“Drunk as a Perraner”

“Drunk as a perraner” (19th century Cornish saying)

5 March: Lowen Dydh sen Pyran (Happy St Piran's Day) – today is the national day of Cornwall , named after the patron saint of tinners, the tin miners of Cornwall and also one of the local patron saints, aptly chosen since Cornwall was famous for its tin mines since the Bronze Age, even in places as far away as Phoenicia.

St Piran, an Irishman who, failing to convert an Irish king, was cast into the sea tied to a millstone that miraculously began to float and carried the saint to Perran Beach on the northern coast of Cornwall, where he started, as befitting to a 6th century holy man from the Celtic church, to preach to the local fauna and building a monastery afterwards.

And even though tin smelting was known in Cornwall at least a thousand years before his birth, St Piran is supposed to have rediscovered the process, when his black hearthstone suddenly brought forth smelted tin that rinsed to the top in form of a silvery cross – hence his symbol, the white cross on a black field.

Originally a Cornish tin miners’ holiday commencing in the week before March 5th, the Perrantide, and celebrated with the consumption of lots of alcoholic beverages – “drunk as a perraner”, the late 19th century and Celtic revival made the feast day of St Piran into a national holiday similar to the celebrations of Patrick, Andrew and David. Today, almost every Cornish community has a St Piran’s Day festival with pageants, music and poetry and dancing, even if the day is not an official bank holiday in Cornwall yet.

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