Part One in an occasional series reviewing important Cultural Geography publications related to Cornwall!
Taking first RICHARD G. JENKIN: A GREAT SON OF CORNWALL – edited by Derek R. Williams: Francis Bootle Publishers: London 2013: 323 pages This a fantastic biographical anthology of one of the great heroes of Cornish Culture and Identity. I have just finished reading this book, and have to admit a particular personal attachment to it. I purchased it from the late Richard Jenkin’s wife, Ann Trevenen Jenkin back in October. Ann is a wonderful historian of Cornish Culture, and a key figure herself over many decades in the movement.
Richard G. Jenkin spent over forty years at the heart of the Cornish political and cultural life, and during this period had a huge influence on the resurgence of Cornish identity. This book tells the story of Jenkin’s two periods of being the Grand Bard of Gorsedh Kernow and his deep personal involvement with Mebyon Kernow – ‘Sons of Cornwall’ – the political party for Cornwall. Jenkin was the Chair of the party through periods of both real highs (he ran as the party’s MEP candidate in 1979, receiving 10,000 votes in the process) and lows (the split in the mid 1970s as the Cornish Nationalist Party was formed). The incredible achievements of Jenkin’s life are all told here, including his role in establishing the first Cornish Eisteddfod in 1983 and further developing links with Cornwall’s fellow Celtic nations through his status as President of the International Celtic Congress. As well as these fascinating inside accounts of Jenkin’s influence on Cornish life, there are also reproductions of his own poetry and accounts of his preaching in the Cornish language.
This is a fascinating book about one of the towering figures in Cornish cultural history. Anyone with an interest in Regional and National Identity would be captivated by this publication.
This book is available from the Gorsedh Kernow website at: http://www.gorsethkernow.org.uk/english/arts/gorspub.htm costing £12.50 plus P&P
Turning now to a ‘just published’ book, RISING GROUND: A SEARCH FOR THE SPIRIT OF PLACE – Phillip Marsden: 2014: Granta: London: 348 pages. Marsden, a member of The Royal Society of Literature has a history of producing exceptional books on Cornwall. A previous effort, The Levelling Sea, told the history of the development of Falmouth. Whilst the topic is Cornwall once more, the style of the book is somewhat different. Under the influence of Tim Cresswell and Yi-Fu Tuan’s seminal Topophilia, Marsden examines the notion of ‘place’ with a focus on Cornwall. Why, Marsden asks, do we react so strongly to certain places? He answers it in an auto-ethnographic style walk around the unique Cornish landscape, noting the inherent differences between a Cornish landscape and an English one. Marsden’s walk is interspersed with the narrative of his move to a remote farmhouse in the tiny hamlet of Ardevora which is the spur for him examining the work of Cresswell and Tuan. As the book develops we journey through Bodmin Moor to the Fal Valley, and further south-west to the gorgeous town of Porthleven, Zennor, Nanjizal and finally to Scilly. Key locals are spoken to as the relationship that Marsden develops with Cornwall as ‘a place’ deepens.
This work would be of interest to all students of place.
This book is available from most bookshops or usual online retailers. At present only available in hardback from £20.00