Delia Brotherton was Barded in 2013 by examination in the Cornish Language and for continuing to work for Cornwall. She chose the Bardic name "Myrghwyn Melynor" (The Miller's Grand-daughter) to reflect her beloved heritage. When she wears her Bardic robes she says, "I feel dignified and calm and very much part of a unique group. It's almost as if I can sense the history of the occasion and the honour placed on me to be part of it".

She has a deep connection and feels Cornwall's presence,

"It's not necessarily in the classic "power of the sea" feeling which many get. I can be walking along a quiet lane looking out across the landscape and be overcome with emotion. Some people are just not in tune with Cornwall at all, it's not their fault, they've probably become accustomed to city life with all it’s noise and hurry." For her it is Cornwall's energy and "other worldliness" which manifests in her a feeling of closeness and protectiveness.

She believes that it is important for the Gorsedh and Bards to be active in preserving Cornwall because there is so much standardization in the world with people rootless and unaware of their culture. However, this work has to have a longevity. Her view is that, "it can't be left to politicians who might be out of office and on to something else, it needs stability and credibility, and who better to wave this flag than those who know all about it".

Maureen Fuller was Barded in 1977 after passing her final exams in the Cornish language. This took place at St Columb in the Nine Maidens stone circle. Her Bardic name is “Steren Mor” (Star of the Sea).

She was elected to be the current Grand Bard of the Cornish Gorsedh in 2012. Maureen used to teach Cornish in a primary school where she also started a Cornish club. She went on to present a television programme on the Cornish language called ‘Dres an Tamar’ (Beyond the Tamar) which attracted good audiences (helped by the fact that it was on before ‘The Big Match’ on Sundays!)

Maureen comes from a Cornish family that can trace its roots through written records back to the 1600s. She was very aware of her Cornish heritage as she spent a lot of time listening to her grandfather’s stories of his life and childhood. Also, from a young age she translated the Cornish place names that she noticed around her which meant that she then knew their meanings and this gave her a new insight into the landscape.

As the Grand Bard in 2013 she visited the Cornish Bards in Australia and she is in constant e mail contact to support those of the Diaspora abroad. She is working on updating the Gorsedh administration and hopes to enhance their image in the community.

Maureen’s main focus as Grand Bard is to prevent Cornish culture from being overlooked or superimposed through ignorance. She feels her role means, “meeting people who are in a position to guard our way of life and move it forward. It means being vigilant and responding immediately to attempts to change our landscape or way of life”. Maureen’s aim is that by the time she leaves office “I will have made a difference”.

Brian Chenoweth was Barded in 2003 after spending many years as the chairman of the Cornish Pilot Gig Association. They shaped the sport of Gig Rowing to be what it is today with many clubs and boats in Cornwall and also in other UK counties and even in Europe. Now he is retired Brian spends his time sailing the Falmouth Working Boat and singing Cornish songs. His Bardic name is “Mor Kasor” (Sea Warrior).

Brian’s surname of “Chenoweth” means “new house” in Cornish and he has a family coat of arms that dates from 1066, so he has a very close bond with Cornwall. He supports the continuation of the Gorsedh and protecting the history and language of Cornwall for future generations to learn. Brian believes in the possibility of Cornwall one day being recognized as a Celtic nation by Britain and Europe.

Brian says being awarded Bardship was the “proudest moment of his life” and he plans to, “never stop singing Cornish songs, never to stop reading Cornish history and to never stop loving my Cornwall.”

Colin Roberts was Barded in 2007 for services to Cornish cultures overseas, including work with wrestling and work with festivals. His Bardic name is “Mab Sen Kolomm” (Son of St Columb). He lived in Australia for 23 years and while he was there he became aware of the overseas Cornish groups. He then reintroduced Cornish wrestling in Australia and won the national championship in 2000. Cornish wrestling had originally been spread to the USA, Australia and South Africa by emigrating Cornish miners in the latter part of the 19th century as they went abroad to find work.

The Cornish style of wrestling is thought to date back over two thousand years. In Cornish wrestling, in common with other styles of Celtic wrestling, the aim is to throw your opponent upon his back from the standing position, with no mauling or holding on the ground. This stand up style places the emphasis on skill rather than superior weight or strength. In past times these skills would have been passed on from father to son or friend to friend. Before tournaments, the wrestlers line up and take the wrestlers' oath:

“War ow enor ha war enor ow bro, may ystyn ow lug dhe'm contrary. Gans geryow hendasow. Gwary whek yu gwary tek" ( On my honour and the honour of my country, I swear to wrestle without treachery or brutality and in token of my sincerity I offer my hand to my opponent. In the words of my forefathers, good play is fair play).

Cornish wrestling is becoming more popular and there are displays at events such as the Royal Cornwall Show to raise its profile. It is now affiliated to the British Wrestling Association and has received a grant from Sport England which has been used to improve facilities and to fund the coaching of the Cornish wrestlers of the future.

