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Archiver > CORNISH > 2004-03 > 1080051610


From: "George Pritchard" <>
Subject: Re: [CON] Cornish Tartans etc etc
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2004 14:20:10 -0000
References: <405DFB4E.90306@pacbell.net> <004001c40fb9$564a68e0$d759b2d8@AlbertJenkin>


Dear Albert and list:

[Sandra P here]

Never have I heard such good sense pronounced on the subject of the Cornish
"National " dress.
As you say the "Tartan" is a new concept; few illustrations remain.of the
item of clothing , now described as a kilt, that some Cornish favoured back
in unrecorded history. There are many illustrations from the middle ages
that show men wearing what would today pass for a skirt , either over
breeches or thick hose. Versions of this are not improbable in Cornwall.

I know George has answered on the likely dyes and processes used in regard
to the raw materials available in Cornwall at the time but could I just add
that the Cornish, like most Celts, loved gaudy bright colours and did not
hide their love of it. If it was not available locally they would have
traded something that was for it. Red was one of the favoured colours and
the women were especially fond of it.The pride of every young woman was her
first red shawl. In the various comments found in contemporary writings of
the time there were references to the lack of appropriate dress at funerals
etc. Young woman were often berated by the authorities for wearing -
"loud and common gaudy attire as if off to a fair or some other fete rather
than to a funeral".

However , this "gaudy item" was said to have been put to a more altruistic
use when, in the wars with Napoleon, sighted off shore were several strange
ships. Whether they were French or no was a question but they were on a
heading to land on their shores. There was no garrison sited near the little
Cornish port that could defend it; what men there were not off fighting in
the war were off to the fishing grounds so the women took the initiative.
They raided their menfolk's clothes chest for trousers and hitched their
shawls around there shoulders and under their arms in a semblance of a
jacket. They took turns mounting a "guard" and patrolling the cliffs.
Others went down to the quays and started to prepare the longboats for
launching. At least they hoped to look as if they were prepared to defend
the landing place.
Anyone looking through a spyglass could have mistaken them for a fairly
large platoon of troops and within the hour the ships had altered their
course to the wind and sailed out of the bay.

This tale varies with the telling as to the location..Maybe it happened in
more than one place.
Whatever the truth of it , it will not be the first time that grown men have
run from the prospect of tackling a Cornish woman head on !

Sandra P.



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