Thursday Thought: Come to the aid of King Arthur! NOW.

Do you long to visit Cornwall?

In your heart of hearts what do you want to see, to experience? The picturesque fishing villages? The historic tin mining country? To walk the rugged coastal paths? To visit the great houses and country estates? To delve into the ancient spiritual energies?

King Arthur

King Arthur

But here is the key question. Do you value the authentic, the historic, the unspoiled, the original? Or would you settle for a commercialized, ersatz, Disneyesque reproduction — of the kind you can see in any local theme park?

The travel section in Sunday’s The New York Times led with an appealing article “The Weird, Mystic Pull of Southwest England” recommending “a pilgrimage to sites steeped in Arthurian lore with weird and mystical stops along the way.”

Proposed Footbridge

Proposed Footbridge

However, here is the horrific breaking news. The English Heritage organization is planning for King Arthur’s castle in Tintagel on the north Cornish coast the same fate they delivered to Stonehenge: despoil and commercialize this irreplaceable historic site with inappropriate contemporary excrescences.

I plead with you to raise your voice to prevent this disaster (especially those of you who learned of King Arthur and Tintagel in my recent lecture series on the history and lore of Cornwall, and who heard from Councillor Bert Biscoe of Truro bertbiscoe@btinternet.com)

Write to the Cornish councillor in charge and strike a blow for the once and future king!




Thursday Thought: Scenic Cornwall

Toll House Roseland pensinsula

Toll House
Roseland peninsula

Why did I choose Cornwall for the location of The Miner & the Viscount,

readers ask? Many reasons. Cornwall is where my family is from, where I was born and grew up. The history is fascinating. The people are unique.

And the scenery is magnificent! The cover of the book is the iconic St.Michael’s Mount. Here is another view of the monastery and castle surmounting the peak of the island.

This view is from a new website with 100 great photos of Cornwall’s varied scenery

St. Michael's Mount

St. Michael’s Mount

Do these pictures make you want to visit? You can get  lots of ideas on this site, or see the Visit Cornwall site for a great variety of ideas.

Readers have also asked to be shown the locations in the book, the great houses, the mines, the the moors, the fishing villages, the picturesque towns. Could be a great idea!



Thursday Thought: Cornish Creativity

Here’s a new song from Bert Biscoe, Cornish poet, songwriter, entertainer and radio personality who lives in Truro — “When I Played a Red Guitar”.

With Bert Biscoe

Photo with Bert Biscoe

Bert is also a politician, an independent. He is a member of both the Cornwall Council and the Truro City Council. I met him when he starred (and I spoke) at the International Gathering of the Cornish American Heritage Society in Milwaukee in 2014.

Bert is an amazing facilitator and connector with energy and vision. He was the key champion in bringing about our book tour of Cornwall last summer, sparked by an insightful review he wrote of The Miner & the Viscount. Bert introduced us to the people with whom we arranged book talks and media interviews. And as a result we are now having to arrange a reprint in England!

This photo is of my daughter Sarah with Bert and his daughter Molly and me at dinner in Truro. Food in Cornwall these days is delicious!

Amazing comment from Cornish poet and story teller!

Read Bert’s review.



Thursday Thought: The Story Behind the Story

Among the joys of writing The Miner & the Viscount was weaving in stories from my growing up in Cornwall and about bygone customs and how things were invented. During my book talks people ask where the stories came from and how I imagined my fictional characters. These are the stories behind the story.


Chapter 26 – “Christmas Goose”

I must confess that Jemmy Penwarden has a resemblance to a little boy in my family, which comprised one little boy with two big sisters. The little boy was very inquisitive. He pestered his mother with questions all day long and always saved one to ask his father when he came home from work and tucked him into bed at night. A special one was, “Dad, how long is a whale?”

In Chapter 26 the Penwarden family celebrates their first Christmas in their new home after Addis has been made captain of the Wheal Hykka mine. Lizzie decorated the house and prepared a traditional roast goose dinner with all the trimmings. I describe her baking a saffron cake. Young Jemmy is unstoppably inquisitive and distracts his mother with questions.

“Why do us put ’olly in the ’ouse at Christmastide, Mum?”

“Us be rememberin’ the birth of the baby Jesus,” explained Lizzie, “an’ people say the red berries be ’is drops of blood when ’e were crucified.”