Colin’s passion for Cornish wrestling is in “the tradition, preservation, on-going participation in an ancient art, grounded in Cornwall and the Cornish people." He also believes that Cornish wrestling is about strength, but like many other Cornish activities it is underpinned by a sense of spirituality which comes from the sense of place.

Colin Rescorla was Barded in 2012 for his services to Cornish craftmanship and also for his support of the Hurling Game. His Bardic name is "Ser Pren Alken" (Artificer in Wood and Metal). He has made the St Columb hurling balls (as did his father and grandfather before him) and also items of regalia used in the Gorsedh ceremony. Hurling is an integral part of the Celtic heritage and is not just restricted to Cornwall but it is also found in the Orkneys, Cumbria and the north of England and Brittany. Colin knows that,

"The hurling ball is generally considered to be a representation of the sun, hence the silver covering. The size and methods of construction have changed over the years but the balls always have the silver surface. The game of hurling is thought to have its foundation in pagan times."

Colin did leave Cornwall for 8 years to go to Gloucestershire but he made a definite decision to return in 1968 as he could not envisage living elsewhere. Today he owns and runs a Funeral Director’s business in St Columb, where his family have lived since the 15th century. He views the Cornish and Celtic culture with its language, sports and artifacts as “simply a way of life” and believes that “there is much about this county that I have not discovered yet.”

Merv Davey was Barded for the Cornish language having taken exams in Cornish history and literature. He was elected to the office of Deputy Grand Bard in September 2013. His Bardic name is “Telynor an Weryn” (Folk Harper).

He describes himself as "just a Cornish boy from a council estate in Newquay who is interested in things Cornish". He is Deputy Grand Bard of a very modern Gorsedh which uses Skype and Facebook and has audio visual links at its conference to hear from speakers in Australia and America. His role has ceremonial, administrative and civic duties. He has had lunch with the Queen when she visited Cornwall. He found this a strange event as a life long Republican, but as the Gorsedh is non political and seeks to represent Cornish people, he went to it, and actually found it “quite fun!”

Merv’s view regarding keeping Cornish traditions going is that it is beneficial in two ways,

"Firstly, identity politics - if people feel comfortable in who they are and their own culture they will also be comfortable in accepting and appreciating other cultures which makes for a positive and outward looking community. Social problems arise when people are displaced.

Secondly, cultural heritage- traditional music and dance are as much part of our cultural heritage as buildings and have an equal case for preservation and promotion."

Merv believes that the Gorsedh are fortunate in that one of their founders Robert Morton Nance insisted on a definition of being Cornish as being something you felt, aspired to or perceived, rather than were born to genetically.

Therefore, the Gorsedh is very much in step with the "modern understanding of cultural identity and a multicultural society."

Donald Rawe was Barded in 1968 for services to Cornish drama and again in 1982 by examination in the Cornish language. It is very uncommon and a great achievement to be Barded twice. His Bardic name is “Scryfer Lanwednoc” (Writer of Padstow).

He is the grandson of Padstow sea captains and sailors and sees Cornwall as his homeland, a unique country in it own right, - successor to the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia (approximately 500AD to 1200AD). He would like more recognition for Cornwall, on a par with Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. Donald views the Gorsedh and its Bards as the county's supreme national and cultural body, seen as such by most Cornish people and those who have moved into Cornwall who are sympathetic to its aims.

He feels that Cornwall’s traditions knit people together and so he is very proud to be recognised and welcomed as a fellow Bard. He plans to "continue writing and promoting Cornish literature in both Cornish and English."

Cornish Bard Project

While many regions of Britain may feel that they are losing their identity today the Cornish Gorsedh is vigorous and alive in preserving the distinctive traditions of Cornish life.
The Cornish Gorsedh is an organisation that was founded in 1928 with the aim of maintaining Cornwall’s unique Celtic spirit through its Cornish history, literature, music, arts and the study, and use of the Cornish language.
The Gorsedh Council invites people to become Bards who have been actively involved in giving exceptional service to Cornwall and Bardship is seen as a form of recognition and a great honour. The contribution of the Bards to Cornish culture is very diverse from music to lifesaving, cricket to dancing and Cornish wrestling. It is this contribution that is important; you do not need to be Cornish or to live in Cornwall to be invited to be a Bard. There are even Bards all over the world including Australia and North America where they promote Cornishness amongst emigrant families. Since 1928 over a thousand men and women have been asked to become Bards and today there are almost five hundred still alive. Many of these attend the Open Gorsedh ceremony held annually each September at which the blue Bardic robes and headdresses are worn.
I wanted to explore the people who are part of such an ancient Cornish group, with such long-standing traditions. I have done a photographic study of portraits to highlight a selection of Cornish Bards. There is no one ‘type’ of Bard, they are all unique and have their own passions and views on Cornwall and stories to tell. They are a remarkable group as they work to keep Cornwall’s character, spirit and voice alive. I feel that there is a lack of understanding and knowledge about the Gorsedh and I hope my project raises more awareness about the people who are Cornish Bards.