Richard Garfield Jenkin (Map Dyvroeth), 1925-2002

Richard Jenkin at Trethevy QuoitA tribute by past Grand Bard Jori Ansell (Caradok)

How should we remember Map Dyvroeth, Richard Garfield Jenkin?

First and foremost as a stalwart Cornishman. Although, like Robert Morton Nance before him, he had been born outside Cornwall - in Derbyshire where his father was training for the ministry - he was brought up with a strong sense of his roots in Mousehole and was in touch with his relations 'at home'. A chance discovery of books on Cornish in Manchester library when he was a teenager whetted his appetite to learn more. During the year he spent at Oxford studying chemistry, prior to joining the army, he met several prominent Cornish people A.L. Rowse, Nina Bawden, John Legonna and others and was instrumental in forming the University Cornish Society.

Military service interrupted his university career but not his Cornish studies. He continued learning Cornish and was admitted to the Gorsedd in 1947 by proxy as he was in Greece at the time.

After discharge from the army and completing his university studies at Manchester, he had a period of teacher training in Penzance. He eventually found full-time employment at Totnes Grammar School - close enough to Cornwall to allow frequent visits to make contact with active Cornish people and to become involved in the language and culture which in turn led to politics - and finally at Helston School.

In 1951 he was a founder member of Mebyon Kernow, espousing a cause that was anything but respectable or popular. The policies he and his colleagues promoted - policies that today are perfectly acceptable and widely supported - were looked on as odd, bizarre and definitely of the fringe: that Cornwall was not a part of England but a Celtic country, that it had its own flag, and that to revive its social, cultural and economic fortunes it needed devolution and its own university. These ideas now receive support from across the political spectrum and are accepted as mainstream politics. The flag flies outside council offices and on churches and police stations. The cement mixers are busy at Tremough (Combined Universities in Cornwall) and devolution is being debated. The events of the past week regarding the specification of Cornish under the European Charter and the replacement of the English rose on tourist signs would have given him particular pleasure.

But in the 1950s, his views, when not being ridiculed, were looked on by the establishment as nothing less than subversive and they were, without doubt, detrimental to his career. But with typical dogged courage he maintained these views and promoted them throughout his life, and he was not without humour in doing so: at the Mebyon Kernow 50th anniversary he said that if the present generation did not achieve devolution for Cornwall he would come back and haunt them!!

Richard Jenkin initiating his daughter, Morwenna, as bard, Bodmin 1979It was during his time in Totnes that Richard met and married Ann Trevenen. They both held the same views and worked as a team in editing and writing for the magazine 'New Cornwall', which was radical and visionary for its time in that it did not dwell on the past glories of Cornwall but examined the present and proposed solutions for the future, to turn the tide of 150 years of decline and demoralisation.

Their marriage of 46 years was blessed with four children - Morwenna, Loveday, Gawen and Conan - whose careers and achievements he followed with great interest and pride. Both Richard and Ann clearly had considerable influence on them all, as can be seen by their children's involvement in Cornish culture, politics and the environment. One of the influences on this young family was the use of Cornish in the home: the earliest memory I have of Cornish things on television was seeing the Jenkin family sitting in the garden and speaking Cornish, in the early 1970s, I think. Poignantly, the task he undertook just before he died was the translation into Cornish of some prayers for the wedding of Conan and his fiancée Emma in April 2003.

His five grandchildren - Trystan, Riwana, Mark, Talwyn and Trifina - were also a great source of pleasure to him as he has watched them grow and take interest in their Cornish, and Breton, surroundings. He was also very proud and supportive of Ann during her six busy years as Deputy and then Grand Bard, always at hand to give a word of advice from his considerable experience.

We all knew Richard as a leader, but perhaps many did not realise that he was in fact very reserved, a reluctant leader, and was never altogether happy in the public eye. It was his colleagues and the public who recognised his qualities and moved him into these positions: he was a chosen leader, rather than one who had sought to lead. At various times in his career he led Mebyon Kernow, the Gorsedd - for 9 years in two terms as Grand Bard - and the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies. His involvement in Cornish organisations ranged from the very local (Crowan Parish Council) to the national, and to the international (International Celtic Congress).

He fought elections for Mebyon Kernow, both parliamentary and European: it was a European election that gave him his greatest achievement when in 1979 he gained over 10,000 votes on the platform of a Cornwall-only European seat.

Yes, he was a dogged, determined campaigner, but he was not dour. He spoke with passion and inspired the membership and the electorate. He once said to a supporter who was particularly downhearted after defeat, "Don't worry, we're used to failure!" and he continued with his campaign regardless. His achievements speak for themselves.

Richard Jenkin at the 2002 Gorseth in PensilvaA-barth an yeth, y hwrug e kemmys a ober yn maner mar der es dell wrug e yn gwelyow erell. Ev a waynyas moy a biwasow yn kesstrivow an Orsedh rag skrifa yn Kernewek (ha Sowsnek), dell grysir, es denvydh arall, ha lies anedha yn blydhynyow a-varr yn-dann an leshanow Garfield Richardson. Wor'talleth, yth ordenas ev an apposyans CSE a-barth an Gesva ha dyllo Delyow Derow avel lyver-termyn lyennek. Kornhwilenn a leveris bos Map Dyvroeth an gwella pregowther oll yn Kernewek.