“But why do us put up stuff loike the crucifixion on ’is birthday?” Jemmy asked, “don’t make sense. Wouldn’t put a coffin on my birthday table.”

“That’s just what people say,” said Lizzie.

“What people?” pressed Jemmy.

“Well, I ’spect it says so in the Bible,” Lizzie tried.

“Where in the Bible?” Jemmy persisted.

“You’ll ’ave to ask Reverend Perry when you see ’im down chapel; he’ll know for sure,” parried Lizzie.

When I was researching work in the tin and copper mines and the tools and methods used, I learned about the danger of blasting with loose gunpowder. It often resulted in fatal accidents. An ingenious miner invented a safer fuse, called the Rod of Quills. I tell the story as if Jemmy had discovered it. On Christmas Day, when his mother was not keeping an eye on him, Jemmy made his own toy. His father sees promise in it and later adapts it to test it successfully down the mine.

Addis had been experimenting with gunpowder, wrapping up small amounts in twists of paper, trying to work out a safe way of detonating it. Jemmy had found the almost empty tin, taken some of the quills plucked from the goose wing, cut off the tips and filled them with the powder. Then he threw them in the stove where they smoldered and sizzled and then burned with a satisfying whoosh, filling the kitchen with a dreadful smell of burning feathers. Addis to Lizzie’s surprise did not scold Jemmy for his mischief. Rather, a look came over his face that signified that he had an idea.

“That lad will be a real somebody some day,” Addis said to Lizzie, when they were out of earshot of Jemmy.

One summer when my family was on holiday at Tregrill Farm, Colin Hocking the farmer’s son and I made charcoal and ground it up, then mixed it with sulphur and saltpeter to make gunpowder. We exploded it on the old-fashioned cast iron kitchen stove with a satisfying whoosh. Not very safe!

When my wife Penny and I visited Cornwall on a research trip in 2012 we stayed at Tregrill where the milking barn had been converted into guest cottages. I’m glad to report that the stove in the farmhouse kitchen is still intact.

During my book tour of Cornwall in July with my daughter Sarah I gave a talk at The Book Shop in Liskeard, my home town. A young woman came up to me at the end with The Miner & the Viscount in her hand and asked me to autograph it. She said, “Colin Hocking is my grandfather, and my husband and I farm Tregrill.” We gave each other a big hug.

Oh, the joy of writing!




Read all Chapter 26


Thursday Thought: Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! What a wonderful time for families and friends to get together and to celebrate. Celebrate what?

Many of us tend to simply celebrate our togetherness or express our gratitude for the blessings we enjoy. The tradition originated as gratitude at this time of year for the harvest. In Britain when I was growing up it was called Harvest Festival and was centered around the churches. Parishioners shared their bounty, decorating the church with sheaves of corn (the generic term for grains including wheat and oats and barley), home-made bread, fruits, pies, jams, jellies, all kinds of good things. Often the congregation would partake in a great communal feast.

Crying the Neck

Crying the Neck

In my native Cornwall there was an older tradition, “Crying the Neck”. Some say this stemmed from ancient Egypt. The people gather in a cornfield where the harvest is almost finished. The farmer cuts the last stalks of corn, typically with an old fashioned scythe, and binds them into a sheaf.

Turning to the east he raises up the sheaf and cries three times, “I ‘ave ‘ee, I ‘ave ‘ee, I ‘ave ‘ee.” The crowd responds,  “What ‘ave ee? What ‘ave ee? What ‘ave ee?” The farmer shouts, “A Neck! A Neck! A Neck!” The crowd chants,”Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!” In many parts of Cornwall the ritual is repeated in the Cornish language.

They all leave the field and go to the church or chapel for a service giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. The Neck is left in the church until the following spring when it provides the seed for the next planting.

I give special thanks this year for the joy given me by my historical novel The Miner & the Viscount. The pleasure has been beyond my fondest imagination. Researching the history added to my knowledge and understanding. I grew enormously as a writer through working on the manuscript. In the first six rewrites, my wife Penny helped me understand deeper character development. In the next three edits, my editor Mo Conlan helped me weave a more compelling story. What I anticipated to be a chore turned out to be the joy of incremental improvement.

On top of all that, through the interest and enthusiasm generated by the book I have made new friends, not only in America and Britain but around the world where the Cornish have emigrated through the centuries. Marvelous people with a profound interest in their origins and the world around them.





