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- A.L. Rowse - Helston Floral Dance -
- Looe - Liberty Ships -

   LINKS to other pages in this site and to other sites in the Travelling Days series:

Autographs Home Page:      Bedford 1939 onwards:      BBC in Bedford:
BBC Symphony Orchestra Personalities:      Bedford Miscellany:       Bedford School (1940s):
Composers:      Conductors:       David Gentleman:      Glenn Miller:       Instrumentalists:
Personalities of the 1940s:       Pianists:       The RAEC in Cornwall Part 1:
Religion and Drama:       Singers:       BBC in Cornwall 1949:      Colin Day's List-O-Links:
America West Home Page:      Guest Book:

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ALFRED LESLIE ROWSE, the son of a china-clay worker in Cornwall, was born in 1903, the youngest of three children, into a home that contained few toys and even fewer books. Yet by the time he was four years old he had learned to read and at the age of eleven he won a scholarship to a secondary school in St Austell. To be able to speak correct English became an obsession for this brilliant and dedicated student. He later won a scholarship to Oxford and went to Christ Church to study literature although he was later to turn to history as his subject for study. He obtained a double first in history and soon was elected a fellow of All Souls at the age of 24.

   Rowse became an authority on Shakespeare and Elizabethan England and in the 1930s he published ‘Queen Elizabeth and her Subjects’ and ‘Sir Richard Grenville of the Revenge’, a gripping account of that naval hero's last stand. But it was a biography, ‘A Cornish Childhood’, published in 1942, that became the ‘best-seller’ that established his popularity as a writer.

   In addition to producing many books about Tudor England and the Elizabethan age he also wrote about other subjects, including a two-volume history of the Churchill family. His second biography of Shakespeare, 'Shakespeare the Man', appeared in 1973. Rowse announced just prior to its publication that he had solved the last mystery of the sonnets, namely, the identity of Shakespeare's mistress known as the Dark Lady whom he said was Emilia Bassano, the daughter of an Italian court musician. Although Rowse was openly homosexual he rejected views prevalent at the time that Shakespeare's sonnets were addressed to a gay lover, and asserted that Shakespeare was "a strongly sexed heterosexual" and a man "more than a little interested in women - for an Englishman."! Rowse.jpg - 13928 Bytes
   Rowse was proud of his Cornish heritage, and in addition to ‘A Cornish Childhood’ he described Cornwall and Cornish culture in such books as ‘Tudor Cornwall’ (1941), ‘The Cousin Jacks’, a study of the Cornish in the United States (1969), 'A Cornishman at Oxford' and ‘A Cornishman Abroad’. He also retained a home in Cornwall for most of his life although most of his time was spent in Oxford.

   He was made a Companion of Honour in recognition of his historical writing. His last book was published at the age of 91 and entitled, ‘Historians I Have Known’, a review of 30 prominent historians. He died in 1997.

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THE HELSTON FLORA-DAY celebrations are held annually at the beginning of May. The ceremonies include four "Furry Day' dances: at 7am, 10:15am (Children's Dance), 12 noon (Principal Dance) and 5pm. The 'Hal-an-Tow' ceremony held at 8:30am involves a party of boys, bearing sycamore branches, and musicians who perambulate the town and at various stopping places along the way sing an ancient song referring to the bringing in of Summer. The 'labrynthian' dances, accompanied by the town band, are performed by a procession of top-hatted men, and women in long dresses. The dancers and the band thread their way around the town, even dancing and playing through the houses and shops chosen each year to be 'visited' by the procession. The traditional folk tune was immortalised in Peter Dawson's famous recording of the song, 'The Floral Dance' (words by Katie Moss), and later by the Brighouse and Rastrick brass band

   The tradition is said to have originated many centuries ago whan a 'fiery dragon' (possibly a large meteorite) is reputed to have appeared over Helston and dropped a large stone on what is now known as the 'Angel' yard. The stone was split up over 150 years ago for building purposes. The inhabitants of the town, after fully expecting the town to be destroyed, celebrated their deliverance by dancing through each other's houses. Cornwallhelston1.jpg - 42588 Bytes

   Another theory is that the Helston 'Furry" observances are a survival of a pre-christian Celtic custom transferred to the patronal festival of St Michael which is celebrated on 8 May.

    Photographs: Coinagehall Street, Helston on 7 May 1949 (above). The Principal Dance in the town centre (right).

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The town of East Looe and Looe Bridge in 1949.

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East Looe Beach in the summer of 1949. Note the beach attire!

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    During the Second World War, under the terms of a 'lend-lease' agreement between America and Britain a number of reconditioned and newly built ships were to be supplied by America to replace the merchant ships lost by Britain in the first twelve months of the war and to cover anticipated subsequent losses. Many of the reconditioned vessels, known as 'Liberty Ships', were in very poor condition and broke down or foundered on the way over from America. One such vessel was wrecked at Whitesand Bay near Rame Head, Cornwall and its remains were still present in 1949.

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