Cornish Saints and Sinners: King Tewdrig and the Saints

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The Legend of King Tewdrig of Penwith, Cornwall
by J. Henry Harris

and the Saints

Most of the saints came to Cornwall, dropping little bits of fame and reputation as they travelled from parish to parish, and from holy well to holy well. They were born under a travelling planet, "neither bred where born, nor beneficed where bred, nor buried where beneficed", but wandering ever. Cornwall is known as the "Land of Saints", and the county teams are usually Saints. For example The Saints verses Week-enders. Six goals to three. Five to one on Saints. It sounds a bit curious, but you get used to it. The true story of the saints is a little mixed; the giants and the piskies come in, and wherever the saints went there was sure to be trouble.

Irish saints swarmed to Cornwall as thick as flies in summer in the reign of Tewdrig the King, who built is castle on the sands at Hayle. It is there now, only modern technology has yet to be used to make it visible. This Tewdrig was a good old sort, who was respectfully called Theodoric by the saints as long as he had anything to offer them. However, the saints let it be known, in the distressful land, that they had struck oil, and so their friends and relatives swarmed across the Irish Sea. They came in such crowds that the King was in danger of being eaten out of house and home. He summoned the Keeper of the Victuals, and asked for a report. He was given it, and it was very short and sad - as sad in its way as an army stores inquiry. Every living thing in air and field and wood had been devoured. All the salted meat in the barrels had disappeared, "and if you don't stop this immigration of Irish saints," said the unhappy official, "we shall be eaten up alive." The good King became serious. Whilst they were talking, a messenger came with the news that another great batch of saints had come ashore. The King and his Keeper of the Victuals - when there were any to keep - looked at each other solemnly.
"Put the castle in mourning," said the King. When the new arrivals danced up to the gate, with teeth well set for action and stomachs empty, the Keeper of the Victuals spoke sadly.
"The good King died," he said, "the moment he heard that more saints had arrived. Those who came first ate all his substance and emptied his barrels, and there is nothing left of him now but bones. The last words of the good King were, "Give them my bones"." The Keeper of the Victuals turned, as though to fetch the good King's bones for the saints to feast on. They, however, departed, one and all, and spread the story. The king played the game and ordered his own funeral, and when the time came, he got up and looked through a peep-hole to see the procession.
"The saints," he said, "have spared my bones, but they will surely come and see the last of me." But he was mistaken. The story that all the barrels were empty spread, and there wasn't a saint left in the land on the morrow. Then the King showed himself to his own people, and a law was passed entitled "An Act against Alien Saints' Immigration". The country recovered its ancient prosperity, and the Keeper of the Victuals filled the barrels with salted meat. There were wild birds in the air, and beasts in the field, and the King once more feasted in his own hall.

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Edited from "Cornish Saints & Sinners" (1906)  (T) 302.234.8904    (F) 302.234.9154    Copyright 2000, LLC