The Third Age

It’s been simply ages since I last wrote a blog, and I started writing this particular post many months ago and then abandoned it as it seemed a bit self-indulgent.  However, since that time we have been in Lockdown due to the worldwide spread of the corona virus, Covid 19 and life has got not only bewildering but also on occasion, depressing.  For a while it looked like the silver lining to this crisis would be the realisation that the environment could be saved and protected from the ills of consumerism as it slowly but surely recovered.  Sadly as the restrictions were eased it appears that there has been an almost frenzied return to capitalism, right-wing fascism and unbelievable levels of rubbishing our countryside and wildlife.  In Cornwall as the tourist industry returns slowly, there have been harrowing tales of rudeness and trashing of our environment by seemingly uncaring visitors.  So many people appear to have no qualms about invading others’ personal space especially those who are vulnerable to this virus, and there is nothing but deception, hypocrisy and bluster coming from our so called government.  No wonder it is difficult to view the future with any sense of hope.

This is the very time then to remember that not everyone is uncaring and hateful and that there are good folks out there who are part of community who are doing wondrous things for others.  There are actually more decent folk in the world than the nasty ones – it’s just that the horrible people seem to get more air time thereby seeming to be more prolific.  So, time for some positivity!  🙂

As I reached my late sixties I began to notice how many folk of my generation were beginning to die at age 69.  It was quite marked and I was feeling considerable uneasiness when I too reached that age last year.  It was decided that it would be a good idea to arrange a 70th Birthday Party for me to celebrate having survived that anomaly.

We gave plenty of notice to everyone and asked that instead of buying me a present that they just bring a plate of food and something to drink.  We were holding the party in our local village hall which is not a licensed premises but could hold a large amount of people.  Our guest list was wonderfully diverse and included folk that I work and play alongside, together with locals I know well from the village.  I asked that any musicians to bring instruments so we could have some live music sessions as well as the entertainment I was secretly arranging.

There was a rather wonderful build up to the event as my sister Rosemary came over from Canada to help me celebrate and stayed in the village.  So my 70th birthday dawned with Laetitia presenting me with a truly wonderful and well thought out gift that I will treasure always – and then it was time to pick up Rosemary from the train station.  Barely had she landed than she was whisked off to a restaurant for my birthday dinner treat.  This was an excellent meal at the Godolphin Arms in Marazion.

Finally we let Rosemary go to her bed to catch up from jet lag, and we too had an early night because the next day was not only my party but also St Piran’s Day in Redruth.

Our Obby Oss, Penkevyll has been a regular performer in the St Piran’s Parade through Redruth for many years now – and this year was no exception.  It was great to see my sister thoroughly enjoying herself watching this spectacle and I was in my element joining in the fun.  😀

Following a quick lunch it was all hands to the tiller to prepare the village hall for the party.  That took several hours I can tell you!

Finally everything was prepared and we returned home to get me ready.  I had the full works, hair, make-up (which I rarely wear) and a newly purchased stylish outfit.  When I returned to the hall I was somewhat miffed by being told in no uncertain manner that I must not go into the small hall where all the food and drink was.  Mind you, all became clear when I eventually was allowed through.  What greeted my eyes was the most stunning cake I have ever seen.  Wow!

Isn’t it amazing?

This was made by Sue Exton, a dear friend who together with her husband John helped make my birthday a very special event.

Tia, Sue and Me

Then I was semi-kidnapped by the members of Boekka who insisted that I open their present as I would need it at the party.  I duly unwrapped the parcel and found a beautiful tankard with my name on.  However, when I turned the tankard around I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a wonderfully engraved image of my beloved Penkevyll!  Wow again!  😀

I’m so proud of my tankard and it goes out with me every time I go to a pub!

By this time folk had started to arrive and there was a lot of people to meet and greet.  I was so moved that so many came from near and far.  Also my musician friends arrived so we quickly started to warm up with a few local tunes and the party really began to swing.  There was masses of food and drink and we actually had to bring out another trestle table as there wasn’t enough room in the side hall for all the produce.

Then rather wonderfully my surprise guests to the delight of everyone walked in – Beltane Border Morris.  It was a little surreal for my village friends who had never experienced the like before.  One local said to me that she thought a coach party had arrived when about 20 – 25 dark faced and tattered performers marched through the front door, walked through the hall and out backstage without a word!  😀

I didn’t explain anything and simply waited until they had set up and then introduced them as my special guests who very kindly agreed to perform at my party.  Then the dancing began…

They were electrifying!

For their last piece, the Beltane Fire Dance, I was called forward and presented with their latest CD and then given the slightly scary honour of being placed in the middle of this now famous dance.

My goodness me – that really is a ‘place between the worlds’ that has to be experienced to be appreciated.  An unforgettable occasion!

Then it was time to blow out the candles on my wonderful cake.

I was then treated to an amusing birthday song from Beltane.

Cutting the cake proved to be a mite difficult – hence the ‘Psycho’ pose with the knife!

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed my 70th Birthday Party – it was ace!  It was great to play music with Steve, Julie, Mike, Fee and Courtney – and then went on to drum with Beltane when they arrived.  It gladdened my heart to see the village hall full of very diverse folk from all walks of life including our local Rector, all getting on famously with each other, many of whom had never met before – and the only common factor was myself and Tia.

