John Bolitho - Jowan an Cleth

It's more than twenty-five years now since I first met John, and at that time he was, as was always the case during his time in Cornwall, doing something for the land he loved so much.

But this isn't a life history of John - there are many who can do a much better job of this than I can - these are my thoughts on the man as I knew him over these years.

When I first met John, he was a member of the Cornish dance group Cam Kernewek, and immediately on being introduced to each other, I knew that here was a man who would become a firm friend for the remainder of my life. His manner was quiet, affectionate and kind, as it has been over those twenty-five years that I have known him. Never did I see John lose his temper - no matter what the occasion might have been - he always kept calm and level-headed, something that I should learn before it's too late! If there was a problem when he was Grand Bard, I would ‘phone him at home or meet up with him at a Gorsedd Council meeting, and always he would listen to me and my problem, and after a little thought, give me the advice which I knew to be that I could trust and that would serve me better than that given by anyone else.

Jowan an Cleth - John Bolitho
John Bolitho at the Moonta,
S Australia,
Cornish Festival in 2003

John Bolitho
[left] Gorseth Proclamation at Pendennis, Falmouth in 2002 [right] Jenner Centenary Celebrations: John Bolitho/ Jowan an Cleth with Donald Rawe/ Scryfer Lanwednoc in St. Uny Churchyard, Lelant for the wreath-laying ceremony.

Concerning his work for Cornwall, where can I start? If there was any society, group or association doing something to support Cornwall and its people, I can guarantee John's name was there amongst the others. He was a strong supporter of the Conference on Cornwall which was held twice a year at Perranporth, and following this he became a member of The Cornish Literary Guild, The Cornish Music Guild and The Cornish Constitutional Group. He was a member of Cober - The Cornish Bureau for European Relations, and it is recorded that he was the first man to speak Cornish at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Also with his fine singing voice, he sang on the Mount opposite Marazion, a Cornish translation of the European Anthem.

John Bolitho in Australia
John Bolitho photographed in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, Australia, with a bust of another famous Cornish descendant Bob Hawke.

If that isn't enough, he was a life member of Mebyon Kernow, under whose banner he became a member of both North Cornwall District Council and Bude/Stratton Town Council. And his work and comradeship was not restricted to Cornwall. He was greatly loved in the United States and above all Australia, which he visited twice and where he was elected Patron of the Victoria Cornish Association.

These are only a few words to show how strong John's feeling were towards Cornwall yet how gentle a man he was in pursuing them.

I cannot say any more than, "Thank you John for everything you have done for Cornwall. May you now sleep in peace."

Rod Lyon (Tewennow)

John Bolitho in Launceston
Gorseth Kernow 75th Anniversary at Launceston, 2003.From the left; Grand Bard, Rod Lyon/Tewennow; Deputy Grand Bard, Vanessa Beeman/ Gwenenen; The Archdruid and The Mistress of the Robes, from Wales and the Immediate Past Grand Bard, John Bolitho/ Jowan an Cleth.

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