The Cornish: Strangers In Their Land


Cornish Ethnicity Recognised

In 2014 the UK government formally recognised the Cornish as a national minority that followed its earlier recognition of the Cornish language in 2002.  The Cornish having inhabited this island of Britain for centuries  wonder why the UK government recognition took so long to as ‘The Cornu-Britons had been alive and well since Roman times and the origins of Cornwall date to a period well before that time Devon was grabbed by the English’.   (Bernard Deacon: ‘Cornwall’s First Golden Age’)

However since Cornish recognition, the UK government has done little to address Cornish culture and accused of neglect by the Council of Europe;  in fact it has cut all funding for the Cornish language.

Dick Cole, leader of Cornwall’s political party Mebyon Kernow, said ‘the UK government was failing to fulfil its obligations to the people of Cornwall.  The government signed up to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities but have failed to deliver it’.


Strangers In Their Land 

In 2011, and despite Cornwall Council’s Cornwall-wide campaign stating that people can write-in ‘Cornish’ on the census, barely 14% of those in Cornwall recorded their ethnicity as Cornish.  Claims that UK Census lacked a Cornish ‘tick-box’ is put forward for the low percentage. Meanwhile, the Cornish continue with their campaign for a dedicated Cornish ‘tick-box’.

The Cornish TIckBox Project: Gemma Goodman, Project Manager, Cllr Jesse Foot, George Eustice MP and Will Coleman of Golden Tree Productions (Image from CornishStuff)

Like other ethnic minorities, the Cornish are becoming increasingly alarmed. As their language has been eroded, so too is their dialect.  Cornish accents once to common to towns in Cornwall, have been replaced by accents common to those the east of the Tamar.  Enabled by decades of mass in-migration, the resulting Cornish minority are in danger of having their number reduced to an even lesser minority; strangers in their land.

The welcoming civic culture of Cornish people has perhaps contributed to their own demise.  Mary McArthur observed, ‘unless the category of Cornish is submerged its possible that the incomers of today will become (or produce) the Cornish of tomorrow’. (Professor Philip Payton, ‘Cornwall – A History’ the revised and updated edition).

The observation that ‘incomers of today will become the Cornish of tomorrow’ would be a most welcome outcome, but clearly this has not been the case – at least not relation to the amount of inward-migraton to Cornwall.  When the Cornish people voice concerns about the reduction, and therefore possible extinction of their ethnic group,  rather than receiving welcome support, sections of the ‘majority’ claim they are ‘made to feel unwelcome’ by the Cornish  – which is one of the more polite expressions directed against the minority.


The Future?

We live in hope that the minority of Cornish voices will eventually be heard and supported, not only by Westminster, but also those by those who choose to cross the Tamar and live in the land of Kernow.

Oll an gwella
(All the best)


The Cornish are inclusive:
Cornish by choice
Cornish on purpose
Cornish by Birth
Cornish by marriage
Cornish by accident

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