Today is the 5th March, Saint Piran’s Day, a festival celebrated across Cornwall with marches, parades, music and some delightfully over-enthusiastic nationalism.
I went to my first St Piran’s Day pilgrimage to the cross and chapel in the dunes near Perranporth today below are some of my pictures. I was freezing cold and the wind did it’s best to blow me over but I thoroughly enjoyed myself as did the couple of hundred other people there. But really what’s it all about?
In recent years there have been calls to make the day an official holiday in the county, after all Wales and Scotland get a Bank Holiday for theirs, and already some schools and departments of Cornwall Council allow you to take the day off.
But in the Land of Saints (Cornwall has dozens of them you know) why is St Piran our patron saint? What is it about this Irish hermit that makes him so special?
What has Saint Piran ever done for Cornwall?
- St Piran was a miracle worker, not only did he sail from Ireland on a mill-stone but he managed to tame the unruly Cornish with kindness and Christianity.
- He is the patron saint of tinners. Tin miners believed that he showed their ancestors the alchemy of smelting tin and so he is the source of much Cornish wealth and heritage.
- He gave us place names that no outsider can pronounce – Perranzabuloe, Perranarworthal, Perranuthnoe.
- His association with tin gives us the black and white colours of our national flag.
- Celebrating his saint day provides us with another reason to take pride in our unique national identity.
- The story of St Piran brings people together and allows us to celebrate our wacky traditions uninhibited.
- He is so special we have even named a crab after him, the St Piran’s Crab, also known as Clibanarius erythropus, is a small hermit crab (hermit. . . get it!) that is found on the south Cornwall coast.
Cornwall has a lot to be proud of! I for one enjoy taking every possible opportunity to celebrate our heritage but we must also remember what we have so much to offer the rest of the country culturally today too. This shouldn’t be a county that looks only to the past! We are lucky and blessed to call this county our home and Saint Piran’s Day is another day to remember that.
Gool Piran Lowen!
For another story of a Cornish saint try: Saint Keyne and Equal Rights for 5th Century Women or maybe In Launceston, Throwing Stones at Mary Magdalene might amuse you?!
For more about St Piran: