Can the Cornish minority survive alongside an English majority?

“The uniqueness of Cornwall rests on the survival of a distinct people – the Cornish people.”


That is a quote taken from Bernard Deacon’s excellent book, ‘The land’s end? The great sale of Cornwall’ and the ‘survival’ of the Cornish people is no exaggeration.  In 2011, a Duchy-wide campaign aimed at those people who identify as Cornish were urged to write ’Cornish’ on the 2011 Census. The result was 73,200 people from 532, 273 of Cornwall’s population (14%) recorded their ethnicity as Cornish.  The Cornish are a minority group in their own homeland of Cornwall.

The remaining 459,073 people, of which most will be the English who, during earlier centuries of their inward migration to Cornwall, learned the Cornish language and continue promote Cornwall’s history and culture that  has ensured the Cornish will never be in a state of mere ‘survival’.

Of course the last paragraph isn’t what really happened .  Assimilation has always been demanded from the English.  All is fine just so long as immigrants arriving into English communities become ‘English’ but this is contrary to their arrival in Britain and their own failure to assimilate.   In Cornwall during 1549,  an English language prayer book was forced upon a predominately Cornish speaking nation.  The Cornish, fighting against a professional army were eventually put down, but the ensuing slaughter of hundreds of bound & gagged prisoners ensured the Cornish were effectively subdued, or at least enough to prevent further uprisings.  Cornwall was to become a place where all things English were deemed ‘superior’ while all things Cornish were branded ‘inferior’ – particularly their language.

This assimilation remains today and becomes apparent when the Cornish face derision from all quarters (including Cornwall’s tabloids) when having the temerity to ask that their history and language be taught in Cornish schools.  ‘It’s a dead language’ is the cry from those who killed it.  ‘Ancient history’ is the term used to negate Cornwall’s early charters that state Cornwall is ‘extra-territorial’ to England, while the English feel entitled to promote an ‘ancient’ 13th century Magna Carta as a ‘symbol from oppression’.  They should have shown that document to the Cornish people of 1549.


Cornish schools are ‘classed’ as English schools and the Anglo-centric curriculum takes precedence over all things Cornish.  The history of Cornish people is ignored until an English presence has been firmly established, ensuring Cornwall’s school children have little choice but to ascribe to an English identity.  The Royal Cornwall Museum doesn’t allow for the appearance of the Cornish in its timeline until a reference is made to the inventor Richard Trevithick in 1804.

There are English people, particularly those that have moved to Cornwall, that have the intellect and a shared empathy with Cornwall and the Cornish who do much for Cornwall’s identity.  Sadly, and similar to the Cornish, they are in the minority.  An early article by Hywel Williams could explain why most English people, or those described by Williams as ‘Anglo-celtic Uncle Toms’  have a sneering, belligerent attitude towards Cornwall as being anything other than ‘English’.

The Enemy Within?


Cornwall’s Tory MPs see a Cornish Assembly as a ‘nationalist’ agenda rather than being a positive mechanism that will enshrine Cornwall’s identity as Cornish in a similar fashion as the Framework Convention enshrined the identity of the Cornish themselves.  Instead, they prefer the current ‘English’ administration that serves to further assimilate Cornwall’s identity into an ‘English’ entity.

bloody nationalistsCornish MP, Scott Mann says “There have long been calls in Cornwall to pull up the hypothetical drawbridge over the Tamar and to cut ourselves off from Plymouth and the rest of Britain”. He goes on to say that while he’s “rightly proud of our heritage, traditions and culture, but we do ourselves a disservice if we continue to naval-gaze. Our young people deserve better than that.”

Maybe Mr Mann would have directed derogatory accusations of ‘naval-gazing’ against India when it claimed independence, or indeed any other former colony that required their independence  be returned.  In this case he has has contrived to conflate aspirations of a Cornish Assembly with independence when it’s NOT about independence.

