‘Prederow a-dhann avalen’ Thoughts from under an apple tree

The last apple hanging (Photo credit: Tony Phillips)

Thank you so much to Tony Phillips from Klass an Hay for writing this and sharing some Cornish language with us. We really enjoyed the Cornish language session at Tehidy Orchard BioBlitz last summer and were really glad he agreed to write some of this up for us here. To learn more Cornish language with Tony see details below.

Over many hundreds of years Cornish apple juice (sugen aval) and Cornish cider (cider kernewek) has been made using apple presses (avalwaskow), with the fruit picked, crushed and then, for cider, naturally fermented. I’m told that approximately 36 apples are required for a gallon of cider, in a process which can take many months to mature. In fact, by the 18th century cider had become so popular that there are claims that many Cornish farm labourers received up to a fifth of their wages in drink!

Simply listing the names of some of the many local varieties of apple found in a Cornish orchard (avalennek) can begin to give us a real taste of Cornish (blas a Gernewek) and a growing sense of Cornish language, dialect and culture over successive seasons, with names like Cornish Gillyflower, Spiced Pippin, Cornish Mother, Pigs Snout, Cornish Pine and Snell’s Glass Apple for example.

The importance of apples in both Cornish life and language is also shown in the use made of the Cornish word ‘aval(ow)’ for ‘apple(s)’ (as used above in bold) from ‘aval briansen’ (Adam’s apple) and ‘menta aval’ (apple mint), for example, to ‘avalow rudhlos’ (russet apples) and ‘aval klyji’ (toffee apple).

Other fruit & veg have also been named using the Cornish root word ‘aval’, for example:

aval kerensa  –  love apple
aval paradhis  –  paradise apple
aval dor  –  earth apple
owraval  –  gold apple
lymm aval  –  sharp apple
aval gwlanek  –  woolly apple

which I’m sure you will identify as tomato, grapefruit, potato, orange, lemon and peach respectively. Furthermore, a pineapple is a pinaval or sometimes known as aval saban, a very literal ‘pine apple’.

As we come to the Winter Solstice & the New Year let’s not forget to celebrate the Apple Wassail. The purpose of wassailing is to ‘bless’ the trees to produce a good harvest for the coming year and generally takes place on Twelfth Night (January 5th), or sometimes on 17th January, known as Old Twelfth Night.

Whilst ceremonies of each wassail can vary from community to community they do usually involve bonfires, singing, dancing & drinking mulled cider, and often with a hearty verse and more of the ‘Cornish Wassail Song’:

Wassailing at Kehellend Horticultural Trust 2019(?)

“….. Now Christmas is comen and New Year begin,

Pray open your door and let us come in …..

….. We hope that your apple trees will prosper and bear

And bring forth good cider when we come next year …..”

Finally, as a child, I do remember being told more than once : ‘aval pub-dydh ……..’ / an apple a day …….

If you would like to find out more about learning Cornish, from beginners to grade 4, then please visit our website www.klassanhay.org.uk or contact the co-ordinator, Tony Phillips, on klassanhay@gmail.com for further information. Klass an Hay is based in Penzance but classes are currently run on-line on weekday evenings.

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