We are indebted to Karin Easton, President of the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, for putting pen to paper to tell the story of the organisation’s amazing milestone. One hundred years is a splendid achievement and we are pleased to add our congratulations to the many already received.
The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies is an umbrella organisation for the 42 Old Cornwall Societies in Cornwall – from the far west in St Just & Pendeen to the southeast in Torpoint, from the north at Bude Stratton to the south at Mullion. The very first Old Cornwall Society was founded in St Ives in 1920. With the centenary year being in 2020, several events were organised to mark such a special time. These had to be cancelled one by one throughout 2020 as the devastation of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic gradually became known. As the world entered the new year of 2021, it became clear that the pandemic would be continuing with variants appearing in different parts of the world. As Federation President I was determined that the centenary year would be marked as much as possible, even though it would be a year late.
The Federation’s Publications Sub-Committee had already been working on a centenary book which was finally published in 2021. The title gives a clue to its contents A Uniquely Cornish Concept: the story of the Old Cornwall movement 1920-2020. It provides information on work undertaken by societies in practical field work, folk traditions, Cornish language and dialect, Federation publications, and a history of the movement with its aims to preserve, maintain and promote Cornish heritage and culture in all its aspects. The authors Peter Thomas (also Editor), Andrew Langdon and Merv Davey, with contributions from Garry Tregidga, Priscilla Oates, David Stark and Terry Knight are all to be commended on researching and meeting throughout two difficult pandemic years, while Perran Tremewan added much to the book’s layout and design. The centenary book was finally distributed in September 2021 by a team of volunteers so that each member had a free copy in celebration of the centenary year.
A copy can be purchased via the Federation website https://kernowgoth.org/product/a-uniquely-cornish-concept-the-story-of-the-old-cornwall-movement-1920-2020/
As Events Officer as well as President, I was hoping that we could hold the postponed Centenary Cornish Carol Service by the end of 2021. Fortunately, Roger Bush at Truro Cathedral had carried over a date for the Federation, so arrangements were made to revive the postponed event from the previous year. The service was held in Truro Cathedral on Thursday 16th December 2021 featuring carols from St Ives where the first Old Cornwall Society started. The participating singers were from the St Ives Combined Chapels Cornish Carol Choir, led by William Thomas, and the Red River Singers with Musical Director Hilary Coleman joining in the singing. William conducted with his ever-ready smile and encouragement, accompanied on the piano by Katrina Geraghty. Despite daily news reports of the new Omicron coronavirus variant and its increasing spread, performers, readers and congregation were undeterred and they turned up to participate and enjoy such a wonderful celebration of Cornish identity. With the Cathedral’s live-streaming service being watched by over 900 and later on YouTube by over 1000, it truly was an uplifting once in a hundred years’ event.
More can be found about this event on the website of the Cornish National Music Archive.
To complement the Carol Service, the Federation published a book of carols sung in St Ives including the ones performed at the carol service. These sold so well at rehearsals that more had to be printed for sale in the Cathedral. Available on the Old Cornwall website https://kernowgoth.org/product/carols-of-st-ives-editor-terry-knight/
As we mark the Centenary of the Old Cornwall movement, I wish to pay tribute to everyone who has worked with such dedication over the past 100 years to keep Old Cornwall Societies alive. They have certainly been very active in following the Old Cornwall motto to “Gather the fragments that nothing be lost”.
In keeping with this motto, the Federation is an important partner in the Mapping Methodism project. Members have contributed detailed research about individual Methodist Chapels in their areas. So many chapels are closing that it is important to record their influence and relevance to the lives of people in Cornwall. As chapels become converted into private residences or retail outlets, the Mapping Methodism project will ensure that they are recognised for their important Cornish heritage.
Karin Easton has been President of the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies for four years, having extended her role for a year because of the interruption of the pandemic. She has been a member of Perranzabuloe Old Cornwall Society since moving to Cornwall with her Cornish husband in 1978. As a primary school teacher, she and her family lived in Australia for a year on a teaching exchange which they all thoroughly enjoyed. As a volunteer at Perranzabuloe Museum she worked with Exeter University to coordinate a project highlighting Perranporth’s mining history. The project called ‘Heritage on the Beach’ took place on Perranporth Beach and won the ‘Audience Initiative’ prize at the first Cornwall Heritage Awards in 2018. In 2021 she was presented with a Cornish Civic Award by Hilary Frank, Chairman of Cornwall Council.