The Cornish existed among the Celtic tribes of ancient Briton before the Romans, their subsequent departure, and the following arrival of Anglo-Saxons, the forefathers of the English people.
The ensuing centuries saw upheavals that involved repelling the Anglicisation of the Britons that culminated (in Cornwall’s case) in 1549, by the imposition of an English language prayer book onto a Cornish-speaking nation. However, the defeat of the Cornish uprising and the subsequent atrocities aimed at Cornish subjugation, failed to completely subdue Cornish spirit.
In November 2002, following many decades of political campaigning, brought about the recognition of the Cornish language. Further campaigns successfully achieved official recognition of Cornish ethnicity.
Cornwall was not an integral part, or formally incorporated into, the English state. Official documents had the text ‘Anglia et Cornubia’ (England and Cornwall) that provides a further understanding of Cornwall’s autonomy.
Yet Cornwall finds itself in the ignominious position of being a subordinate ‘county’ of England.
Cornwall must be recognised; to exist as a entity in its own right, similar to that of Wales and Scotland; the right to determine its own political status and freely pursue its economic, social and cultural development. A National Assembly for Cornwall will achieve those aims and Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall continues with its campaign:
‘The historic Nation of Cornwall has its own distinct identity, language and heritage. As one of the four nations inhabiting the British mainland, Cornwall has the same right to self-determination as England, Scotland and Wales. Mebyon Kernow is leading the campaign for the creation of a National Assembly for Cornwall, with the necessary powers to unlock Cornwall’s true potential
‘The Green Party recognises that Cornwall has a distinct historical and geographical identity, and supports (and will actively campaign for) the establishment of an Assembly for Cornwall, which will be supported, in turn, by a new local government structure’
Five years later and no such status for the Cornish has been afforded.The Cornish, and Cornwall itself remains under an assimilating English administration.
Rugby for instance, one of the main sports in Cornwall, has clubs that fall under the governing body of the English RFU, not a Cornish RFU.
Cornwall plays rugby at county level against Devon along with the other English counties.Waving and flying the Cornish flag of St Piran; the singing of ‘Trelawny’ doesn’t change Cornwall’s position as that of being subservient under the English flag of St George and we are deluding ourselves if we think otherwise.
If Cornish players, and the Cornish in general, are in any way aggrieved at the current situation, it’s not evident. The pride demonstrated among those Cornish players selected to play for England, and their joy when England wins, shows Cornish ethnicity seemingly counts for very little, except perhaps to wave St Piran flags after victory.
Supporters too are thrilled when fellow Cornishmen are selected to play for England. Cornwall’s local news papers, Radio Cornwall and online social media, delight in highlighting those Cornish players that are playing, or have previously played, for England.
With Cornwall’s top rugby club ‘Cornish Pirates’ aspiring to play in the Englishpremiership, Cornwall’s MPs, Cornwall Council and local rugby clubs choosing to remain subservient to England, there is no demand for change now, or anytime in the near future.
We are proud to be Cornish, but only on England’s terms.
The latest book by Cornish historian Bernard Deacon covers the unique Cornish surnames. Of the famous rhyme by Richard Carew ‘By the names Tre, Pol and Pen you will know Cornishmen’ Deacon explains, “Actually, you won’t. At most, you’ll only know about one in 20 Cornishmen (or women) by these criteria. Even in the later 19th century, only around 4-5% of people in Cornwall had surnames beginning with Tre, Pol or Pen.”
The famous Cornish inventor Richard Trevithick (he was not English, as described by some) took his high-pressure steam engines to the silver mines of Peru. Large Cornish communties gathered all over the world. The hard rock tin miners were established as far afield as Austrailia; South Africa; Mexico etc; and it’s estimated that 60% of Cornish people formed the population of Grass Valley in California!
And of course Cornish surnames can be found around the UK not least in the mining district of Yorkshire.
