You’re probably wondering why on earth I should want to dedicate a page entirely to a village pub down in the depths of Cornwall? Well this pub – at least for me – has been no ordinary village pub. In fact it has been the location for probably the two most important events in my adult life. Firstly it’s where way back in 1972 my wife and I announced our engagement and secondly, it was where I first met the late Charlie Bate and became so enthused with the accordion – in particular – HIS
Back In February 1965, the EFDSS (English Folk Dance & Song Society) staged a Folk Prom in London’s Albert hall. One of the performers at that festival was the Late Charlie Bate who performed among other things, the Padstow May Song. Also attending that festival as part of the massed band was another musician – Ted Wright – who was the accordionist for the original Rangers Band. The two men struck up a friendship and Ted was invited to visit Padstow and experience Mayday first hand. Ted then suggested that my future father-in-law Bill Warder (Snr) might join him and that’s pretty much how it all began..
The Cornish Arms very quickly became the ‘base camp’ for Bill. It boasted a rich musical tradition where the church choir would sing in the bar alongside local singers Charlie Pitman and Charlie Bate. At that time, the Landlady was a Mrs Watson, and round the back of the pub she had a caravan (complete with free range chickens) and for the first few years, this became home for Bill and his young family during their visits. Over the next few years, Bill was joined by other musician friends, John Dawes, Peter Warren and my own father Peter Hursey and their families, so It wasn’t long before Mayday became a permanent fixture in every-bodies calender.
You cannot speak of the Cornish Arms without thinking of Peter Fitter. Peter took over the pub around 1968 and he remained there until 2007 when he finally retired through ill health. Pick the right night, and he could be the most cantankerous fella you could want to meet, nevertheless, he was without doubt one of the best pub landlords around and every year for something approaching 40 plus years, we were always made very welcome. Furthermore, during those years we had some of the most amazing evenings filled with Music, Song and good company and those memories will stay with me for ever.
Once Peter retired, the pub was never really the same again. There were a few different managers, but nonestayed very long. Then in 2009 we heard the news that Rick Stein had purchased the lease and the feeling was that this would probably mean the demise of the Cornish Arms as a village local. The pub has had quite a bit of refurbishment work carried out, some of which has come with a bit of an Ikea flavour (definitely not to my taste) and it clearly now leans more toward being a restaurant business as apposed to being the local pub. However, all is not lost as there has been some effort to retain a small part of it’s ‘Local’ status as one of the table areas in the main bar has been made ‘Off Limits’ for food and designated for local drinkers only, so a small but significant gesture.
I do wonder what would have become of the pub if it had been left up to the brewery, as It is more than a possibility that the pub may have been closed all together. However, due to Rick Stein’s celebrity status, the car park remains full and I am pleased that the pub thus far at least, continues to survive. Moreover, the staff have endeavored to make our group very welcome each year and have allowed us to continue our musical traditions so again, I offer thanks for this and I truly hope that it will be allowed to continue into the future so we might have a few more memorable nights.
From the towns all Inns have been driven: from the villages most….
Change your hearts or you will lose your Inns and you will deserve to have lost them.
But when you have lost your Inns drown your empty selves,
you will have lost the last of England.