After all the months of planning it all was over very quickly and it seemed like before I knew it, people were making their way home from what later on turned out to be the Party of the Year – as very swiftly following that we entered Lockdown.  Just in time – phew!

Despite what I had requested, I was inundated with presents and cards and I spent the next 24 hours opening them.  I was truly overwhelmed with the lovely gifts and messages.  Some of them were so thoughtfully and lovingly wrought that it brought tears to my eyes.  Some were magical items that I’m not going to photograph so as not to interfere with their energies; but take it from me, they were very skilfully crafted.  There were also umpteen bottles of wine and fizz that we slowly worked our way through over the following weeks – very much appreciated!  🙂

As a fine example of the dedication to detail of some gifts, I will use  the stunningly beautiful shawl that was hand made especially for me.  The making was quite a journey and I have the permission of the multi-talented Linsey Duncan-Pitt to publish the back story.

These inserts were included with the shawl and I only found these later on.

For those of you who are knitters and/or spinners, here is a link that describes in more detail how it was made.

All of this plus many more wonderful moments made my 70th Birthday celebrations the best yet.  Which brings me to the question – does reaching the age of 70 feel any different?  I can categorically state Yes!

Basically I recognise clearly that I am stepping over a threshold from adulthood into elderhood.  It’s a bit of a mixture of things really – it certainly focuses the mind when I consider that I might have only 10 – 15 years left to my life – or less.  Realising that anything could just remove you at any time.  I’m fully aware that this could happen at any age, but it takes up space more in the forefront of your mind when you reach your seventies.  However, it really does help develop a deep appreciation of all sorts of things – living in the moment; loving nature, friendship, community, music, grateful for reasonably good health and so on.

Another plus is realising that you don’t care so much about what people think of you.  Things that used to sometimes wound or upset me no longer do so.  I still care about people but I don’t tolerate bad behaviour anymore.  That is a great relief and brings with it a real sense of freedom.

Certainly I have slowed down physically speaking and there are a few things that I can no longer manage that I have learnt to give in gracefully to.  I now enjoy taking my time pottering around rather than trying to do 10 things all at once.  Taking time to smell the roses so to speak.  🙂

So to all those younger people who are secretly dreading growing older – it’s not that bad, in fact it’s got a lot going for it – it all depends on your point of view.

However, having said all that – it’s weird being the same age as old people!  😉

All Hallows Gathering 2017 – A Little Night Magic

If I were a member of the audience at the Dark Gathering I would be in a bit of a dilemma when it comes to deciding where to be at dusk.  Join the Torchlight Procession and escort the Mari Lwyds to the Museum – or wait at the Museum and witness the mighty Penkevyll call up the Maris with tribal drumming?  I personally don’t get a choice because as organiser I have to stay at Base Camp so to speak!  This has proved to be somewhat problematic in the past not knowing what was happening from one end of Boscastle to another – however we’ve solved that problem now by using walkie-talkies.  These were carried by a small team of locals who took on the role of marshalling for the Gathering.  They all did a simply splendid job and I thank you all and hope you will be available to repeat the experience next year.  🙂  Anyway, whichever choice folks make they all seem to enjoy whatever experience they go for, as they both have their own attendant magic.  Here’s some photos and footage to get a flavour of each atmosphere.




After the joyous reunion of Cornish Penkevyll with her Welsh bone sisters, the Mari Lwyds, it was time for the traditional pwnco ceremony.  This year, you’ll be delighted to know, I decided that it would be better not to inflict upon anyone else having to hear my voice mangling the pwnco verses!  So instead Tia and Sue sang alone the riddles to each other first in Welsh with the responses in Cornish.  They were brilliant, and judging by the cheers that went up following this performance it was well received by all, and the Mari Lwyds were successful in their endeavours to gain entry to the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic.  Then it was time for some very strange creatures of the night to make their appearance…

A little bit of back story is required here.  Back in the summer whilst I was searching around for a Dark Morris side to replace the now sadly defunct Wytchwood I was contacted via my website by the Artistic Director of Mr Fox who are based at Barnsley, Yorkshire.  They described themselves as a Street Theatre & Dance Company who worked with fire and stage effects.  Initially I wasn’t sure whether this would be suitable for the Dark Gathering but decided to invite them following discussion and perusing their videos.  However this meant that there would only be two Morris sides for the afternoon as Mr Fox essentially could only perform in the dark.  I was confident that Wreckers and Beltane were more than capable of fulfilling their brief of ‘Morris entertainment’ for two hours as they are both competent sides with many performers amongst them.  When I asked for a bio from Mr Fox I received some prose in reply and the opening stanzas of this gave me a great idea of how the enigmatic Mr Fox could make their entrance (or prowl-up as they describe it) at their appointed hour.  These were the verses concerned:

When eyes do see the naked flame
and ears do hear the brazen beat of drum
When two worlds meet
then twilight’s winding walk is begun…

Down from on high they come
skirting the undergrowth
and into the square…

Above the Museum is a green lane that runs the full length of the village and I thought Mr Fox could start off from there and make their spooky way down to the square in front of the Museum.  It actually turned out even better than I had anticipated!  The first the onlookers heard was the skirling of pipes which were joined by vibrant and pounding drums as slowly the performers holding torches made their way down the hill and into the performance space.  It was truly magical and very atmospheric.

