St Piran’s Day is on 5th March. It’s an important day for the Cornish and is marked with events ranging from small, local gatherings in villages to bigger, organised parades and festivals. Much like Ireland’s St Patrick’s Day and St David’s Day for the Welsh, St Piran’s Day is all about celebrating our unique Cornish identity and heritage.
Who is St Piran?
For those unfamiliar with the Patron Saint of Cornwall, St Piran is also the Patron Saint of tin miners. He arrived in Cornwall from Ireland in the 5th Century, purely by chance and good fortune. Even though he wasn’t Cornish born, St Piran is said to have given so much to the people of Cornwall; he remains the most well known of all the saints who lived here.
Before he stepped on Cornish shores, St PIran was a long standing advisor to Ireland’s King Aengus. St Piran preached against the King after he voiced his desire to be rid of his wife, preferring to take up with a young beauty of the court. St Piran forbade this and needless to say, it didn’t go down very well with the King. St Piran was condemned to death. He was tied to a millstone and thrown into turbulent seas from the highest cliff in Munster.
Apparently, the sea calmed as soon as St Piran hit the water. The millstone unexpectedly stayed afloat, the ties loosened, and St PIran didn’t die as expected. Instead, he travelled across the Celtic Sea and arrived at Perranzabuloe beach in Cornwall.
Once in Cornwall, St Piran introduced and taught the Gospel to the Cornish. He even built his own church in Perranporth; the remains of which still exist.
St Piran is mostly known for accidentally discovering tin; hence the reason he’s the Patron Saint of Tinners. Tin Mining later became Cornwall’s main industry for hundreds of years. The Cornish flag, the flag of St Piran, has black background with a white cross, representing hot tin metal against the black of the ore.
Why do the Cornish celebrate St Piran’s Day?
Surely the question is, why wouldn’t we celebrate St Piran’s Day?
St Piran’s Day is about rejoicing in everything that makes Cornwall unique. It’s a nod to the pride we feel in connection with our indigenous culture, identity and ancestry. Unfortunately, it’s not a Bank Holiday, although some schools do close for the day.
Different events and celebrations take place across the county. Some towns and villages having their own long standing, traditional way of marking St Piran’s Day. Even though March 5th is the official date, events and festivities are held across Kernow all weekend.
In Truro, Cornwall’s capital, there is a St Piran’s Day Festival, including a parade at 1pm through the city centre. There’s also a silent disco in Truro Cathedral on 3rd March (and yes, I’ve got my dancing shoes ready!). Redruth’s St Piran’s Day celebrations involves a parade and plenty of stalls run by Cornish makers. One thing’s for sure, Trelawney’s Pride, Cornwall’s National Anthem, will be sung with much gusto and honour by Cornish folk all over the county.
Wherever you are in Cornwall, I think it’s fair to assume that Cornish pasties will be on the menu, along with scones (or Cornish splits), jam and cream, saffron or yeast buns. I’m not sure I fancy it, but someone out there may be going the whole hog and tucking into a Stargazy Pie.
St PIran’s Day is acknowledged further afield too. Toronto in Canada have a special St PIran’s Day lunch in their Duke of Cornwall pub (love that!) and in Victoria, Australia, there will also be jollities.
Are you celebrating St PIran’s Day? If so, what will you do to mark Cornwall’s Patron Saint?
Don’t forget to wish your fellow Cornish a Happy St PIran’s Day. You could even keep it Cornish and say, “Gool Peran Lowen”
Onen Hag Oll