Cornish people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Total population

Uncertain (Population of Cornwall 519,400, 2005 est.)

Regions with significant populations
English (see West Country dialects), Cornish
Anglicanism, Methodism
Related ethnic groups
Bretons, English, Irish, Manx, Scottish, Welsh, Britons

The Cornish people are regarded as an ethnic group of Britain originating in Cornwall. They are often described as a Celtic people.

The number of people living in Cornwall who consider themselves to be more Cornish than British or English is unknown. One survey found that 35.1% of respondents identified as Cornish, with 48.4% of respondents identifying as English, a further 11% thought of themselves as British.[1] A Morgan Stanley survey in 2004 indicated that 44% of people in Cornwall identify as Cornish rather than English or British, [2] and there have been recent calls for more accuracy in the recording of the number who identity as Cornish in the 2011 Census.[3]

As with other ethnic groups in the British Isles, the question of identity is not straightforward. Ethnic identity has been based as much – if not more – on cultural identity than on descent. Many descendants of people who came and settled in Cornwall have adopted this identity.[4]

The subject of Cornish identity has been extensively studied in the Cornish studies series of books published by Exeter university press. Cornishness is examined with methodological tools varying from feminist theory to deconstructionism.[5]

In the 2001 UK Census, the population of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was estimated to be 501,267.[6] Cornish community organisations tend to consider half of these people to be ethnic Cornish.[citation needed]

A recent survey by the University of Plymouth found that, when given the opportunity, over a third of pupils in Cornish schools identified themselves as Cornish.[citation needed] A survey conducted by Morgan Stanley found that 44% of Cornish inhabitants surveyed felt "Cornish" rather than "British" or "English". [7] This was the largest such figure in England,[8] across the whole of England 21% of people identified most closely to their county, 31% to England and 34% to Britain,[7] but it was not the only such result: 37% of people in Derbyshire and East Sussex also identified themselves with their county first.[8] This represented nearly 7% of the population of Cornwall and is therefore a significant phenomenon. [9] Although happy with this development, campaigners expressed reservations about the lack of publicity surrounding the issue, the lack of a clear tick-box for the Cornish option on the census and the need to deny being British in order to write "Cornish" in the field provided. The UK government has agreed recently that English and Welsh will have an ethnicity tick box on the Census 2011 but there will be no Cornish option tick box. Various Cornish organisations are campaigning for the inclusion of the Cornish tick box on the next 2011 Census. [10] [11]


[edit] Mythological Descent of the Cornish nation

An ancient legend, the Brutus Myth, recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth, gives explicit reference to the Cornish people in describing their descent. The legend tells how Albion was colonised by refugees from Troy under Brutus, how Brutus renamed his new Kingdom, Britain, and how the island was subsequently divided up between his three sons - the eldest inheriting England, the other two Scotland and Wales. Additionally according to the legend there were two groups of Trojans who originally arrived in Britain. The smaller group was led by a warrior named Corineus, to whom Brutus granted extensive estates. And just as Brutus had ‘called the island Britain…and his companions Britons’, so Corineus called ‘the region of the kingdom which had fallen to his share Cornwall, after the manner of his own name, and the people who lived there…Cornishmen’.

The first account of Cornwall comes from the Sicilian Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (c.90 BCE–c.30 BCE), supposedly quoting or paraphrasing the fourth-century BCE geographer Pytheas, who had sailed to Britain:

[The inhabitants of that part of Britain called Belerion or the Land's End] from their intercourse with foreign merchants, are civilised in their manner of life. They prepare the tin, working very carefully the earth in which it is produced…Here then the merchants buy the tin from the natives and carry it over to Gaul, and after travelling overland for about thirty days, they finally bring their loads on horses to the mouth of the Rhône.[12]

Who these merchants were is not known. There is no current evidence for the theory that they were Phoenicians.[13]

No other region is picked out for such special treatment; the historian Dr Mark Stoyle has suggested that this shows that, as far as Geoffrey was concerned, Cornwall possessed a separate identity. Cornishmen and women continued to regard themselves as descendants of Corineus until well into the early modern period.[14]

In two recently published books, Blood of the Isles, by Brian Sykes and Origins of Britons, by Stephen Oppenheimer, both authors claim that according to genetic evidence, most Cornish people and most Britons descend from an ancient (Paleolithic) population of the Iberian Peninsula, as a result of different migrations that took place during the Mesolithic and the Neolithic which laid the foundations for the present-day populations in the British Isles, indicating an ancient relationship among the populations of Atlantic Europe.

