Sally Kindberg and St Ia

A while ago my interest in early Celtic saints resulted in a series of drawings. Walking in Cornwall has always been one of my joys, and the story and image of St Ia, patron saint of St Ives, gripped my imagination. She possibly didn’t actually travel on a leaf from Ireland, more probably arriving by coracle, but then I wondered what other forms of transport she might have used, powered by positive belief and optimism?

A recent trip to Penzance in Cornwall was challenging – it coincided with the arrival of Storm Kathleen.  Gusts of 45-50mph made my usual exploratory walks rather tricky.  If the wind (and rain) was behind me, which it was when I tried walking along the coast to St Michael’s Mount, I sped along. Flying was enjoyable until I was blown sideways and encountered a couple of walls.  It was the first time I’d seen the sturdy Scillonian, which takes passengers and supplies to the Isles of Scilly, sheltering in Penzance harbour.

I caught a bus to St Ives, which was relatively calm and dry for the couple of hours I was there, taking my image of St Ia with me, looking for the Holy Well I’d seen before, underneath a nut grove, in a ferny hollow below the path to Lelant.  This time the rain drove me back to St Ives, and I took shelter in the Huers’ Hut perched on a clifftop. In the old days a lookout known as a huer, with a giant conical megaphone and waving gorse branches above his head, would indicate the position of shoals of pilchards to the fishing boats waiting below.

Eventually, accompanied by St Ia, I drank a cup of tea at a cafe overlooking Porthmeor Beach, dreaming of the times I’d swum there, but now watching the surfers tumbling about amongst the waves.


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