There then followed a bewitching performance with characters appearing and disappearing at will accompanied by special effects.  What added to the haunting quality of this performance was there was no spoken word at any point.  There was dance, gesture and movement all orchestrated and directed by the music(ians).  Mr Fox were like a tribe as there were small children taking on roles as well and it was impossible to tell what gender anyone was because of how they were kitted out in their smocks and masks.  All in all it was an eerie and deeply atmospheric experience – folks loved it!  😀

As the performance came to a close Mr Fox disappeared into the night as mysteriously as they arrived.  Time for a change of pace and an acknowledgement of the Samhain energies and spirits that were abroad that night.  Sarah and Paul took the stage and sang a beautiful, poignant and evocative song which was composed by Paul.  In case you didn’t catch the words on the night, here they are now:

The Gather

Gather the sticks and gather the stones
The part of the wind that whistles and moans.
Gather the water from out of the stream
And out of the wells where witches have been.

Gather the wheat, the barley and corn
The bones of the things that are yet to be born.
Gather the birds, the raven and rook
I will decide where they shall be took

Bring me the heather, the view from the bluff
The moss on the moors and the fragile stuff
The mid day of winter, the sun where it shone
Find for me this before it is gone.
(softly: before… it is…… gone. )

Gather the clouds from out of the sky
It will not be easy but please you must try
Gather the future and gather the past
And all of those moments that just did not last

Gather the words that no one has spoken
The well meaning thoughts, the promises broken.
Gather the many and gather the few
If they are unwilling, then gather them too

All that are present and all that are here
Stand and be silent, stand and draw near
When all this is done. When all this shall be
Set them before me. Then set them all free

Paul Sumner

It was now nearly time for Will Fox’s now traditional Samhain Blessing, but just to set the scene we decided to honour the genius loci (spirits of place) by utilising bullroarers.  So three wisewomen were employed to achieve this; myself, Tia and Michelle (aka Selkie).

The time for the Ancestors was upon us and Will Fox took us on a journey to them honouring the darkness and the outcasts on his way.  He can truly weave magic with his words and cast a spell upon the audience.  🙂

The Dark Gathering calls all sorts of people to itself.  It attracts folks from not only all over Britain, but also from other countries.  This year we had people from the Netherlands, Germany and even had a couple who travelled all the way from Maine, USA just to attend the Gathering!  It was lovely to see this couple, Ken and Mary, in particular as we had handfasted them earlier in the year at the Men an Tol.  🙂

I had a word with our MC Steve who then had a chat with Ant from Beltane, and as a consequence, Ken was given the place of honour holding the centre torch in the now famous Beltane Fire Dance.

Normally proceedings would have come to a reluctant halt at this point but there was still something important to do.  The much deserved thanks to all who helped so much to make this Gathering so successful.

Steve read out the list of people concerned:

Our Sponsors
The Museum of Witchcraft & Magic
which includes;
Simon Costin – Owner
Judith & Peter Hewitt – Managers
Boscastle Chamber of Commerce

Also thanks to:
The National Trust

The people of Boscastle

All volunteers including: Nathan, Daniel, Claire and Dreads

John Isaac – Photographer
Kieran Sweederz – Videographer

Beltane Border Morris
Wreckers Morris
Boscastle Buoys
Mr Fox

Special thanks to:
Sarah Emery & Paul Sumner
Michelle Elliot
Will Fox
Steve Podger
Kylie Reynolds

All Mari Lwyds
Penkevyll the Lands End Oss

Also I would like to mention donations we received from Beltane Border Morris and Woody’s Pizza which we’re very grateful for and will put to good use in next year’s Gathering.  So much of what the All Hallows Gathering is nowadays is reliant on goodwill and volunteers who give of their time and energy for free.  I would love to be able to offer everyone something towards their costs but our funds are quite limited at present.  We are always open to offers of help and donations towards this unique event though.

Kieran who has filmed and crafted our archive footage for the last few years is a case in point.  At present he is a University student and he would love to be sponsored in some way for his superb work each year.  So if anyone out there is willing to offer patronage to him then please get in touch – camera and editing equipment does not come cheap.

I feel it is crucial to any event like this to make sure there is adequate acknowledgement to the volunteers’ endeavours.  I have in the past been part of various voluntary organisations where occasionally the volunteers have not been treated very well or have been taken for granted.  I personally cannot understand this attitude as, quite frankly, without them you’d be stuffed!  So much goes on behind the scenes that others are blissfully unaware of.  Just to snatch an example out of the air – torches.  They look great don’t they?  However, someone has to bear the responsibility of creating them, carrying them, keeping them primed and so on and so forth.  I know for a fact that Paul Sumner made the magnificent tall torches that light up the parade and performance space so well and his partner Sarah Emery helps with the management of them.  Ant Veal I believe sorts out the torches for Beltane Border Morris.  Let’s hear it for all the folks behind the scenes who help create the wonderful spectacle that is the Dark Gathering!  🙂

Before we knew it, it was all over and everyone wended their weary way to the welcome hospitality of the Wellington Hotel.

I end this post on a definite high knowing that this year’s Dark Gathering brought so much to so many people in spite of many setbacks.  There was fabulous feedback from the many folk who came, and others who could not who watched the live footage.  It was a great boost to the local economy as it was estimated that 1,200 people attended, and the Museum said they had their best day’s takings ever!

Now it’s time to settle back, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the next 2 hrs 40 mins of Kieran’s archive footage of the All Hallows Gathering 2017.

See you all next year on October 27th 2018!  🙂







Nine and a Half Weeks … until All Hallows Gathering 2017

To say that organising the Dark Gathering this year has been challenging would be an understatement!  All sorts of spanners have been thrown into the works, but amazingly where a person or a side have departed, there have been folks who are only too eager to step into the breech and fill the void.  I thank you all!  🙂

As you can see from the poster, we have a very full line-up of activities and performers this year.  Whilst on the subject of the poster I want to personally thank Chris White who designed it at very short notice.  Even more amazing is the fact, and I hope he doesn’t mind me mentioning this, that Chris is disabled and is more or less housebound being a full time carer for his beloved wife.  Chris sadly will never be able to attend the Dark Gathering, but has given his full support to the event from it’s inception.  Chris is a unassuming, generous and talented guy who has a passion and curiosity for the absurdities of life  – who definitely has a soft spot for Osses, Maris and other assorted beasties.  Take a bow Chris White!  😀

This seems a good moment to state that provision will be made this year for a live recording of the Dark Gathering.  This means that the housebound and people abroad will be able to share in the atmosphere of the event as it happens.  So performers and audience be aware – you will be on camera most of the time!

The day will start early this year with a Mari Lwyd Workshop led by David Pitt.  In the workshop you can make and decorate your own mini Mari Lwyd shaker to join in with the festivities – and meet some Maris too.  It is open to all ages and I really hope I get the time and opportunity to attend myself.  If not, can someone make one for me please?  😉  There is no charge for this workshop, although donations are welcome to cover costs.  Here’s more information on David: The Crowman – Storyteller

Joining Beltane and Wreckers this year was going to be a new Dark Morris side, Emanon.  This happened through a chance remark at Teignmouth Folk festival and as a result, a new Dark Morris side was born.   Emanon were to be giving their debut performance at this year’s Gathering – I’m sure everyone would have welcomed their input with interest as they came with a great CV.  So new are they that they didn’t even have a photo I could have shown you yet!

I know that taking on a new untried and untested side who I haven’t even seen in action was a bit of a risk – but hey, it keeps things vital and interesting.  So much of the organising and arranging of the Dark Gathering is a risk, a gamble, but in a sense you have to accept that it’s all in the lap of the gods how well (or not) plans turn out.  So many times now there have been instances of realising that there are gods who care what happens at the Gathering and the community of Boscastle because of amazing interventions, just at the right time.  It is said that Fortune favours the brave – however, it doesn’t pay to be too blasé either!  All we can do is prepare for the worst and anticipate the best.  🙂


To laugh is to risk appearing the fool
To weep is to risk being called sentimental
To reach out to another is to risk involvement
To expose feelings is to risk showing your true self
To place your ideas and your dreams before the crowd is to risk being called naïve
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To hope is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure
But risks must be taken, because the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow or love
Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom
Only the person who risks is truly free

Janet Rand

Ironically, and just to prove my point about the unpredictability of this year  I have been informed by Emanon that sadly, due to the ill health of one of their key members, they are unable to perform this year.  😦

We all hope that the person concerned recovers swiftly and we look forward to Emanon making their appearance another year.

Moving on, I am delighted to announce that we will have a local choir singing in the afternoon at the break (around 4 pm) – the Boscastle Buoys.  They collect for charity and this time it will be for Cornwall Hospice Care so make sure you have your change ready when the bucket comes round!

You may have heard that Wytchwood Morris have taken a sabbatical, but some individual members of Wytchwood will be attending the event in a supporting role – and given the collective talents of that side, it will be well worth looking forward to any input from them!  🙂

Finally regarding performers, we have the enigmatic Mr Fox.  When asked for a bio I was sent this – make of it what you will:

When eyes do see the naked flame
and ears do hear the brazen beat of drum
When two worlds meet
then twilight’s winding walk is begun…

Down from on high they come
skirting the undergrowth
and into the square…

The dancing ground is old as time
But before that time was bound
The black morass of earth was lit
And the shining star was found…

With smoking clouds and tendrils flare
Amid eternities brilliant glare
the hooded shadows flit…

They crouch and prowl, they run and fight,
They tend the braziers’ fiery heart
With flames that flash as bursts of light
And this is but the start…

As giant, feathered footsteps bound,
Seek to rule the dancing ground
Beneath a moonlit sky…

A blaze of flame, a fire flower
Wrought with magic for the task
Is summoned with unearthly power
By a silent, Silver mask….

Darkness and tears are cast aside
Shadows banished far to hide
Beyond the dancing glow…

A timeless story is evoked
Written in flame upon the night,
Blazing colour, curling  smoke…

A battle danced twixt dark and bright.
Hear the drums and seek the flame
The nameless ones who share a name…
The inimitable Mister Fox.

This year the Mari Lwyds will be visiting establishments and households throughout the village during late afternoon, culminating with some steeds joining the procession; and others making their own slow but steady progress to attend the ancient pwnco ceremony at the threshold of the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic.  There are a couple of new additions to our equine friends who may make an appearance – so keep alert as they may appear where you least expect them!

Given the growing popularity of the Dark Gathering it has become necessary to make some logistical decisions regarding crowd control and the like.  There will be volunteers who will act as marshals, moving folk around when necessary to avoid bottle-necks and to ensure that everyone has a fair chance of viewing the day’s activities.  Please try and co-operate with these necessary measures which have to be brought in for health and safety purposes.  Also parking became an issue last year so you need to know that there is also a car park at the top of Boscastle near the Napoleon Inn – see map for details.

That’s all for now folks and I look forward, as I hope you do, to this year’s All Hallow’s Gathering.  See you all there – here’s last year’s footage just to remind you of how brilliant it all is!



A Tale of Two Osses.

At Beltane this year we completed Penkevyll’s final makeover or maybe it would be more accurate to say, emergence.  We celebrated that with a photoshoot taken by the talented John Isaac.


Penkevyll’s journey from there to here has been dynamic, dramatic, poignant and at times a little spooky.  Just for clarification I need to say that the title of this post does not refer to her life, and then her afterlife as an Oss, but of how she used to be a Penglaz and then transitioned into Penkevyll.  I do see the need for a little background so, time to settle down and hear the story.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, A Tale of Two Osses!  😀

The year was 2008 and I had received a startling phone call that was to have ongoing repercussions for years to come had I but known it.  I had been Teazer to Penglaz the Penzance Oss for many years.  This was a role that had slowly evolved over the years, building on it’s tradition as it went.  That previous winter we celebrated the very first Montol festival and Penglaz was to play a crucial role within the festivities.  This turned out to be the one and only time that this particular Penglaz appeared at Montol.  In April I received the aforementioned unexpected phone call from the chap responsible for creating and riding Penglaz, to the effect that he would be retiring from Golowan and Montol and that he was taking his Oss with him.  Bombshell was an understatement!  :O


It was only 6 weeks to Mazey Day, when Penglaz traditionally made her appearance, and I had to make some quick decisions.  Once I had permission that I could recreate another Oss modelled on the previous style, I gathered through networking a small, select team of people with the appropriate skills to do just that.  Despite having to work my way through a lot of obstructions and petty politics as a result of a rival Penglaz being made hurriedly, our Oss eventually made her debut at Montol 2008.

Sadly although a few traditions can survive despite conflict and rivalry this was not the case in Penzance.  Although our Oss team was completely open to sharing and co-operating, the rival team were not and wanted to be ‘the only Penglaz in the town’.  After a couple of years of this during which I’m sure everyone got thoroughly fed up with the wrangling, it all came to a head.  The outcome was that our Oss was asked to withdraw, along with the rival Oss, and the original Penglaz and Rider returned.


If you’re thinking that I’m missing out a lot of detail here, you would be correct.  However, I really don’t think it would be helpful to the community in general to open up old wounds – especially as things have moved on so much since.  So, I will content myself with this briefest of outlines about our Oss’s previous life as a Penglaz.  (So those who were relishing a melodrama about it all can put away their popcorn and depart back to the sidelines!)

So, there we were with an Oss with no name or a function.  Over the years I had researched Osses and associated beasties in the West Country and knew there was, albeit sparse, documented evidence of a Lands End Oss who stalked the outer margins of West Penwith.  Since we were based in nearby St Buryan that seemed an ideal role to revive and recreate.  I also came across an archaic Cornish name for ‘horse’s head’ which was Penkivell or Penkevyll which we then adopted for her during a naming ceremony performed in March on my birthday 2011. It was at this time that I took the crucial decision to buy Penkevyll from the co-creators for a mutually agreed price which we shook hands on.  She has been happily stabled with us, definitely part of the household, and rather wonderfully the community, ever since.  😀

We worked on Penkevyll’s appearance giving her some new improved ears and mane.  The kit started off with black, midnight blue and blood red tatters and ribbons.  Our Oss had been created primarily as a processional, dancing Oss and thanks to the skills of a brilliant local engineer she is extremely versatile in her movements – however, the downside is that Penkevyll is also extremely heavy and can only be operated by a male of appropriate strength.  This is because of her weighty mechanism plus the fact that she was obviously a big horse of German descent with heavy bones.  However, we have always had Riders for Penkevyll and at that time we had a very lively and enthusiastic Rider in Laetitia’s son, Rhys.  We brought Penkevyll out for her very first appearance in the community at the Penwith Pagan Moot, which we were hosting that Spring Equinox, where she was received with warmth and delight.  🙂

The following few years were full of action and drama as I entered the Morris world for the first time and we introduced Penkevyll the Lands End Oss to Morris festivals up and down the country.  We created a dance team called Boekka (Cornish for scarecrow) to accompany Penkevyll, and special Oss and Teazer dances were devised by Laetitia in which we both danced and teased the Oss in a choreographed manner – very unlike the improvised madness that I had been used to on the streets of Penzance with Penglaz!  However these dances were quite spooky and atmospheric!  It was great to meet so many different Morris sides and performers and it definitely opened up a new world to me.  I truly never anticipated learning how to Morris dance in my sixties!  😀

Time moved on, and so did people.  There was an amendment to the kit colours as we were finding that all sorts of different shades of red were creeping in, including pink (!).  So it was decided to change this in favour of dark purple and it stayed that way until quite recently.  One thing that became more and more noticeable as the years passed was that it was quite difficult to get Morris dancing off the ground in Cornwall.  Ironic when you think that there is a school of thought that has referred to the bench ends of St Columb Church, Cornwall as the earliest evidence of Morris dancing in the country!  Some declare that Morris is too English for the Cornish and there certainly is a focus on Cornish dancing instead being more popular.  The outcome was it was getting increasingly more difficult to find members for our team who were willing to travel and perform elsewhere.  Add to this the pure logistics of travelling to venues outside of Cornwall and it became inevitable that the dance team would finally subside which it did in 2015.

However, all was not lost – far from it!  This meant we could concentrate more on the Oss and Teazers only and this is when it became really interesting…

I had always wanted to meet the famous Welsh Mari Lwyds and finally at long last it happened in 2014 – a year that was to prove quite a breakthrough for Penkevyll the Lands End Oss & Boekka.  I write in detail here about that initial meeting of a Cornish Oss with the Mari Lwyd:

Cornish Penkevyll makes history by meeting the Welsh Mari Lwyd

Something magical happened when that meeting occurred, because from that first contact,  wonderfully creative and exciting events have developed.  I have written extensively about this marvellous journey here:

All Hallows Gathering 2014


All Hallows Gathering 2015 – Part One

All Hallows Gathering 2015 – Part Two

and here:

All Hallows Gathering 2016 – Part One

All Hallows Gathering 2016 – Part Two

Penkevyll has travelled widely within Britain including Scotland and Wales, but not Ireland as yet.  I would personally love to take Penkevyll to Brittany to complete her tour of the Celtic Nations!

Recently, and the reason for this blog post, we changed Penkevyll’s kit for the final time.  It was shortly before St Piran’s Day this year and I was admiring the lovely Cornish banners we had around our nearest town, Penzance.  It was then I had the idea of since our Oss is a sort of ambassador for Cornwall when she visits other towns and countries, and that Lands End is so iconic, it made sense that Penk (as she is affectionately known) would wear Cornish colours for her kit.  So, I leave you with Penkevyll the Lands End Oss, accompanied by her Teazers, resplendent in black, gold and white.

Kernow Bys Vyken!  (Cornwall For Ever!)







All Hallows Gathering 2016 – Part Two

Now was the time for the whole raison d’être of the Dark Gathering – the meeting of the Welsh Mari Lwyds with Cornwall’s Penkevyll the Oss.  This year we were going to try to introduce the Mari Lwyds into the proceedings in a different way – we were going to have a procession.  However, there was one thing that we hadn’t factored in – that this year the clocks hadn’t gone back yet – so it was still light by 5 pm, the advertised time of the Lantern Procession.  The Mari Lwyds traditionally don’t appear until at least dusk, and there was lots of debate about when to start the tribal drumming (the signal for the Procession to start) – and also when to light torches etc.  You can just imagine the dialogue!  :/

To add to the confusion there is no mobile signal in Boscastle so we couldn’t communicate with the processional group who were congregating in the car park the other end of the village – eventually we sent a runner and the Procession started.

What I didn’t realise until much later is how popular the procession turned out to be.  It certainly attracted hordes of people who came out especially to see the Mari Lwyds and to join in the fun.











Here is some drone footage of the procession compiled by Dougie Latham and Paul Sumner:

Not only did we have music in the procession but at the Museum there was a troupe of drummers drawn from all sides and the general public, lead by Dave from Beltane Border Morris, who started a tribal rhythm.  This was enough to entice Penkevyll from her temporary stable in the back of the Museum and she emerged to join her Teazers in raising the energy.

Laetitia as Teazer shot out of the Museum like a bat out of hell, whilst I followed at a more leisurely pace making sure I guided Penkevyll out safely to her waiting audience.  At our emergence, a huge cheer went up and we began to dance up the energy.  Laetitia was brilliant in her role as Teazer.  She was really fired up and danced like one possessed – which is just what is required with this role in my opinion.  By fortunate happenstance her transformation was captured on film, as can be seen here:



This sort of ‘overlooking’ of a person can also happen to the Oss Rider – in fact, it is encouraged.  You allow the spirit of the role/Oss to ‘ride you’ but you have to be aware enough of where you are going and what you are doing at the same time.  This can happen with other types of theatrical performance including dancing.  Indeed I have personally witnessed this with some of the dancers from Beltane Border Morris as they fly around the space – every now and then they can shapeshift momentarily.  It quite magical and intensely fascinating!


The role of Teazer is complex but in essence is to be a bridge betwixt the Oss and the crowd – to be able to travel and dance between those worlds.  Just because I’m not as spry as I used to be doesn’t mean I can’t function in this way anymore.  Sometimes moving very slowly can have just as much effect.  I like having two Teazers.  It makes sure that the needs of Penkevyll are being well attended to as well as dramatic energy raising dance being performed – and every now and then, the two forces meet – and there is a ‘frisson’.


