St Ives Feast, celebrating the founding of the port, returns at the end of January, culminating in Feast Day itself on Monday, 5th February.

St Ives Feast mayor
Former mayor Kirsty Arthur leads the civic parade on a previous Feast Day. Photographs: St Ives Town Council

The week will get under way on Sunday, 28th January, with a church service and refreshments at St Uny Church, Lelant. A week later, on Sunday, 4th February, there is a service at St Ia Church, which follows the mayor’s parade, setting off from the Guildhall at 11.15am. After that, attention switches to the big day, Monday.

At 9.15am, the civic party, including musicians and local schoolchildren, leaves the Guildhall and makes its way to St Ia’s Well, at Porthmeor. This is the spot where St Eia, the patron saint of St Ives, is said to have arrived from Ireland. There is a short service by the well, including the blessing of the well, of the silver ball — essential to the day —  and of the people of St Ives. Then the procession moves on to the parish church, overlooking the harbour.

At around 10.30am, the mayor of St Ives, Johnnie Wells, will hurl the ball into the crowd on the beach while shouting “guare wheg ya guare teg” (this translates from Cornish as “fair play is good”).

St Ives Feast band

The game, also known as Cornish hurling, dates back at least 1,000 years and originally involved physical rough and tumble as two teams from different parts of the parish tried to keep possession of the ball. These days, the game is played by played by children and teenagers, who run around the town and try to keep possession of the ball. The procession slowly returns to the Guildhall. The councillors drop pennies to tchildren in the crowd, from the balcony, and wait for the clock to strike noon. At this point, the child with the ball returns to collect their reward from the mayor.

The day ends with the Feast Monday rugby match, at St Ives Rugby Club, where the home team will take on Cornwall Fire and Rescue. The match will get under way at 7pm.

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