[edit] The Cornish in history

Main article: History of Cornwall
Year Event
722 The Cornish Britons together with their friends and allies, the (Danish) Vikings destroy an invading Anglo-Saxon army at "Hehil", somewhere around modern day Padstow.
878 The drowned king Donyarth is recorded in the Annales Cambriae as rex Cerniu (King of Cornwall).
1360 Treaty of Brétigny: "John, by the Grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Earl of Anjou, confirmed the aforesaid; and Richard, King of Germany and Earl of Cornwall, in like manner, confirmed the aforesaid".
 15th century  The Croyland Chronicle states: "In order zealously to carry out the same, he sent the venerable men of God, brothers Egelmer and Nigel, his fellow-monks, with relics of the saints, into the western parts, namely, Flanders and France. To the northern parts and into Scotland he sent the brothers Fulk and Oger, and into Denmark and Norway the brothers Swetman and Wulsin the younger; while to Wales, Cornwall and Ireland he sent the brothers Augustin and Osbert".
1485 Polydore Vergil, an Italian cleric commissioned by King Henry VII to write a history of England, states that "The whole country of Britain is divided into four parts, whereof the one is inhabited by Englishmen, the other of Scots, the third of Welshmen, the fourth of Cornish people ... and which all differ among themselves either in tongue, either in manners, or else in laws and ordinances."
1497 The Cornish Rebellion.
1509 King Henry VIII's coronation procession includes "nine children of honour" representing "England and France, Gascony, Guienne, Normandy, Anjou, Cornwall, Wales and Ireland."
1531 From the court of King Henry VIII, the Italian diplomat Lodovico Falier writes in a letter that "The language of the English, Welsh and Cornish men is so different that they do not understand each other". He also claims it is possible to distinguish the members of each group by alleged "national characteristics".
1538 Writing to his government, the French ambassador in London, Gaspard de Coligny Chatillon, indicates ethnic differences thus: "The kingdom of England is by no means a united whole, for it also contains Wales and Cornwall, natural enemies of the rest of England, and speaking a [different] language".
1603 Following Queen Elizabeth I's death, the Venetian ambassador writes that the "late queen had ruled over five different 'peoples': 'English, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish ... and Irish'".
1616 Arthur Hopton [later ambassador to Madrid?] writes that "England is ... divided into three great Provinces, or Countries ... speaking a several and different language, as English, Welsh and Cornish".
1652 The English puritan preacher, Roger Williams complained that "we have Cornwall, Indians in Wales, Indians in Ireland".
1769 The Antiquarian, William Borlase wrote that "Of this time we are to understand what Edward I. says (Sheringham. p. 129.) that Britain, Wales, and Cornwall, were the portion of Belinus, elder son of Dunwallo, and that that part of the Island, afterwards called England, was divided in three shares, viz. Britain, which reached from the Tweed, Westward, as far as the river Ex; Wales inclosed by the rivers Severn, and Dee; and Cornwall from the river Ex to the Land's-End".

During the eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson created a Cornish declaration of independence that he used in his essay Taxation no Tyranny [15]

"We are the acknowledged descendants of the earliest inhabitants of Britain, of men, who, before the time of history, took possession of the island desolate and waste, and, therefore, open to the first occupants. Of this descent, our language is a sufficient proof, which, not quite a century ago, was different from yours."

Additionally, many maps of the isles prior to the seventeenth century showed Cornwall ("Cornubia"/"Cornwallia") as a nation on a par with Wales.[16][17][18] [19]

[edit] Contemporary references

In 1937 Bartholomew published a Map of European Ethnicity prepared by the Edinburgh Institute of Geography which featured "Celtic Cornish".

