Red Alert

Politicians generally prefer to fight the last battle rather than the next one. The invasion of Iraq was a response to the first Gulf War. The failure to attack President Assad was a response to the invasion of Iraq. Current air strikes on IS (itself a result of the previous failures) are trying to make up for that miscalculation. And so on.

The same failing is infecting the Labour Party. Tony Blair was the right answer in 1997. He was up against John Major, whose charisma left the country feeling it was a division of an obscure accountant’s department in a long-forgotten office. Tony had the gab, smiled a lot, was everyone’s chum, was young and modern and clearly still having sex. His policies didn’t stand up to scrutiny, bearing a strange resemblance to those of the party he hoped to replace, but this gave middle England the warm feeling that they could change leaders without rocking the boat. Gordon Brown looked solid in his sums, so why not have a change?

Lefties and even Labour moderates winked at each other as if to say “We get it”. Tony could smile his way into No 10 and when safely inside could throw off his Tory overcoat and start on a more socialist agenda. But he never did. The bland crowd-pleasing guff he was elected on was the real thing. Instead of encouraging industry, building Council Houses, reining in property inflation, taking control of city extravagance, clipping the wings of non-tax-paying multi-nationals or reversing any of Thatcher’s privatisations, he carried on ploughing the Tory furrow. Old Labour principles became old hat, a toxic brand.

The end result was the hideous mess they left behind, now being delicately air-brushed, which ushered in the Conservatives, ready to fulfil their fondest dream and dismantle the Welfare State. But what do the Labour Party bigwigs, along with most political commentators, imagine would sort their sad party out? That Tony Blair. He had the right idea, look at all the elections he won. Someone like that.

However out among the masses there’s a growling noise. Lots of Labour supporters don’t want any more Tory-lite. Why would anyone choose that if they can have authentic Tory policies, red in tooth and claw?  What about left-wing ideals, principles, inspiration? Where to find them in their leadership’s cringing, compromising anxiety not to look too socialist, not to annoy the City, not to make the bankers cross, not to criticise market forces or even whisper the idea of public ownership of essential services?

For Blair the party swallowed its pride and painted itself blue. That won’t work now. There’s a whole generation of people, the real hard-working families, who know that preserving the system that keeps them in zero-hours jobs and rented flats holds out no hope for their future. There’s a new population with an outraged moral sense, who took their votes to the Lib Dems until Nick Clegg spat in their faces, and now need a flag to follow and a leader to be inspired by. It doesn’t surprise me a bit that Jeremy Corbyn is their choice, however slim. They’d rather seize any choice to die on their feet rather than go on living on their knees.

Being careful what you wish for



Where to begin?

Let’s start with a big thank-you to Andrew George, an MP who’s served constituents of whatever political colour with hard work, diligence and willingness to put Cornwall first for so many years. He’s set a standard we’ll be lucky to see matched for a very long time.

Let’s give the supporters of UKIP and the Labour Party their due for backing their declared beliefs and the parties to which they were pledged.

To the Greens and Mebyon Kernow I can only say – ?? In our ridiculous electoral system there are no prizes for anyone but the winners. This might have been the time to look at the wider picture, as seen below.

To Conservative voters, congratulations. Your man won and will now represent us all in Westminster.

Just to remind you, the Conservative victory means that several new things will happen and other things that might have happened won’t. For example:

-The Mansion Tax won’t happen. This helps London Estate Agents, but won’t benefit many in Penwith.

– A £3,000 reduction in annual student tuition fees won’t happen.

– In rented property the capping of rents, abolition of agency fees and the extension of leases won’t happen. This may please many landlords, but possibly not their children.

– A rise in the minimum wage won’t happen anytime soon, nor will legislation about zero-hours contracts. The party is dedicated to private business interests before all else.

– Abolition of the Bedroom Tax won’t happen

– Increased rates on empty second homes won’t happen

– The Referendum to leave the EU will happen, and will dominate political life for the next two years.

– The move to abolish the European Convention on Human Rights will begin.

– Increased personal surveillance will happen.

– HS2 will happen, and will sop up the transport budget for years to come. Sorry Dawlish…

– Trident will happen.

– 500+ new unregulated Free Schools will happen.

– Fracking will go ahead with all speed. Hopefully the Home Counties won’t mind the possibility of earthquakes and disturbance to their water supplies.

– Privatisation and centralisation of the NHS will speed up.

