Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Remembering the fallen of 1914-1918


My article in today’s Cornish Guardian focuses on my recent visit (holiday) to Belgium and France. It is as follows:

Regular readers of this column will be aware that I am involved with a project to remember the men of Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt, who lost their lives in the First World War.

My wife and I have just returned from a week’s break in France and Belgium, where we visited a number of memorials and cemeteries, and took many photographs which might appear in the book that is planned.

The cemeteries and memorials certainly have great poignancy and together represent the sheer magnitude of the heartbreak experienced by loved ones, families and communities between 1914 and 1918.

There are a significant number of memorials to Commonwealth servicemen who have no known grave. Among the largest are the Thiepval Monument which records the names of over 72,000 men who died in the Somme sector; the Menin Gate in Ypres and the nearby Tyne Cot Memorial which, respectively, detail the names of around 54,000 and 35,000 men from the allied forces who died on the Ypres Salient.

This year, we also visited the French National War Cemetery at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, and the Duetscher Soldatenfriedhof (German Soldier's Cemetery) in Langemark. The French cemetery contains about 20,000 individual graves but the remains of a further 22,000 unknown soldiers lie in eight ossuaries, while the German cemetery contains around 44,000 men, of which 25,000 lie in a mass grave.

But as well as the large memorials which often feature as the focal point for commemorations, there are hundreds and hundreds of First World War cemeteries. These lie within what was, one hundred years ago, horribly scarred landscapes that had been witness to untold human suffering,

One cemetery we visited was at Grand Ravine near Havrincourt (above). It contains 139 servicemen including Charles Force (West Riding Regiment), my great-great-uncle from St Mawgan, who was killed on 29th September 1918. It is now a remarkably peaceful place, with the burial ground surrounded on all four sides by ripening corn. There were even poppies growing naturally on the approach to the site.

But this cemetery – along with all the others – nonetheless stands as a stark reminder of the futility of the First World War. And when I think about the conflict which battered the globe between 1914 and 1918, I often find myself drawn back to what King George V said on a visit to Tyne Cot, where there is also a cemetery with over 10,000 graves. He famously asked “whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon Earth … than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”

In my column in next week's newspaper, it is my intention to look at some of the thoughtful ways in which the First World War is being remembered in 2018.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Remembering Robert F. Kennedy

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian remembers Robert F. Kennedy. It is as follows:

Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated fifty years ago today, once said that “the purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” Such a simple, but also profound, statement tells us a lot about the character of a man, who we should remember today with great respect.

Robert was one of the younger brothers of John F. Kennedy, who was US President from 1961 until he was murdered in 1963. As a lawyer, Robert was active in governmental circles throughout the 1950s and served as US Attorney General during his brother’s term of office, before he was himself elected to serve on the US Senate for the state of New York.

As he grew into his public roles, he became a powerful advocate for civil rights in the United States of America, as well as human rights around the globe. And in the 1960s, he also became a champion for America’s poor, many of whom were struggling to make ends meet, both in rural areas and the cities.

Five decades on from his death, it is right that we recall his attempts to make the World a better place as well as some of his eloquence that defined the manner in which he lived his life.

Indeed, it is perhaps best, at this time, that we let his words speak for themselves.

Early in his career, in 1954, he addressed a number of South African students and famously said: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Robert Kennedy’s also had a genuine ability to reach out and inspire people to get involved with public affairs or their community.

On one occasion, he said: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”

And on another: “All great questions must be raised by great voices, and the greatest voice is the voice of the people – speaking out – in prose, or painting or poetry or music; speaking out – in homes and halls, streets and farms, courts and cafes – let that voice speak and the stillness you hear will be the gratitude of mankind.”

It is right that we continue to promote such powerful sentiments and see how we can each be a force for good.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Next MK meeting in St Austell & Newquay Constituency


The next meeting for Mebyon Kernow members in the St Austell & Newquay Constituency has been arranged to take place this Friday (8th June).

The meeting will take place at ClayTAWC in St Dennis and start at 7.30.

Party members will be planning our approach to numerous campaigns and activities in our local area – and all are welcome.

Anyone from the St Austell & Newquay Constituency, who would be interested in attending the meeting and / or finding out more about MK and its local campaigns, can call me on 07791 876607 or email dickcole@btinternet.com.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Great editorial in Cornish Guardian

Today's Cornish Guardian also had a positive editorial in favour of a Cornish tickbox. It was as follows:

It may not be debated with the same fervour as Brexit or the same passion as changes to the NHS, but the campaign to to have Cornish identity recognised with a 'tick box' on the next census is an important one.

Cornwall has long been considered a Celtic nation, yet it continues to be treated as a second-class citizen compared to its cousins in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. 

All six MPs representing Cornwall in Westminster have campaigned for a Cornish tick box at the 2021 census and it now may be one step closer.

Steve Double, Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay has secured an adjournment debate in Parliament on June 11 where the case for full recognition of Cornish national identity in the next national headcount will be argued.

While there are no guarantees that the Office of National Statistics will adhere to the words of our Cornish MPs, there is no denying that the current census options do not recognise Cornwall's unique identity and the overwhelming demand from Cornishmen and Cornishwomen to be recognised as a nation of people in their own right.

Pleased to welcome support of MPs for Cornish tickbox


In today's Cornish Guardian, my article praises Cornish MPs for their support for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census, and looks forward at what the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities should mean for Cornwall. The article is as follows:

Cornish 'tick box' is the least we can expect from census

It is more than four years since the Cornish were recognised as a national minority by the UK Government through the Council of Europe. It was a truly landmark decision. But central government has, thus far, failed to treat the Cornish in the same manner as other national minorities, such as the Scots and the Welsh, which it promised in 2014.

An Advisory Committee from the Council of Europe visited the United Kingdom in March 2016 and, last year, published an Opinion which was very critical of how the UK Government and other public bodies were complying with the articles of the relevant Framework Convention with regard to the Cornish,

I am optimistic that this situation will improve in the coming months, and it is to be welcomed that Cornish MP Steve Double has been appointed to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Mr Double himself has issued a serious and forthright statement about bringing his “Cornish credentials” to the organisation, adding that “it was the Council of Europe that granted ethnic minority status to Cornish people,” something he was “keen to ensure we make the most of.”

Cornwall’s MPs have thrown their weight behind the campaign to secure a Cornish tickbox on the next census, and they have secured an adjournment debate in the House of Commons to consider issues relating to Cornish identity and the 2021 census.

This is all very heartening, and I sincerely hope that the actions of local MPs also reflect a sea-change in the thinking of central government as a whole.

For the sake of Cornwall, we need to win those immediate and symbolic battles to (i) secure the tickbox to give us census parity with the other nationalities of the UK, and (ii) to protect Cornwall’s territorial integrity by preventing the creation of a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” parliamentary constituency.

But that can only be the beginning. There is so much to be done to ensure that the Framework Convention is acted upon and Cornwall gains from the national minority status of its people. As far as I am concerned this needs to include:

- Meaningful devolution to a Cornish Assembly, and the acceptance of Cornwall as a distinct national community for all forms of governance, administration and service provision.
- A formal presence for Cornwall at the British and Irish Council, where the other Celtic parts of the British Isles are already represented, along with the governments of Guernsey and Jersey.
- A Cornish Language Act, the return of the funding for our national language, and the enhanced teaching of Cornish.
- A distinct Cornish offering from the BBC, and other media outlets.