Obituary:George Pawley White

September 1, 2006

An interesting obituary in today’s Telegraph.

“Bank manager and Methodist preacher who as Grand Bard of the Gorseth Kernow strove to promote Cornwall’s Celtic culture.
Established in 1928 by Archdruid Pedrog of Wales at the request of a group of Cornish scholars, Gorseth Kernow — the Cornish Gorseth — has since that time been committed to reviving and sustaining “an spyrys Keltek Kenethlek a Gernow” — the national Celtic Spirit of Cornwall. At the time of the inaugural Gorseth, held at the megalithic Boscawen-Un stone circle (the site of such a gathering recorded in old Welsh sources), that spirit was flickering faintly. For centuries Brythonic Celtic culture had been in retreat under severe pressure from that of its Anglo-Saxon neighbour. In decline from the end of the Middle Ages onwards, Cornish (Kernewek) had finally expired as a living language in 1777, with the death of the last native speaker, Dolly Pentreath, of Mousehole. Her defiant last words were: “Me ne vidn cewsel Sawsnek!” — “I don’t want to speak English!” A proud tradition of Cornish miracle plays was all but forgotten. The county was to become a holiday playground for those bold enough to venture west of the River Tamar. Cornwall was in grave peril of being thought of solely in terms of pasties, mead and serpentine model lighthouses bought at the Lizard. Modelling itself on the Gorsedd of Wales — itself an ingenious 18th-century reincarnation of a medieval association (held not in Wales but on Primrose Hill, London, in 1792) — the new Cornish movement set itself to stem this tide. Of the succession of Grand Bards who presided over this revival in Cornwall’s sense of indentity, George Pawley White (Gunwyn), who has died at Camborne, was the fourth. In office from 1964 to 1970, Gunwyn was a vigorous promoter, through various educational institutions, of the Cornish language, which he had begun learning in the 1940s after returning home from wartime service in India. Today it is estimated that 3,500 (0.7 per cent) of the population are capable of conversing in Cornish, with perhaps 500 attaining true fluency.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: