Helena Charles

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Note: Helena Charles is also the name of a character in the play "Look Back in Anger".

Helena Sanders née Charles (1911–1997), was a Cornish humanitarian, cultural activist and poet.

In January 1951, she became the first leader of the Cornish political party Mebyon Kernow. She led the party for the first four years and was also the first person to put MK policies to the electorate, winning the St Day seat on Camborne–Redruth Urban District Council with 77.6 per cent of the vote in 1953, fighting under the slogan 'A Square Deal for the Cornish.' She was succeeded as Chairman of MK by Major Cecil Beer in 1957.[1][2]

She graduated from Oxford in 1948 and by 1949 she became the Cornish representative on the Central Committee of European Communities and Regions.[3]

She became a member of Gorseth Kernow under the Bardic name of Maghteth Boudycca ('Daughter of Boudicca') at Trethevy Quoit in 1953.[4][5] She organised residential courses in the Cornish language, where Richard Gendall and Tony Snell met and wrote poetry in the language.

In 1950, she organised a group of actors to perform the play Bewnans Meriasek in Cornish at the Celtic Congress. It was performed in several places in Cornwall and was Cornwall's entry to the Festival of Britain.[6]

In the 1920s she worked in the slums of Bermondsey and during the Second World War joined the London Ambulance Service. She organized assistance for displaced members of the population of Heligoland and also Jewish refugees during and after the war. She went to Venice in 1964 and, saddened by the large number of emaciated stray cats in the city she co-founded the famous Dingo charity to work for the welfare of the feral cats. She also founded the Cornwall Christian Fellowship for Animals and the Cornwall Cat Rescue Group. For her work in Venice she was made a Knight of St Mark.[7]


  • What is home rule? (New Cornwall pamphlet No.1) Redruth: New Cornwall, [ca. 1953]
  • New Cornwall - a political magazine. Founded by Richard Gendall in 1952; edited by Helena Charles; from 1956 edited by Richard and Ann Jenkin


Bernard Deacon, Dick Cole, Garry Tregidga, Mebyon Kernow and Cornish Nationalism, Welsh Academic Press, 2003.

  1. ^ "History of MK - the 50s and 60s". Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  2. ^ Deacon, Cole, Tregidga
  3. ^ Deacon, Cole, Tregidga
  4. ^ Gorseth Byrth Kernow (1967) Bards of the Gorsedd of Cornwall 1928-1967, Penzance: Gorseth
  5. ^ Deacon, Cole, Tregidga
  6. ^ The Cornish Language and Its Literature By Peter Berresford Ellis, p.172 (Accessed on Google Books 24 March 2008).
  7. ^ Deacon, Cole, Tregidga