Celtic Culture & heritage

Andrew Pears – inventor of Pears Soap

Pears soap

Andrew Pears was a farmer's son from Cornwall, born around 1770, who invented transparent soap.

His creation of transparent soap came in 1787.

After much trial and error he found a way of removing the impurities and refining the base soap before adding the delicate perfume of garden flowers. His product was a high quality soap, and had the additional benefit of being transparent. Soap refined in this way is transparent and makes longer lasting bubbles. The transparency was the unique product plus that established the image of Pears soap. His method of mellowing and ageing each long-lasting Pears Bar, for over two months, is still used today where natural oils and pure glycerine are combined with the delicate fragrance of rosemary, cedar and thyme.

He eventually moved to London from his home in Mevagissey, Cornwall, where he had trained as a barber.

Elizabeth Catherine Thomas Carne - Cornish geologist, philanthropist, conchologist, financier, banker, natural philosopher and mineral collector

Elizabeth Carne

Elizabeth Catherine Thomas Carne  was the fifth daughter of eight children born to Joseph Carne, F.R.S., and his wife Mary Thomas Carne.

Elizabeth was born at Rivière House, in the parish of Phillack, near Hayle, Cornwall and baptised in Phillack church on 15 May 1820.

At Riviere House the cellars were fitted out as laboratories where smelting processes of copper and tin were tested and minerals and rocks studied for their constituents. To that laboratory had come, before she was born, people such as Davies Gilbert, bringing with him the young  Humphry Davy to view the workings of a scientific environment.

Born into a wealthy and influential Methodist family of mine owners and merchants, Elizabeth was acutely aware throughout her life of the poverty and deprivation in surrounding mining areas and the dire need for education and social support for those less fortunate.

She read widely, studied mathematics and the classics, and learned several languages.

Ann Glanville – Champion female rower of the world

Ann Glanville

Ann was born in Saltash, Cornwall in 1796 as Ann Warren.

She married John Glanville, a waterman. They had fourteen children and when John fell ill, Ann continued her husband's trade to support the family.

Ann formed a crew of four female rowers who took part in local regattas.

She was noted for her large stature and for her crew who dressed in white caps and dresses.

Their success led to competitions all over the country. One event at Fleetwood was watched by Queen Victoria, who congratulated Ann when they won by beating an all-male crew. The most famous competition was in 1833 when they visited Le Havre and beat the best ten French male crews by 100 yards; this led the press to call her the champion female rower of the world.

Ann continued competitive rowing until she was in her sixties. Into her old age, she was given to circling the warships anchored in the Hamoaze on the Tamar exchanging banter with their crews.

Anna Maria Fox - Quaker, promoter of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society and the artistic and cultural development of Falmouth, philanthropist

Anna Maria Fox

Anna Maria Fox was born on 21st February 1816 the eldest child of Robert Were Fox FRS and Maria Barclay, his wife.

Her father was a member of the Quaker Fox family of Falmouth and maternal grandmother was a first cousin of Elizabeth Fry.

The family lived at Rosehill and Penjerrick.

Anna never married. With her sister, Caroline, she raised the four sons of her brother, Barclay, after the death of their parents.

Anna outlived her sister by sixteen years.

For several years between 1820 and 1860, the iron foundry of Perran was partly owned by members of the Fox family and the workmen of the foundry frequently, brought models of machines and other inventions to Anna's father for his advice and opinion.

Hannah Stacey - UK women's free-diving record holder, World Female Freediver of the Year 2004, movie stunt double

Hannah Stacey

Hannah was born in St Eval in Cornwall.

She learnt to swim in the ocean, spending much of her childhood at the beach bodysurfing. The love of the sea first inspired Hannah's interest in Freediving back in 2000.

Hannah has won two UK records, a UK title and competed in Nice, Ibiza, the Red Sea and Hawaii as a member of the UK team.

She was been named as the World's Best Female Freediver for 2004, beating off competition from national freediving champions from around the globe.

Hannah set a new national record in Cyprus for constant weight. She swam to a depth of 54 metres and back using just her own weight and a monofin.

Donald Mitchell Healey CBE - car designer, rally driver and speed record holder, winner of Monte Carlo Rally, expert water skier

Donald Mitchell Healey

Donald Healey was born on 3rd July 1898 in Perranporth, Cornwall, elder son of Frederick (John Frederick) and Emma Healey (née Mitchell) who at that time ran a general store there.

Donald became interested in all things mechanical at an early age, most particularly aircraft. He studied engineering while at Newquay College.

When he left his father bought him an expensive apprenticeship with Sopwith Aviation Company in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey and he joined Sopwith in 1914 continuing his engineering studies at Kingston Technical College.

Sopwith had sheds at the nearby Brooklands aerodrome and racing circuit.

Barely 16 when WW1 started, he volunteered in 1916 (before the end of his apprenticeship) for the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and earned his "wings" as a pilot. He went on night bombing raids and served on anti-Zeppelin patrols and also as a flying instructor.

Shot down by British anti-aircraft fire on one of the first night bomber missions of the war, after a further series of crashes he was invalided out of the RFC in November 1917 and spent the rest of the war checking aircraft components for the Air Ministry.

