Reviews

www.peterpool.co.uk - a review

Vyajor gans Geryow (Bert Biscoe). May 2020.

Peter Pool (Gwas Galva) died in 1996, and his widow, Audrey, in 1916. Since her death the literary estate of P A S Pool has passed to his brother, Andrew.

Pool was an eminent, popular and exceptional Cornish scholar, the best of his generation, whose work populates journals, bookshelves and libraries wherever Cornish life and history is evident. He was historian, archaeologist and linguist, and brought these disciplines together into a unique and, as Charles Thomas describes in his obituary, invaluable cross-referenced body of work.

Andrew Pool has done all of us a great service by developing a website to include all his brother’s published work. He has combed the RIC Journal and many others, and has painstakingly reproduced all of it. As well as being a memorial to a deeply loved and revered brother, the resultant website – peterpool.co.uk – is a major research resource.

It is, however, much, much more. Peter Pool was a polymath, an eclectic intellect, who not only studied, but also engaged in, Cornish life. He was a leading cultural figure in post-War Cornwall, a towering figure – a solicitor, director of his family firm, J & F Pool of Hayle, a Bard of Gorsedh Kernow, a treasurer and Chairman of many societies and associations  – and, like his close and loyal friend, the late Charles Thomas, he could write. His research came alive through his prose, and this makes the website which encapsulates his written work not just a resource but also a pleasure.

He immersed himself in his subjects. In the area of language he became a controversialist, publishing pamphlets which still evoke passionate responses today, a quarter of a century after his death. We should all thank and applaud Andrew for his devotion to his brother, that has led to such a painstaking task being undertaken and completed. The site is easily navigable, very well designed, legible and cogent. I have travelled through it and around it easily and with long stays at many points to drink of Pool’s generous scholarship!

Amongst his many achievements, the two which I personally hold dear are his slim, intense biography of Henry Quick, of Zennor – a poor poet who had a gift which he used to survive in a harder world than ours. I had the great pleasure to share in the rediscovery of Richard Pentreath’s 1843 portrait of Quick which will, eventually hang, by public subscription, in the library at Kresen Kernow, celebrating all those for whom setting pen to paper is a natural compulsion. If Peter Pool had not made his study of Quick, he would have disappeared from view by now. As it is, he is probably better known now than he was in his lifetime. And I’m sure Peter Pool, who would be deeply thrilled by Kresen Kernow, would consider such a tribute to be appropriate and just.

As well as republishing the works of his hero, William Borlase, whose biography he wrote, Peter Pool alighted upon the Diary of James Stevens of Zennor and Sancreed. This he annotated, edited and published. Like the writings of the Penders of Mousehole, and of many others throughout Cornwall (as well as the diaspora diarists whose work lies scattered in family archives and historical centres throughout the USA and Australia), Stevens captured the life and preoccupations of his time and his world. Pool recognized in the terse style and clear observation, the listing of tasks and accounting tables, a mind and written style which belied the station of the Master of Foage and Zennor Church Warden. Like Barclay Fox before him, Stevens recorded his mind – we owe our access to it to the devotion, skill and passion of Peter (PAS) Pool.

And what he did for Quick, Borlase, Stevens and Penzance, his brother Andrew has now done for him – to all our enduring benefits.

The Cornishman

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