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Constantine Remembers – A Parish commemorates its contribution to World War 1

Members of the Constantine community, several of whom were descendant of those that served their country gathered around the War Memorial for a service of commemoration led by Curate  Reverend Terry Axe. The service began a weekend of activity at the Tolmen Centre. Chairman of the Parish Council, Paul Carter read out the names of the fallen and County Councillor John Bastin read the “Ode to the Fallen” written by Lawrence Binyon on the north coast in 1914. The two hymns accompanied by the Constantine Silver Band were those sung by the choir in 1915 on the anniversary of the outbreak of War the previous year. Cousins Murial Snowden and Maureen Shipman whose grandmothers were sisters and whose husbands were killed within 24 hours of each other in 1918 laid the wreath.

The seventy attending the ceremony then formed up behind the band and walked down Fore Street to the Tolmen Centre where Geraldine Gove, the daughter of Jimmy Grigg, a survivor of the Somme and Paschendaele, opened the exhibition and activities. Following the opening, the band gave a short concert followed by the amazing and talented Mrs Kirk, a story teller who alternated with the Trengilly Singers during the afternoon. Mrs Kirk had taken the Constantine Museum’s research and translated some of the information into stories. She also, cleverly, took a poem written by an Army Sergeant in hospital, put it to music and created a delightful song. Both Mrs Kirk and the Trengilly Singers engaged the audience and had them singing along. Throughout the day the Great War Society provided explanations of the lives of officers and men from a 1st World War tent on the lawn.

On Sunday, local historian, Jo Mattingly, gave too short and interesting talks on the involvement of both Cornish people and animals in the War. She alternated with the very popular Constantine Ukulele Orchestra who played and sang songs from the period.

The exhibition, the culmination of research by Museum volunteers assisted by several descendants provided information about some of the 160 men who had served and life on the home front. The exhibition also included contributions by the Helford River Scouts, the Constantine Cottage Garden Society, Constantine Primary School and Constantine Womens Institute. The exhibition proved absorbing, interesting and informative and many visitors spent a couple of hours taking in the information and looking at the interesting range of artefacts and digitised War Time postcards from both sides. Visitors were able to learn about the arrest of suspected spies, the role of the women in the village ably led by Mrs Hext of Trebah, the women’s discussions with farmers about women working on the land which met with mixed responses and fundraising for the War effort by the community as well as the church and Chapels. Stories about those who had served included Lieutenant Rowe who progressed from agricultural labourer to commissioned, emigrants from Constantine to the antipodes, two of whom lost their lives at Gallipoli and an irresponsible young man from Mawnan Smith whose relationship with a Durgan girl produced a baby and high tailed it into the Army. Unwilling to realise his initial offers to support the child he was taken to court and ended up paying out considerably more! An insight into the deliberations of the Parish Council  to organise the building of a  War Memorial how best to welcome home the troops was also provided.

Two hundred and seventeen visited the Tolmen Centre over the weekend and the organisers received innumerable positive comments including: “fabulous”, “informative”, “very moving” and “great exhibition”.  Although the majority of visitors were from the Parish visitors from other parts of Cornwall, the UK and the Netherlands were welcomed.

Jacqui Hessing, Museum Management Committee Chairman said “The volunteer Museum team have worked hard to put this event together and began planning in early 2015. The response by members of the public to the exhibition and programme of activities has been incredibly positive and has made our efforts very worthwhile”.

Contact: Don Garman, Collections Coordinator, Constantine Museum 01326 250604