Plea to preserve cottage of Clemo, Cornwall's poet

Admirers of the Cornish poet and novelist Jack Clemo are trying to save the granite cottage where he was born, lived and produced the bulk of his acclaimed work.

The small semi-detached property faces demolition at the hands of Europe's largest producer of kaolin and china clay. The company, Goonvean Ltd, says the cottage, in the village of Goonamaris in central Cornwall, is falling apart and it needs the site for a laboratory.

But fans of the writer, once described as one of the most original of the 20th century, say the cottage must be saved. Clemo left it in 1975 and died in 1994, at 78.

Dr Philip Payton, director of the Institute of Cornish Studies in Truro, said he would like to see the cottage as a museum. "You cannot think about Jack Clemo without thinking about the china clay country. And you cannot think about the china clay country in any serious sense without pondering about Jack Clemo.

"To obliterate the cottage would be to erase [Clemo] from the landscape of Cornwall. He is hugely important in a Cornish context and also as an international poet. He is one of the greats. There is something about Jack Clemo's cottage that says so much about him as a person. It is so humble and in such a bleak place and it speaks volumes about his disabilities and achievements."

Clemo, whose father was an illiterate clay-kiln worker, suffered his first attack of temporary blindness at five. By the time he was 39 he was permanently blind and had been deaf for 20 years.

But he produced a considerable body of work that bore the influence of the white clay landscape as well as his religious upbringing. He believed the best way to experience God was through sexual communion, and claimed "a talent for the erotic, for being mystical and theological about it".

His fans say the cottage is in the heart of Cornwall's clay country and is a fitting reminder of the influence on his work of his surroundings. In the poem A Calvinist of Love, he wrote: "This bare clay pit is truest setting, For love like ours, No bed of flowers, But sand ledge for our petting."

With some irony, the clay landscape that surrounded Clemo most of his life may be responsible for the demolition of his old home. Goonvean, which employs 200 people, wants to knock it down to create a research laboratory and improve the entrance to its headquarters.

Andrew McGowan, the managing director, said: "The cottage is in extremely poor condition. It has rising damp and has been boarded up since Christmas. We had vandals inside and we are worried about safety. We have thought of every way we could find a use for the cottage but we cannot. We need to improve our service to customers and guarantee employment for people."

He said he had spoken to the county's archaeological unit about what it may wish to remove before demolition, and he offered the cottage to anyone wishing to take it down and rebuild it somewhere else.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions