Canow rag Kernow - Songs for Cornwall

Singing Trelawny on St Pirans Day

So, is the Cornish National Anthem 'The Song of the Western Men' otherwise known as 'Trelawny' or is it 'Bro Goth Agan Tasow'  - 'Old Land of Our Fathers'? Well, it seems that as is the case in Scotland, there is room for both popular songs in Cornwall!

Hawker Plaque

'The Song of the Western Men' more commonly known as 'Trelawny' was written as a poem in 1825 by the Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker (1803 -1875), priest, poet and mystic. Hawker was parson of the parish of Morwenstow on the desolate north Cornish coast for forty-one years and an eccentric. He dressed in claret-coloured coat, blue fisherman's jersey, long sea-boots and pink brimless hat. He talked to birds, invited his nine cats into church, and excommunicated one of them when it caught a mouse on a Sunday!

His poem, first published anonymously and later set to music told of the imprisonment of Cornishman Jonathan Trelawny (1650 - 1721) who was one of the seven bishops imprisoned in the Tower of London by James II in 1688.

When Trelawny was imprisoned in the Tower, the Cornish asked 'the reason why'. These words are thought to be an echo of a much older popular ballad, possibly from the time of the Cornish rebellion of 1497.


A good sword and a trusty hand!
A merry heart and true!
King James's men shall understand
What Cornish lads can do!
And have they fixed the where and when?
And shall Trelawny die?
Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why!

   And shall Trelawny live?
   And shall Trelawny die?
   Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
   Will know the reason why!

Out spake their Captain brave and bold:
A merry wight was he:
Though London Tower were Michael's hold,
We'll set Trelawny free!
'We'll cross the Tamar, land to land:
The Severn is no stay:
With "one and all," and hand in hand;
And who shall bid us nay?

And when we come to London Wall,
A pleasant sight to view,
Come forth! come forth! ye cowards all:
Here's men as good as you.
'Trelawny he's in keep and hold;
Trelawny he may die:
Here's twenty thousand Cornish bold
Will know the reason why


'Trelawny' is now often sung in the Cornish language


Gans cledha da yn dorn yu lel
Gwyr, lowen an golon
Yth aswon Myghtern Jamys fel
Pandr’ wrello Kernowyon.
Yu ordnys prys ha le ancow?
‘verow Trelawny bras?
Otomma ugans myl Kernow
A wothvyth oll an cas.

   ‘Verow Trelawny bras?
   ‘Verow Trelawny bras?
   Otomma ugans myl Kernow
   A wothvyth oll an cas.

Yn meth an Capten, bew y wos,
Gwas jolyf yn mysk cans
“Tour Loundres kyn fo Carrek Los
Y’n delerfsen dewhans.
Ny a dres Tamar tyr dhe dy
An Havren ny’gan let
Ha scoth ryp scoth cowetha wyr
Pyu orthyn-ny a set?”

Devedhys bys yn fos Loundres
“Gwel dek dhyn” ny a gry
“Deugh mes, ownegyon oll, deugh mes
Gwell on agesough-why!”
Trelawny yu avel felon
Fast yn cargharow tyn
Mes ugans myl a Gernowyon
Gothvos an ken a vyn.



'Bro Goth agan Tasow'  - 'Old Land of our Fathers'  is also a popular anthem of Cornwall,  normally sung in the Kernewek, the Cornish language. It is sung to the same tune as the national anthem of Wales, 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau'. The Breton anthem 'Bro Gozh ma Zadou' also uses the same tune.

Many in Cornwall and elsewhere remember with pride the late John Bolitho, Bard of the Cornish Gorseth singing this song and it is to be heard where Cornish Bards and other Cornish speakers gather.

Bro Goth Agan Tasow

Bro goth agan tasow, dha flehes a'th kar,
Gwlas ker an howlsedhes, pan vro yw dha bar?
War oll an norvys 'th on ni scollys a-les,
Mes agan kerensa yw dhis.

    Kernow! Kernow, y keryn Kernow;
    An mor hedra vo yn fos dhis a-dro
    'Th on onan hag oll rag Kernow!

Gwlascor Myghtern Arthur, an Sens kens, ha'n Gral
Moy kerys genen nyns yw tiredh aral,
Ynnos sy pub carn, nans, menydh ha chi
A gews yn Kernowek dhyn ni.

Yn tewlder an bal ha war donnow an mor,
Pan esen ow qwandra dre diryow tramor
Yn pub le pynag, hag yn keniver bro
Y treylyn colonnow dhiso.


Old Land of Our fathers

Old land of our fathers, your children love you!
Dear land of the west, what country is your equal?
Across the whole world, we are spread far and wide,
But our love is for you.

   Cornwall! Cornwall, we love Cornwall!
   As long as the sea may be
   As a wall around you,
   We are one and all for Cornwall!

Kingdom of King Arthur , ancient saints and the Grail,
No other land is more beloved by us;
In you every tor, valley, mountain and house
Speaks to us in Cornish.

In the darkness of the mine and on the waves of the sea,
When we are wandering through overseas lands
In whatever place, and in however many countries,
May we turn our hearts to you.



Cornish march

One thing is for sure though, as with their fellow Celts, the Cornish love to sing. There are well in excess of fifty choirs in the Duchy, singing is to be heard in many Cornish pubs and on the terraces at rugby matches.

With official recognition of the Cornish people and their inclusion along with their fellow Celts into the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the proud voices are likely to be heard from a little further away.

Kernow bys vyken! - Cornwall Forever!


(Pictures: Hawker plaque [historically inaccurate re. birthdate]; Singing Trelawny on St Piran's Day; Piran Procession)