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St Piran's Cross

Cornish Flag

St. Piran's Day

Mar 5

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Walk out among the sand dunes to that ancient secret place where no sound of the busy world can ever penetrate. Hear only the whisper of the wind in the grass or the hum of a passing bee, and overhead in the summer sky the endless song of the lark. Time now to think and know yourself While the past is close at hand, And then you find a quiet content, For this is Piran's land."

~ Gear Sands, Alice Bizler

St Piran's Day, March 5th, is the national day of Cornwall named after one of the patron saints of Cornwall, Saint Piran, who is also the patron saint of tin miners. One of the oldest depictions of the St Piran's flag can be seen in the 1888 stained glass window at Westminster Abbey, created in memory of the famous Cornish inventor and engineer Richard Trevithick. The window depicts St Michael at the top and the nine Cornish saints, Piran, Petroc, Pinnock, Germanus, Julian, Cyriacus, Constantine, Nonna and Geraint in tiers below. The head of St Piran appears to be a portrait of Trevithick himself, and the figure carries the banner of Cornwall.

St Piran's Cross

St. Piran was a sixth century holy man and is the patron saint of Cornwall and tin miners.

The earliest known description of the St. Piran's Cross flag as the Standard of Cornwall appears in 1838.  The flag's colours are said to be adapted from the story of St. Piran seeing  molten tin spilling out of the black ore in a fire during his supposed discovery of tin in Cornwall, thus becoming the patron saint of tin miners.

According to legend, St. Piran, who was of Irish origin, was set upon by a jealous pagan ruler and thrown from a high cliff into the sea with a millstone tied to his neck.  As his enemies watched in consternation, rather than drowning the saint began to float on his millstone across the sea and came ashore on a beach which still bears his name,  Perranporth.

St. Piran built a chapel on the beach, and his first converts to Christianity were said to be a badger, a boar, and a fox.  Piran not only gained a reputation for miraculous powers but also as a prodigious drinker (leading to the expression "drunk as a Perraner") and is said to have lived to the ripe old age of 206!

Notes from the devisor:

This Scottish Country Dance, a reel, is so-named because it is a close derivative of the dance St George's Cross with the reverse form, Kilt Pin, rather than Sash Pin reels. 

For more on St. Piran, click the waving Cornish Flag.

St Piran's Cross
St Piran's Cross

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