beam had been now raised nearly fifty feet from the ground, and was hanging poised aloft, when, on a sudden, the tackle proving unequal to the strain of such an immense mass, began to give way. At the same moment, the ropes burst asunder, and the beam, falling to the ground with a loud crash, broke the whole fabric to atoms that lay below. There seemed no chance of escape whatever for the men, nearly twenty in number, who were labouring below and were now placed almost at the very verge of death; nor would it have been of any use for them to fly, seeing that the beam in its length across equalled the square space between the walls. However, the Divine mercy instantly regarded them thus threatened by a peril so terrific, and smitten with the greatest consternation at so unlooked-for an event; for the breaking down of so vast a mass did not crush one of them, and its precipitate fall did not the slightest injury to a single individual. Oh instance of the Divine grace, deservedly to be lauded and extolled! Oh, how glorious, too, the merits of our father Guthlac! Who could possibly withhold himself from uttering the praises of God?"