outings to the theatre don't get much better than this - a 700-mile
round-trip involving four generations descended from a Cornish rugby
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.
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!
who is still ranked as one of the greatest ever players produced
by Cornwall, had five children - Alfred John, Stoyle, Doris, Phyllis
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."
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!"
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.
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.
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
Fire Corner poster
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.
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
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."
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.
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."
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
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.
became a full-time author in 1978, though he continues to teach
in creative writing workshops and correspondence programmes.
Fire Corner is his first play and the
production will feature specially commissioned music.
Fire Corner Essential Info
Fire Corner opens on Thursday 29th April and runs until Saturday
8th May, with 12 performances.
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
Saturday 8th May / 7.30pm
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.
4th May: The Artistic Process
Wed 5th May: What is it to be Cornish today?
Office: 01872 262466