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Redruth Old Cornwall Society
Programme of Events
Redruth Old Cornwall Society
Midsummer Bonfire Celebration
22nd June 2012 at Pencoose Farm, Stithians
PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF DATE
The 2012 celebration will once again be held at Pencoose Farm, Stithians, by kind permission of Mr. Paul Gluyas who runs the 780 acre farm which has been in the family since the 1850’s, and dates from the 13th century. Pencoose (Cornish – Pen cos) means “End of the Wood”. In 1278 it was called Broncoys, in 1561 Burncoys and in 1884 Burncoose before taking its present name of Pencoose.
The ceremony will start at approximately 9.30 p.m. but most people start to arrive at about 8 p.m. when there will be pasties & soft drinks etc. available. Below you can view a film of the 2007 ceremony by double clicking the film.
Midsummer’s Eve Bonfire
As daylight fades from the sky on Midsummer Eve and the deep shades of dusk settle over the Cornish countryside, bright yellow points of light may suddenly be seen to blaze forth from a number of hilltops scattered throughout the length and breadth of the county. These beacons comprise the chain of midsummer bonfires organised and lit each year by the Old Cornwall movement through the agency of its individual local societies and carried out in accordance with a very ancient custom. The practice of celebrating Midsummer Eve in such a fashion goes back to pagan times and by observing such practices a bond is formed between Cornish people of the present age and our distant Celtic forbears.
As a heathen festival, there can be no question but that these fires owe their origin to a form of sun worship and it is believed that at one time the ceremonies included burnt offerings sacrificed on Cornish hilltop altars. The fires held on Midsummer Eve would have celebrated the splendour of high summer, with the sun at the peak of its power and glory in the heavens, and promising ripeness to the maturing fruits and grain. They were supposed to bring a blessing on the crops; and animals, such as rabbits and pigs and sometimes criminals were sacrificed in the flames.
Later, the Church found itself faced with the alternatives of either suppressing these fires, or of adopting and adapting them for its own purposes. It generally chose the latter course and so the fires were allowed to continue, though they were now lit to celebrate the Eve of St. John. However, some of the old pagan features were still maintained, but in a disguised form, thus instead of having a human or animal sacrifice a wreath of symbolic herbs was cast into the fire.
The Midsummer fires continued for centuries from hilltops throughout Britain, but with the passage of time the fires died out over most of the country and were then confined to remote areas in the western part of Cornwall where it survived until the last quarter of the 19th century.
The first Old Cornwall Society was formed at St. Ives in 1920 and it was there that the ceremonies were revived in 1929 and the celebrations spread to other Societies throughout the county.
The ceremony in Cornish and its translation into English, now consists of: -
A prayer for the benediction of the Midsummer Fire
Instructions by the Master of Ceremonies
Casting of the flowers by the Lady of the Flowers
Lighting of the fire
The flowers or herbs bound with coloured ribbons, are good and bad: -
The good ones representing plants of known medicinal value.
The bad ones – obnoxious weeds etc.
The colours of the ribbons are symbolical: -
White – strength;
Green – knowledge or wisdom;
Blue – love;
Red – sacrifice;
Yellow – the sun.
Ron Opie, President of The Federation of Old Corwall Societies
Prayer for the Benediction
Pysadow Rak Benyga Tansys Golowan
A Arluth Jesu Cryst, an Golow Gwyr, Nep usy ow colowy
myns den a-dheffo aberth y’n bys-ma. Gwra benyega an
Tansys-ma y’gan lowender a-vynnyn ynno gorra tan rag
enora Genesygeth Sen Jowan an Brysydher. Ha gront dhyn,
ha ny dre dhas ras golowys ha dyworth dha gerensa gans tan
may hyllyn dos dhyso, Nep a-ve kens-dervyvys gans an
Ragresor sans-na avel Sylwyas an Bys, hag us trygys ha
kesregnyes gans an Tas a nef yn unsys an Spyrys Sans, prest
un Dew, trank hep worfen. AMEN
Geryow an Solempnyta
Herwyth usadow agan hendasow yn termynyow kens,
Ny ow cul aganTansys Golowan, hanneth yu cres an Haf.
Tan y’n cunys
Lemmyn gor uskys,
May tewo an Tansys
Y’n Hanow Dew!
Arlodhes an Blejyow
Otta kelmys yn-kemyskys
Blejyow, may fons-y cowl leskys,
Ha’n da, ha’n drok.
Re dartho an da myl egyn,
Glan re bo dyswres pup dregyn,
Yn tan, yn mok!
Towl lemmyn an Blejyow
Tan yn cunys
Re slanno an tansys
Dres lys plu!
of the Midsummer Bonfire
Lord Jesus Christ, the True Light, Who dost enlighten every
man that cometh into the world, do Thow bless this bonfire
which in our gladness we light to honour the nativity of Saint
John the Baptist and grant to us, being lighted to Thy grace,
and fired with Thy love, that we may come to Thee, Whom
that Holy forerunner did announce beforehand as the Saviour
of the world. Who livest and reignest with the Father in
Heaven in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world
without end. AMEN
(M.C.) – According to the custom of our forefathers in days
of old – behold us making our midsummer bonfire, this night
in the middle of summer.
Now set the pyre
At once on fire
Let flame aspire – in God’s High Name.
(Lady of the Flowers) – In one bunch together bound
Flowers for burning here are found
Both good and ill.
Thousand fold let good seed spring,
Wicked weeds, fast withering,
Let this fire kill.
Now cast the flowers!
(Lighter of the fire) -
I set the pyre
At once on fire,
Let flame aspire
Over many a parish!
By Cyril Noall, with additional notes by Yvonne Gilbert.
This is a New Edition of a booklet first published in 1963. this edition has 13 pages and 5 photographs which include the front and back cover. Price £1 + P&P to purchase a copy write to
Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, Publications Officer,
Map Tewen, 6, The Terrace, Pentewan. St Austell, Cornwall, PL26 6DE.
Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved.
Revised: May 26, 2012 .
Registered charity no.: 1079433