Robert Victor Walling

(1895-1976) – Cornish language student

While recovering from injuries sustained in the war, Walling taught himself Cornish. He produced a hand-written and illustrated magazine, 'An Houlsedhas' (The West) at a time where there were few other students of Cornish around. Other Cornish compositions include a piece entitled 'Un Tancou' with a drawing of a tank.

Credit: Gorsedh Archives, Archives & Special Collections, Penryn campus, Professor Charles Thomas and photo provided by Plymouth City Council Library Services

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Robert Victor Walling was the son of Cornish bard, Robert Alfred Walling (1869-1949). The  family had Cornish connections, but Robert Victor was born in Plymouth.

As a young man, R.V. read Henry Jenner's 1904 Handbook of The Cornish Language. Jenner was a leading exponent of the development of the Cornish language and later founded Gorsedh Kernow in 1928.

R.V. had a distinguished career as a journalist, interrupted by war service.  He was wounded at Passchendaele and invalided out of the army. In 1916-17, while recuperating from his injuries, he produced a magazine called An Houlsedhas (‘The West’), an illustrated manuscript in his own handwriting.  There are three unfinished issues, each accompanied by his watercolour drawings.

He quotes the comments of others in Cornish but much of the material is his own. Most notable is a 1917 piece entitled Un Tancou illustrated with a pen and ink drawing of a tank.  This magazine gives an interesting indication of the state of the Cornish language in the early twentieth century and helps to fill in an important gap in our knowledge of Cornish language development during a period in which little was written because of the war.

Robert Walling and his interesting First World War story featured in Alan Kent’s play Surfing Tommies. The Cornish Language Board and Gorsedh Kernow are hoping to publish this magazine in the coming months.

Credit: Gorsedh Archives, Archives & Special Collections, Penryn campus.  Photo provided by Plymouth City Council Library Services and images by Professor Charles Thomas.