Cornwall - The Polson Bridge occupation of Sunday 30th October, 2016

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The Polson Bridge occupation of Sunday 30th October, 2016

A fine day weather wise on Sunday 30th October, 2016 bode well for a good protest on the bridge at Polson just beneath Launceston in Cornwall. At Polson the bridge crosses the River Tamar, the time honoured and ancient thousand year old boundary between Celtic Cornwall and Anglo Saxon England, the eastern border of which was set in 936AD  by the then King Athelstan of the Anglo Saxons.

Right there the border has remained ever since, ranked as one of the oldest political boundaries in the world and recognised by many as a clear division between Cornwall and ‘out there’. A border which holds a special place in Cornish hearts, a border which so many Cornish people feel physically when they cross it on the journeys out of the country or on the return home, sounding their horns or crying out ‘Kernow Bys Vyken!’ (Cornwall Forever) or whispering a quiet ‘I’m home’.

And once again, as has often been the case down the years, that border is under mortal threat. This time, the threat is not from invading English but from the distant and out of touch Westminster Parliament and more precisely its unelected quango, the Boundary Commission. Of even greater insult is that this is the ‘Boundary Commission for England’. In Scotland, there is a different Boundary Commission. In Cornwall, we are ruled as a colony, England’s first indeed, and the ancient land is under constant attack by unelected quangos. Natural England, Highways England, English Heritage or is it Historic England (?), the names change but not the arrogance displayed, the Planning Inspectorate and now the Boundary Commission.

For sure, the Cornish and indeed more widely, the people of Cornwall are heartily sickened at the diktats from on high issued by those which many view as colonial masters, and thoroughly unfeeling ones at that.

Now Cornwall’s border is set to be gerrymandered and a cross border Westminster Constituency established with an MP expected to ‘represent’ (if that is the word in these times of top down centralised control) people on both sides of the Tamar in an unmanageable area including Tintagel, Camelford, Launceston, Bideford and many communities in between. 

Apart from Cornwall’s fairly impotent MPs, no one else wants this ‘Devonwall’ boundary, as it has been christened and as promised, once again, the suggestion, arrogantly announced by a representative of the unelected quango as being inevitable, is causing genuine anger.

And so, as promised, a fight back has begun. Against incredible odds the Cornish are rebelling, virtually all of them in a struggle which has been compared to the fight between David and Goliath.

On Sunday 30th October, a very visible sign of that fight back took place on the Polson Bridge in a reflection of the events of 1497 some 519 years earlier famously portrayed by painter Donald MacLeod, in whose picture the Cornish army led by Michael Joseph ‘An Gof’ (‘The Smith’) and Thomas Flamank, a lawyer from Bodmin in rebellion against taxes imposed by England, crossed the very same point into a foreign land.

Driving down the hill from Launceston towards the bridge, one could not fail to be impressed by the sea of Cornish St. Piran flags which rapidly filled this A388 main road. The further one drove towards the border and the Tamar, the greater the crowds until reaching the bridge itself which had been thoroughly occupied.

Traffic was forced to slow and from time to time and almost in an act of defiance, the road was closed off and supporters from Brittany, with whom the Cornish have very close cultural and historical ties despite England’s best efforts to sever them, danced in the centre and over the white lines, their magnificent Breton flag billowing overhead.

Not a sign of the police who had been informed but hardly surprising bearing in mind Cornwall’s close community where even police officers have spoken out against Westminster instigated constant meddling in matters they can barely understand.

Speaker after speaker addressed the crowds of people who clustered around to listen. Cornwall Councillors, the Mayor of Bodmin, Town and Parish Councillors, leaders of all political parties in Cornwall (except the Conservatives), the Grand Bard of Cornwall, campaign group leaders and even an MP from Norfolk, Norman Lamb, who was very supportive and who explained that he ‘felt Cornwall’s pain’ describing this gathering as a ‘cultural experience’ as many sang Cornish songs and joined in with the Breton dancers.  But of Cornwall’s own MPs, nothing. A very noticeable absence and one not lost on the crowds which at times numbered several hundred. Described by one in the throng as ‘missing a great opportunity’  many were disgusted and openly expressed that feeling promising to reflect it in their vote next time.

