“The Song of the Western Men”, also known as “Trelawny”, is a Cornish patriotic song, written in its modern form by Robert Steven Hawker in 1824, but having roots in older folk songs. It was first published anonymously in The Royal Devonport Telegraph and Plymouth Chronicle in September 1826. Over 100 years after the events.

Hawker, a churchman, assumed that the Trelawny mentioned in the song was Sir Jonathan Trelawny, the Bishop of Bristol, who had been imprisoned in the Tower of London by King James II in 1688. However, it is more likely that it referred to his grandfather, Sir John Trelawny, a Cornish Royalist leader who had been imprisoned by parliament in 1628. The people of Cornwall did not actually march to rescue Trelawny, as told in the song. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London for three weeks, then tried and acquitted.

According to Cornish historian Robert Morton Nance, “The Song of the Western Men” was possibly inspired by the song “Come, all ye jolly tinner boys” which was written more than ten years earlier in about 1807, when Napoleon Bonaparte made threats that would affect trade in Cornwall at the time of the Invasion of Poland.  “Ye jolly tinner boys” contains the line “Why forty thousand Cornish boys shall knawa the reason why.”

In 1881, at the laying of the foundation stone of the Cathedral at Truro, the song was described by Canon Harvey as “… the national anthem of our dear Cornwall.”   The song is a regular favorite sung at Cornish gatherings. In some schools in Cornwall, the children are taught the first verse and chorus, and sing it at events such as Murdoch Day and St. Piran’s Day (March 5th). Since 2016 the latter occasion has also seen the ‘Trelawny Shout’ – the song being sung in pubs across Cornwall for charity. [Wikipedia]

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