Wednesday, 2 December 2020

I PACKED THIS MYSELF WORKSHOPS

 We're continuing our workshops on the workers from overseas who play a vital role in the Cornish economy. The aim is to highlight the role that they play and the issues they might face when making the huge life decision to leave home and create a life elsewhere.

Most recently we Zoomed in to Mousehole Primary School where children afterwards created wonderful suitcases illustrating important journeys they have made in life.

Tess drew a picture of her much-loved horse (she told us on Zoom that if she had to leave home she'd take her horse with her). And also recalled a journey she made at the age of three when she went to visit her grandmother in Norwich. Her grandmother often comes down to Cornwall but this was the only time she has ever visited her grandmother's house.  She doesn't even really remember this trip. But the idea of it is important to her.

Flora remembered a 'research' trip. Her favourite animals are wolves and on a holiday to France her family visited a wolf park - where they also saw vultures. This was a voyage of discovery for Flora.

We've also recently delivered a workshop to more than 20 curates training to be vicars in the Diocese of Truro.  Our Romanian volunteers Dragos and Mirabela joined the workshop and talked about their lives.

This was a large audience and there were some interesting reactions...

Good ideas to emerge: the idea of putting up notices in church porches to welcome workers from overseas. We can help by providing templates for that: anyone interested should email info@bridging-arts.com.

At the same time, the curates also had another important thought: it would be important to combine this invitation and poster with some 'in-house' training so that congregations offered a real and heartfelt welcome.

We all agreed: the prejudice and difficulties that workers from overseas can face is not unique to Cornwall: far from it. It happens all over the country - and the world.

The workshop also threw a spotlight on the fact that Dragos and Mirabela's journey was life changing. They not only changed countries, they changed jobs and were faced with the immediate challenge of integrating into an environment that was inevitably alien, initially.

This is very different from the journey of a professional from one country to another who would find a lifestyle very similar to their home country. This is a journey of discovery into the unknown, and it's not always easy.

 

Monday, 9 November 2020

Remembering Arthur Harris from Camborne

 Remembrance Sunday 2020 brought some fresh news of events of 100 years ago.

The great niece of one of the men who joined the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) under Dr William Blackwood in 1914 came forward with information about Arthur Harris, her great uncle, who was sadly killed on 8 July 1917.

Arthur, a miner, was one of the men from Camborne and Redruth who joined Dr Blackwood in the RAMC after war broke out. These men were in St John Ambulance teams at the mines.  Dr Blackwood  - a popular local figure - had helped to train them so that they could provide much-needed emergency medical care there when needed.

After signing up, the men became part of the RAMC’s 25th Field Ambulance, a unit made up of about 250 men from Cornwall and Devon.

In September they left Camborne for the Western Front. They trained on Salisbury Plain then camped in Winchester with the rest of Kitchener’s Army before embarking for Le Havre on 4 November 1914.

They first headed for Estaires in northern France where they were stationed for the first 15 months of the war, engaged in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and Aubers Ridge. The following year they travelled south to the Somme then in 1917 back to Belgium for the terrible battle of Passchendaele.

Passchendaele was one of the most horrific and bloody battles of World War One and Arthur Harris sadly lost his life at the start of it.

Passchendaele is notorious for the number of men who died. It is also remembered for the conditions in which men fought – the seas of mud that were created by the endless (and unexpected) rainfall that fell that July.  Men fought and died in the mud: many drowned in the mud and their bodies were never recovered.

Arthur Harris died on 8 July 1917, a few days after the battle started. He was not the only man in the 25th Field Ambulance to die that month.  The unit had gone through the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and then the Somme with little loss of life.

But at Passchendaele, their luck turned.

On 7 July 1917, Oliver Allen, a young gardener from Porthleven, was killed. His father J.R. Allen back home was a fish buyer and curer.

The following day Arthur Harris was killed and his grave is close to Oliver Allen’s in Menin Road South Military Cemetery. Here's some footage of the cemetery from December 2019. Men were buried where they fell. The busy road nearby leads down to the Menin Gate in Ypres.

Thanks to Arthur's great niece, Elaine Haddon, we now know a bit of his background.  He was born in Beacon and in 1911 living in Union Street, Camborne.

Several of the men in the 25th Field Ambulance were originally from Beacon – friends perhaps from childhood.

Other west country men in the 25th Field Ambulance who died that month were Private S. Walters (age unknown) of Plymouth who died on 30 July of his wounds;  and on 31 July 1917 Private William Cooper (age and birthplace unknown),  Private John Evans of Exeter and Private S.G. Martin of Plymouth were killed.

