Merv Davey on Gorsedh Kernow 2020

Gorsedh KernowI was privileged to be elected as Grand Bard, Bardh Meur, for Gorsedh Kernow between 2015 and 2018. Gorsedh Kernow is a cultural and civic organisation which champions Cornwall’s identity as a Celtic nation and promotes the Cornish language and cultural heritage that lies behind this identity. It was a very busy three years both with the practical aspects of running of Gorsedh Kernow and the opportunities that arose out of developments like Cornwall’s Devolution Deal. The highlights for me without doubt were the ceremonies of Gorsedh Kernow which are a pageant of colour and celebration of Cornwall’s distinct identity.

There are normally three ceremonies held each year: the first in April, a “Proclamation” at the town or site where the main ceremony will be staged in September; the “Awen” which is held at a historic site in midsummer; and the September ceremony when the new bards are initiated. Music plays an important part in the ceremony which starts with a procession of bards lead by a piper.

On reaching the Gorsedh site the bards form a large circle and the Grand Bard makes a dramatic entry with a fanfare which was written especially for Gorsedh Kernow by Cornish Composer Inglis Gundry.

Two Cornish anthems are sung during the ceremony:

Hayl Dh’Agan Mamvro – Hail to the Homeland The English words were written by Pearce Gilbert in 1959. Kenneth Pelmear (1923- 1995) composed the music and collaborated with Richard Jenkin to provide a Cornish version in 1982 .

Bro Goth Agan Tasow – Old Land of my Fathers. The same tune and similar wording are used for the Welsh and Breton national anthems, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and “Bro Gozh ma Zadoù” respectively thus making this a universal Brythonic anthem for Wales, Cornwall and Brittany.

The Covid 19 emergency measures mean that the Gorsedh Kernow ceremony in September 2020 will be much reduced in scale and cannot be held as a public event. It will however be streamed live at 2pm and is likely to have the largest audience ever! You can find the link for the video on the Gorsedh Kernow Website:

Merv Davey

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