– Vast housing developments will happen on greenfield sites but will not include any social housing for rent. Social housing stocks will be further reduced by extending the Right to Buy.

– Regional Wages, the proposal to pay public sector employees – nurses, teachers, etc –  less in low-pay areas like ours will probably rise from the pit into which the Lib Dem coalition partners pushed it.

– The Universal Credit System, the proposal to roll six different benefits including Housing Benefit and Working Tax Credits into one single monthly payment will happen, and will join the list of great public IT disasters, giving distress to countless families on the way.

– £12,000,000,000 will be cut from a social welfare system which is already beyond crisis level locally, though we still haven’t been told how.

Cut out and keep this list until 2020. If that wasn’t quite what you had in mind for a poor area like West Cornwall, if you voted to punish the past rather than considering the prospects for Cornwall’s future, perhaps you weren’t really listening; but you’re still responsible.

To the other group, the second largest at 16,258 who didn’t bother to turn out and vote at all, polite words fail me.

Taxing Times

As Cornwall braces itself for the autumn blast and the rich crop of blackberries begins to fall, the newspapers are full of glad tidings. We’re all going to be paying less taxes, the NHS is in the money, hundreds of thousands of affordable houses are on the way. At the same time there’ll be a crackdown on benefits, tough talk to the EU, free beer… In other words it’s conference time, the annual festival of Cobblers everywhere.
The all-time record for discredited promises goes to Mr Cameron. His speech finished in time for lunch and its contents were already exposed as nonsense (following astute questioning from Eddie Mair) by tea-time, before the dutiful support from the Tory Press had even been written. Hurray, tax cuts. When? That’ll be 2020, two elections away, when these newspaper celebrations will be lining kitchen drawers and today’s needs and costs will be as relevant as the Corn Laws. Can we count on it? Certainly, as long as Britain has by then “balanced its books”. To forecast that the Conservatives must have consulted Joan The Wad as even the most barking economist wouldn’t dream of putting a date on it. So the tax savings you read about are jam tomorrow depending on something less likely than winning the World Cup. Where’s the money coming from for those golden days? It would come, said the spokesperson possibly reading for a part in “ Shameless”, from an additional £25b – that’s £25,000,000,000 – of so-far-unspecified “savings”. Are they saying there are £25b of savings they know about but can’t yet be bothered to chase? No. We all know what they mean. What’s left to flog? The Royal Family? Scotland?
And a word on houses. The government doesn’t build houses, big building companies do. If an extra 100,000 are passed like Epsom Salts through what’s left of the Planning Laws don’t expect any favours for our children. It’s Tory holy writ that the Market decides, and the unregulated housing market doesn’t have a conscience.
UKIP had their day, whining that it was spoiled by the recall of parliament – apparently some local difficulty in the Middle East. Their speeches were irrelevant anyway. Everyone knows what UKIP stand for. Forget their still-wet manifesto, they feed on the repressed desire for a little light ethnic cleansing, giving a respectable voice to those who’d like to turn the clock back before the “Windrush” docked, when black faces were only seen in the National Geographic, when Poles were people we’d go to war for but wouldn’t expect to find living next door. Having such a narrow focus will take them far, flush out Cameron-hating Tories who long for some proper red-meat English supremacism, and split the right-wing vote down the middle.
Enter Ed. And he will. Despite his own disparaging references to Wallace – those with longer memories might think Bungle more appropriate – and a delivery style which is worryingly disconnected the odds are that it’ll be Ed who stretches his long legs down Downing Street next May. Back in with him will come those whose complacency allowed the country to slip to within inches of bankruptcy. The Labour Party are a mystery for most of us now, no longer dazzled by neo-Conservatism but unable to reach out to a working-class rump that doesn’t exist, their platform as woolly as a field of sheep. The jostling for influence behind Ed’s back must make Julius Caesar’s Forum look like a group hug. But they’ll get in anyway.
And finally, as they will be, the Lib Dems. They haven’t had their conference yet but they may as well save their expenses for the last-ditch struggle they have coming. Their inability to distinguish between loyalty and political suicide, resolutely following their accident-prone leader over a cliff, will serve them right. The lessons of the Roman Forum would have been helpful here but it’s too late now, and many good people will pay the penalty for their impotence.
My least favourite quote so far this season was Cameron’s, promising to reward those ‘doing the right thing’ i. e. going to work instead of claiming benefits. The fact that 50% of those on benefits are already ‘doing the right thing’ but still can’t afford to live should shame him and any true Conservative to silence. But enough already. Take away your rotten promises, put away the snake-oil and pipe down, the lot of you…

