Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Royal Wedding

The Royal Wedding has made it a week when we can all be proud to be British and it has shown the value to our country of having a non-political Head of State. There are times when you need consistency and resilience and an institution that can unite the whole country. The Queen has seen twelve Prime Ministers come and eleven go. Our monarchy has proved itself capable of adapting over the generations and the thousands of street parties around the country showed that it is still held in affection

Those of us in Cornwall had a second reason to be proud last weekend because it was also Trevithick Day in Camborne. Star of the show, as always, was the replica of the Puffing Devil, invented by Richard Trevithick. It is a wonderful contraption and can travel at an incredibly fast pace. I made my maiden speech in parliament about inventors like Richard Trevithick and William Murdoch and the lessons we can learn from them.

As is so often the case, Richard Trevithick didn’t make his fortune from his endeavours, in fact quite the reverse. He ended his life with no money at all. And as he pioneered new ideas and tried new approaches deemed unthinkable at the time, he was lampooned by critics who attacked his new technology as dangerous.

While Trevithick was Cornish through and through he was open to the rest of the world and craved what could be learnt from the experiments of others. He spent many years of his life working alongside other engineers in London and mining in South America. It was a time when Cornwall was at the forefront of the industrial revolution and they didn’t allow distance to get in their way.

What can we learn from him? First, this part of Cornwall left an incredible legacy to the world and we should celebrate it but also have the confidence to be pioneers again. Second, we are at our best when we face out towards the rest of the country and the rest of the world and should never allow inward looking isolationism to hinder our potential.

In my research into Trevithick, I came across this quote from the great man: "I have been branded with folly and madness for attempting what the world calls impossibilities. This so far has been my reward from the public; but should this be all, I shall be satisfied by the great secret pleasure and laudable pride that I feel in my own breast from having been the instrument of bringing forward and maturing new principles and new arrangements of boundless value to my country. However much I may be straitened in pecunary circumstances, the great honour of being a useful subject can never be taken from me, which to me far exceeds riches".

That says it all.