Thursday, 27 August 2009

44: The demise of farming, Granny Pengelly beating me at whist and seeing moryonenns

Issue 44, winter 2005

When people talk to me about community as in community ventures or community initiatives, I always wonder what communities they are really referring to.

When I was younger, and that was not that so long ago (well, maybe), I lived in a farming community.

When I say community, I mean just that. In our ‘block’ there were four farms and three cottages. All belonged to the same estate and all those properties were lived in by Cornish farmers or farm workers.

Everyone knew each other and liked each other, or at least tried to like each other; you know what Cornish farmers can be like.

All year round, especially at harvest time and Christmas, all the farmers and their workers helped each other out and there was a real feeling of camaraderie among us.

Then, in less than ten years, those decades or maybe even centuries, of working tradition vanished.

One by one the farmers grew old, their sons left the fold, the money stopped coming in and the farm workers left the cottages.

One by one, the farmers sold up. Big companies took on the land, retiring professionals snapped up the farmhouses and cottages and soon there was only my father and I left out of a once proud farming community of around 25.

Then I left and my father soon after.

Every Christmas I think of those times and the characters that knew every inch of the land they toiled on.

My Christmas on the farm was one of extra work to help catch up so that father could have some time off when the whole family came together. All the neighbouring farmers would also drop by and leave a bottle of whisky as a present that went in the cupboard with all the other bottles from previous years.

Games were a big thing in our family; we’d play whist, draughts, Newmarket and euchre as well as family board games. My grandmothers, well Granny Curnow, would always take great delight in relieving me of my pocket money in Newmarket. She would say that gambling was a sin and that she was teaching me not to gamble by taking my money through gambling. I would always fall for it and play ’til all my pennies were in her purse that she said she kept under her pillow.

My gran Pengelly is 96 now and she can still remember those days. She calls ants moryonenns which is a word straight out from Kernewek still engrained in her everyday tongue. She still speaks of the funny times of Christmas like when I brought in all the farm dogs from outside as I thought they were cold. She made me wash up the kitchen floor. Hell up, as they say.

Christmas is a family time and we should cherish these times, as they don’t last forever.

So to all the Cornish families across the Cornish World; Nadelik Lowen ha Blydhen Nowydh Da (Happy Christmas and a Good New Year). May we all remain strong in 2006.

Nigel Pengelly, Editor

Pictured: The Pirates in action. Picture by Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Press.


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