I wanted to share this most inspiring speech given by Phoebe Nance, later Procter, when she was a young woman and a significant protagonist in the Cornish-Celtic revival movement of the 1920s and 30s. Her father Robert Morton Nance became much more famous but Phoebe’s work as a poet and violinist intrigues me so I want to share what I find out as I go along.
I first came across Nance when she was mentioned in the newspapers as a performer in a Celtic Concert that took place at the Royal Institution of Cornwall in September 1932. Not long before this, she was barded and took the name Morwennol or Sea Swallow. There are a series of articles in Cornish newspapers of this period penned by a certain “Cornishwoman.” I can’t help but wonder if that was Phoebe Nance’s nom de plume?
The speech was reproduced in its native Cornish language (Nance was a fluent and articulate Cornish speaker who was brought up speaking Kernewek) and in English. It was published on 8 September 1934 in the Western Morning News and Daily Gazette (p.6). I have transcribed the text of the speech which speaks for itself. It has also inspired us to taken on a motto for this blog which we hope you like.
We must not sit sluggishly without doing anything at all.
Grand Bard, members of the Gorsedd. It is a great honour to me to have permission to speak here. This is a wonderfully good year for everyone who loves the Cornish Language. In years past we said one to another, “The Cornish Language is a good enough language, but I can’t speak it for want of a dictionary.” But now we have this lack made up completely. And we must not sit sluggishly without doing anything at all. There is here in Cornwall the best place in all the world for bards, with the wind of the sea and the heather on the downs. Therefore, we must write fine songs. And we must sing these songs, too, for music is good everywhere and always. And for winter time with long evenings, it would be good if some clever person could write a short play. Then it will be made plain to everyone that Cornish is a wonderfully beautiful language. And instead of people saying that we are crazy folk, full of folly, we shall see everyone overcome with wonder.Speech by Morwennol (Phoebe Nance) delivered in Cornish, 1934.