Duty And The Feast

The tradition of Feast Day in St. Ives, Cornwall is not so much lost as found in the mists of antiquity.

St. Eia* was this Irish woman who decided (as you did in the Fifth Century AD) to come over to Britain to spread Christianity. She was supposed to set sail with a number of other companions including the soon-to-be local legends, St. Erth, patron saint of gardeners and electricians, and St. Uny (you can see his church in the Hayle To The Chief section), patron saint of people with only one of something.

However, St. Eia missed the boat. Literally. Undeterred, she decided to attempt to follow her fellow missionaries across the sea in a coracle. Naturally, the inevitable happened as she entered the wilds of the Atlantic and she was blown in our direction. Seeing the coracle in difficulties the St. Ives Lifeboat was launched and St. Eia was thus brought to St. Ives. Local residents, no doubt impressed by this monumental act of survival (and stupidity) promptly named the town after her.

After spending a while haranguing pagans from the Island, St. Eia was martyred by King Tewdrig of Trencrom at Connerton, near Hayle.

 Thus, St. Eia is honoured for having started three great St. Ives traditions:-

  1. In missing the boat but turning up eventually, St. Eia's story gives us the first recorded instance of the "d'reckly" phenomenon which is now the universally accepted format for arranging meetings, transactions, etc in Cornwall.
  2. By setting forth across the sea in a coracle, St. Eia started the tradition of people drifting out into the Atlantic in ludicrously small and inappropriate vessels which remains, even to this day, the bane of the RNLI.
  3. Never trust anyone in Hayle!

So, on to the main event .....

OK, folks, this what is supposed to happen on Feast Day every year:-

9.30 a.m.

The Mayoral procession saunters forth from the Guildhall and progresses majestically to Venton Ia (St. Ia's Well) where a short service is held.

10.00ish to 10.30 a.m.

The procession returns to the Parish Church (during which town councillors traditionally pelt passers-by, especially children, with tangerines) where a short session of god-bothering takes place inside.

10.30 a.m.

The Mayor and local indignitaries manifest themselves at the wall of the Parish Church which overlooks Lambeth Walk and the beach. The Mayor then chucks the Silver Ball over the wall to a horde of slavering sprogs who proceed to pound, pummel and subdue each other. An almighty ruck ensues until some sprog manages to break free with the Silver Ball and legs it into town.

10.30ish to 11.00 a.m.

The League of Friends of the Edward Hain Memorial Hospital (I'll explain some other time) hold a coffee (and tea) morning in the Community room by the Guildhall. (Hardened town councillors probably nip next door to their offices for a slug of something stronger from the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet!). 

11.00 a.m.

The Western Hunt meets in Royal square where they receive their instructions from the Mayor and the Stirrup Cup (tortuous and poncy way of saying a glass of something alcoholic).

11.30 a.m.

The Mayor stands on the Guildhall steps and hands out pennies to the under 7's. (This is probably to bribe them not to throw rotten tomatoes at her as usual as there tends to be a TV camera around for the event).

12.00 (a.m. or p.m. ??)

At high noon the Silver Ball is formally returned to the Mayor by the official sprog-in-possession. As a reward for returning the Silver Ball (as opposed to holding it to ransom for a skateboard park) the sprog is awarded a silver crown (that's an old English coin, foreign folk, not a bit of headgear).

After the return of the Silver Ball the Mayor and other indignitaries then ascend to the balcony of the Guildhall where they proceed to shower the older children with a further supply of pennies. (This is probably intended to disperse the remaining horde of sprogs and at least chucking coins at them is cheaper (and more environmentally friendly) than using CS Gas!).

7.00 p.m.

The traditional rugby match between St. Ives RUFC and a Cornwall Clubs XV, which, traditionally, has already been called off due to the weather/pitch conditions, etc!

But this is what actually happened .....

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* Look, let's get this straight from the start, there is no 'definitive' version as to how her name is spelled. Even the town records and place names lurch unpredictably between the gaelic Ia and Eia and the anglicisied Ives. So, just go with the flow, OK?).


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