CORNISH-L ArchivesArchiver > CORNISH > 2001-07 > 0995657519
From: "George Pritchard" <>
Subject: [CON] Trelawney
Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2001 20:31:59 +0100
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Some time ago we had a discussion on the list about the song Trelawney.
Today I came across this article by the respected Cornish historian Morton -
Nance and thought it may be of interest to some of you.
THE REASON WHY.
We have always been led to believe that R. S. Hawker's "Song of the Western
Men," with its "twenty thousand Cornish men will know the reason why," was
based on a traditional refrain in which we find the number increased:- "And
shall Trelawney die? And shall Trelawney die?
Then thirty thousand Cornish boys will know the reason why!"
and this we are told the miners varied to
"Then thirty thousand underground will know the reason why!"-a line which
with the same substitution of "twenty" for "thirty" we find in Hawker's
first version of his song.
That this refrain was traditional seems to rest on the word of Hawker, whose
ingenious fabrication of legends and facts brings all his statements under
suspicion of being "picturesque amplifications of actuality." He seems even
to have been pleased to have the whole of his "Song of the Western Men"
accepted as a genuine old ballad by Scott and Macaulay, and also by Win.
Sandys ("Jan Trenoodle ") who put it as such into his Specimens of Cornish
Provincial Dialect, 1846.
Such a Trelawny refrain may have existed since Bishop Trelawny's
imprisonment in 1688, or even since 1628, when John Trelawny was the
captive, but there is no record of it, and the only proof that the whole
refrain, too, was not Hawker's invention is the fact that we have an earlier
line, in an anonymous song to the same air, in which we are told that "forty
thousand Cornish boys shall knawa the reason why,"-and this has nothing to
do with Trelawny, but is a song against Bonaparte, written evidently in
1807, the date of the invasion of Poland, while Hawker's ballad was first
printed in 1832. In this, "He summonsed forty thousand men, to Polland they
did go,"' is said of "Boney Peartie," and the "forty thousand Cornish boys"
of this song are here the natural rejoinder to the number raised by
The fact that this song was intended to be sung to the air of "Trelawny" or
"A-mumming we will go," the same as that used for the old miner's song
"Wheal Rodney" (Old Cornwall No. 2, p. 25), is disguised a little by the way
in which it is printed in J. 0. Halliwell's Dictionary of Archaic and
Provincial Words, 1847, for there the whole is run into one verse. Halliwell
presumably found it so on a ballad-sheet or in a manuscript copy, but here I
have taken the liberty of restoring it into three four-line verses with the
fourth as a chorus. I have also run in a few extra syllables (in italics)
which may have dropped out accidentally, and print "knaw" for "knawa";
otherwise it is untouched
A CORNISH SONG.
Come all ye jolly Tinner boys, and listen unto me;
I'll tell ee of a stone as shall make ee for to see,
Consarning Boney Peartie, the schaaines which he had maade
To stop our tin and copper mines, and all our pilchard traade.
Chorus- Hurea for tin and copper, boys, and fisheries likewise!
Hurea for Cornish maidens-Oh, bless their pretty eyes!
Hurea for our ould gentrie, and may they never faale!
Hurea, hurea for Cornwall! Hurea, boys, "one and ale!"
He summonsed forty thousand men, to Polland they did goa,
All for to rob and plunder there, you very well do knaw;
But ten thousand were killed and laade all dead in blood and goare,
And thirty thousand runned away, and I cante tell where, I'm sure.
And should that Boney Peartie have forty thousand still,
To maake into an army for to work his wicked will,
And try for to invaade us, if he doen't quickly fly--
Why forty thousand Cornish boys shall knaw the reason why.
It is clear that this old song, sung to the same air as "The Song of the
Western Men," and containing its "forty thousand Cornish boys shall knawa
the reason why," must have had quite twenty years in which to become
"traditional" before Hawker Wrote his ballad. Hawker's curious mentality
makes it quite possible, too, that having used one line of a "Bonaparte"
song for his own "Trelawny" one he really persuaded himself that it had
always been connected with Trelawny. Those who take the side of the doubters
must credit Hawker with the stirring "And shall Trelawny die "; those who
prefer to think the refrain a genuinely old one, may still do so, assuming
that as its "thirty thousand Cornish boys" were lowered by ten thousand for
Hawker's song, so they were raised to "forty thousand" to bring them up to
"Boney's" known strength. Quite apart from its interest as a possible
inspiration to Hawker, the song seems worth reprinting. It will not prove a
serious rival to "Trelawny," but as here set out some may care to sing it if
the right occasion should be found.