The Scottish Spring

I looked up the derogatory Scottish word for English people “Sassenach” and was delighted to see it meant “Saxon”. What exciting times when the past jumps out of the history books into your face, and the attempt by the Saxons to subdue the troublesome Celts on their fringes which many thought ended with the Stuarts has shot off their pages onto the news.
How does the Scottish dash for freedom look from this finger of Celtic rock, subdued by England since the days of Egbert?
From here it looks like a lot of fun. This might seem a mischievous reaction but the best a financially weak and politically unimportant Cornwall can hope for is to occasionally twist Westminster’s tail, as Andrew George did so notably a couple of weeks ago. London looks down on Cornwall with patronising loftiness, throws it the occasional crumb, but doesn’t shrink from clawing back another £200m from its unitary authority. As in Herbert Read’s war poem: we have no power, therefore have patience. But Scotland has quite a lot of power and a rapidly diminishing supply of patience. Its referendum, devised as a way of showing up the nationalists as a tiny band of throwbacks, has blown up in the government’s face giving considerable joy to those of us who can only look on.
The government‘s first tactic was to treat the issue as a joke, a bonkers notion easily knocked out of court by some well-aimed if dreary economic ‘facts’. A verdict of at least two-to-one against was expected and it was an article of faith that no contingency plans should be prepared. As the odds have narrowed the government’s stance has resembled that of fish being drawn into a net, rushing around in ever decreasing and frenetic circles as it closes. Since the first poll indicating a nationalist majority emerged the mood music has changed from a soothing “Don’t Worry: Be Happy” to “I Predict a Riot” or more accurately the obscure Buzzcocks B-side “Oh S***!”
Connoisseurs of irony have welcomed the impassioned lectures on financial risks and fiscal prudence given by Messrs Darling and Brown, who (for the amnesiacs among us) allowed the City to gamble away our nation’s financial life-blood without even noticing. Even better was the desperate expedition of the three political Wise Monkeys (no doubt with SatNavs at the ready) to the land beyond Gretna Green in order to demonstrate that they at least knew the way though they felt unable to appear together. Nigel Farage spoke eloquently in favour of a union of nations. The Ulster Unionists reminded us how well remaining in the United Kingdom can work.
Freedom is a heady draught, even to a land well used to those. As with the Arab Spring the idea of Scots living a life of their own choosing under a government over which they had ultimate control took a while to percolate into a possibility. But once lit this kind of fire burns with sudden brightness and an apparently placid people can break the bonds of what they thought immutable almost overnight, and bay for change. This fills the more nervous with terror, causing them to cling to whatever comfort-blanket is available, the familiar ballast of the Union for which they’ve probably never had a good word, suddenly the only protection against a demented mob dragging them towards the exit.
A near tie is the most likely and worst possible result. The beads and blankets political leaders are offering Scots in place of their own government will simply infuriate them. The bald fact is out that half Scotland doesn’t want to be part of the union and was prepared to put up with all the bullying, the choreographed threats from major employers, the grovelling of ministers, the lies about monetary union (talks about which will happen the day after the referendum if the Nats win), and the Daddy’s-not-cross-just-really-sad sighs from the heart of Old England, they want out, and if they miss it by a few votes they’ll be back again and again and again. If they win the shock waves will echo not just around this country but everywhere with an active minority, while England will shrink down to a grumpy Saxon lump.
“If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it” said Mark Twain, but this time it really will, and it’s too close to call. Robert Burns was closer to the mark: “Oh what a panic’s in thy breastie…!”

