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24 September 2014
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Worldwide reunion at Hell Fire Corner
Hell Fire Corner
Hell Fire Corner
A brand new production remembering a hero of Cornish rugby will bring together people from around the world for the premiere at the Hall For Cornwall.
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Family outings to the theatre don't get much better than this - a 700-mile round-trip involving four generations descended from a Cornish rugby legend.

The story of Bert Solomon - the Redruth miner who scored a winning try for England and then declined to play international rugby again - is a major strand of Hell Fire Corner, the new play being staged at Hall for Cornwall between 29th April and 8th May.

Now, around a dozen members of his family are planning to return to Cornwall for the unique event - including Bert's daughter-in-law, grand-daughter, great grandson and rugby-playing great great grandson!

Bert, who is still ranked as one of the greatest ever players produced by Cornwall, had five children - Alfred John, Stoyle, Doris, Phyllis and Bertie.

Twickenham
Rugby at Twickenham

Barbara Mackenzie, who grew up in Cornwall but now lives in Lancashire, is one of Alfred John's daughters and only found out about Hell Fire Corner when her cousin Mary moved back to Cornwall and read about it in the newspaper. She said: "We weren't really aware that grandpa is still revered down there."

Barbara's father, Alfred John, was himself a keen rugby player who won a Cornwall schoolboy cap. She said: "He also played for Redruth but then committed the cardinal sin of going to play for Camborne!"

Just to confuse matters, even though his younger brother was actually called Bertie, Alfred John was always known as Young Bert or Bertie - probably because he was only one to play rugby at a higher level. Stoyle and Bertie, neither of whom had children, both played for a while but did not take it as far as Alfred John.

Having three daughters brought a halt to his family's rugby playing - but Alfred John was later presented with four grandsons as compensation. Barbara has also always followed the game avidly and always thinks of her dad when she watches a match.

Meanwhile, the latest generation to take part in the rugby tradition is Barbara's grandson, 11-year-old Connor, who plays for a youth side in Fylde, Lancashire. He said that having a famous great great grandfather made him feel 'very proud', adding: "It feels kind of weird having a famous person in the family. It is almost like being famous yourself."

Hell Fire Corner poster
Hell Fire Corner poster

One of the reasons given for Bert's refusal to play for England again was that he actually cared more about his racing pigeons than rugby.

Barbara still remembers being shown her grandfather's pigeons and says that, particularly as a young girl, she was not aware of him being a famous rugby player.

She said: "We lived in Cornwall until I was about seven but we came back every year for a holiday until I was about 14 or 15. My grandfather was a very close man, who never courted publicity and always kept himself to himself. He was a very, very private person but I have fond memories of him and our time in Cornwall."

Those coming to Cornwall will include Alfred John's widow Muriel, Barbara and her sisters Angela and Hazel, Barbara's son Simon and his children, Connor and Tanith - plus various partners and husbands. Joining them will be Mary (who is Phyllis' daughter) and her husband, who live at Praze.

Barbara said: "We're all very excited about coming down to Cornwall. My mother is going to stay for a couple of weeks and, as well as seeing the play, we're also hoping to meet D M Thomas and talk to him about Bert and his history."

D M Thomas was born into a working-class mining family in Redruth in 1935. He attended Trewirgie Primary School, where Bert Solomon - the inspiration for Hell Fire Corner - had been a pupil. He then went to Redruth Grammar School. For a two year period he lived with his parents and sister in Melbourne, Australia, studying at University High School.

Returning to Britain in 1951, he studied Russian for two years during his national service, then went to New College, Oxford, to read English, for which he was awarded first-class honours. After teaching English at Teignmouth Grammar School he became Head of English at Hereford College of Higher Education; also a poet and, later, novelist.

He became a full-time author in 1978, though he continues to teach in creative writing workshops and correspondence programmes.

Hell Fire Corner is his first play and the production will feature specially commissioned music.

Hell Fire Corner Essential Info

Hell Fire Corner opens on Thursday 29th April and runs until Saturday 8th May, with 12 performances.

Monday to Thursday prices:
£12.50, £11.50, £10
(RV)/Conc: £10.50 £9.50
Friday & Saturday prices
£13.50 £12, £10.50
(RV)/Conc: £11.50, £10
Matinees: £11, £9.50, £8
School/College groups (15 or more) £6

Audio Described
Saturday 8th May / 7.30pm

Signed
Wednesday 5th May / 7.30pm


Talks and Discussions
There will be a free programme of talks by guest speakers about Cornwall and the production process behind Hell Fire Corner from Tuesday 4th May to Wednesday 5th May at 6pm in the Auditorium. Tickets are available from the Box Office.

Tues 4th May: The Artistic Process
Wed 5th May: What is it to be Cornish today?

Box Office: 01872 262466

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