The National Trust (NT) has announced to the Celtic League that it will be shortly drafting a position statement on using the Cornish language on signs in its Cornish properties. The development seems to be a revision of its previous position, as outlined in a letter to the League last January, which argued that to have dual signage on the properties "has the potential to undermine aspects of our charitable core purpose." However in a letter received this week by Kernow Branch Secretary, Michael Chappell, the NT state:
"We have been looking into the wider subject, and taking the advice and guidance to help to establish the requirements of the European Charter and its impact on organisations like the Trust. It is likely that we shall be drafting a position statement, similar to that produced by Cornwall Council, which we shall share widely in due course."
In their letter the NT goes on to say that "it seems reasonable to suppose that in the future we may see some use of the language on property welcome signs, with perhaps a more extensive exploration through our Cornish properties' web pages."
The campaign to pressurise the NT (Cornwall) to use the Cornish language on their properties has been vigorously pursued by the Kernow branch for almost a year, despite the branch being urged to show caution by some individuals and organisations in the Cornish movement (in case the campaign upset the NT!) After receiving the response from the NT in January, Mr Chappell resolved to propose a motion to the NT annual general meeting (AGM) later this year calling for the organisation to include Cornish on their signs. In addition, a written question has also been submitted to the NT to be raised at its AGM by Mr Chappell, about the issue of the Cornish language on signs at its properties in Cornwall.
The Kernow branch campaign has received the support of a prominent Celtic academic and author of a government funded report on the Cornish language, Professor Kenneth Mackinnon. Professor MacKinnon told the branch earlier this year that he had worked for the inclusion of the Scottish language on signs of national heritage properties in Scotland and, as a consultant to charitable organisations in Scotland, he did not understand the NT position. Moreover
Professor MacKinnon pointed out to the NT that:
"HM Government signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in regard to Cornish and this was registered on 18th March 2003 ... As this is a matter of factual parliamentary record I feel that you should look further into this, and to revise your policies accordingly."
As part of their campaign, the Kernow branch has also been in touch with League members in Wales who informed the branch that NT properties there included the welsh language.
In November 2009, Cornwall Council published its most ambitious bilingual signage policy to date, stating that all old road signs in Cornwall would be replaced with bilingual ones in the Cornish and English languages.
Mr Chappell told the general secretary of the League, following receipt of the letter from the NT:
"I am delighted by this result. It just shows that small organisations such as ours can influence the direction of multi million pound organisations such as the NT. People should not be afraid of expressing what they feel about such
issues. The Cornish language is now protected under the European charter and the NT simply needs to comply with its regulations. Unless we demand this as our right, we will continue to be ignored."
The full test of the letter can be found below:
"3rd June 2010
Dear Mr Chappell
I believe that you have expressed an interest in encouraging the National trust to consider using the Cornish language in various ways, so I thought you might appreciate an update on progress.
We have been looking into the wider subject, and taking the advice and guidance to help to establish the requirements of the European Charter and its impact on organisations like the Trust. It is likely that we shall be drafting a position
statement, similar to that produced by Cornwall Council, which we shall share widely in due course. This position statement will take time to develop and agree, but we hope to have something in draft form this summer.
I hope that you will be pleased to hear that things are moving and that the Trust is giving time and consideration to this subject, which is clearly close to your heart. Of course we cannot confirm anything at this stage, but it seems reasonable to suppose that in the future we may see some use of the language on property welcome signs, with perhaps a more extensive exploration through our Cornish properties' web pages.
With best wishes
Assistant Director, Operations"
This article prepared for Celtic News by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot General Secretary Celtic League. For follow-up comment or clarification contact:
Tel: 0044 (0)1209315884
rhisiart.talebot [at] gmail.com
gensec [at] celticleague.net
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information