After the Armistice he returned to Cornwall, took a correspondence course in automobile engineering and opened the first garage in Perranporth in 1920.

Healey found rally driving and motor racing more interesting than his garage and its car hire business and used the garage to prepare cars for competition.

Sir Humphry Davy - inventor of the miners safety lamp, founder of Regents Park Zoo, chemist

Humphry Davy

Humphry Davy was born on the 17th December 1778 in Penzance, the son of a woodcarver .

His interest in scientific things was fostered by his acquaintance with Robert Duncan, a Penzance saddler who made electrical and mechanical models.

He went to school first in Penzance, then to Truro Grammar School when he was 15.

His father, Robert Davy, died, in 1794 leaving a widow and five children without much money.

At 16 he became apprenticed to Dr John Borlase, a Penzance surgeon.

Here his work involved mixing potions in the laboratory.

He set about systematically to prepare himself for a career in medicine by reading widely. Beginning with metaphysics and ethics and passing on to mathematics, then chemistry at the end of 1797, and within a few months of reading Nicholsons and Lavoisiers treatises on chemistry had produced a new theory of light and heat.

Then a chance meeting with a Bristol scientist, Dr Beddoes, led to his being offered a job as assistant in the newly opened Pneumatic Institution in Bristol in 1798.

Within four years he had established himself as a scientist through his experiments with gasses.

Bran and Sceolan - The Loyal Hounds of Irish Legendary Warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill

Fionn mac Cumhaill

The mythology of the Celtic peoples stretches back through the mists of time into a mysterious lost age. Although much was forgotten the stories passed on through oral tradition from generation to generation carried forward a memory and history of a magical past. Those that remained were preserved in the great works of Irish medieval literature. Tales that are steeped in the pre-Christian religious beliefs of the time. An age of wonder filled with magnificent, often flawed, heroes. Some gifted with supernatural abilities or aided by those possessed with magical skills. Pitted against dark forces also able to draw upon sourcery to achieve their ends. Animals and nature feature strongly in these stories, demonstrating the importance and connection that the Celtic people have to the environment in which they live. One such figure was Fionn mac Cumhaill, who is celebrated in Irish legend as a great warrior. The stories of Fionn and his followers the Fianna, form the Fenian Cycle (an Fhiannaíocht), many of them narrated in the voice of Fionn's son, the poet Oisín. It is one of the four major cycles of pre-christian Irish mythology along with the Mythological Cycle, the Ulster Cycle, and the Historical Cycle.

Fionn had two hunting dogs Bran and Sceolan. Intelligent and skilled in hunting they displayed a great loyalty to Fionn. Dogs are often known for these traits but with brother and sister Bran and Sceolan there was an added factor, for they were related to Fionn. Legend has it that they were born to Fionn’s aunt, Tuiren. This was at a time after she had married and fallen pregnant. Her husband Iollan Eachtach had been the lover of Uchtdealb who belonged to the Sidhe, which is a supernatural race with magical powers known in Irish, Scottish and Manx mythology. They belong to the Otherworld often associated with the Celtic pantheon of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Uchtdealb was jealous and turned Tuiren into dog. She remained in this form until the spell was broken, but by then she had given birth to the puppies who remained as dogs.

Richard Trevithick - inventor and father of industrial revoluation

Richard Trevithick

Richard Trevithick - an inventor, mining engineer, builder of wheeled steam engines years before Stephenson, one of the Fathers of the industrial revolution, overseas engineer, refused support or a pension from the British Government, died in poverty.

Richard Trevithick was born on 13th April 1771 in Tregajorran Cornwall, the son of the manager of Dolcoath Mine.

By the 1780s, as a boy he did experiments to improve the efficiency of the beam engines.His aim was to make smaller and lighter steam engines with stronger boilers to generate higher steam pressures and thus more power.

Richard was educated at Camborne School.

Trevithick was tall and strong.

At six feet two inches high and was known as the Cornish giant.

At the age of eighteen he could throw sledge hammers over the tops of engine houses. Trevithick also had the reputation of being one of the best wrestlers in Cornwall.

Percy Lane Oliver - founder of the first voluntary blood donor panel

Percy Lane Oliver

A Cornishman, Richard Lower, conducted the world's first blood transfusion. It took another Cornishman to set up the blood transfusion service.

Percy Lane Oliver was born in St. Ives in 1878 has slipped into relative obscurity since his death in 1944, but his actions will continue to help save the lives of millions of people worldwide as his pioneering blood donation service went from humble beginnings to a global phenomenon.

As a teenager he won a Science and Art Scholarship. He did well in his exams but was rejected by the Medical Board and the aspiring doctor ended up working as an assistant librarian with Camberwell Borough Council in 1893.

In 1901 he was transferred to the Town Hall staff, where he remained until his retirement. In the years leading up to the First World War, Percy was a founder member for the Camberwell Division of the British Red Cross and became its Honorary Secretary in 1910.

During the war, he served in the Royal Naval Air Service, stationed at Crystal Palace, but his contribution to the local war effort was far greater. With the help of his wife, Percy set up and managed four refugee hostels in Camberwell for those fleeing persecution. In 1918 he was summoned to Buckingham Palace to be awarded an OBE by King George V for his charitable work.

But his greatest contribution was yet to come.


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