Saturday, May 29, 2010

An Gof of Cornwall

I'm almost ashamed to admit that I didn't know this story, but my excuse is that much as I'd like to be proper Cornish I'm really a Wiltshire Moonraker.

I'm spending a fair bit of time at the moment researching history and folk tales of the Celtic nations, in particular Cornwall and Brittany in the hope of turning a few of them into a performance piece. I'm indebted to Richard the Wrecker for inspiring the idea.

An Gof is Cornish for blacksmith (there are still lots of people called Angove in the county, so I'm told). Michael An Gof of St Keverne along with Thomas Flamank of Bodmin led the first of two Cornish uprisings against Henry VIIth's excessive taxation.
Together they led a 15000 strong rag-tag army on a march to London; the march according to contemporary reports was a peaceful affair, although the royal authorities' tactic of fining villages on the way if food or succour was given to the rebels backfired somewhat as many Englishmen joined the march.

On June 17th 1497 the Cornishmen and their English comrades faced the king's army of 27000 men; the result was inevitable. An Gof's men had no artillery and no horse. Both he and Flamank were captured and on 27th June they were hanged, drawn and quartered.

On his way to the scaffold An Gof is reputed to have said that he would have "a name perpetual and a fame permanent and immortal".

This story has become mixed with that of Bishop Trelawney in Cornwall's national anthem; Trelawney, though an undoubted Cornish hero, never did have "twenty thousand Cornishmen" marching to fight his imprisoner King James I.

A more detailed telling of the Trelawney and An Gof stories is published online by Tom Prout: click here. I also visited the "Cornwall Calling" An Gof page.


photo of An Gof statue shamelessly nicked from which is a great resource for history and stories of Cornwall.

No comments: