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Oh Janner dear, did you hear
The news that's goin' round?

The chough it is forbid by law

To nest on Cornish ground.

No more St Piran's day we'll keep

His colours fade like dew.

For there's a cruel law against us

Wearin gwyn ha du

‘gainst the wearin' gwyn ha du,

‘gainst us wearin' gwyn ha du.

There's a cruel  law against us  

Wearin' gwyn ha du."

I met with knocker Wenna

She took me by the hand

Said, "How's poor old Cornwall,

How does it stand?"

"She's the most distressful country

Ever yet I knew

They're hanging men and women

For the wearin gwyn ha du”

For the wearin' gwyn ha du

For the wearin' gwyn ha du.

They’re hanging men and women

For the wearin' gwyn ha du

So if the colour we must wear  

Is england's cruel red

Then let it remind us of

The blood that Cornwall shed

Take the chough eggs from the nest

Throw them on the sod

Never fear, they'll hatch out there

Though underfoot they're trod

Underfoot they're trod

Underfoot they're trod

Never fear they'll hatch out there

Though underfoot they're trod

The rising of the moon

By the rising of the moon

Hatching into chough chicks

By the rising of the moon

So tell me stenor Hedrek

Where the gatherin' is to be

At the crest of Castle Canyke

Quite well Known to you and me

I have orders from the blacksmith

Get you ready by the noon

Your head thrust on a pike staff

At the rising of the moon

The rising of the moon

The rising of the moon

Your head thrust on a pike staff

At the rising of the moon

(….interlude and contemplation)

When the law can stop the bramble Berries growing as they grow

And when the snow in winter time

Its colour dare not show

Then I will change the colour too

Of each grain of sten du

But till that day, my friend, I'll stick

To wearin' gwyn ha du.

The wearin' gwyn ha du, to the

Wearin' gwyn ha du

Till that day, my friend, I'll stick to

Wearin' gwyn ha du.   

© MOTH 2009



Gwyn ha Du translates from Cornish as white and black, the colours on the Cornish National Flag. Janner is an old Cornish bloke's name and the chough is the mascot bird. Dew evaporates but returns, black and white are deemed to be no colour or all colours, dew is transparent. A dew drop is a lens that either clarifies or distorts. The purity of our vision versus the distorting tactics employed by politicians. Wenna is a  Cornish lass's name. Knocker is not an anatomical reference but refers in folklore to a spirit or presence in Cornish mines. The knocker would give an audible alert to the miner in advance of a tunnel collapse or other calamity. In reality it was probably the creaking of the settling lode before failure. In the context of this song she is the prophet predicting future further decline and catastrophic failure of the Nation. Red refers in this instance to blood, the george cross and a red rose. The use of the lower case e for england is intentional. References to hanging, wearing and egg abuse are all poetic plight similes in this context. The rising of the moon introduces the march. Stenor is Cornish for miner (tinner) and Hedrek is another bloke's name chosen for subliminal emphasis and alliteration with Canyke. Castle Canyke is an ancient hill fort near Bodmin where the marchers gathered before. On this occasion they move by moonlight over the high, exposed lands of Bodmin moor, Hingston Down and Dartmoor. The original marchers were executed, decapitated and their heads displayed on pikestaffs. The references of the black of blackberries and the white of snow (technically speaking, snow too has no colour, perhaps incognito) reflect the cold and thorny mood even though it will be a June day. Sten Du refers to the “Black Tin” from which pure tin is smelted. Gwyn ha du combine in the white tin/ black ore for the purpose of the lyric.

Despite the gloomy pessimism this is a defiant song that  concludes with a sense of optimism and self-empowerment. In true punk rock style!

The story is currently (Feb 2017, 520th and 20th anniversary year) all the more poignant in light of the recent proposals to create a “devonwall” parliamentary constituency combining votes from both sides of the Upper Tamar Border for London thus diluting the potential for autonomy.

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“Gwyn ha Du” depicts a dystopian Cornwall and an imaginary march to London coordinated by the blacksmith” on a future anniversary of the historic marches of June 1497 and 1997.  It is adapted from “Wearing of the Green/Rising of the Moon”………