Thursday Thought: Cornish Connections!

Another wonderful connection that has come from my book tour of Cornwall in July! Last week there was a comment on my website from Thomas Angear. His sisters went to school with my sisters in Liskeard! They played field hockey for Cornwall on the team my sister Pat captained. I spoke on Skype today with Pat in England (she will be 93 in a few days). She showed me her copy of that issue of The Cornish Times and she remembers the Angear sisters!

Here is Thomas’ message:

“My sister in Liskeard, Susan Trundle, sent me the article in The Cornish Times (October 2, 2015) about your book and your Cornish heritage.  We have a lot in common? I was born in Looe in 1936 to a family of builders, carpenters and Dissenting Ministers originating in East Cornwall in the early 17 hundreds.

“I had one term at Liskeard Grammar School before moving to another grammar school in the Midlands with my parents. This was followed by three years in the Army as an Instructor with the Brigade of Gurkhas in Malaya and Hong Kong.  This service also required four years in the Territorial Army as an officer with the South Staffordshire Regiment. My business career encompassed six years with Lever Brothers(1963-1969),  Warner Lambert, management consulting, and finally running my own M&A business for 25 years which I sold in 2000.

“Your sister Pat may remember my Aunt (Violet Mabel Angear) and my cousin, (Mary Angear)who were contemporaries at Liskeard Grammar. I remember Mary – who married Harry Bonson, Mayor of Looe – telling me about a schoolfriend who went to Girton!! Both Violet and Mary played hockey for the school and for Cornwall.

“From one Cousin Jack to another!”


Thursday Thought: How 45 Minutes Took 5 Years

I was asked to contribute a guest blog for the prestigious Historical Novel Society. It is about how my novel came to be written.

Click here: http://awriterofhistory.com/2015/08/18/the-miner-the-viscount-by-richard-hoskin/

Although I did not realize it at the time, the birth of The Miner & The Viscount began when a professor friend asked me to contribute a Cornwall segment to his lecture series on aspects of the history and culture of Great Britain. I was recently retired and glad to embark on a new career as a lecturer, holding engrossed audiences in thrall.

“How many lectures would you like?” I asked. “Eight? Six?”

“Actually, one,” he replied, “and no more than 45 minutes including Q & A.”

Not quite what I had in mind but at least it would not take much effort, since I knew all about Cornwall having been born and bred there. I did some research to flesh out details, realising that stories from my childhood only skimmed the surface. The result was Cornwall: History, Mystery, Mansions and Mines. It proved a lot of effort for 45 minutes but at least I got them singing a rousing “Trelawney” at the end.

It seemed a pity to leave it at that. My New England wife suggested that since I loved Cornwall and enjoyed history, I should use the material to write an historical novel. She would help with editing. I was convinced. It would be a big project, imagined it would take at least a year. Moreover, I was passionate about telling the story of my Cornwall to a wider world.

The timeframe I settled on was the late 18th century. Widespread change was emerging: the agricultural and industrial revolutions and the invention of the steam engine, social unrest and the rise of Methodism, popular education and the influence of women, political corruption at home and expansion of empire overseas, the beginnings of the Enlightenment.

I assembled sources. Steven Watson, my tutor at Oxford, published The Reign of George III. My brother-in-law, Dr. J.R. Ravensdale had written the volume onCornwall for the National Trust. Lewis Namier devoted an entire chapter to the machination of the 44 Cornish MPs in his breakthrough work The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III. There were biographies of William Pitt the Elder (whose grandfather bought Boconnoc), the journals of John Wesley, books on mining, scores of articles to be woven into a coherent pattern. And then there was John Allen’s History of the Borough of Liskeard published in 1856 by John Philp, founder of The Cornish Times.

But above all were my personal experiences of growing up in Liskeard, living in those beautiful places, knowing those sturdily independent people, absorbing their legends and their story. This is what got my imagination surging.

Following expert advice, I planned to begin with an outline. I decided to build my story around Cornish gentry in great houses and miners and farm labourers in tiny cottages. I picked famous historical figures to mingle with my fictitious characters. I thought up a title, The Miner & the Viscount. I picked a start date, 1760. I typed the title and “Outline” on a fresh document. Then I got stuck.

The only outline I ever created was one summarising what I had already written, to keep things straight. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, my good man.” “But my lord, you already had me flogged in Chapter Six.”