Westminster’s Plans are EVEL

Some people remain unaware that on Wednesday 12th, December 2001, a delegation from Cornwall presented a declaration consisting of over 50,000 signatures for a Cornish Assembly.  The Labour Government at that time did not respond to the petition but continued with its aims of placing Cornwall within a ‘South West region’ that is indicative of a Westminster determined to keep Cornwall ‘English’.

The government has now pushed through plans for ‘English votes for English laws’ (EVEL).  Wales has its own government with devolved powers,  Scotland is knocking on the door of independence, and an overwhelming majority of MP’s represent England, Westminster is now virtually an English parliament and unlikely to acceed to aspirations of a Cornish Assembly.

Cornwall Council is invariably held responsible for making cuts, but in reality the blame lies firmly with Westminster’s austerity measures. Cornwall Council is forced into making the savings in areas that helps to ensure  the funding of Cornwall’s essential services can continure.

  With the full effects of austerity still emerging in Cornwall,  maybe those who are feeling those effects more keenly will be encouraged to offer their support for Mebyon Kernow.

An upsurge of Cornish support for Mebyon Kernow would at least serve to make Westminster more respectful of Cornish aspirations.

A Cornish stadium or a stadium of assimilation?

The ongoing stadium for Cornwall saga received another set back during a Cornwall Council meeting that resulted in its deferral, but despite the disappointment felt by stadium supporters, there are people who question the whole concept of a so-called stadium for Cornwall.

For while the facility is promoted as being the stepping stone for Cornish talent that will further enable that talent to play at the highest levels, where exactly are these highest levels?  The highest echelons of English sport that will likely be rugby, and even worse for Cornish and Cornwall’s identity – it will be English rugby

. . the charity shop cloak of an ‘English county’ administration

There exists in Cornwall a belief that to tag something ‘Cornish’ makes it so – it doesn’t.  Unlike the Cornish people who, after centuries of assimilation, have had their ethnicity officially recognised, Cornwall’s own identity remains that of an ‘English county’ – a stadium for Cornwall does not mean a Cornish stadium.

Cornwall must rid itself of the charity shop cloak of an ‘English county’ administration to become a fully fledged, law-making Cornish Assembly.  A Cornish Assembly, like that of Wales, would serve to enshrine the identity of Cornwall in a similar fashion as the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities did for the Cornish people themselves. Until that happens, any Cornish talent will likely be assimilated by playing ‘county’ rugby as very few have followed the example of Cornishman Luke Charteris who has played for Wales at at the highest level.

The Cornish and the Welsh are from the same cloth that was torn asunder by the very people who imposed Cornish assimilation. It must not be forgotten too that the Cornwall RFU isn’t Cornish. It remains a subordinate club of the English RFU that facilitates Cornish players’ progression to the English national team, a facility which is certainly not in the spirit of the FCNM.  So much for Cornish recognition.  It would therefore greatly benefit Cornish identity if the Cornwall RFU cut the ties to the English RFU and held negotiations with a view to  reforming under the Welsh RFU.  In fact, all sporting groups in Cornwall should form links with Wales; cut the ties that binds Cornwall to an England that has such a negative effect upon the identity of Cornwall.


The Cornish and the Welsh are from the same cloth

Of course, financial constraints will likely trump any Cornish ethnicity/identity considerations thus ensuring that most Cornish sports people will  continue to shun their own Cornish ethnicity for an English identity and its larger pay-packet.

But until Cornwall is in the secure position of having its own unique identity recognised and enshrined within a Cornish Assembly, then any proposed ‘stadium for Cornwall’ will be a stadium of assimilation; a stadium that will erode Cornish identity into becoming an English identity; a stadium that will likely host English games that would see the English flag of St George flying from its masts rather than the Cornish flag of St Piran; Cornish players wearing the English rose rather than the Cornish shield of fifteen bezants.


English flags flying at a Cornish stadium?

Does the recent hard-fought Cornish recognition mean it can be cast off like an old smock leaving  future Cornish generations reduced to playing under an English identity?

Be careful what you wish for Cornish people – because you just might get it.