Hundreds brave chill to celebrate the Life of Piran
Living Cornwall Editor
The spirit of St Piran was alive and well – if a little chilly – as several hundred pilgrims made their way across the dunes above Perranporth yesterday to mark the feast day of Cornwall's favourite saint.
Speaking at an ancient granite cross dedicated to the 5th century holy man, Colin Retallick, in the guise of Piran, spoke for many when he said: "Piran is not just about our past. He is about our present and our future because the things he stood for are as meaningful today as ever."
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Colin, who has taken the key role for a number of years, was joined by a large cast of players drawn from the Perranporth area to perform a promenade play telling the story of St Piran, the patron saint of tinners.
Described by its narrator as "a grand tale of betrayal, greed and suffering, with plenty of joy and wonder", it was written by well-known Cornish author Alan M Kent and directed by actor Jason Squibb.
Praising the hard work of all those who took part, Alan said: "I'm really pleased with the way it's gone. Because it is a community company it has a certain style and innocence which is suited to the setting. It's been a cracking day."
With countless black and white flags flying in the stiff breeze, hundreds of men, women, children and dogs set off across Gear Sands yesterday afternoon. Led by musicians and accompanied by The Perraners singing group, the story was related through a series of vignettes. Bewnans Peran – Life of Piran – followed the Irish clergyman from his days as a healer and eventual banishment to his arrival on the shores of Cornwall, where he endeared himself to the locals through his love of feasting and drinking.
Alan M Kent, Jason Squibb, the cast and crew are to be congratulated for their clear and often tongue-in-cheek retelling of the Piran story. The use of radio microphones for the first time hugely increased the enjoyment of the crowd, who should also be congratulated for braving the bitter conditions.
Among those in the audience was Gorsedd Grand Bard Maureen Fuller, who last week renewed calls for St Piran's Day to be declared a public holiday in Cornwall.
"Piran was a man of the land, living amongst the dunes, collecting firewood, smelting tin and living on fish from the sea," she said. "Most importantly, St Piran had values and stuck to what he believed to be right – and in these respects he is a good role model for Cornish children."
In a poignant finale, it was the children of Cornwall who closed the production, with members of RedYouth dance team performing a series of street dance moves at St Piran's Cross. Before leaving the towans, hundreds of bunches of daffodils – donated by Fentongollan flower farm – were placed at the stone.
The festivities culminate tomorrow – St Piran's Day – with processions through several Cornish towns, including Falmouth, St Ives and Bodmin.