I am writing to the Virgin Islands community from a small village in Cornwall in the United Kingdom about a figure we share in common: the late Reverend Ralph Perry-Gore, who has been mentioned in The BVI Beacon over the years.

Before Mr. Perry-Gore came to Tortola in 1935 to serve as the priest at St. George’s in Road Town, he had been curate at St. George’s in Nanpean, Cornwall, another small rural parish. I am writing to inform readers that Mr. Perry-Gore’s memory has recently been celebrated in his once home of Nanpean.

Over the past few months, the world-renowned theatre group “Kneehigh Theatre” has been commissioning artists, musicians and theatre practitioners to create “random acts of art” in their community. The idea is that little moments of joy would spread through the communities of the “clay country” in Cornwall during this turbulent year we have had. All the acts of art were designed to be performed in a Covid-19-safe manner: They weren’t directly publicised and therefore were performed for whoever chanced to see them.


Act of art

My act of art was based on an extraordinary event which all started with Mr. Perry-Gore in 1933. The event was witnessed by my Grandmother Mona Trethewey (nee Whitford), then just 9 years old, and now 97 years old! The winter of 1933 had been especially cold, and amid the backdrop of the Great Depression the clay pits in the villages around Nanpean froze solid. Mr. Perry-Gore saw an opportunity for some light relief and gathered jam jars, filled them with candles, and placed them around the edge of the frozen clay pit. Then he ice-skated with the boys of the village.

Over the last few months, I have written a song inspired by this amazing story and was then paired up with automata-maker extraordinaire Tony Crosby, who made a moving model of Mr. Perry-Gore and mounted it on a cart for me. Then I walked through the village singing and playing the violin and re-telling this story to whoever I chanced to meet. It was an incredible experience passing on this tale to the villagers. Most of them knew nothing about it, and some didn’t know that the current site of the village football pitch was once a clay pit, let alone a one-time ice rink!


More info

Any readers who want to read more about this event, see photographs and watch a video retelling the story can visit my website at www.richardtrethewey.org/news. I would love to hear from anyone with connections to Mr. Perry-Gore or memories or photographs, as I have never seen his image. Please do get in contact at tretheweyrichard@gmail.com, through my website, or write to me at 12 Crescent Road, Truro, Cornwall, TR1 3EP, United Kingdom.