The Hidden Side Of Cornwall: Terrorists, Poverty & Darkie Day

From ‘Darkie Day’ to the Cornish Liberation Army and the problem with Emmets – why Cornwall’s not the tranquil dream it’s imagined to be...
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
231
From ‘Darkie Day’ to the Cornish Liberation Army and the problem with Emmets – why Cornwall’s not the tranquil dream it’s imagined to be...

404

Last week when sorting through some boxes of old stuff I came across the garish yellow spine of Kernow Bys Vyken! (Cornwall For Ever!), a book I’d long forgotten I owned. I say ‘owned’ but in fact it was given to me, along with every other Cornish child aged 8-18 at the turn of the millennium, its 248 glossy pages bound together and circulated in the hope of instilling some pride into the county’s progeny. Handing children a manifesto on why their region is great is more than a bit weird, don’t you think? Nice try mateys, but no amount of articles on geology, tin mining and pilchards could change my perspective. The fact is, I grew up in one bizarre ol’ place.

Part of the reason why Cornwall Heritage Trust felt the need to fork out on shiny propaganda is simple: the big toe of England is the butt of a never-ending joke. Jibes about inbreeding are so relentless that in 2010 the Cornish branch of the Celtic League campaigned for it to be made illegal for the media to mock the Cornish on grounds of our restricted gene-pool. In other words, they wanted it to become a racist offence to call a Cornishman an ‘inbred’. The proposal fell on its arse on the grounds that the Cornish don’t technically exist as a race, but a better reason would have been sheer outlandish hypocrisy. Cornwall crying for help on grounds of racial discrimination is beyond hilarious. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been at home and heard the Welsh referred to as ‘bloody sheep shaggers’. Then there’s Padstow’s spuriously titled ‘Darkie Day’ in which locals walk through the streets blacked-up singing traditional minstrel songs (I wish I was joking).  Darkie Day’s origins are unknown (it may just be a case of innocent pagan guising)  and in recent years it’s been re-branded ‘Mummer’s Day’ to reduce offence, but that doesn’t change the fact that each year on Boxing Day and New Year’s Cornishmen can be heard bellowing out old songs including lines about ‘where the good niggers go’. Basically, my county’s so white it’s highly probable Nick Griffin’s wank bank consists entirely of Cornwall holiday brochures.

From the outside looking in, those of us who hail from south of the Tamar Bridge must seem like a bunch of backwards nutters. We’re home to innumerable pagan freaks - invariably called things like Luna or Aurora - selling magic crystals, aura cleansing, animal healing and paranormal investigation, who talk of ‘disembodied spirits’ and ‘the world beyond our physical plane’ as if they were as real and commonplace as shoelaces or tea bags. We’ve seen a popular campaign for bilingual street signs in English and Cornish, despite the fact that Dolly Pentreath, the last person to be born with Kernewek (Cornish) as their mother tongue, died in 1777. Then there’s the Cornish independence movement, spearheaded in the ‘80s by moronic militant group An Gof, whose campaign of terror got as far as starting a fire in a hairdressers in Penzance after mistaking it for a branch of Bristol and West building society, and setting a bingo hall ablaze in Redruth (nice one geniuses - like stopping a few grannies from getting their blue rinses done and blowing their pensions down the bingo every Thursday night is going to start a revolution). Meanwhile An Gof’s modern successors, The Cornish Liberation Army, are best known as the bunch of tosspots who threatened to burn down Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Padstow and attack Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in Newquay, (a venture set up to help disadvantaged young locals start a career in catering). They also demanded that all English flags in Cornwall be destroyed on account of being a ‘hated and oppressive [...] blood banner.’ Bloomin’ heck it’s the Cross of St. George, not a swastika.

More...

Top-Tips For Anti-Terrorists

Carlos The Jackal: Terrorist Or Freedom Fighter?

If the CLA ever get their way and manage to blow up the Tamar bridge, blockade our roads with farmers armed with pitchforks and pyramids of burning sheep and attempt to run an economy off of clotted cream and pasties, within 6 months we’ll be licking Kelly’s ice cream tubs for scraps of nutrients and selling our children to rich Devonians. Because the thing is, jokes and extremists aside, Cornwall is in trouble. It may possess some of the most stunning landscapes in the entire country, but it’s also blighted by poverty, and you can’t eat the view. Mining, fishing and agriculture are all close to death with little chance of being revived and wages are far below the national average, with employment sparse and often seasonal.  It’s the only county in England poor enough to qualify for EU funding and according to figures for the Department for Communities and Local Government, it has the highest level of rough sleepers anywhere in England outside of London. Still, spurred on by cretins like Kirstie Allsop,  in recent years outsiders with money pouring out of every orifice have been snapping up ‘holiday homes’ to be left empty 11 months of the year, gutting communities and making the disparity between house prices and local wages more and more ridiculous. If the Cornish are hostile towards Emmets (our wee-bit pejorative name for tourists, deriving from an old word for ants) it’s because they have a habit of peering into local estate agents, gushing about "how lovely it would be to have a place down by the sea", without thinking for a second that when local houses become second homes young local families are forced to live in damp, overpriced flats where the only chance of a ‘sea view’ is if they stick a poster of a wave up on the living room wall.

If you didn’t know any of this, chances are it’s because Cornwall has little political clout.  Labour has no presence in rural areas and most Tories only feel comfortable in the countryside if they’re dressed in tweed pointing a shotgun – I doubt many know that their party’s current dream of regional public sector wages and a withdrawal from the EU could potentially crucify my region. So yes, Cornwall can be strange and backwards, and yes its people can be hostile to outsiders, but it's often a hard place to live and it's only getting harder, so please don't ask why.

Other stories you might like...

The Big Society: My Christmas As A Crisis Worker

Make Bradford British: Another lazy attack on Worstedopolis

Homeless Film Festival 2012: These Films Are Still Shockingly Relevant

Click here for more Travel stories

Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter

Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook