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Cornish centenarian

21 September 2012

HE WILL be remembered by veteran readers of this newspaper as a regular reviewer. Canon Michael Hocking, a Cornishman, has just celebrated his 100th birthday. Ordained in 1936, he served in his native diocese of Truro, in Bristol and Guildford, and also as a member of the General Synod. He now lives back in Cornwall, in a nursing home in Penzance.

He served as a chaplain in the RNVR during the Second World War before taking his first living in Madron, close to Penzance. It was while he was there that he met an elderly man who told him how the news of Nelson's death was brought first to Penzance - possibly even before it reached Falmouth on its way to London.

The man's grandfather, as a boy, had been present in the Assembly Rooms when the news was announced. Fishermen from Penzance had met HMS Pickle, which was taking the news of the victory at Trafalgar and the death of the nation's hero to Falmouth, and had straightaway put about and hastened back with the momentous news to Penzance, at that time a small fishing village.

Madron was a mining community with a parish church, and it was there that the bells were rung to celebrate the victory, and to mourn the death of Nelson, who had several times stayed in the area with Lady Hamilton.

When an early banner of stretched canvas on a wooden frame was found locally, Canon Hocking guessed that a memorial service had been held in Madron church, and thus started an annual Trafalgar Day service every year in October, when the banner is paraded. This year, Canon Hocking is hoping to attend as usual.


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