{The Cornish language was his love and he did as much in that respect as he had in other fields. He probably won more prizes in the Gorsedd competitions (writing in both Cornish and English) than anyone else. Many of his writings in the early years were under the pseudonym of Garfield Richardson. He carried out all the administration for the CSE from its inception on behalf of the Cornish Language Board and he published, amongst other books, the literary journal Delyow Derow. Cornwhylen, Father Richard Rutt, considered him the best preacher in Cornish.}

When the disputes occurred in the late 1980s about spelling systems for the language, he very shrewdly proposed and, due to the great respect in which he was held, persuaded the Council to accept that the Gorsedd should continue to use Unified Cornish. This had the effect of raising the Gorsedd above any potentially damaging arguments. Personally I admired his courage in remaining for some years as the sole supporter of Unified Cornish on the Language Board, knowing that at each meeting he was in a minority of one. His low point was when he failed to be re-elected to the Board he was, I believe, a victim of the atmosphere at the time but he bounced back as was his nature and championed Cornish through Agan Tavas. His arguments over the language were always pursued with respect for the opinions of others and, as in his other activities, he always thought the best of everyone.

I myself first met Richard in the mid-1970s at a language event and he was Grand Bard when I became a bard, so I had to negotiate my bardic name with him. I was always struck by his kindly and understanding nature, even to those of us who at the time had little knowledge of Cornish matters. To many he was a good and caring friend, with an open and generous spirit. His gentle humour could be relied on to defuse many a difficult situation.

His family will remember him as a loving and dedicated husband, father and grandfather.

We, his friends and colleagues, will remember him first and foremost as a great Cornish patriot. His interest in Cornwall and Cornish was a passion, not an academic study. He has, over the years, been an inspiration to successive generations and will continue to inspire us all.

Re bowesso yn kres.


Photographs (top to bottom):

* Richard Jenkin at Trethevy Quoit.

* Richard Jenkin initiating his daughter, Morwenna, as a Bard, Bodmin, 1979.

* Richard Jenkin (right) with George Pawley White at the Open Gorseth in Pensilva, September 7th 2002.



Language Organisations

Agan Tavas former committee member and honorary life member.

Cornish Language Board - former member.

Bishop's Advisory Group on services in Cornish - member (1982 -2002).

Cowethas An Yeth - former member.

Cornish Cultural Groups

Cuntelles Keltek Kernow - Cornish Branch of the Celtic Congress. Helped to revive branch in 50s. Committee member, former chair and president. Gave lectures on Cornwall in most of the Celtic countries.

Skeusow - Cornish Film Committee - former member (1987).

Federation of Old Cornwall Societies - member and past president (1991-1992).

Gorseth Kernow - Cornish Gorsedd. Made a bard in 1947, when in Greece on military service. Council member, secretary (1961-65), Herald Bard (1961-1972), Deputy Grand Bard (1972-76), Grand Bard for nine years (1976-1982 and1985-1988). Second longest period for Grand Bard after R. M. Nance. Also a member of the Holyer An Gof award committee.

In 1997, fifty-year award of appreciation for his work for the Gorsedd.

Probably more poetry and prose awards in Gorseth competitions than any other bard. He wrote in both Cornish and English. Won the Jack Evans Cup twice (1974 and 2002).

Helston Old Cornwall Society - member since 1950.

Helston Museum Committee - former member.

Esethvos Kernow - Eisteddfod of Cornwall. Helped to found this when Grand Bard. Chair for several years and past committee member. 2001. Made honorary life member. Organised the first St. Piran's parade in Truro as chair of the Esethvos.

Cowethas Lyenak Kernow - Cornish Literary Guild - founder member and honorary vice-president.

Political and Civic

Mebyon Kernow - founder member (1951). Secretary, chair (1973) and life president (1998-2002). Stood for Parliament in 1970 and 1983 (940 and 500 votes respectively). Stood for the European Parliament on a campaign for the Cornwall-only Euro-seat (1979), polling 10,205 votes.

Crowan Parish Council - member for 31 years (1964-1995) and former vice chair (1968-1970) and chair (1970-1972).

Cornish Solidarity - member.

Cornish Constitutional Convention - member.

Institute of Cornish Studies - member.

RIC - member.

Thomas Trust - Helston -trustee.

Cornwall Family History Society - member.

Cornwall Archaeology Society - member.

Leedstown Village Hall committee - former member.


International Celtic Congress - secretary (1955), vice-president (1969-71) and later president (1971-1976). Honorary life vice-president (1976-2002).

Grand Bard at National Welsh Eisteddfod (1981), Grand Bard at Breton Gorsedd (1982), Grand Bard at National Welsh Eisteddfod (1988).


New Cornwall Magazine (with Ann Trevenen Jenkin)

Early life of R. M. Nance ed. Richard & Ann Jenkin (1961).

Cornwall the Hidden Land (with Ann Trevenen Jenkin) (1965).

Book of Sermons in Cornish produced by R.G. Jenkin (1983)

Delyow Derow - Cornish Language Literary Magazine, vols 1-15 (1988-96)


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