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A Discovery of Cornish Lives and Language, Past and Present


The mysterious box had remained locked for two-hundred-years in an attic surrounded by old broken chairs and boxes of mouldy postcards. The Pengilleys made up generations of stories telling of how it contained pirate treasure from the southern seas. Then came the day when an ancestor’s will allowed it to be cracked open.

Though its contents weren’t of interest to those who sought wealth, it revealed a mystery linking one modern-day teenager back to the age of Cornish smuggling, the advent of steam power and a struggle to save an ancient civilisation on the brink.

Join the battle in the late 1700s to preserve a culture that sang songs about giants whilst dodging customs men in the middle of the Channel. Read how the battle’s reignited in a 21st century school when Gary Pengilley stands once more for what his forefathers believed in.  

“The ancient Cornish language lies like a buried city under our feet – we pass to and fro above it, but heed it not in the hustle of our everyday life.” John Bellow, 1861

‘On the Cornish language’ – a paper for the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society.

The Author

Matthew Clarke (Matthi ab Dewi)

Matthew Clarke (Matthi ab Dewi)

Matthew Clarke (Matthi ab Dewi) is a Cornish speaker and journalist living in West Cornwall.

He is surrounded by Cornwall's ancient culture and has thus dedicated his life to the language through the written word and song.

Matthew is also a broadcaster who has read the news in English and Cornish on local radio in Cornwall since 1998. He now runs a weekly programme in Kernewek called Radyo an Gernewegva. His work has also included PR for the language.

One big success came in 2004 when he helped The Simpsons producers include some Cornish into a Christmas special edition for Channel 4. His musical contribution to Cornwall’s culture resulted in his band, ‘Krena’, winning the Pan Celtic Song Contest in Tralee in 2005.

Another triumph was the global coverage of a story he generated in 2006. It was about his other band, ‘Skwardya’, singing Beatles songs in Kernewek. Articles can still be found online relating back to this news item.