Monday, 6 July 2009

Notes on a Name

I’ve been a Knill since I was twentyone. Even though I recently married for the second time, I’m still using the name for my byline – and all those bills and bank accounts that I haven’t got around to changing.

My first husband’s family hailed from the west. We used to visit his Aunt Ida Knill and her unmarried brother, Harold, who still lived together in the family home – a cottage next to the church in Pilton, Barnstaple. They were great church goers, and early in the 19th century, the Knill family made up the complete church bell-ringing team. I was once shown a poem that had been made up about them. I believe it was published in the local newspaper. How I wish I’d managed to get and keep a copy of it.

Recently, I was browsing the web and came across a pyramid folly just outside St Ives in Cornwall, called the Knill Monument. The text says that it was meant to be a mausoleum for a former mayor of the town, John Knill, who built it in 1782. Sadly, however, he died when he was in London and wasn’t brought back.

But his will instructed that “10 young virgins and 2 older women, possibly widows, accompanied by the local minister, the mayor of St. Ives, a violinist, and a customs and excise man”, should dance around the monument while everyone else sings the 100th psalm "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands."

This spectacle can still be seen on 25th July once every five years. I imagine it takes some doing to be sure you’ve got 10 young virgins, let alone a willing customs and excise man, these days. But I’m setting a date for 2011, which is the next time it’s due to take place.

6 comments:

Jena Isle said...

That's pretty cool Jean, A monument in your surname...lol...you could write an immortal poem for posterity.
Welcome back and all the best.

David Zen-Kennedy said...

oh you don't want to miss that. . . this made me smile ear to ear.

Jude said...

I wish I had been more interested in my family history and researched our tree, but now it doesn't mean much to me. Your discovery sounds like it would be lots of fun to watch and photograph.

Jennifer said...

Oh, my. How could you miss it?

Eugenie said...

Hi Jean,

I have just come across your posting referring to your Knill ancestry.
My Great Grandmother was called Ellen Knill and I believe had siblings named Emily, Frederick, Selina & Eliza and they came from the Pilton area. Their father was John Knill. I know John Knill was at one time married to a Prudence Copp but I think this may have been a second marriage (could be wrong).
I came across the virgins/memorial reference some years ago but never looked any further. Do any of these Knill names mean anything to you?
Regards

Eugenie
Eugeer(AT)aol.com

jakill said...

Hi Eugenie. Thank you so much for your comment. At the moment those names don't mean anything to me, but I will pass your comment on to my ex-sister-in-law, in case she knows more than I. Sadly there is no-one else I know left to ask now.

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