This book is a must for Cornish people and the Cornish diaspora all over the world, and could prove invaluable to those researching their Cornish family tree.
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’.
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 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.
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)
Note: The Cornish are inclusive:
Cornish by choice
Cornish on purpose
Cornish by Birth
Cornish by marriage
Cornish by accident
An example of why Cornwall’s electorate mistrust and lack confidence in their own politicians can be seen further in the following excerpts of a letter from Cornwall MP Sarah Newton in reply to Mr Lance Dyer, Truro City Councillor for Redannick Ward, Cornwall. The full text may be read here.
‘We are very fortunate to live in a democracy where there are a politicians promoting a wide range of views. Cornish nationalists take every opportunity to pick fights with what they call ‘Westminster politicians’ and stir up grievances. The Scottish and Welsh nationalists adopt a similar strategy, trying to undermine politicians like myself who are not only very proud of our deep Cornish roots but also support the Union’
This paragraph alone provides Cornwall’s electorate with an insight into the mind-set of Ms Newton and how she interprets voters that have the temerity to question Westminster’s politicians as ‘to pick fights’.
We in Cornwall do question Westminster’s politicians. It’s our right in a so-called democracy to hold politicians to account and yes, they all sit at Westminster. There are indeed those in Cornwall who strive for Cornish devolution. To have its distinct history, language and culture recognised and incorporated through the formation of a Cornish Assembly that will also serve to draw down powers from Westminster: devolved powers that can be better managed by the people of Cornwall, rather than the ‘one size fits all’ diktat of the over-centralised Westminster. These then, are the people to which Ms Newton refers to as ‘Cornish nationalists’.
She also chooses not to recognise that, unlike the xenophobia of English nationalism that’s evident in groups such as Thisis England, Britain First, National Front, and National Action etc, that promotes the superiority of their own group to the exclusion of all others, Cornish nationalism is a Civic nationalism that is inclusive and respects all ethnic groups, none of which are deemed superior to the other and are entitled to their own beliefs.
It must also be stressed that an Assembly is not about an ‘independent’ Cornwall. That is how Ms Newton and her ilk conveniently choose to undermine the issue: intending to instill a ‘project fear’ that aims to keep the status quo of Westminster’s control. But of course, independence was at the top of her fellow Cornwall MPs’ agenda when it came to the UK leaving the EU. The ‘building of bridges’ to which they elude now collapse under chauvinistic anglocentricism.
‘I am very proud of my deep Cornish roots and am proud that along with my fellow Cornish MPs we have delivered significant investment into Cornwall, including the Cornish language, heritage and culture over that last few years. I am confident that we will continue to see investments in years to come too’
Again, complete hypocrisy from Ms Newton as she continues to proclaim being ‘proud of my deep Cornish roots’ – so proud in fact that her Tory party stopped all funding for the Cornish language. Further, Cornwall’s status as one of the poorest in the UK and wider EU was eased by European Funding. Upon Brexit the funding will cease and her party of austerity will succeed in making Cornwall an even greater recipient of Westminster – induced poverty.
‘The Convention commits member states to protect what the EU calls ‘minority groups’ living within its borders from persecution. On signing the Convention in 1998 the Labour Government interpreted the term minority group as meaning a racial group. Some in Cornwall are therefore calling on the Coalition to designate the Cornish as a racial group, to pave the way for protection under the Convention. Whilst sympathising with their passion for Cornwall’s distinct identity, culture and history, I have to part with campaigners on this issue’
Ms Newton’s ignorance on the issue should be highlighted as it was the Council of Europethat was the architect of the FCPNM – not the European Union. Also clear that Ms Newton’s claims of her ‘deep Cornish roots’ resembles her integrity – somewhat shallow.
Cornwall’s electorate will ensure any of Ms Newton’s further erroneous utterances will fall under even more scrutiny – and more mistrust.
This was a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Pat Glass MP that sought to amend the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986.
