Celtic Culture & heritage

Hannah Stacey - UK women's free-diving record holder, World Female Freediver of the Year 2004, movie stunt double

Hannah Stacey

Hannah was born in St Eval in Cornwall.

She learnt to swim in the ocean, spending much of her childhood at the beach bodysurfing. The love of the sea first inspired Hannah's interest in Freediving back in 2000.

Hannah has won two UK records, a UK title and competed in Nice, Ibiza, the Red Sea and Hawaii as a member of the UK team.

She was been named as the World's Best Female Freediver for 2004, beating off competition from national freediving champions from around the globe.

Hannah set a new national record in Cyprus for constant weight. She swam to a depth of 54 metres and back using just her own weight and a monofin.

Donald Mitchell Healey CBE - car designer, rally driver and speed record holder, winner of Monte Carlo Rally, expert water skier

Donald Mitchell Healey

Donald Healey was born on 3rd July 1898 in Perranporth, Cornwall, elder son of Frederick (John Frederick) and Emma Healey (née Mitchell) who at that time ran a general store there.

Donald became interested in all things mechanical at an early age, most particularly aircraft. He studied engineering while at Newquay College.

When he left his father bought him an expensive apprenticeship with Sopwith Aviation Company in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey and he joined Sopwith in 1914 continuing his engineering studies at Kingston Technical College.

Sopwith had sheds at the nearby Brooklands aerodrome and racing circuit.

Barely 16 when WW1 started, he volunteered in 1916 (before the end of his apprenticeship) for the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and earned his "wings" as a pilot. He went on night bombing raids and served on anti-Zeppelin patrols and also as a flying instructor.

Shot down by British anti-aircraft fire on one of the first night bomber missions of the war, after a further series of crashes he was invalided out of the RFC in November 1917 and spent the rest of the war checking aircraft components for the Air Ministry.

After the Armistice he returned to Cornwall, took a correspondence course in automobile engineering and opened the first garage in Perranporth in 1920.

Healey found rally driving and motor racing more interesting than his garage and its car hire business and used the garage to prepare cars for competition.

Sir Humphry Davy - inventor of the miners safety lamp, founder of Regents Park Zoo, chemist

Humphry Davy

Humphry Davy was born on the 17th December 1778 in Penzance, the son of a woodcarver .

His interest in scientific things was fostered by his acquaintance with Robert Duncan, a Penzance saddler who made electrical and mechanical models.

He went to school first in Penzance, then to Truro Grammar School when he was 15.

His father, Robert Davy, died, in 1794 leaving a widow and five children without much money.

At 16 he became apprenticed to Dr John Borlase, a Penzance surgeon.

Here his work involved mixing potions in the laboratory.

He set about systematically to prepare himself for a career in medicine by reading widely. Beginning with metaphysics and ethics and passing on to mathematics, then chemistry at the end of 1797, and within a few months of reading Nicholsons and Lavoisiers treatises on chemistry had produced a new theory of light and heat.

Then a chance meeting with a Bristol scientist, Dr Beddoes, led to his being offered a job as assistant in the newly opened Pneumatic Institution in Bristol in 1798.

Within four years he had established himself as a scientist through his experiments with gasses.

Bran and Sceolan - The Loyal Hounds of Irish Legendary Warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill

Fionn mac Cumhaill

The mythology of the Celtic peoples stretches back through the mists of time into a mysterious lost age. Although much was forgotten the stories passed on through oral tradition from generation to generation carried forward a memory and history of a magical past. Those that remained were preserved in the great works of Irish medieval literature. Tales that are steeped in the pre-Christian religious beliefs of the time. An age of wonder filled with magnificent, often flawed, heroes. Some gifted with supernatural abilities or aided by those possessed with magical skills. Pitted against dark forces also able to draw upon sourcery to achieve their ends. Animals and nature feature strongly in these stories, demonstrating the importance and connection that the Celtic people have to the environment in which they live. One such figure was Fionn mac Cumhaill, who is celebrated in Irish legend as a great warrior. The stories of Fionn and his followers the Fianna, form the Fenian Cycle (an Fhiannaíocht), many of them narrated in the voice of Fionn's son, the poet Oisín. It is one of the four major cycles of pre-christian Irish mythology along with the Mythological Cycle, the Ulster Cycle, and the Historical Cycle.

Fionn had two hunting dogs Bran and Sceolan. Intelligent and skilled in hunting they displayed a great loyalty to Fionn. Dogs are often known for these traits but with brother and sister Bran and Sceolan there was an added factor, for they were related to Fionn. Legend has it that they were born to Fionn’s aunt, Tuiren. This was at a time after she had married and fallen pregnant. Her husband Iollan Eachtach had been the lover of Uchtdealb who belonged to the Sidhe, which is a supernatural race with magical powers known in Irish, Scottish and Manx mythology. They belong to the Otherworld often associated with the Celtic pantheon of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Uchtdealb was jealous and turned Tuiren into dog. She remained in this form until the spell was broken, but by then she had given birth to the puppies who remained as dogs.

Richard Trevithick - inventor and father of industrial revoluation

Richard Trevithick

Richard Trevithick - an inventor, mining engineer, builder of wheeled steam engines years before Stephenson, one of the Fathers of the industrial revolution, overseas engineer, refused support or a pension from the British Government, died in poverty.

