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Herbert Thomas

I was researching through a mountain of Brenda's musical memorabilia recently, and came across two treasures: original manuscripts of two of her most popular songs,

The songs were written by one W Herbert Thomas - editor of the Cornishman newspaper for 50 years from 1902. One is 'Pasties & Cream' - often heard at concerts and clubs, and recorded on four of her albums. The manuscript is an original broadsheet printed by the Cornishman in Parade Street in Penzance, and subtitled 'New Cornish Song', words by Herbert and music by 'S'. It is undated, and priced at Threepence - and Herbert is described as 'Editor of The Cornishman and Cornish Telegraph, The Cornish Post and Mining News and Redruth Effective Advertiser & The Cornish Evening Tidings'. Quite a mouthful!

The second manuscript is a hand-written original in immaculate and fine spidery writing, of Tryphena Trenerry - and what a gloriously Cornish moniker that is! It is undated, but I would guess at about 1900-1910. The music was credited to a Joseph W White, who according to his ink stamp on the back page, was 'Professor of Music, Nancledra, Penzance'. Brenda recorded Tryphena Trenerry on four albums.

I had known of Herbert Thomas's connection to those songs, but decided to do a little more research, and discovered just what a remarkable man he was. A busy man clearly... and according to one journalist, 'Bard, poet, historian, St Day man and writer extraordinaire'.

I had thought I had met him in my younger days, but it must have been his son Hartley I met - in the Playgoers Theatre Club in the early 1960s, where he and his wife Ivy were members.

The painting of Herbert above, 'The Man in the Panama Hat',  is by Leonard John Fuller, and is the property of Penlee House Gallery & Museum.

Cornwall Live - Herbert Thomas article

I found a wonderful description of Herbert having the 'commitment and tenacity of a great journalist' in Cornwall Live online - click the button above for the link - which explained the lengths he went to to get the best coverage of the funeral of Edward VII in 1910... and also his scoop on the assassination of Czar Nicholas of Russia and his family by the Bolsheviks. It's a fascinating read...


Another of Herbert's songs has come to light, with words and music: 

The Women of Cornwall'.

The missing manuscript has now been rediscovered, all thanks to husband Chris ferreting about in the attic. Scanned copies of the lyrics and music to Herbert's 'Women of Cornwall' are shown below. 

Interestingly, the music was written by his daughter Ilva, and the song was composed at the request of Mrs Joseph Hocking of Penmare, Hayle, who was then President of Hayle WI, a member of the Cornish Federation of Women's Institutes - as reported in the Cornishman Newspaper, June 4th, 1931 (I am indebted to Victor Lee Graham Fox for this information). The piece is described as the 'Cornish Women's Clan Song', and continues... 'it includes the soprano and alto airs... and can be sung as a solo, with Chorus, or as a Community Song... it can be sung in public without Special Permission.'

Ilva obviously had musical talent, but died unmarried at a young age. Victor says she '...wrote the music and many contribution of poems and music to her father’s newspapers for which she became a Director on the Board. Sadly she passed at the young age of 44 in 1938.' A cutting from the Cornishman of February 10th 1938 says 'She also wrote the words and music of 'The Dream Ship', which was broadcast from London by Miss Helen Sandow, a well-known Cornish contralto, nearly two years ago...' - so that's another one to look out for!

The Song of the Cornish Miner

Below are the words of another of Herbert Thomas's songs, copied from a Facebook comment by Harry Glasson 17-7-2017. If anyone can shed any light on the original music, do please get in touch.

Harry says: "This has been sent to me by Dougie Alford of Truthall near St Just, he found a copy of the words in a family Bible and was wondering if anyone knew the song and the tune.


UPDATE: I've now found the original text on page 3 of the Cornishman Newspaper, dated May 30 1895 ('All Rights Reserved'). George Sellars Junior was organist and choirmaster at St John's in Penzance - and most likely also to have been the 'S' named as the writer of the music, on the sheet music for 'Tryphena Trenary'. This song was popular at Concerts a century ago, with words by Herbert Thomas and set to music by George Sellars of Penzance. Is the melody still known, and are there copies in some homes?

The song of the Cornish Miner. 

We love thy cliffs, old Cornwall,
As wild and bold they stand,
And we love thy coombes and valleys,
And the nooks of fairy-land;
And thy crofts of furzy bushes,
And brakes of purple sloes,
And the Cornish maidens blushes,
Like the blush of the red red rose,

Cornwall, Cornwall...

Cornwall rugged and grand,
Home of the piskies and giants 
Home of the toillng band
There have we left our sweethearts
While o'er the earth we roam
True as the steel of our boyers,
In Cornwall our home

Some say of the Cornish miner, 
His home is the wide wide world
For his pick is always ringing
Where the Union Jack`s unfurled,**

He digs for tin and copper,

Diamonds, silver, gold

And from bungalow, tent and cabin,
His song of home is rolled,

We may swelter in hot Coolgardie

Or in dusty Africa
We may search for the precious metals
In the land of the good old Shah
We may freeze in the huts of Alaska,
Or toil in the hills of Peru
But the hearts of the sons of Cornwall
To the Cornish maids are true.


Encore verse;
Then here`s to the sons of Cornwall,
And moors where the white heath grows,
And here`s to the Cornish maidens
Who blush like the red red rose,
Here`s to our wives and mothers
Whose love will ne`er grow cold
We will send them love and a crowst bag 
Full of nuggets of foreign gold,

** Suggest 'Cornish flag' or 'Baner Peran'!

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