Peter Aubrey Seymour Pool, M.A.
Peter Pool was born in Penzance in 1933 and attended St Erbyn's School in the town. He then read law at Keble College, Oxford, and trained as a solicitor in London. While there he joined the London Cornish Association and learned Cornish with Robert Morton Nance, a pioneer of the Cornish Revivalist movement who had formulated the `unified' grammar of the language in the 1920s from its scanty remains. During Pool's young manhood, study of Cornish was considered an eccentric activity, even a waste of time, and it is no small thanks to him and his fellow enthusiasts that the subject now figures in the G.C.S.E. syllabus, is accredited by the Institute of Linguists and studied in a number of European countries. Having become proficient in the language under Nance, Pool taught it in London and published Cornish for Beginners in 1958, a book still in use today. After working in London for several years he was able to return to Penzance in the 1950s to set up his own legal practice and, more importantly for him, pursue on-the-spot research into local history, archaeology and the Cornish language. He was elected a language bard of the Cornish Gorsedd in 1955, adopting the bardic name of Gwas Galva (servant of Galver) and soon established his credentials as an archaeologist. With Professor Charles Thomas, who was to become the first director of the Institute of Cornish Studies when it was established in 1970, Pool wrote The Antiquities of Penwith (1954) and was later appointed a research fellow in history at the Institute. He helped to found the Cornish Language Board and was its first secretary. Soon after returning to Cornwall, Pool discovered, under a butcher's bed in St Buryan, a sixteenth-century manuscript by John Penheleg, head bailiff of the Arundells of Lanherne of the Hundred of Penwith, and published The Typography of the Penheleg Manuscript in 1959.
A labour of love, and a fascinating compilation, was his revised edition of Nance's A Glossary of Cornish Sea Words, published in 1963. Pool's marriage in 1965 to a like-minded Celtic-Cornish scholar involved moving house to Zennor, a small parish on the exposed north coast, epitomising all he loved most about Cornwall, even the plaque on his house recording John Davey, one of the last speakers of traditional Cornish. Pool's nose for the buried treasures of local history soon unearthed some gems in Zennor. The Life of Henry Quick, the `peasant poet' of Zennor, appeared in 1963 and Pool's edition of the diary of a nineteenth-century Zennor farmer, James Stevens, A Cornish Farmer's Diary, in 1977. Not surprisingly, Pool was attracted to Dr William Borlase, F.R.S. (1696-1772), the Cornish antiquary and naturalist, scholar and cleric, and he spent many years studying his life and work before he was ready to publish the first full-length biography, William Borlase, (1986) based to a large extent on Borlase's extensive correspondence deposited in the Penzance Library. Pool read a paper on the subject to the Antiquaries in 1972 to mark the bicentenary of Borlase's death. When Pool had to return to live in Penzance he produced The History of the Town and Borough of Penzance in 1974 and in 1988 he was made an Honorary Freeman for his `eminent services to the town', which included the offices of chairman, archivist and trustee of the Penzance Library, president of Penzance Old Cornwall Society and legal adviser to the Penzance Arts Centre. He was also a member of the council of the Cornish Gorsedd, vice-president of the Celtic Congress, president of the Royal Institution of Cornwall from 1974-6 and recipient of two Henwood Medals for research in his capacity as editor of the Institute's journal. Pool was a founder member of Agan Tavas (Our Tongue), for the promotion of unified Cornish and, as interest in the topic grew, so dissident voices began to be raised in the 1990s demanding sweeping changes to Nance's `unified' language. Pool took a cautious stand on this, advising thorough research before revisions were introduced and one of his last polemics was The Second Death of Cornish (1995). Had he lived he would have been a formidable advocate. He died on 18 May 1996 and is buried in the bleak churchyard at Zennor near the grave of Robert Morton Nance and under the shadow of Carn Galver from which he took his bardic name.