The Party’s Over

It is with genuine sadness I have to announce the passing of the Liberal Democratic Party. It has been to the edge of extinction several times before, but has always clawed its way back up the evolutionary ladder. However this time the decay is irreversible.
The Liberal Democrats stood for the virtues of moderation, fairness, tolerance and a basic liberal conscience, not always an easy platform to put across. It’s hard to express passionate moderation, extreme centrist views or radical laissez-faire, which is a shame because it’s how most people live their lives. We don’t spend our days shouting the odds and getting in each other’s faces, and should welcome a party which reflects that reality. But on a gut level politics is essentially theatre, the posing and quarrelling and promises are a performance, and we’re drawn to those who are good at it. Do we believe them? No, but if we were driven solely by logic none of us would be buying a Lottery card today, no-one would think of voting for Nigel Farage. We like to be sold a dream however silly we know it to be.
For a while the Lib Dems rode the wave. Paddy Ashdown played the rogue male, Charles Kennedy the feisty Scot, Ming Campbell the honest “To Kill A Mockingbird” lawyer shaking his fist against the Iraq war. Nick Clegg rose without trace to the top job, but that seemed to make sense too. He was the Lib-Dems’ Blair, the smooth young well-educated internationally connected 21st century man who could run rings round the dim Cameron or the sinking ship that was Gordon Brown. “I agree with Nick” they chorused. Some of the puff had gone out of his balloon by the election but the Lib-Dems still won 57 seats with 23% of the vote. Note those numbers.
Some commentators blame their fall from pet poodle to smelly cat on their acceptance of coalition. It wasn’t that. They did the statesmanlike thing, some holding their noses, others quietly thrilled to feel their soft hands on the rough tillers of state. Much of their record in coalition is creditable, modifying Tory excesses and supplying positive input of their own.
But by then it didn’t really matter. Nick Clegg had made a solemn promise to thousands of young voters who saw him as someone out of the normal cynical mould, someone they dared to trust. His treachery not only destroyed their faith in him and his party, but soiled the whole concept of politics for another generation, something they remembered every time they counted their student debts.
The second pillar to fall was that of Vince Cable. His voice was the only one to warn of the fiscal madness that lost the nation’s shirt. As minister for business he could have carried through the re-regulation of the financial sector the country was howling for, an open door waiting to be kicked in. But too long in their company softened his edge. Bankers can sleep soundly even if the rest of us must still pay and pay.
That’s youth and business. Who was left to lose? Women. Last week in the summer doldrums the party exonerated Lord Rennard from multiple claims of sexual harassment, obviously hoping we wouldn’t notice, and reinstated him without an official stain on his character. It was the last straw. Underneath the tottering pile of weasel words about “credibility” and “proof” was the bald message that his Lordship’s electoral services are a worthwhile exchange for a little light sexual abuse, thereby insulting half (at least) of the population of Britain. It’s the end. There’s no way back from such myopic self-destructiveness.
This doesn’t mean there’s no space for a leftist third party with a moral base and a spine. The opening and the need is wider than ever, but the damaged goods formerly known as the Lib Dems can never fill it now. It’s time for those they’ve failed to cling together and start to build once more, this time with women as core members, and this time with the courage to challenge popularity with truth, something you can’t fake. It’s time for those Lib Dems who recognise how shamefully far their party has fallen to step outside its tainted shadow and stand upright, begin again. Otherwise it won’t be commentators like me who will write their obituary. Numbers don’t lie. 57 members, 23% of the popular vote? Would anyone like to hazard a guess what those figures will be come May 7th 2015?

Bitter together


In the elephants’ graveyard  of mid-evening Radio 4 I came upon a group discussion about Scottish independence. Conducted by James Naughtie it was reasoned, frank and fascinating, with different interest groups but with no grandstanding politicians. It was far the best item on that complex subject I’ve heard and brought out the genuine perplexity many Scots feel about the subject, the attraction and the fear, the lure of self-government against the security of the Union. During the debate someone said in passing that he didn’t think other Celtic nations like the Cornish spent much time imaging themselves as an independent nation.

Oh no?

Most young Cornish people have spent at least one evening fantasising about how it would be if the Cornish controlled their own destiny. There’s no shortage of resentment when we consider how Cornwall is generally regarded by the English  –  a nice place to park their bottoms in the sun for a couple of weeks, even keep an empty cottage, but whose deep and serious crises of employment, wages and housing, forcing generation after generation to leave in search of a decent future, mean nothing. Cornwall gets the rag-end of English funding and development, and attempts to assert any kind of separate cultural difference are met with amusement and patronisation. However it’s a long way from there to “Would there was the sea from Rame to Marsland … and Cornwall was some island in the ocean.” in the words of Richard Gendall (“Silver Net”).

The anonymous Scotsman might have been surprised to learn just how many organisations have flirted with the idea of Cornish independence. We’ve had our own clutch of bonkers extremists, such as:

-The Cornish Nationalist Party – 1970s brainchild of Dr James Whetter, offshoot of Mebyon Kernow, who published their own newspaper for a while but seem to have quietened down.

