JOY STEVENSON – Our very own Maid Lowenna

Sadly both Joy and her wonderful dedicated husband Stan have passed on, but hopefully they are somewhere together. Knowing them both very well I would say that is where they deserve to be. I feel very blessed having known them. Joy was without any doubt the most humorous lady I have ever known. This piece was written in December 1994.
Terry Harry

There is something in the air of our peninsula that breeds and fosters people who are known amongst their friends as characters; perhaps the Cornish soil breeds them and the Cornish atmosphere suits them. Joy Stevenson is one of these and admits that her passionate love for Cornwall, its people and all things Cornish, has resulted in her being called idiosyncratic, not that it bothers her one iota, she has a direction of purpose that prevents her looking back when her course is set. So, whilst her schooling and upbringing tried hard to eliminate the Cornish Dialect, she hangs on to every dialect word she can use and has spent her life collecting all the dialect words and phrases of Cornwall. She also writes in dialect, prose and poetry and though much of it is serious work she loves also writing for fun as she does for Cornwall Today. Her pet hate is Cornish people who “cut it up and try to speak hikey” – to Joy that is neglecting the wonderful speech and idiom of Cornwall simply to conform to the world outside. Born in the days when everyone lived, worked and played in an atmosphere of “Cornishness”, of which they were barely conscious, Joy regrets that all we can do today is to collect and preserve the fragments of the past, although considers herself fortunate to have lived in “the Cornwall that used to be”, the title of one of the many folk songs for which she has written the words. Perhaps it might surprise some to read that Joy considers she comes from the Pre-Celtic past of Cornwall, stating that she is certain that like many Cornish she descends from the people who lived here before the Celts arrived, she laughs and says, “Celts were emmetts at one time you know, my roots go far deeper than that.” Asked her ideas on our Stone Circles she gives the opinion that too many people study them and only the people in direct line of decent from the peoples who built them will have a true feeling of what they really mean. Psychology and archeology may be useful in some fields, but in getting to the understanding of the people who built those stone circles, they are only guessing, perhaps they will remain a mystery forever. Joy’s childhood was spent on the north coast of Cornwall, where there were acres of cliffs, moorland and fields to roam over at will. It is no wonder that she is one of the free spirits of this world. In the 1920s and 30s, children had this freedom, even the mineshafts which abounded and the wild, dangerous Atlantic Ocean held no fears. Children were schooled at their mothers’ knee to respect these hazards with good Cornish common sense, just as they were taught to bake a pasty, make saffron buns and even hogs pudding. However, she doesn’t pretend it was all idyllic; the Cornish weather tended to bring you to heel and the long walk to St. Agnes Station each school day to catch the train to Truro was often in blinding rain and wind and she wonders what today’s children would make of the trek she and her sister had to make. The Chacewater to Newquay line has long gone, though Joy remembers it well. After St. Agnes, the stop at Mount Hawke Halt, then change at Chacewater to await the train from Penzance which they boarded for Truro. Chapel in those days was the hub of the village and Joy attended two chapels, Mount Hawke and Mingoose. For Joy the great day was the Tea Treat day and going to two chapels meant two of these. She remembers the processions dancing the Flora behind the bands and the races in the Tea Treat field, after the tea with tea treat buns and mugs of tea. Also the Georgie Balls each child had, flicking them at each other until the saw-dust flew out of them and then the games for the adults later in the evenings; “kiss in the ring” was a favourite. Her father’s retirement into Truro in 1937 meant a different way of life; the Cornish are difficult to transplant and though Joy came home to retire in Truro she says, like her father, she always has that hankering for the north coast and walks with the dog most days there, whilst admitting that Truro is beautiful with all one needs now in the way of shops. In 1958, her husband moved to work in the New Forest and with their two sons they settled in the area. Joy admits to “schreeching” for weeks for Cornwall and as her husband loves Cornwall as much as she does they would drive home every weekend they could. Joining the Bournemouth Cornish Association and the Westcountry Association of Hampshire proved to be the answer to their home sickness. There they met other Cornish exiles and the happy social gatherings combined with the wish to recapture all they had left behind helped many Cornish to live out their lives of exile until retirement came and they could fly homeward again. Joy was President of the Westcountry Association and has many happy memories of her time with the members of Cornish associations all over England. Her long awaited return home in 1980 was more traumatic than she had forseen, the many visits each year did not prepare her for the changes she saw. Ask her what she thinks of what the planners and councils have done to Cornwall and you are liable to be bombarded with complaints about what she calls the exploitation of a paradise lost. She was brought up with tourism, everyone did a bit of bed and breakfast when she was young, now she looks on it as a factory without a chimney and though seeing it as an important part of the Cornish economy feels that greed and blinkered thinking has killed the goose that laid the golden egg. A passionate believer in the importance of the Stannary Parliament, a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd, Joy Stevenson’s husband says, “If you cut Joy into little pieces, she would have Cornwall stamped right through her.” Honoured by Westcountry Television with a Stirling Salute at the Royal Cornwall Show this year for her dialect tales and stories and the laughter she brings and the charities she helps, something which she says she will carry on as long as she is able – and long may we enjoy her. In answer to my question as to how Joy sees the future for Cornwall, her reply was that it lies in our own hands. “Many people love Cornwall. Loving something brings privilege but it also brings responsibility and it is that responsibility which the people who live here must carry out.” As a founder member of the Cornwall Heritage Trust she feels that they are an organisation which is doing just that and encourages people to join them and help fund the wonderful work they do. The Old Cornwall Federation, for which Joy is the dialect recorder, is another organisation she salutes. Joy’s love and work of all things Cornish has been endorsed by Stan the Scot she married 51 years ago, his love and support along with her two sons and grandaughter and grandson are obviously the jewels in her crown and her two favourite adages are “live today, remember tomorrow is not promised to you” and “where there is no vision, people and places perish”.