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Beach Bible: new app brings God's Word to Cornish speakers

It’s taken six translators more than 20 years, but today, Cornwall’s 532,300-strong population can read the Bible online ...

It’s taken six translators more than 20 years, but today, Cornwall’s 532,300-strong population can read the Bible online.

Or at least, part of it. The New Testament and Psalms are now available as an app that’s intended to bring God to the Cornish smartphone. The app’s been produced with the support of Bible Society.

It follows the county receiving National Minority status in April.

It’s expected to bolster Cornwall’s many churches and was used in services to mark the end of Speak Cornish Week, including at Truro Cathedral.

The Revd Jane Kneebone, Associate priest of St Michael’s Newquay and chairman of the Bishop’s ecumenical group for services in Cornish, said, “Cornish is on an upward wave. It’s gaining in popularity.”

She said that the new app, produced with the help of Bible Society, gave “the language probity and ratifies its existence”.

She added, “I really hope it will encourage more uptake of the speaking of the language. It’s putting Cornish before people’s eyes.”

Translator Graham Sandercock said it was “disgraceful” it has taken so long to see the New Testament produced in Cornish.

“The Cornish are very proud of their heritage, “he said. “The language is becoming more respectable. The National Minority status has made a difference, but there was impetus before that.”

He said that the app made the Bible “accessible and convenient” for people.

“We don’t know what the result will be, but it will be good,” he said.

There are an estimated 500 fluent Cornish speakers and a further 3-4,000 who can hold a conversation. On Perranporth beach where St Piran reputedly brought Christianity to Cornwall in the 5th century, 45-year-old Conan Jenkin from Truro is reading the app to his children Elowenn (7), Kelyn (6) and Davey (2).

“I’m more likely to read Bible stories to them now it’s an app,” he said.

Elowenn and Kelyn put in requests for Noah’s Ark and Jonah and the whale.

“It’s brilliant,’ says Conan. “Most of the world has scripture and we have had to wait an awful long time. Now I can take it wherever I want. I can read any bit of the Bible at any time.”

But surfers on Perranporth’s beach found the new app more challenging. Emily Owen (23) and Matt Timms (38) are leading a surfing beach mission.

“It’s amazing how you can read French or Spanish and make sense of it,” said Emily, “but Cornish looks so foreign.

“But to be honest, anything that makes the Bible accessible to people has got to be a good thing.”

The new app was translated from Hebrew and Greek and drew on other Celtic languages including Breton, when Cornish words weren’t available.

The message of the Angel Gabriel to Mary telling her that she will give birth to Jesus, read in every church at Christmas becomes, “Hayl, leun a ras, an Ardloedh genes. Bennigys os yn mysk benynes.”

The opening line of the Lord’s prayer goes from “Father, hallowed be thy name”, to “Pan wrewgh psyi, leverewgh, a Das, sanshes re bo dha hanow”.

And John 3:16, possibly the most well-known Bible verse, “For God so loved the world,’ is translated as, “Rag kemmys y karas Duw an bys.”

The New Testament and Psalms joins a small number of books that are translated into Cornish, including Tin-Tin, A Christmas Carol and Alice in Wonderland.

It can be found at


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