And of the people? Some arrived by buses, some by cars and some even on foot and bicycle. As young as four and as old as 100, they were there, Cornish people but also remarkably, people from England as well. A minibus drove slowly through the crowds passing out free bottles of water and conveying the needy to and from local services with frequent shouts of Kernow bys vyken! The speeches continued, poetry was read and enthusiastic singing ensued.  This was Cornish organisation at its finest. And to hear so many openly speaking in Kernewek, the Celtic Language of Cornwall was remarkable.

One sour moment occurred when a motorist driving a large car passed by and over the border bellowed out an angry ‘inbred Cornish c***s’ but instead of pursuing this, the crowds merely laughed and cheered and called out ‘we were here first’, a reflection of the historical fact that Cornwall and the Cornish predate the arrival of the English and the establishment of England by many years.

Onlookers, mainly passing motorists, were taken aback by the good humour but also the stubborn resistance shown by the Cornish and their loyal supporters. ‘This is great to see’ remarked one stopped motorist. ‘Real people power and so dignified’ ‘My family love Cornwall and we holiday here every year’ and reading one of the leaflets handed out, concluded ‘this is plain wrong’.

Plain wrong it is and the supreme arrogance of the so called ‘Boundary Commission for England’ and the complete sulky silence of Cornwall’s six Conservative MPs will not be forgotten.

With the Boundary Commission due to hear the views of the public on what has been described by Cornwall Council’s leader as ‘an unlawful travesty’ in Truro’s Cornwall Council headquarters on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th November, a robust defence of the boundary can be expected. As one protestor pointed out, ‘perhaps a few of us should be there to meet these Boundary boys, eh?’

This may have been a reference to the Bristol based planning inspector who was recently bundled in and out of Cornwall surrounded by security guards and who was met with stubborn refusal to recognise his authority.

The battle for Cornwall continues and will continue for as long as those from far away dictate down rather than listen. An inconvenient National Minority who, despite the best efforts of England’s establishment to dilute them, will continue to protest until they receive the respect they are surely due.

Sincere thanks must go to Bard Esther Johns of our wonderful Gorsedh Kernow who organised this dignified protest.

We also pay tribute to the following who attended, who assisted and who spoke to the crowds calling for an end to this unlawful act:

Dr Merv Davey, Grand Bard of Gorsedh Kernow and attendant Bards

Cllr Brian Hogan, Mayor of Launceston

Dan Rogerson, the Liberal Democrats

Cllr Adam Killeya, Saltash Town Councillor

Cllr Bert Biscoe, Independent Cornwall Councillor & Truro City Councillor

Gill Brown of the Labour Party

The Green Party

Cllr Dick Cole, Cornwall Council and leader of Mebyon Kernow - the Party for Cornwall and his team

Norman Lamb MP

The Cornish Stannary Parliament

Cllr Androw Hawke and the Cornish Nationalist Party for his kind donation on the day

Dr Ken George

All those wonderful members of KMTU who donated both their time and money to the logistics

All those Town and Parish Councillors in attendance

Our Breton brothers and sisters who travelled to support us

St Leonard's Equestrian Centre

Tesco Stores, Launceston (for the discount on spring water purchased by KMTU for distribution!)

MY Motors Redruth (for the generous discount on hired in transport)

To our great Cornish police who simply looked the other way and mostly to the great Cornish people, the people of Cornwall and those who travelled to this event and who aged from 4 to 100 years sang, danced, shouted and patriotically supported the ancient land we all love so much!

Kernow Bys Vyken!

(This information piece and the accompanying photographs are issued by 'Kernow Matters To Us' who were proud to assist in the provision of some transport, spring water, megaphones and so on and whose members attended and assisted. It is all free to use in support of the indigenous people of Cornwall)






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