A ROW over the ethnic identity of one of Cornwall's most prestigious choirs has led to at least one long-standing member resigning in protest after being forced to deny his true nationality.

Ernie Bray quit Camborne's Holman Climax Choir after being told he could only enter the word English and not Cornish while filling out a grant application for Objective One money.

Mr Bray, 66, who was a member of the choir for 15 years, told the Packet that for the past two years the choir had received grant funding through Cornwall College.

He said the choir had been eligible for the money because it rehearses at Camborne School and its members are therefore classed as "mature students."

He said they had to fill in forms and were told they were not allowed to complete the nationality section with the word "Cornish" or even "British" - they had to put "English."

"I put Cornish," said Mr Bray, "and the secretary crossed it out and put English. That was about two years ago and it was the same thing again this year. I again complained, and nobody stood up for me, and there were 80 people there." Mr Bray is supported by Tony Piper, a former vice-chairman of Cornish Solidarity who joined him in a protest when the choir performed at Trevithick Day.

After exclaiming his usual "Cornwall Forever" (Kernow Bysvykken) following the choir's rendition of Trelawny, Mr Piper cried: "We're Cornish not English."

A fellow protestor, Wallace Simmons from Camborne, passed an English flag to the musical director, Roger Wills. "The Holman Climax Choir is one of our premier choirs and the fact they give in so easily is a sad indictment," said Mr Piper.

Mr Bray said he had been in correspondence with the chief executive of Cornwall College, Alan Stanhope, college governors, MP Andrew George and the Federation of Male Voice Choirs but had not had any satisfactory replies.

"These people will feel very ashamed for what they've done. The musical director is a Cornish bard. He stood up and said to my wife "I'm English". We're proud to be Cornish. My ancestry and my wife's ancestry go back hundreds of years. We're British yes, but not English.

"We went to America two-and-a-half years ago as a Cornish choir, from 'the homeland'. We've got visitors over here now and they shook my hand at Trevithick Day and said 'We're proud of what you've done standing up for Cornwall'. This will one day sink into the Cornish who don't have the guts to stand up and say they are Cornish, not English.

"There are five Cornish Bards in the choir, and they all must have put English. That's amazing to me. It should've been discussed. I'm not putting down English. It just shows their feelings about Cornwall, it's incredible." Choir chairman Rodney Grigg said he was aware of the reasons behind Mr Bray's resignation.

"He didn't agree with the situation the choir was entering into and as far as I am concerned I've no problem with Ernie Bray. He resigned in the proper way and gave good service to the choir."

He refused to comment on Mr Bray's complaint but said: "We represent Cornwall and also England when we go away."