–  The An Gof Society, inspired by the famous Cornish insurrectionary of 1497, who modelled themselves on the IRA to the point of actually bombing St Austell Courthouse in 1980 and firebombing an innocent hairdresser’ shop in Penzance thinking it was a branch of the Bristol & West.

–  The Cornish National Liberation Army, later the Cornish Republican Army, who seem to have modelled themselves on the revolutionaries in “The Life of Brian”.

These were all fanatically chauvinistic, anti-English splinter groups, probably numbering no more than fifty people between them. The more thoughtful Cornish patriots have Mebyon Kernow, a grounded political party short of firebrands but diligent and persistent with a solid list of achievements and several local councillors. Cornish independence isn’t on their agenda, nor is it a stated aim of Gorsedd Kernow, who hold the cultural heart of Cornwall together. Then there’s the Pan-Celtic League… Breton musician Alan Stivell promoted the idea of the nation of Keltia, the entire Celtic diaspora, and would describe a trip to Scotland, for example, as “visiting the north part of my country.”

Closer to earth is the ongoing campaign for a Cornish Assembly. This campaign – Seneth Kernow – has been going since 2000 and is also not pressing for separation or full independence. Their platform is for a form of devolution, a governing body to represent Cornwall internally and externally, among the British nations, Europe and the world.  However they have to escape from the benighted shadow of the Cornish Assembly we already have, Cornwall Council.

Cornwall Council is a different kettle of fish altogether. Forced in as a Unitary Authority by a confidence trick, its four-year history has been one of almost unmitigated calamity. It struggles with a virtually impossible remit, to administer the long streak of loveliness that is Cornwall with fairness and justice while being strangled almost to death by the tiniest trickle of government funds. But even allowing for that it has performed miserably. Its short history is riven with cock-ups, party political in-fighting, deep criticism of the lack of democracy and openness of its 10-member cabinet, mindless obstinacy in the face of serious local concerns, accusations of self-interest, centralism, incompetence, and occasionally worse. How would a Cornish Assembly differ? What kind of body can balance the needs of Launceston against those of St Just; fishing versus conservation; mining versus the environment; etc etc? The Cornish have a long history of being ungovernable, in which there’s no small element of pride. We love our independence, but where it starts and stops is as live a question in Cornwall as it is in Scotland, though with no foreseeable deadline to meet.

OM 140



Someone suggested I set up a Twitter account.

Dear oh dear, don’t they know that people of a certain age and disposition find Twitter: a) Frivolous; b) Time-wasting; and c) Utterly Scary?

Like most people I had a little dabble when it was a novelty. The helpful suggestions of people to follow then included such as Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, and Stephen Fry, and since I’m not a bit curious about any of them I quickly lost interest. It hasn’t improved much. The world now waits breathless for its jewels from Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, and even among the non-singers neither Richard Branson, Alan Carr or Lord Sugar will ever find a home in my inbox. The only attractive character in the whole top list was Christiano Ronaldo and I’m more interested in his feet than his brains. Besides the whole idea of “Following” seemed to be a bit naff, with its overtones of fandom, even stalking (apart of course from Man U and the Cornish Pirates).

But it’s not like that, as so many of you found out long ago. I’m sure you can still tune in to find out what Justin’s been up to, Clarkson’s latest gaffe, whether Nigel Farage has finished his pint and so on, but Twitter is mostly just the instant headlines to whatever’s going on. Very little of its original intention of limiting messages to 140 characters now happens, as instead of few words you are enticed to click a link to what can be a full-scale feature, well-reasoned argument or, often, cute kittens. There are lots of photos, mostly of cake.

That’s a shame. The discipline of that random number had a certain genius, like a sonnet, and could be applied to so many different facets of life. Hamlet would have confined his musing to “To be or not to be, that is the question, so perhaps we’d all top ourselves if we had the choice but it’s all a bit scary so I probably won’t” It still works. The Lord’s Prayer would have ended enigmatically at “Give us this day our Daily…”.  Wordsworth could have got the whole first verse of “Daffodils” in, but with room to say only something like “They were nice” instead of the rest of the poem. Which wouldn’t have been a bad thing. On the other hand it’s difficult to say anything serious in such a short space without banality: “Oh dear it seems international thermonuclear war has broken out and we’re all doomed to die as the whole world explodes in flames.  Wot a shame.”

