IRELAND'S LOSS IS CORNWALL'S GAIN
Whether by birth, by descent, by heart, or by proclamation - this month Cornish men and women come together to celebrate Cornwall’s Patron Saint, St Piran...
Gool Peran Lowen dheugh why oll – A happy St Piran’s tide to you all! The days around St Piran’s Day, 5th March, are marked by festivities and parades throughout Cornwall in honour of our patron Saint. Like all the best traditions the story of St Piran and the Cornish flag are a weave of legend and history.
The Cornish national flag with its white cross against a black background was already a long established tradition when it was recorded in A History of Cornwall by Hals and Tonkin in 1750 (published by Davies Gilbert in 1838). Here it is described as the standard of Cornwall and the banner of St Piran which represented molten tin against a black background of rock. The origins of the Cornish flag reach back more than a thousand years earlier to the golden age of first millennium Cornwall and the arrival of St Piran. This was an age of powerful Celtic Kings and merchants plying their trade between Cornwall and the Mediterranean.
It was an age of holy men and women travelling the Celtic seaways between Ireland, Wales Cornwall and Brittany providing these countries with a common heritage of place names, shrines and holy wells. St Piran himself came from Ireland and was known as Kieran, the Irish form of the Cornish name Piran. He fell out with the local Irish king in time honoured style and moved to Cornwall where he built himself a small monastic cell near what is now Perranporth. This evolved over the centuries to become the oratory and a succession of Churches which were moved as the sands encroached. Although these first millennium travellers had access to the best of contemporary sea transport this is not the stuff of legend. Our story of St Piran has him being cast off a cliff in Ireland with a millstone around his neck which magically floated and carried him across to Cornwall.
St Piran’s Tide is a time when, one and all, Cornish by birth and in heart proclaim their Celtic national identity against the tide of indifference emanating from Westminster. The Cornish flag will be flying aloft from Launceston Castle to the far West with parades in the major towns and individual events organised across our land. The high point of this Cornwall wide festival takes place on Sunday 5th March on Perran Sands. Starting at 2pm there will be a pilgrimage across sand dunes, with players re-enacting the story of St Piran and visiting the oratory, church and Celtic cross that commemorate him. Agas gweles ena – see you there!
For more information about St Piran visit www.stpiran.org
For information about the major St Pirans tide events visit www.gorsedhkernow.org.uk