Friday, 5th March: Get out your beer and pasties – it’s time to celebrate St. Piran’s Day!
One of the three patron saints of Cornwall – the other two being St. Michael and St. Petroc – St. Piran was regularly celebrated annually on the 5th March by tin miners up to and including the 18th century. However, the decline in Cornish tin mining inevitably led to the demise of this uniquely Cornish celebration. It was not until the late 19th/early 20thcentury when St. Piran’s Day was rightly revived, and since the 1950s has become increasingly popular.
Unfortunately, as this year’s St. Piran’s day also falls on day 60 of COVID lockdown part 3 (yes, it’s been that long), no parades nor organised social events are allowed. So, instead let’s raise a glass or two, enjoy a traditional pasty and find out exactly who Saint Piran was and why we fondly drink to his memory today.
From Ireland, St. Piran studied scriptures in Rome during the 5th Century, eventually returning home as a Bishop. There he regularly performed incredible miracles such as raising soldiers from the dead. Turns out that remarkable as that was, it was not a skill that was particularly revered by the then Kings of Ireland, so they had him lobbed him into the Irish Sea with a millstone around his neck. In what was seen as another miracle he ‘floated’ across the Irish Sea to be washed ashore in Perranporth, Cornwall where he promptly built a chapel. There, he became an extremely popular preacher with large crowds coming from far afield to listen to his sermons and is now revered as one of Perranporth’s most renowned past residents.
His real claim to Cornish fame though was in accidentally discovering the ancient art of smelting tin, quite by accident, when a black stone on his fire leaked white liquid. It is said that the Cornish Flag – known as the flag of St. Piran – represents the tin (white cross) flowing from the rock (black background). So, it was from that incident that Piran allegedly shared his tin smelting secrets with those that would become the first Cornish tin miners, firmly installing him as their solid favourite saint.
Despite his previous near brush with death at the hands of the Kings of Ireland, St. Piran lived a long and boozy life, finally meeting his earthly demise by falling down a well at the grand old age of 200. Now that deserves a glass to be raised in his memory.
So, although we can’t gather to celebrate St. Piran’s Day – let’s remember his contribution to Cornwall. It was a Proper Job!