The Spirit of the Kernewek Lowender

cornish moonta 2007
Below is the reflection of my father on the recent Cornish Festival in South Australia. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it this year, however I am keen to run something there around a Cowethas Peran Sans theme in 2009.
We took a stroll down the Pt Hughes jetty and the first fisherman we met trying his hand was a cousin from Saltash. He hauled in two “tommies” as we chatted in the evening light. He had left Cornwall fifty years ago but there was no doubt that his accent would unmistakably follow him to the grave. The things we talked about were far from profound but it seemed as if our meeting was some sort of sign that another good Lowender was just around the corner….


The Souvenir Guide read, “Long Weekend –no loss to Festival —-Clever changes retain favourite events”. Understandably change usually walks hand in hand with apprehension and the relocation of the Gorsedd Ceremony was a radical change, but if we learnt anything from the May 2007 event we can say with confidence that we learnt that experimenting with change can be a positive experience. Immediately following the Maypole dancing the Bards dressed in their blue finery spilled out of the Kadina Town Hall guaranteeing maximum exposure to the crowd that had already gathered in Victoria Square. Following the procession the experience and poise of the Vice-Herald and Standard Bearer took over with the Grand Bard and Harpist bringing a touch of dignity to the special Assembly of the Bards. As usual the flower dance was cute and the May Queen was pretty. There was a special touch as the new Bard Roseanne Hawke from Kapunda was escorted to the front when a flock of curious Aussie galahs settled in the gum trees around the Bardic Circle as if knowing that something celtic and significant was about to happen. Some may have found the noise of the fair and fun rides a little distracting but the new location succeeded in planting the most important traditional Cornish Ceremony right in the heart of the action that marked the opening of the Festival. After the Gorsedd, public requests for copies of the ceremony outstripped supplies. This must have been one of our best gatherings and perhaps the amount of interest shown could even be interpreted as a growing healthy interest in our Cornish roots.
If the ancient Bardic Circle marks the traditional spiritual beginning of the Kernewek Lowender then the Ecumenical Service in the Moonta Mines Church marks the Christian climax of the bi-annual Cornish Festival. We were warmly greeted at the door by the now local parishioner Lillian James dressed in her green hunting tartan. The old chapel that seats 1250 people with its raised pulpit modelled on a similar pulpit at Redruth was full in no time. Rev June Ladner with her hat trimmed with white daisies and red roses led the singing. “Come let us all unite and sing God is love, Sing we the King who is coming to reign, Tell me the old old story.”
The roll call revealed an impressive array of international visitors including the American Cornish Heritage Society.
We were led through an interesting description tracing the changes in worship style over the years. Pointing to her left June explained, “Before the organ was donated by the Captain, the miners played their fiddles and sat over there.” The impact that Methodism made on Moonta was never in doubt with its 16 Chapels and 38 Local Preachers.
Guests arrayed in feathers and tailed coats were ushered to their reserved pews and the Metropolitan Male Voice Choir in their grey suits and red ties sang the introit with passion and great precision. “Oh it is Wonderful —what Jesus has done for this soul of mine”.
We were challenged to help preserve the national significance of the old chapel by giving generously towards maintenance costs but the guest preacher Rev Robert Voigt took us one step further. He reminded us that our forefathers were not perfect and like us, they were not without sin. Indeed, hell fire and brimstone preaching may have been necessary sometimes. We were reminded that our forefathers were strong passionate people who knew death as a constant companion and as they buried their children, a wife or friend, it was their faith that kept them sane. It wasn’t being a teetotaler or the Captain that saved them; they knew they were saved by the grace of God. In a heritage service then ,rather than just focusing on them or the things of their past, to be true to our heritage the focus still needs to be on Jesus Christ, the same yesterday today and for ever.
In a well prepared prayer of thanksgiving we gave thanks for those who inspire us and who have lived with integrity and perseverance. The prayer fittingly rounded off the week’s celebration by acknowledging our need for help to avoid retreating or resting in the past. We all need to work hard at using our knowledge of the past to benefit the future.
E A Curnow May 2007

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