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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

Happy St. Piran's Day to all who live and dance in Cornwall, Janners all! St. Piran, revered as the patron saint of Cornwall and tin miners, embodies the spirit of perseverance and faith amidst adversity. According to legend, Piran was an Irishman of high esteem, known for his wisdom and piety, who fell out of favor due to royal intrigue. Cast into the sea by the king of Munster, tied to a millstone, his story took a miraculous turn when the millstone floated, carrying him across the waters to the shores of Cornwall. His arrival marked the beginning of his mission in Cornwall, where he shared his faith and knowledge with the local Celtic population. Piran's most famous deed involves the discovery of tin smelting, the cornerstone of Cornwall's economy and culture. The tale goes that, one night, a black rock he used in his fire leaked a white liquid—tin! This discovery not only revolutionized the industry but also led to the creation of the St. Piran's Flag, a white cross on a black background, symbolizing tin streaming from the ore. This flag today stands as a proud emblem of Cornish identity and heritage. This 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! 🖤 🤍

St Piran's Cross

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!

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.

For more on St. Piran, click the stained glass!

St Piran's Cross

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

St Piran's Cross

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