|Themes:||1950s, Cornwall, culture, feminism, Government, heritage, Leading|
Mmm – yes, I’m founding member of – em – Mebyon Kernow, but I’m also – I was the first woman Grand Bard of Cornwall [tut] so that – that was quite a – er – flag for freedom [laughs] – um – I was – err – well I was involved in every organisation, really, and – um – my so – my husband was, of course first, and he was Grand Bard before me – umm – but – um – then a group of us women – beca – partly because of the suffragettes a hundred years ago started to take an interest in women’s perspective which hadn’t been flagged up very clearly in – in – the past, so it was a way of emphasising – um – a woman’s perspective, I think, and it hadn’t been done so it was very important for us to do that.
People hadn’t looked across the generations or different – into different – archives to find out what women were feeling, and of course it was never – um – err – never put up front what women were doing, it was always the men were leading, the men were doing this, the men were doing that – so it was quite an effort to, get a woman’s perspective, on Cornwall, and what was happening to Cornwall. We always knew they were women working in the – er – mines – you know – the Bal maidens, for example, were working, on the surface – um – but they didn’t have much of a voice, and that was quite difficult to get over to start with. Women’s roles were actually forgotten, very quickly – er – unless they made an awful noise, and it was difficult for them to stand up and be counted in the front.
We fought very hard for – er – Cornish language in schools – er- with children, Cornish identity – er – Cornish cultural diversity – um – and it was a new perspective to people – hadn’t ju – hadn’t thought about that at all.
It – it – it – it was difficult, there were one or two other women who did fight for Cornish culture and identity, but – er – they were very few and far between – and – um – they didn’t have much of a voice to say what they were doing – and so when my husband led – um – he did all the talking, it wasn’t me, it was him – and eventually – er – there was a voice – I was made – er – president of Mebyon Kernow – I was the founder member of Mebyon Kernow with him – so – I was always there, but I didn’t have any voice very much – um – well I was young – um – that was – that was quite surprising – to have a woman [laughs] president for thin – coz that again was unusual…and – er – so again we were striking a blow for women’s lib really.
Transcribed by Sally Brown
Recorded by Carmen Talbot on 15.04.19.
Mebyon Kernow [MK] formed in 1951 as a Cornish Nationalist pressure group (Daphne de Maurier was an early member) and became a full political party in the 1970s. The party’s original aims were:
1.To study local conditions and attempt to remedy any that may be prejudicial to the best interests of Cornwall by the creation of public opinion or other means.
MK now campaigns for Cornwall’s right to be recognised as a nation with ‘its own distinct identity, language and heritage’ and ‘the same right to self-determination as England, Scotland and Wales.’ MK campaigns for the creation of a ‘National Assembly for Cornwall’ and currently has 8 town councillors and 11 parish councillors.
The Bard of Cornwall
Gorsedh Kernow is a non-political Cornish organisation that aims to promote and celebrate Cornwall and the ‘national celtic spirit of Cornwall’, and awards bardships to individuals for services to Cornish culture.
Gorsedh means ‘a Bardic assembly’. It comes from the ancient Celtic word meaning ‘high seat’ or ‘throne’. Bard derives from the name given by Greek writers to the poets and musicians associated with priests and Druids. New bards must be proposed by existing bards who submit citations to the Gorsedh without the knowledge of the person nominated. If successful, new bards choose a Bardic name in Cornish that has a connection to their place of birth, work, or vocation. Ann Trevenen’s Bardic name is Bryallen (Primrose) and she was the first female Bard of Cornwall, from 1997 – 2000.
For more information about Ann’s work as a bard, and her contribution to preserving the Cornish language and culture, see http://www.artcornwall.org/interviews/Ann_Trevenen_Jenkin.htm
Bal is Cornish for mine. The Bal maidens worked on the surface of the mines, dressing the ore. For more information on Bal maidens and the work women did within the mining industry see http://www.balmaiden.co.uk/index.htm