Happy St Piran’s Day!
What’s that all about then? What are we supposed to get up to?
Well in the past drinking was the order of the day. In fact down Newlyn way you might still hear utterance of the phrase “Drunk as a Piraner” referring to the miners who’d have a holiday on their saint’s day and celebrate in the best style they knew – I wonder if they had Spingo* back then?
Looking back on legends of saints and miracle workers is rather charming when taken with a pinch of middle age cynicism, blended with the love of a good story.
Old Piran had a dubious start in life, upsetting the king in his native Ireland and, as punishment he was cast into the sea tied to a millstone. That’s not only a harsh way of getting rid of someone you’re suspicious of, but an expensive one too – imagine the cost of a millstone!
Piran had little to fear though, as he floated (!) on the millstone and was eventually washed up on Perranporth (Piran/Perran…). I wonder if it was as windswept there then as it is now?
At Perranporth he set up an oratory in the dunes and preached the power and beauty of God, and here’s a lovely detail – his first disciples were a fox, a badger and a bear.
Now a fox and badger finding religion I can accept, but a Perranporth bear taking the word of our Lord?
Our Cornish patron saint was beloved of miners too, not only did he like a tipple, he is also credited with discovering tin. Apparently he noticed the white metal melting across the black ore of a stone in his fire.
What a dude. He thereby invented the industry that was to launch Cornwall into the industrial revolution, making it a globally important centre for mining, and gave us our distinctive black and white flag.
No wonder the miners celebrated with a drink or two on his saints day of 5th March.
Today there’ll be processions through the streets of many towns, especially Penzance and Truro. While mother, Peggy Collins, will probably toddle off to the sand dunes in Perranporth for the annual play re-enacting the arrival of our main man on the beach there.
*Spingo has been my downfall at many a Helston Flora Day. Brewed at The Blue Anchor it’s served in several strengths and styles. The 6.5% ABV Special is only as strong as many of the so called craft ales available today, but back in my teens Heineken was about 3% and so a half a Spingo (as I’m sure it was sold) was enough to knock you sideways.
The Blue Anchor claims to be Britain’s oldest ale house brewing its own beers. As it has been going for about 400 years I doubt many will dispute it.
I haven’t had a Spingo in ages, but writing this has caused me to make a mental note to get over to Helston in the next few weeks and see what I think now.