My article on Lammas has just been published in the August edition of Cornwall Today – you can read it in full here or better still, go out and buy yourself a copy, as always it’s full of stories that matter to Cornwall.
“Harvest approaches with its bustling day
The wheat tans brown and barley bleaches grey”
August. The height of summer, that wondrous season when the countryside is at its best, and Cornwall is at its finest. The time of year when the great outdoors beckon, and nature’s bounteous harvest starts to ripen.
Then there are the crowded car parks, busy beaches, super-busy supermarkets, the dreaded low-hanging jet stream and tailbacks on the A30. The summer holidays herald a great influx of holidaymakers to our Duchy, and it’s the busiest time of the year for most people who live here. And with such a huge percentage of the Cornish economy relying on seasonal business, making hay while the sun shines is part and parcel of living here.
But it’s still possible to find ways of escaping the crowds and enjoying the best of what summer in Cornwall has to offer. And if heritage events are your thing, you’ll be pleasantly surprised in August.
In the traditional year, August is the time of celebrating Lammas, also known as Lughnasagh. In Celtic times, Lammas signified the celebration of the grain harvest and was a time for tribal gathering, feasting and giving thanks to the land for the early harvest. Lugh is the Corn King or Sun King who dies with the waning year and symbolizes our journey towards the darker months.
In his book “The Traditional Cornish Year”, local historian and Director of the Cornish Culture Association, Simon Reed states “Although no specific Lammas Day events are described, the people of Cornwall, like all other Celtic nations, mark this event with a series of celebrations… Most famous of these was Morvah Fair. It is said that nearly the whole of the population of West Cornwall made the journey to Morvah to consume vast quantities of ale and fine food.”
In the late 19th century, the celebrations became so excessive that the local priest led a campaign to ban the Fair, cautioning “all such persons from assembling on that day for idle and profane amusement, so revolting to that great command of the Law of God – Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy!”
It seems he was successful, and there was no celebration until the 1970s when a “Pasty Day” was held at St Bridget’s Church in an effort to bring the local community together with some (but not all!) of the spirit of the ancient festival. Now, the Morvah Pasty Day Festival is an annual event, held on the first Tuesday in August. Tish Smith, who is part of the organising committee, says that local legend has it that the Morvah Fair was the occasion when all the giants in West Penwith would come down from their lonely carns and have an annual gathering. These days the Pasty Day Festival is a joint venture between the Morvah School House Gallery and the Church, and last year 800 pasties were consumed! There’s also entertainment by local musicians and bands, a car boot sale and children’s activities during the day with more live music in the evening. Sounds like a great party to me, and given that my ancestors came from down that way, it’s an event I don’t want to miss.
Another event with significant history is the Goldsithney Charter Fair, which as been taking place in various forms since as early as 1140AD. In his “Romances of West England”, antiquarian Robert Hunt writes “In olden time, the good St Perran the Little gave to the wrestlers of his parish a glove as the prize, and the winner of the glove was permitted to collect the market toll on the day of the feast, and to appropriate the money to his own use”. The Fair is still held in August on the Saturday nearest St James’s Day and includes the parading of said historical glove as well as other cultural celebrations!
Further up the county, the Devon and Cornwall Pagan Federation will hold their Lammas picnic at the Hurlers on Bodmin Moor on Sunday 16th August. As part of the picnic the 5th annual “Lughnasadh Games” will take place. Included in this are the Welly Boot Hurl, Discus Challenge, Skilful Quoits and creative crafts. Sounds like great fun, and if you’ve never been to the Hurlers, it’s worth the trip.
But these are just some of many events taking place this month; it’s worth having a look at the Cornish Culture Association and Bewnans Kernow websites to get a bigger picture of what’s on offer.
So have a wonderful August and get under the skin of what’s on offer in our Duchy. Don’t forget to look forward to September with further celebrations of late harvest including the evocatively named “Crying the Neck” and “Guldize”. Let’s celebrate everything that Cornwall has to offer, Kernow bys vykken!
At a glance:
Morvah Pasty Day
Tuesday 4th August, 2015 10:00am – 11:00pm
Morvah, West Penwith, Cornwall
Goldsithney Charter Fair
Saturday 1st August, 2015
Goldsithney, near Marazion, West Cornwall
Lammas Picnic, Sunday 16th August, 2015 from 2:00pm
The Hurlers, Minions, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
The Cornish Culture Association www.cornishculture.co.uk
Bewnans Kernow www.bewnanskernow.org
© Sally Bell 2015
Originally published in Cornwall Today www.cornwalltoday.co.uk