In the case of Cornwall, this would have seen the Cornish border (river Tamar) crossed by Devon that would have Bude and Launceston assimilated under a Devon constituency. This has become known as ‘Devonwall’ that has caused a great deal of anger and protest, not only in Launceston and Bude, but throughout Cornwall. Steve Double MP and Sheryll Murray MP were two from the six of Cornwall’s MPs that made themselves available for the debate.
During opening remarks it was clear that Ms Murray supported a ‘Devonwall’ constituency. However, it was Steve Double who took on the responsibility of standing up for Cornwall in a speech saying that the Boundary Commission proposals have invoked “a deeply emotional response” among many people in Cornwall.
In support of the (amendment) Bill, the MP for St Austell and Newquay tells MPs that the proposals would result in the creation of a cross-border seat, spanning both Devon and Cornwall. A cross-border seat would represent a “threat” to Cornish identity, and exacerbate the “centuries of detachments” between Westminster and Cornwall.
Scottish SNP Alex Salmond stood shoulder to shoulder with Cornwall saying “The hon. Gentleman (Steve Double) is making a very good speech, apart from that passing reference to Scotland, which we will overlook, (Steve Double reminded the house that ‘thousands of Cornishmen marched on this place to protest about the imposition of a tax on the Cornish to fund a fight with the Scottish’) but does he understand that, because of the nature and the criteria of the boundary commissions, nonsense such as the one that he is so ably describing will be replicated across the four nations of the United Kingdom, as well as the nation of Cornwall?”
Ms Murray made an intervention during Mr Double’s speech saying “He said he was speaking on behalf of the Cornish, but let me put on the record the fact that I am a Cornish girl and he was not speaking for me.”
By what reasoning could any person claiming Cornish ethnicity, support a part of Cornwall becoming a Devonwall constituency? This is the kind of mentality that undermines Cornwall’s identity when it should not only be protected but promoted.
During her speech she said that she had upset Cornwall’s councillors. Ms Murray is of the opinion that the council should not be debating on Cornwall being politically broken up into a Devonwall on the grounds of it not being a ‘local’ issue.
Cornwall Council leader John Pollard said earlier “I believe that representing two counties will dilute our effectiveness to argue Cornwall’s case. We are here to argue for Cornwall and we should expect our MPs to do the same”.
The fact Ms Murray is not ‘arguing the case for Cornwall’ suggests she’s not a ‘Cornish girl’ but a ‘Devonwall girl’. A description that would better describe her loyalties, if not her ethnicity. This could explain Ms Murray having some form of cognative dissonace that effects some ‘Cornish’ people
In the end, MPs voted in favour of the closure motion by 257 votes to 35. They will now vote on the second reading of the bill.
More work to be done.
Note: During a following debate on the Disability Equality Training Bill, MPs could be heard to say “shameful” as the debate is talked out (filibuster) by the same Conservative MP, Sheryll Murray.
This blog has in the past likened Cornwall Council to a puppet government; the marionette of Westminster’s puppeteers. However, recently it has taken a commendable stand against the Tories decision to stop all Cornish language funding. The irony is that if the English had not imposed their English language bible, onto a Cornish speaking nation, it’s likely our language, along with Welsh, would have survived at a level that wouldn’t need the funding required today – if at all.
Yesterday, 1st November during a meeting, Cornwall’s Councillors again displayed their testicular fortitude by voting for continuing their challenge against Tory ‘Devonwall’ proposals (there were 12 votes for – all Tory) that effectively splits Cornwall into what has become known as ‘Devonwall’. The term describes the ‘gerrymandering’ of the Cornish border that would have Bude and Launceston assimilated under a Devon constituency.
At the meeting, Cornwall’s Liberal Democrat councillors pointed out the failure of the Tory group to condemn their own MPs (Scott Mann; Steve Double; Derek Thomas; Sheryll Murray; George Eustace and Sarah Newton) for not standing up for Cornwall on the issue.