Richard Trevithick was born on 13th April 1771 in Tregajorran Cornwall, the son of the manager of Dolcoath Mine.

By the 1780s, as a boy he did experiments to improve the efficiency of the beam engines.His aim was to make smaller and lighter steam engines with stronger boilers to generate higher steam pressures and thus more power.

Richard was educated at Camborne School.

Trevithick was tall and strong.

At six feet two inches high and was known as the Cornish giant.

At the age of eighteen he could throw sledge hammers over the tops of engine houses. Trevithick also had the reputation of being one of the best wrestlers in Cornwall.

Percy Lane Oliver - founder of the first voluntary blood donor panel

Percy Lane Oliver

A Cornishman, Richard Lower, conducted the world's first blood transfusion. It took another Cornishman to set up the blood transfusion service.

Percy Lane Oliver was born in St. Ives in 1878 has slipped into relative obscurity since his death in 1944, but his actions will continue to help save the lives of millions of people worldwide as his pioneering blood donation service went from humble beginnings to a global phenomenon.

As a teenager he won a Science and Art Scholarship. He did well in his exams but was rejected by the Medical Board and the aspiring doctor ended up working as an assistant librarian with Camberwell Borough Council in 1893.

In 1901 he was transferred to the Town Hall staff, where he remained until his retirement. In the years leading up to the First World War, Percy was a founder member for the Camberwell Division of the British Red Cross and became its Honorary Secretary in 1910.

During the war, he served in the Royal Naval Air Service, stationed at Crystal Palace, but his contribution to the local war effort was far greater. With the help of his wife, Percy set up and managed four refugee hostels in Camberwell for those fleeing persecution. In 1918 he was summoned to Buckingham Palace to be awarded an OBE by King George V for his charitable work.

But his greatest contribution was yet to come.

Goldsworthy Gurney - Surgeon, chemist, architect & inventor, invented limelight

Goldsworthy Gurney

Goldsworthy Gurney was born at Treator near Padstow on 14 February 1793.

Goldsworthy went to Truro Grammar School.

After leaving school studied medicine with a Dr Avery at Wadebridge and took over the practice in 1813.

He married a farmer's daughter, Elizabeth Symons, from Launcells and settled in Wadebridge where he practiced as a surgeon.

In 1823 was awarded an Isis gold medal of the Royal Society of Arts for devising an oxy-hydrogen blowpipe (similar to a Bunsen burner).

In 1830, Gurney leased some land overlooking Summerleaze Beach at Bude and started construction of a new house to be built amongst the sand hills. The property rested on a concrete raft foundation, one of the earliest examples of this form.

William John Burley - crime writer, best known for his books featuring the detective Charles Wycliffe, basis of the popular Wycliffe television series

William John Burley

Burley was born on 1 August 1914 in Falmouth, Cornwall.

Before he began writing, he was employed in senior management with various gas companies, before giving it up after the Second World War when he obtained a scholarship to study zoology at Balliol College, Oxford.

After obtaining an honours degree he became a teacher.

Appointed head of biology, first at Richmond & East Sheen County Grammar School in 1953, then at Newquay Grammar School in 1955, he was well established as a writer by the time he retired at the age of 60 in 1974.

He died at his home in Holywell, Cornwall, on 15 November 2002.  

Michael Ward - character actor who appeared in nearly eighty films between 1947 and 1978

Michael Ward

George William Everard Yoe Ward was born in Carnmenellis, Cornwall on 9 April 1909 to clergyman William George Henry Ward and his wife Annie.

He trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and won his first film role in 1947 playing Mr Trafford in Alexander Korda's 'An Ideal Husband'.

In between the years 1947 and 1960 and now known as Michael Ward, he appeared in no fewer than 30 films, making him one of Britain's busiest and most recognisable character actors.

As well as five 'Carry On' films, Ward also appeared in four Norman Wisdom films and six made by the Boulting brothers.

In the early 1960s television started to take over Ward's career and until his retirement in 1978 he appeared in (amongst many others) 'The Jack Benny Programme', 'The Avengers', 'The Morecambe and Wise Show', 'Dixon of Dock Green', 'The Two Ronnies', 'Armchair Theatre', 'Rising Damp' and 'Sykes'.

Richard Lemon Lander - Cornish explorer of western Africa, determined the source of the River Niger

Richard Lemon Lander

Richard Lander was the son of a Truro innkeeper, born in the Fighting Cocks Inn (later the Dolphin Inn) on 8 February 1804

Lander's explorations began as an assistant to the Scottish explorer Hugh Clapperton on an expedition to Western Africa in 1825.

Clapperton died in April 1827 near Sokoto, in present-day Nigeria, leaving Lander as the only surviving European member of the expedition. He proceeded southeast before returning to Britain in July 1828.

Lander returned to West Africa in 1830, accompanied by his brother John.

They landed at Badagri on 22 March 1830 and followed the lower River Niger from Bussa to the sea. After exploring about 160 kilometres of the River Niger upstream, they returned to explore the River Benue and Niger Delta. They travelled back to Britain in 1831.

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