Part One : A Tax on The Tin Man
To some, Mebyon Kernow are a countryside political party whose interests lie in preserving the wonder of Cornish hedgerows, language and the dignity - perhaps divinity - of the Veil of Kernow. To others, MK are a radicalised group that, for the last three centuries, have sought nothing but the total severance and of Cornwall from England, at whatever costs. Then there are those who have never heard of Mebyon Kernow.
MK have fascinated me since I was a child. The rumours you would hear in the playground… so-and-so’s dad was an “MKer” or, “the MEB did it,” were enchanting and memorable. More recently I have started investigating Mebyon Kernow: I want to get inside the Cornish Nationalist Party. To learn and understand and report.
A Brief History of Mebyon Kernow
Mebyon Kernow, “Sons of Kernow”, were started in 1732 after the famous Tregenny uprising in which a group of farmers from East Cornwall refused to pay the “stanner lodge,” a tax on all produce that was shipped with tin. These farmers felt it unfair that they should have to pay the same tax on dairy as the miners had to pay on their ore. With a sympathetic Methodist church and mining community support they gained considerable political momentum, having the tax repealed in 1735.
After this victory, MK continued to exercise political weight locally and in Parliament. At its height in the 1860s MK was said to “command the country and the Cornish countryman across the world.” Then things changed. It is unclear why – though some experts cite the increase in trade union power – but at the start of 20th Century MK started becoming a more underground movement, losing seats in Parliament steadily until they had no representation. The fulcrum was the hanging of the Pencarrow Three in 1930. Mebyon Kerno went off the political radar and were shunned at home and upcountry. Radicalised, they focused on more alternative methods of protest and rebellion.
Today they are a clandestine, militant organisation that hides behind the façade of a normal political and cultural party. The Mebyon Kernow Paramilitary wing (MKU) was almost on Bush’s Axis of Evil and, as I and others have been discovering, many of their strategies and ideals tie them in tightly with modern terrorist organisations. Over the next few weeks I will be providing an account of my investigation over the last two months and… whatever the future holds, I will be offering reportage on my investigations.
Part Two, "In an Inn in Hale" is published here.