Council leader, Mr John Pollard stated:
“I believe that representing two counties will dilute our effectiveness to argue Cornwall’s case. We are here to argue for Cornwall and we should expect our MPs to do the same.
I want a strong Cornwall, a Cornwall that works for everyone and a Cornwall that can stand up for itself. Being represented by someone with divided loyalties will do nothing for Cornwall or the people we represent.”
“We need to preserve the integrity of the Cornish border for many reasons. Not the least the fact that we have devolution deal for Cornwall. We are fighting for more powers for Cornwall, more decision making in Cornwall for Cornwall and having an MP which represents a part of Cornwall is essential to that.
If you’ve got an MP who represents a bit of Devon as well, they’re not going to give the interest or the time or the effort to that campaign; so that’s the first thing.
The second thing is, of course, that we’ve traditionally had parliamentary constituencies within our borders and it will weaken the parliamentary impact.”
Councillor Dick Cole from Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall said:
“I think there will be a strong consensus built up in Cornwall and hopefully we can all work together, put the pressure on central government and make them deliver and keep Cornwall whole. It is a democratic travesty that Cornwall is not being properly represented democratically.
The government has said the Cornish are a national minority and they should be treated the same as the Welsh, the Scots and the Irish. The boundaries between England, Wales and Scotland – they’re not being broken. Yet the boundary between Cornwall and England is being breached; that’s totally wrong.”
The Cornish, along with passionate supporters, displayed the depth of feeling against ‘Devonwall’ with a demonstration at Polson Bridge.
Tory Plan: Assimilate Cornwall and the Cornish
A video has appeared on YouTube that shows just how the Tories plan to assimilate Cornwall even further by its inclusion into a ‘South West Region’.
Apart from the most ignorant, tabloid educated and severely Anglocentric individuals, there can be no argument that Cornwall, through Government recognition of Cornish ethnicity and language; Cornwall’s own history, includes Wales, pre-dates the arrival of the English people. Eighty percent of Cornwall’s place names are from the Cornish language provides the visible evidence of Cornwall’s distinct identity. Even Theresa May’s predecessor, David Cameron admitted:
“There is a distinctive history, culture and language in Cornwall which we should celebrate and make sure is properly looked after and protected.” (24th April 2014).
Yet in the video, a presentation by the recently appointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid has made some of the most un-informed, ill-considered and degrogatory remarks from an established political party in recent years:
Mr Javid said:
“Some in Cornwall, for example, see their ‘county’ as distinct from the rest of the ‘region’ a special case that should be handled separately from everywhere else East of the Tamar. That whole attitude has to change.”
It would not be too difficult to place Mr Javid in one of the ‘most ignorant’ ‘tabloid educated’ or ‘severely Anglocentric’ category. The ‘Some in Cornwall’ to whom he referrers are the Cornish and Cornwall’s supporters. The insulting remarks are evidence of the contempt in which Mr Javid holds the Cornish ethnic minority and their Cornish homeland, and provides a broader insight into the mentality of Tory policy towards Cornwall. Faced with such derision, the Cornish would likely place Mr Javid in all three categories.
With such a display of intolerance towards an ethnic minority, his understanding of Cornwall non-existent, it’s difficult to justify Mr Javid’s current appointment.
This lack of understanding is even more unforgivable given that Mr Javid has roots that originated in Pakistan. A fine people who in 1947, finally cut the chains of British colonialism and assimilation. Maybe the remarks could be excused due to a low-grade speechwriter? If so, the remarks were read – and understood.
In such adversity, it’s time for the Cornish and Cornwall’s wider population to stand together. We must take ownership of our destiny, identity, history and culture through the formation of a Cornish Assembly, perhaps through a Progressive Alliance. But without the divisive, anti-Cornish political agenda that the Conservatives seek to impose; to undermine and marginalise to the extent that Cornwall, Cornish produce and the Cornish themselves, become invisible under the cloak of Tory assimilation.