The worst of Twitter is the ear it provides to the vast and continuous babble of mankind at any point of night and day. We’re such a chatty lot, and it’s impossible to get more than a passing flavour unless you’ve got all day, and if you did what would you have at the end of the day except a lot of forgettable knowledge and an increased awareness of fluffy animals? And cake?

However I remember feeling this way about Facebook (still do), about mobile phones, pagers, calculators, the wheel… At some point we have to stop whining and jump in. Shift over, Cheryl.


What I Did On My Holidays

What I Did On My Holidays

Originally published in The Cornishman 5/9/02

Saw my first kingfisher, for one. Shortly after dawn on Newlyn Fish Day I was wandering around watching people set up stalls when a fast movement caught my eye, an iridescent colour which reminded me unromantically of a bluebottle, not diving but buzzing around the harbour on its way back to the river at Tolcarne. A stubby little bird I have waited a lifetime to see.

Watched another batch of swallows come into the world, line up with sweet huge beaks on the edge of the roof-truss, take their first stuttering short flights, form a ‘school’ on the washing-line, learn to swoop and slip into doorways, windows and even between one plant and another, chase each other as if pursued by their own shadows, line up to chuckle on the wires every evening, and now feed themselves to prepare for departure.

Saw old favourites return in the shape of sparrows, buzzards, a few pheasants, and goldfinches galore, and welcomed new regulars, linnets and sparrow-hawks. Saw the usual family of foxes, bolder than ever, no longer afraid of the gun. Badgers also defying those who would harm them.

Felt the long wet spells of early summer finally bring their dividend as late August turned hot and clear, while the stored moisture kept the air sweet, the nights cool and the breeze scented, while the lush growth never dried up.

Spent evenings in the open at Minack and Penlee Park enjoying drama set on cliffs or amongst trees, watching the light gradually change behind the action, occasionally distracted by boats, planes, birds or human sounds, but never wishing myself indoors.

Walked to the high points and the seaside, followed the Pilgrims’ Way, wandered through woods in Lamorna and St Loy. Took a cruise to Scilly on a golden morning when the lines of our wake were the biggest waves we saw all day. Swam on Tresco.

Ate out in the garden and outside various pubs, watching the world go by. Took the dogs for walks, or rolled around with them on the lawn.

Stood in the garden last night unable to sleep, barefoot on the wet grass, looking at a moon from a childrens’ story-book and an explosion of pin-bright stars, soundless, dark, with just a hint of autumn in the air, listening to the whirr of bats flying within inches of my ears.

No, I didn’t go away this year. I went to Cornwall, and had a lovely time.

The Rosebud and the Newlyn Clearances

Extract from The Rosebud and the Newlyn Clearances

If they had expected to slip quietly to their destination, they were soon confounded.

The sight of the relatively tiny fishing boat picking its way between a mass of commercial shipping, the huge docks with their forests of cranes, was astonishing enough. Every vessel they passed hooted or whistled to honour their passage, and the sensation spread up-river before them. Crewmen, tug-boatmen and dockers waved and called as they went by, while the bemused Newlyn men waved back. As they pushed further into the heart of London, the public were also lining the river hoping for a glimpse of them, cheering when they were spotted.

Following just astern the massed photographers went into action as soon as the Houses of Parliament came into view. The whole crew of PZ 87 were on deck, gazing in wonder at their reception, waving or raising their fists in response. The police launch led the way. An archetypal double-decker bus stood on Westminster Bridge. The hands of Big Ben stood at five past eleven. The little fishing boat steamed on towards its destiny, bearing the hopes of its people, as bold and brave as any vessel that ever sailed the Thames. The cameramen, realising that they were looking at a truly classic photograph, squeezed and squeezed…

About St Michaels Mount

Extract from About St Michaels Mount

“The Mount’s access to the high seas gave it a value far in excess of a landlocked castle. No longer could it exist as a sparsely defended priory. Henry VIII was now on the throne and his personal needs as well as his mistrust of Rome led him to radical solutions. Unable to bring the monasteries under his control, he simply did the unthinkable and made away with them, distributing their lands amongst his friends. Among them was Syon Abbey, dissolved in 1539, and with it St Michaels Mount.

For strategic reasons the Mount was considered too important to meet the same fate as so many of its fellow priories. The buildings were not pulled down, and the C14th church still stands as the centrepiece of the castle. But the faithful line of clergy, whose attendance had lasted unbroken for a thousand years, were sent away.”

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