I just started writing drafts. Fortunately, as I got into it the characters magically took over. Their loves, their hates, partnerships, rivalries, joys, sufferings, doings: their story became my story. I would finish a chapter and stare at my computer. What ever would happen next? And Willy Bunt would come into my mind. “Us just ’as to get on with it, zir, Oi’ll tell ’e what Oi’d do if Oi were ye.”

Location Research

Location Research

After three years and six rewrites I had a finished manuscript. A research trip to Cornwall would enable me to fill in a few details, add a little local colour. We visited Liskeard, Port Eliot, Boconnoc, Lanhydrock, Bodmin Moor, the tin and copper mines down west, absorbed the countryside, heard more stories about the people who lived there in the 18th century. We met Maureen Fuller, Grand Bard of the Cornish Gorsedh and she agreed to translate some dialogue into the ancient Cornish language, adding so much authenticity.

Back in Kentucky an experienced member of my writers’ group offered to burnish the final version, a little tweak here and there. After three more rewrites, 25,000 more words, and two more years we sent the manuscript to the publisher.

The story of Cornwall was finally mine to tell. Well, perhaps with a little help from Willy Bunt.


Thursday Thought: More Synchronicity

Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn

Mike and Anna Parris live in Cornwall near Perranporth. They have the first copy of my book sold in America. How did that happen?

They were touring in Yellowstone Park last fall when they ran into our Kentucky friends and neighbors, Chuck and Judy Heilman at the Old Faithful Inn. Chuck had bought the first ever copy of my book, and had taken it along to read on their trip. They got into conversation with the Parrises (who are very friendly), and learned they were from Cornwall. So they gave them the book, promising to collect it this summer.

A day later my daughter, Sarah’s mother, called me and said she was touring in Yellowstone Park with a friend from England. She overhead some tourists talking and asked if they were from England. “No, Cornwall,” they replied.

“My ex-husband is from Cornwall,” she said. “Aha,” they said, “We have just been given a historical novel from Cornwall, the author is from there, called Richard Hoskin.”

Pamela replied, “Aha aha, he is my ex-husband.”

We connected with the Parrises during our book tour of Cornwall and here we are at lunch in The Miner’s Arms in Mithians. The cider was delicious! They are a most interesting couple with a big family. They have a son-in-law who lives in nearby Perrancombe. It was he who found the ancestral home of Steve Hoskin who lives in Boulder near Sarah!



Thursday Thoughts: Home

Our amazing visit to my native Cornwall got me thinking about “home”. There is something about being an emigrant.

Lanyon Quoit

Lanyon Quoit

Functionally, Kentucky is home these days and a happy place to live, surrounded by friends, things to do, ways to fulfill our lives, places to go.

But there is something that draws about the place where one grow up, especially when it is as beautiful, as historic, as magical as Cornwall. The neolithic monuments to me symbolize Cornwall’s uniqueness, its mystique.

Lanyon Quoit is a striking monument in a stark setting.It was probably a burial chamber for a Celtic noble. Ding Dong mine is in the distant background.


Thursday Thoughts: The Turk’s Head


Here in Cornwall, Sarah and I came to Penzance where I will be speaking at the LitFest. One of our first ports of call (an appropriate idiom!) was the Turk’s Head, which is reputed to have been built in 1233. As Chapter 72 in “The Miner & the Viscount” describes, it’s the place where the miner Addis Penwarden was locked up in the gaol after the disturbance in the magistrates’ court.

“You say that Penwarden is here at the Turk’s Head?” asked Polkinghorne. “That seems strange, why here?”

“This is an old building, and the constables use the cell as the town gaol,” said Perry. “It’s the first inn in England to be called the Turk’s Head you know; it’s used for many purposes. It was built over five hundred years ago. They say that a party of Turks from Jerusalem invaded Penzance back then when they were excommunicated during the Sixth Crusade. Imagine that! Might be a bit of a tall yarn, more likely Barbary corsairs. Anyroad, there are still priests’ holes upstairs. And the floor above that is a fisherman’s loft used to store nets.”

I tried to find the old lock-up in the garden behind the inn, but it has been pulled down and the stone back wall is all that remains.

The bar is snug and offers a fine selection of hard ciders. Gary the publican recommended Old Rosie, a local favorite and delicious, but half a pint was enough. The alchol content was 7.4%!