Laying a wreath on Dr Blackwood's grave in Camborne

 

Remembrance Sunday 2020: laying a wreath on the grave of Dr William Blackwood in Camborne - a World War One hero by anyone's standards.  Click here to watch.

In 1914 Dr Blackwood led a group of local miners out to the Western Front. They served throughout the war in the 25th Field Ambulance (Royal Army Medical Corps). Dr Blackwood ended the war as a Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) with a bar. In WW1, 9,881 DSOs were awarded but only 768 with an extra bar.

We researched Dr Blackwood and Cornish World War One history as part of our project Heart of Conflict.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Remembering great bravery



A local doctor made a passionate speech on a cold winter’s day in December 1920 when the War Memorial was unveiled in the village of Praze, west Cornwall, in memory of the 23 young men from the parish of Crowan who died in World War One. 
This was Dr. William Blackwood of Camborne who had led a party of local men to the Western Front in 1914 and served there in the Royal Army Medical Corps throughout the four years of war. With his men he saw the most terrible battles of a terrible war – including Neuve Chapelle, the Somme and Passchendaele.
Blackwood urged the large crowd in Praze on 15 December 1920 to remember the sacrifice of those from Crowan who had fallen. He would have been wearing his Distinguished Service Order (DSO) with a Bar. In the whole of World War One, 9,881 DSOs were awarded but only 768 with a Bar.
Blackwood ended the war as a Lieutenant Colonel. But despite these significant military honours, he went straight back to his practice as a doctor in Camborne when the conflict ended.



His modest grave is in Camborne graveyard, a simple inscription on the headstone: ‘His Duty Done’.
In the church hangs the banner of the Old Contemptibles (WW1 veterans) branch he founded.

This Remembrance Day, poppies will be laid on his grave in memory of his great bravery and inspirational leadership by the grandchildren of some of the men he led to France and Belgium.





Thursday, 1 October 2020

Social justice work in Diocese of Truro

Good to see I PACKED THIS MYSELF featuring in the Diocese of Truro's Social Responsibility briefing this month. Thank you to Andrew Yates, vicar of Paul Church, for helping to make this happen.  Click here to read.

Monday, 28 September 2020

Skateboard reunion


It was great to see artist Pete Kirby last week (27 September 2020) for the first time for some years. Pete  - now lecturing at Falmouth University -  came to collect the wonderful deck he created for our skateboard design competition in 2012.

For more details of Pete's board, click here.

For images from the 2012 exhibition, click here.

A selection of the skateboards (which have been touring Cornwall ever since) are now on display at Camborne Library.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Camborne World War One veterans' banner

 

Very many thanks to David Thomas, of Kresen Kernow (Cornwall’s archives) in Redruth, for letting me know that an historic banner, belonging to Camborne Old Contemptibles, is hanging in Camborne Church.

Camborne had an active branch of the Old Contemptibles, an organisation set up across the country in the years after World War One to support war veterans.

The name ‘Old Contemptibles’ was inspired by a phrase first used by Emperor Wilhelm 11 of Germany just after war broke out. He issued an order on 19 August 1914 just after war broke out to ‘exterminate the treacherous English and walk over General French’s contemptible little army’.

Camborne and surrounding districts had seen hundreds of men join the forces. Many sadly never returned from service: those who did often found it hard to adjust to everyday life back at home. What we would now call ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ was not then recognised.

The opening meeting of the Camborne branch of the Old Contemptibles was held in the local library in May 1936. It was led by Dr William Blackwood. He was a popular local figure who had led a group of St John Ambulance men from local mines out to serve in the 25th Field Ambulance on the Western Front.

Blackwood, then aged 58, said that men who had fought in the War had felt the need for an association for some time.

“Their numbers were diminishing; twenty-two years had passed since the beginning of the last war, although it did not seem so long when they looked back,” said The Cornishman, reporting his speech. “Those years, added to the ages of many of them when the war broke out, made some of them grey-haired.”

“They wanted to get together occasionally and recall the times they had had together. Some of those times were very silly and they had throughly enjoyed themselves ,” Dr Blackwood went on. “In the distance, they forgot the bad times and thought of the jolly times…”

The St John Ambulance men he had led out to France and Belgium had certainly seen some tough times. They had been at the Somme in 1916, Passchendaele in the following year. Many had ended up as Prisoners of War after the German Spring Offensive in 1918.

They named their branch, based in Camborne, the ‘West Cornwall’ branch and the association certainly provided company. It also helped members to get jobs, secure surgical applicances and medical attention for wounds suffered in action.

The Camborne-based group continued for many years, poignantly marking the funerals of members who one by one died over the years by parading this very banner.

Our World War One project Heart of Conflict has told many of their stories.

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