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HISTORY OF THE RC PARISH of PENZANCE.

CANON GEORGE CANTELL

1935 to 1946

On Canon Wade's sudden retirement, Father Bernard Palmer came to hold the fort in Penzance for a few months. And on 11th September that year, Father George Cantell was appointed the new parish priest. He was a man of Jersey, born at Corey on August 11th 1899. As a radiographer in a Plymouth hospital, he was received into the church and went to the Beda College in Rome to train for the priesthood. Ordained priest on March 6th 1932, he first worked for 3 years at the Cathedral. He came to Penzance in 1935 full of ideas and energy. He achieved much in the parish even though for a lot of the time he was frustrated by the restrictions of wartime.

After Canon Wade's long reign, a great deal needed to be done to repair and revitalize the parish church, now nearing its centenary. Because of the great height of the sanctuary, to emphasize the importance of the altar he erected over it a huge mock granite baldachino. But this necessitated the blocking in of the large east window.

Important changes took place at the convent, when the Daughters of the Cross decided to close the Orphanage and the Laundry which supported it. This enabled them to start St. Gertrude's Girls Convent School, which opened on September 14th 1938.

For centuries every June, one of the traditional fairs of the town had been the Corpus Christi Fair. Father Cantell went to the Town Council and suggested that his congregation would restore the real Corpus Christi to the fair by holding an open-air Procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the streets on the Sunday of the Fair. And so, in this predominantly Methodist Cornish town, the Corpus Christi Procession in June became, and still is, one of the events in the life of the town. During the war, the large numbers of Catholic American troops in the neighbourhood joined in.

In spite of it being wartime, Father Cantell was determined to celebrate the centenary of the opening of Father Young's church. A great gathering of local priests, with Bishop Barrett, the Abbot of Buckfast and the Prior of Bodmin, joined large numbers of parishioners and well-wishers from the town, to celebrate the centenary with High Mass and as much feasting as was possible with the rationing. Father Cantell was made a Canon of the Chapter and Dean of Cornwall in time for the celebrations.

After the war, in 1946, Canon Cantell left Penzance to take over the parish of Falmouth. Later he became the Administrator of the Cathedral, where he did much to repair the ravages of the wartime bombing. He retired in 1965 to Ingsdon Convent and died in Torquay.

created 29th October 2004 - last  revised 3rd March, 2010 v1.01 -