THE LOST SHRINE OF LISKEARD
by Claire Riche
(St Austin Press, 2002, 220pp. Available from PO Box 180, Sumner Park Qld 4074, (07) 3279 7415)
In recent years there has been a revival of devotion to the Virgin Mary and this revival has included renewed interest in ancient Marian shrines. This work details the attempts made to restore the medieval shrine of Our Lady of the Park at Liskeard in Cornwall to Catholic hands and make it once again a place of pilgrimage.
Historical records indicate that this shrine, which included a holy well, was a centre of Marian devotion and pilgrimage from at least the 14th century and was destroyed during the upheavals of the Reformation. This rather loquacious account focuses on the work of Dr Margaret (Peggy) Pollard, a convert to Catholicism, Cornish bard and expert on Cornish folklore, who devoted enormous energy from the 1950s, after she discovered the remains of the shrine in 1955 - believing she had received a call from the Virgin Mary to make the shrine a place of pilgrimage once more - until her death in 1996.
Although the property is still in private hands, individuals and pilgrimage groups are allowed access to the site. Many of these pilgrimages have been ecumenical, with Anglican and Methodist involvement. The author indicates that the renewed interest in the shrine is part of a growth in interest in Cornish language and folklore that also includes the translating of the text of the Mass into Cornish.
While The Lost Shrine of Liskeard contains much interesting information, particularly on Cornish culture and pre-Reformation Catholicism, the work's considerable length, including details of somewhat peripheral interest, tends to detract from its overall appeal.