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Star of county heritage

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: October 28, 2008

Professor Charles Thomas with a portrait of his great, great grandfather, Captain Charles Thomas.

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A CORNISHMAN who has made an extraordinary personal contribution to preserving and promoting the county's rich heritage has been honoured with the Jenner Medal.

Lady Mary Holborow, Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, made the presentation to Professor Charles Thomas at a special conference, organised by the Royal Institution of Cornwall (RIC), to celebrate his 80th birthday and the Institution's 190th year.

First awarded in 1936, the Jenner Medal is presented to individuals in recognition of a serious body of work with Cornish history. It was named after Henry Jenner (1848-1934), first Grand Bard of the Cornish Gorseth.

Lady Mary told a packed audience: "There can clearly be no better candidate for the medal. As a native Cornishman, a bard, founder of the Institute of Cornish Studies, author, researcher, excavator and member of many learned bodies, advisory committees and trustee bodies, Professor Thomas's contribution to Cornish life and understanding is unparalleled. History, language, archaeology, folklore, art, place names, dialect, military history, landscape, Methodism – these and much more have come under his scrutiny. He truly is the Cornish polymath."

One of Professor Thomas's most important legacies is the huge amount of work he has done in developing the RIC and in particular, nurturing the Courtney Library. Having joined the Institution in the late 1940s, he is one of its longest-serving members and has also served as its president and as a trustee.

Professor Thomas is passionate about the RIC and pleaded for funds that will help ensure Cornwall's past continues to be regarded as an important part of its future.

He said "We need cash, endowments, legacies, underlying funds, a reserve. The RIC is both independent and for real. It's going to transform itself into a People's Museum for Cornwall – welcoming natives, incomers and visitors alike – and be considerably more than just an array of showcases. More money is desperately needed."

Showing his own commitment to the development project, Professor Thomas produced a substantial cheque as a donation to the RIC.

"I have increased the original amount by 10 for our grandchildren, some of whom I hope will become sixth generation members," he said. "It's a small return for what I owe this Institution."

The Charles Thomas conference day featured presentations by six speakers.

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