After some frolicking around and general mischief-making with Penkevyll we caught sight of the torches of the Procession approaching and it was time for Penkevyll to meet her bone sisters who she hadn’t seen for nine long months!



It was a joyful reunion!  The crowd marvelled at all the different Osses and Mari Lwyds and after the initial welcome, Penkevyll and Teazers disappeared into the Museum to make ready for the traditional  pwnco ceremony which went with it’s usual idiosyncratic craziness.  No matter how well we try and arrange this part, to date it has always been chaotic – ah well maybe next year…!  😉


Here’s the only bit of footage that I have found thus far of this year’s pwnco.  Apologies to anyone of a nervous disposition as my singing is truly appalling and my Cornish not much better.  Oh, and try ignore the very rude remark made by a member of the crowd at the beginning!  :/

At last the Maris gained entrance to the Museum and they blessed it in their usual ways ending with the traditional libations of soul cakes and beer.  On return to the outside world we found that we were just in time for the now iconic Fire Dance by Beltane Border Morris.  This year I can share with you some unique drone footage compiled by those two IT wizards, Paul Sumner & Dougie Latham:

Although the small organising team work over the year to bring about the All Hallows Gathering, it seems to go so quickly on the day.  There was just enough time left to mingle with the crowd and performers in the torchlight and savour the atmospheric and heady mix of exuberant, wild dancing and feeling the old ancestral spirits of Halloween draw ever closer.








Time to stable the Osses and Maris, and certainly time for all of our intrepid performers to make their way to the Welly (Wellington Hotel) where their well-deserved dinner was waiting for them along with foaming pints of ale – aka Party Time!  😀

Although we were treated to a high standard of singing again from many talented people including the Boscastle Buoys the local male voice choir; to me the stand-out song was from young Jake Sonny Rowlinson who sang a heartfelt rendition of ‘What’s the Use of Wings’.  I’m fairly certain that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house…

At the Welly we had a great time and there were many things to be thankful for and to celebrate – but the main thing was that although there were a considerable amount of last minute obstacles and challenges, they were all successfully overcome.

Time for the accolades:

Many thanks and appreciation again to Angie Latham for all her hard work and commitment.  Angie remains as our Morris co-ordinator and PR/Publicity person – take a bow Angie!  🙂


Another person who has tackled all sorts of queries and followed up ideas and suggestions on behalf of the All Hallows Gathering is Judith Hewitt, who is also the hard-working, seemingly tireless Manager of the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic.  A huge thank you Judith for a job well done quietly and with grace.  🙂

Whilst mentioning the Museum we need to also thank Simon Costin for his continued support and enthusiasm for the event.  Loved your costume on the night Simon!  😀


Our faithful MC, Steve Podger once again rose to the challenge and delivered an accomplished repertoire of information combined with tradition and folklore with great aplomb.  Cheers Steve!  😀


With grateful thanks to our sponsors:

The Museum of Witchcraft & Magic

The Boscastle Chamber of Commerce

Finally a very special mention to the Hero of the Hour, Kevin Godley.  This quiet, unassuming man truly saved the day when he stepped up to the challenge of taking on the role of Oss Rider of Penkevyll with no prior knowledge or experience of the role.  He has supported the All Hallows Gathering from day one and was present at our very first attempt at a happening in 2014.  When he heard that we had been let down at the last moment and that Penkevyll would be unable to appear without a Rider, he didn’t hesitate in volunteering.  By doing so he averted what could have been a major upset, which would have made a nonsense of everything we had arranged with the Mari Lwyds.

On the day he performed to the best of his ability and really put his heart into riding Penkevyll – I was very touched by his reverence and respect in his dealings with the Oss.  Afterwards he was so inspired by it that he wants to continue being one of Penkevyll’s Riders.  So, although one rider fell by the wayside, we immediately acquired a new and enthusiastic new Rider – result!  Congratulations Kevin – we are very proud of you!  😀


I’ll just leave this post here with one last jewel in the crown – an amazing video commissioned by us and edited by a very talented young man, called Kieran.  It’s taken of the whole event and lasts almost an hour, so make yourself comfortable with your favourite tipple and enjoy the fruits of all our labours… Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you the All Hallows Gathering 2016!



All Hallows Gathering 2016 – Part One

It’s hard to know where to start on describing the events of the All Hallows Gathering 2016.  From a small, seemingly inconsequential idea birthed in 2014, it has grown exponentially to become a remarkable happening that has attracted worldwide interest.  Since Simon Costin, director of the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic, put out this video from the weekend, it has attracted well over a million hits!


It was estimated that over 300 people attended the Gathering and all accommodation in Boscastle was fully booked.  In fact, it was stated  by a member of the local Chamber of Commerce that the hotels and B&Bs could have booked their rooms four times over – so,  phenomenal indeed!  However, as a result of this remarkable interest in the Dark Gathering it has been agreed by all concerned that it cannot afford to get any bigger because the infrastructure of Boscastle cannot support this.  Therefore all Morris sides and other performers, including Osses and Maris will have to be by invitation only.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself.  This blog is about what the weekend was like and to try and share what the atmosphere was like with others who were not present.  Quite a few of us, particularly the organisers met up at the Cobweb Inn on the Friday evening to relax, catch up, sort out last minute details and generally socialise.


It was during this general ambience that I was informed by my Oss Rider that he had decided for reasons best known to himself to withdraw from performing with Penkevyll.  This could have had a very detrimental effect on the whole event’s proceedings but fortunately within minutes the situation was resolved by someone who heard what had happened and immediately stepped up to the challenge.  A crash course in Oss riding and associated lore was then embarked upon and the possible calamity was averted.  It appeared that the gods were definitely on our side that weekend as although there were quite a few potentially upsetting problems that presented themselves over the weekend, all of them got resolved in surprising and unexpectedly positive ways.  There were definitely a lot of ‘silver-linings’ around!  🙂

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear and it was obvious that the weather gods had been kindly once again., although it has to be said that there were quite a few people specifically petitioning them!  I personally had to be at the Museum early in order to put my new volunteer Rider through his paces as he became accustomed to the energies and logistics of Penkevyll.


Given that Penkevyll’s new Rider had only about 15 minutes of physical instruction, he did fantastically well.  Then it was time to prepare Penkevyll for the evening’s performance as we knew we wouldn’t get time later to do this.  She had a new headdress handmade by Laetitia with LED lights  and it was rather fiddly to secure.  Once done I then had to zip off to undertake a TV interview in the Museum pointing out and explaining various artefacts.  Here’s a brief excerpt:

This was followed rather swiftly by a photoshoot for all the performers, Osses included, in the Museum Library where a temporary studio had been set up.  Then, thankfully, it was time to get lunch of a grabbed sandwich and a cup of tea.

Me and Laetitia had decided some time ago that she would join me in teazing Penkevyll from now on.  Nobody knows exactly what the future will hold and I wanted to be sure that Laetitia was ready to take over the Teazer role whenever that became a necessity.  Given that I’m now nearer to 70 years of age rather than 60, it made sense to me to be prepared for this.

Also, in the folklore tradition and in the Morris world in particular, there has been an recent backlash towards the practice of ‘blacking-up’.  Some of the comments directed towards sides and traditions that we respect have been particularly virulent and upsetting accusing them of racial incitement – which is a nonsense.  As a sign of solidarity, both myself and Laetitia thought we would try this practice of blacking-up.  We were both amazed at how much it altered our appearance and how effective it was as a disguise.  Moreover we subsequently found out from our Welsh visitors from the Mari Lwyd party, that this was used in the past in their traditions.  We have now decided that we will keep this look for any Midwinter excursions with Penkevyll.


The crowds who came to watch the afternoon’s entertainment came from near and far, and gathered well in advance of 3 pm the advertised start time.  Subsequently, the dancing kicked off a full half an hour earlier.  The action started with Wytchwood Morris from Worcester, and I got to play drum with them this year which was huge fun!


Wytchwood looked fantastic in the afternoon autumn sunlight which was a beautiful match to their autumnal coloured tatters.  I particularly like Wytchwood’s energy and versatility and it was a brilliant start to the afternoon’s proceedings.


Next up was the fantastic Beltane Border Morris who delighted the crowd with their wild but highly skilled performance.  Their dark, edgy dancing always thrills the crowd and I get mesmerised by their innovative music and drumming.



Finally it was the turn of Catseye Morris who looked particularly colourful this year and their dancing and music created an interesting contrast to the previous sides’ performances.



During the well deserved break at 4 pm I managed to get Angie Latham and John Isaac together and get a photo taken with them.  I quickly ran into the Museum and ‘borrowed’ a copy of my book as Angie (Illustrations) and John (Photographs) were both excellent contributors to Village Witch.


Before we knew it we were participating in with the last dance of the day – the now traditional Rochester Thistle, performed by Wytchwood in which every side now joins in with.



Then it was time to bring out Penkevyll the Oss to send the Call to the Mari Lwyds.

To Be Continued….


The Dark Gathering


The time approaches rapidly for the All Hallows Gathering – or the Dark Gathering as it is affectionately known now.  This year it falls on Saturday 29th October and starts at the slightly later time of 3 pm.  Attending Morris sides this year will be:

Catseye Morris –

Wytchwood Morris –

Beltane Border Morris –

Directly as a result of the past few years’ success and subsequent upsurge into the local economy, we have received two sources of funding for our event.

The Museum of Witchcraft

The Boscastle Chamber of Commerce

Both businesses have given us generous sponsorship for which we gratefully thank them.

We have decided that we will welcome the Welsh Mari Lwyds with a Lantern Procession which will start at the main car park at around 5 pm and process accompanying the Maris down to the Museum.  Bring your own lantern and dress up if you feel in the All Hallows mood!

In the meantime back at the Museum, Penkevyll the Cornish Oss will be raising the energies to send a Call out to the Mari Lwyds to come and join our celebrations.  This will involve lots of tribal drumming.  If you wish to join us with your own drum at this point please do so.

Finally, as an appetiser here is some footage put together by Dougie & Angie Latham of last year’s festivities:

See you all at this year’s All Hallows Gathering!


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