Monday, 27 June 2022


June 2022 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Keskerdh Kernow commemoration of the quincentenary of the 1497 Cornish rebellion, which MK leader Cllr Dick Cole is covering in two articles for the Cornish Guardian. The first article appeared last week and the second will be in this week’s newspaper.

The articles are as follows:


525 year ago, the people of Cornwall rebelled against the English state after King Henry VII demanded additional taxes from the impoverished province to fund a war in Scotland.

Thousands of Cornishman marched to London during June 1497 to air their grievances. They were led by Michael Joseph “An Gof,” a blacksmith from St Keverne, and Thomas Flamank, a lawyer from Bodmin, and were joined by a noble, Lord Audley, as they moved through Somerset. The Cornish host camped near Blackheath on the 16th June, but were attacked by state forces on the following day.

The three main leaders were captured. An Gof and Flamank were executed at Tyburn on 27th June, with the blacksmith telling the crowd that he would have "a name perpetual and a fame permanent and immortal." Audley was beheaded on the following day. The bodies of the two Cornishmen were decapitated and the fragments of their remains were placed on display in various locations. It is documented that the heads of the three men were placed on poles on London Bridge.

The discord between Cornwall and the English state during the 15th and 16th centuries was significant. There was a second rebellion in 1497 linked to the pretender Perkin Warbeck, plus the 1549 rebellion caused by opposition to the “Act of Uniformity,” which imposed religious changes and an English language prayer book on Cornwall. The impositions of the Tudor period undoubtedly did much to undermine the Cornish speaking basis of much of Cornwall at the time.

As An Gof predicted, he and the others have not been forgotten. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the quincentenary of the rebellion, which sent out a powerful message about the continuance of Cornish culture and identity.

Thousands of people took part in the various commemorations in 1997, which were principally structured around a re-enactment of the march. Some thirty people trekked all the way from St Keverne to London. I don’t have the space to name them all but they included the late Howard Curnow, Ann Jenkin who soon after became the first female Grand Bard of Gorsedh Kernow, her daughter and my predecessor as leader of MK Loveday Jenkin, Julian German who became the leader of Cornwall Council between 2019 and 2021, and the present Grand Bard Pol Hodge.

I served on the organising committee that made the commemorations happen and, though I was only able to join the march for a few segments of the route, I was privileged to speak at an associated event at Tyburn, which marked the 500th anniversary of the executions of An Gof and Flamank.


In last week’s newspaper, I wrote about the twenty-fifth anniversary of the commemorative march which marked the quincentenary of the 1497 Cornish rebellion. This is a topic I wish to return to this week.

The march was a powerful display of Cornish pride and resilience, that surpassed all the expectations of the organising team. It was very much promoted as a cultural celebration, but there were obviously political aspects to the whole endeavour.

The Western Morning News rightly noted it was “about much more than simply remembering and revelling in the past,” adding that Cornwall still suffered “injustice and hardship compared to other parts of Britain.”

And when the marchers arrived in Blackheath on Saturday 21st June 1997, they issued a bilingual Blackheath Declaration.

The Declaration stated: “In recent years, Cornwall has once again not been treated fairly in proportion to our needs – particularly in comparison with the assistance rendered to our Celtic cousins in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.” It had four specific demands: a Cornish Development Agency (CDA), a specific Cornwall seat in the European Parliament, a university campus in Cornwall, and the teaching of Cornish history, culture and language in schools.

Twenty-five years on, it is right that we look back at what progress has been made with the demands. Starting with the biggest positive, university education is now a reality, but we never did get our own Development Agency or Euro-seat.

I remember how, in early 1997, Cornwall County Council had supported a CDA (by 71 votes to one) but, weeks after the Blackheath Declaration, councillors ditched this position and acquiesced to the Government’s preferred option of a “SW RDA” stretching past Bristol. In terms of the Euro-seat, an inquiry was held in Taunton and Cornish representations were ignored. From 2009 until Brexit, Cornwall ended up in a multi-member SW constituency, and Westminster politicians continue to refuse to legislate to protect Cornwall’s territoriality, as shown by what happened with the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2020.

Great work is being done with regard to the teaching of the Cornish language in schools through Go Cornish, and Cornwall Council is working with local schools to build a Cornish curriculum. But central government is dodging its obligations and cut funding for the language in 2016, which restricts what can be achieved.

In 1997, there were also numerous calls for more powers for Cornwall and a parliamentary Early Day Motion praising the marchers called for a Cornish Assembly. Twenty-five years on, establishment politicians are talking about “devolution,” but they are only promoting tweaks to local government – not meaningful self-government for Cornwall.

Looking forward, the campaigns for Cornish recognition must continue.

No comments: