London Cornish Rugby Football Club 50th Anniversary, Bristol Hotel, Newquay. 5th October 2012
Yet again Sally and I ventured out in the dark and rain to Newquay this time for the London Cornish Anniversary. The preface to their songbook says:
‘The Club was formed as the London Exiles in 1962 and was shortly after renamed… Singing was at the heart and soul of the social life of the Club…singing was the differentiator between London Cornish and other rugby clubs… Usually within an hour of showering the cry of ‘toot’ would go up and the opposition and their supporters would be open mouthed listening to Cornish songs instead of the embarrassment of their usual fare…the singing on those magical Saturday nights..would only be interrupted from time to time by the cry of ‘general oil’ which was when pint glasses needed refreshing.’
As we walked up to the hotel we saw through the windows a whole roomful of men in dinner suits all sitting down at tables with their heads bowed in prayer; my dear life, this was far more formal than we imagined and there were no women either! Luckily, once we got inside the hotel, we discovered the London Cornish were meeting in another room and we walked into a relaxed and warm atmosphere with plenty of other women too!
Immediatly we got into banter with the group Oll An Gwella who were about to start the singing off. They are an off-shoot of the Newquay Male Voice Choir and Rob Spowart, my cousin by marriage and member of the organising committee is part of the group. They began with a few sea shantys and then were met with a great response as soon as they started on the Cornish favourites such as Camborne Hill, Old Time Religion and Trelawney. Johnny Ball was there, famously with whistle in hand and colourful conducting! Hailing from Bude, he has led many a shout over the years. We also saw other friendly faces such as Chris Bale also from Bude and other Newquay Rowing Club singers that we’d met on the Isles Of Scilly the weekend previously. Apart from that there were many men from London there and some just dagging for a good sing! This continued over by the bar and there were great renditions of Sloop John B, Little Eyes and The White Rose which was partly sung in Cornish. This was what I recognised as a Shout, from past experiences at Rugby matches with my brother Will: A wave of sound hitting me, full bore strong male voices – maybe no room for subtlety but still harmonising and full of passion! It made me tingle even though I knew there’d be little chance of me joining in and making myself heard, it was just good to stand by and listen to the power of those united voices from across the land.