Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Remembering An Gof and Flamank - 520 years on

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian focuses on the anniversary of the 1497 rebellion and the Keskerdh Kernow 500 celebrations of 1497, for which I was on the organising committee. I simply cannot believe it was twenty years ago!

Commemorative events are being held tonight at both Bodmin and St Keverne, though I will be unable to attend as I will be at a meeting of St Enoder Parish Council.

My article is follows:

This week marks the 520th anniversary of the execution of Cornish patriots Michael Joseph An Gof (St Keverne) and Thomas Flamank (Bodmin) who rebelled against the English crown in the late 15th century.

The documented catalyst for the 1497 rising was additional taxation towards a war with Scotland and, in a feat of great endurance, many thousands of men marched from Cornwall to London in protest. They arrived at Blackheath on 16th June but, on the following day, the Cornish host was attacked and defeated by a large military force of King Henry VII.

On 27th June, An Gof and Flamank were drawn through the streets to Tyburn, where they were hung, drawn and quartered, though prior to his death An Gof bravely claimed that he would have “a name perpetual and a fame permanent and immortal.”

It is also the 20th anniversary of the quincentennial celebrations of 1997, when more than forty people re-traced the entire route from St Keverne to the outskirts of London, with thousands more joining the march for shorter distances along the way.

As well as the march itself, a statue was erected in St Keverne and plaques were placed in a number of locations; there were numerous cultural events, plays and concerts; while new educational materials were used in many local schools.

It was all geared to be a “celebration of Cornish identity, Celtic heritage, Cornish ability, language and history” – and it was a great success.

One local newspaper described the events of 1997 as a “magnificent spectacle,” adding that “as an advertisement for Cornwall and all things Cornish, it was brilliant. As pageant, it was superb. And as an achievement for those who took part, it was truly magnificent.”

But it was not just cultural and, at the culmination of the march, the main participants published their own declaration. This document recalled how the original rebels had fought to “protect their distinctive way of life and to challenge economic injustice” and how, in more recent times, Cornwall had not been treated fairly “in comparison with the assistance rendered to our Celtic cousins in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.”

Specific demands included greater local control over economic development, opposition to wider regional bodies, the need for a university campus in Cornwall, and greater teaching of Cornish history, culture and identity.

Two decades on, there has been considerable progress. The cultural confidence on show in 1997 has continued to grow. Just look at last year’s amazing Man Engine and performers such as The Changing Room. The marchers’ demand for a university campus is now a reality, thanks to EU funding secured via the acceptance of Cornwall as an economic region.

But our area remains one of the poorest parts of the UK and our public services still suffer under-investment from the UK government. Cornwall is being denied meaningful devolution and the Government it is failing to act on their recognition of the Cornish as a national minority.

Two decades on, there are many, many campaigns we have yet to win.

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