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St Ives Feast Day And Hurling The Silver Ball - A Weird And Wacky Cornish Celebration

St Ives Feast Day is held on the first Monday after the 3rd February every year. It is held to celebrate the consecration of the Parish Church of St Ia (Eia) in 1434 AD. This year (2017) it is on Monday February 6th.

A Little Bit About St Ia, St Ives Parish Church

St Ia Church is a beautiful church, that I always think reminds me of an upturned boat inside. It is dedicated to the Celtic saint St. Ia, and also to St. Andrew, patron saint of Fishermen and St Peter, the Rock. The church is built of Cornish granite, almost on the harbour in the town. Its tower is one of the tallest in Cornwall, standing over eighty feet high. It is said to be like a shepherd watching over its flock on land and sea.

The present church building was consecrated in 1434 which is when Feast Day commenced.

What Happens On Feast Day?

Feast Day starts early at 9:30am. There is a mayoral procession through town, led by the Mayoress and church leaders, dressed in their finery and garlanded with ivy.

st ives feast day mayor parade guildhall st ives cornwall

There is traditional Cornish music played by Bagas Porthia (lots of accordians, pipes and drums).

st ives feast day band st ives cornwall

School children from St Uny school (in Carbis Bay) also dance with the procession.

st ives feast day dancing st ives cornwall

The procession starts from The Guildhall, goes along Tregenna Place down through Market Place.

st ives fesat day band market place st ives cornwall

It then goes along Wharf Road...

st ives feast day wharf road st ives cornwall

st ives feast day drummer st ives cornwall

up Fore Street and along down The Digey.

st ives feast day the digey parade st ives cornwall

It then progresses along Porthmeor to Venton Ia - also called St Eia's Well, at the bottom of Porthmeor Hill.

Is it St Ia or St Eia? Well, both apparently are correct. For ease of reading on the internet I am going to use St Eia (St Ia looks like LA rather than IA).

The well is supposed to hold the holy waters of St Eia.

There is a short service at the well, led by the vicar of St Ives Parish Church. This usually consists of a prayer, a hymn and the blessing of the wall and the people with the holy waters (you might get a bit wet if you stand too close!).

st ives feast day porthmeor well st eia st ives cornwall

The procession then goes back along Porthmeor...

st ives feast day school children parade st ives cornwall

along Fore Street...

st ives feast day parade fore street st ives cornwall

though town to the church yard, overlooking Lambeth Walk. The children, dancers and musicians lead the procession. The Mayoress is at the back of the line and should walk slowly, so very young children get to touch the silver ball.

At 10:30am the Mayoress stands at the wall of the Parish Church, overlooking Lambeth Walk and the beach.

st ives feast day hurling silver ball mayor ball st ives cornwall

She throws the ball over the wall to the hordes of school children waiting below. The ball is grabbed by a child who makes a mad dash away from everyone.

st ives hurling silver ball beach st ives cornwall

All of the other children attempt to get the silver ball off each other.

st ives hurling silver ball beach st ives cornwall

About Hurling The Silver Ball

Hurling the Silver Ball is one of Cornwall’s most ancient and intriguing customs. The game, also known as Cornish Hurling, dates back at least one thousand years, is of unknown origin, and involves much physical rough and tumble as each side (traditionally the ‘countrymen’ and ‘townsmen’ of a particular parish) tries to keep possession of a cricket ball-sized ball made of apple wood coated in silver. These days, Cornish Hurling has all but disappeared, although it is still played once a year on Feast Days in St Ives and St Columb Major, near Newquay.

Between 10:30 and 11am there is a coffee morning held in The Guildhall by The Friends Of Edward Hain Memorial Hospital. There is a raffle to help them to raise funds and the Mayoress attends this.

At 11am The Western Hunt (yes hunt as in horse and hounds) meet in Royal Square. They have a drink from The Stirrup Cup given to them by the Mayoress.

st ives feast day hurling silver ball western hunt st ives cornwall

I do wonder how much longer this part of the tradition will last - there are often hunt protesters there.

st ives feast day hurling silver ball western hunt st ives cornwall

The Mayoress goes back to The Guildhall at 11:30am where she distributes pennies to children under 7.

At 12 midday, the child with the silver ball returns it to the steps of The Guildhall and hands it to the Mayor. The child is presented with a silver commemorative coin in return for the silver ball.

The Mayoress then goes onto the balcony with her councillors and they throw freshly minted pennies down to the crowd below.

Feast Day is a wonderfully wacky, enjoyable Cornish tradition which is very much kept alive in St Ives. The school children especially love it as they get the day off school!

On the Sunday before Feast Day (this year it is Sunday 5th February) there are Feast Eve celebrations too.

Feast Eve is the Sunday before Feast Day. This year it falls on Sunday 5th February.

9:45 am Parish Mass at St Ia Parish Church.
7pm St Ives Guizers will be playing at the Halsetown Inn to mark Feast Eve. All welcome - wear a mask!

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