More recently, on 12 July 2005, Jim Fitzpatrick MP, an ODPM Parliamentary Under Secretary in the current Labour government, said in the Commons, in response to Andrew George MP, a Liberal Democrat representing the St Ives constituency in Cornwall, I realise that the people of Cornwall consider that they have a separate identity, but that alone does not justify creating an assembly for Cornwall.[20] Phil Woolas MP, Minister for Local Government, indicated the same in his answer to a letter from Mebyon Kernow: "On your point about Cornwall’s desire to control its own future, the Government is very much aware of the strength of feeling about Cornwall’s separate identity and distinctiveness ... The Government recognises that many people in Cornwall consider they have a separate identity."[citation needed]

NGOs such as Eurominority and the Federal Union of European Nationalities also give varying degrees of recognition to a Cornish people.[21][22][23]

[edit] Cornish language

The Cornish language is seen by many as the cultural back bone of the Cornish identity, although only 3,500 of the estimated 250,000 Cornish people (1.4%) speak it to a basic conversational level, and just 300-400 fluently. Recently the Cornish language, which was revived in the 20th Century after dying out as a native tongue in the 19th, has been recognised by the UK and EU for protection as a UK minority language and now receives funding from both these bodies. The Cornish language is a Brythonic language related to Welsh and Breton.

A distinct dialect of English can also be found in Cornwall, and appears in many popular Cornish folksongs such as Camborne Hill. To an extent, the accent and dialect is a badge of "Cornishness" for some people, but interest in Anglo-Cornish has been overshadowed by the Cornish language recently.

[edit] Descent

Many who perceive themselves to be of the Cornish nation also consider themselves to be descended from the Brythons of the post-Roman period. For this reason they consider there to be a kinship connection with the Welsh and Breton peoples and more distantly with the Scots, Manx and Irish. After the Anglo-Saxon conquest of southern, eastern and central Great Britain, Brythonic speakers were gradually pushed further into the fringes, eventually cutting them off into three groups - the Southwestern Britons (from whence the Cornish), the West Britons (the Welsh) and the Northern Britons (see Cumbric).

This sense of a shared past is given voice in such organisations as the Celtic League and Celtic Congress, both of whom recognise Cornwall and the Cornish as a Celtic nation.

Today, many family and given names from Cornwall are clearly rooted in the Cornish language.

Y chromosome analysis of samples from the British Isles, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Friesland, and the Basque Country have shown that Cornish men's Y chromosomes are generally more similar to those of the assumed indigenous population (Welsh/Irish/Basque) than are those of men from other parts of England or Scotland. The Y chromosomes from Cornwall, however, were more Germanic (Danish/German/Frisian) than those from Wales, Ireland or the Basque Country. It should be noted that samples from all parts of the British Isles show an indigenous component.[24]

[edit] Politics

The Cornish national identity is given voice also in the existence of various political and pressure groups. These organisations usually call for greater home rule for Cornwall, recognition of Cornwall as a Duchy and various other human rights issues. See Cornish nationalism and Constitutional status of Cornwall.

In parliamentary politics, Cornwall is a Liberal Democrat stronghold. As of the 2005 General Election, all five members of parliament returned to Westminster are Liberal Democrats.[25] The largest Cornish nationalist party, Mebyon Kernow (Cornish for Sons of Cornwall), fielded candidates in four of the five constituencies and received around 3,500 votes, less than two percent of constituencies' electorate. The Liberal Democrats in Cornwall, however, have campaigned for Cornish language issues,[26][27] Cornish national minority issues and for the establishment of a devolved Cornish Assembly[28] and Cornish development agency.[29]

The Cornish branch of the Green Party of England and Wales also campaigns on a manifesto of devolution to Cornwall and Cornish minority issues. In the 2005 general election the Green Party struck a partnership deal with Mebyon Kernow. [30]

[edit] Religion

Traditionally, the Cornish have been nonconformist in their religion. Celtic Christianity was predominant during the first millennium AD and many Cornish saints are commemorated in legends, churches and place names.

Approximately four thousand people from Devon and Cornwall died in the Prayer Book Rebellion in the 1540s, trying to resist the compulsory use of a new English language version of the Book of Common Prayer. Attempts to revert to the Latin version, or to translate the text into Cornish, were suppressed. This failure to produce or sustain a translation of the Bible in Cornish is generally seen as a crucial factor in the demise of the language. An approved version of the Bible in Cornish was finally published in 2004. [31]

[edit] Methodism

During the Industrial Revolution, Methodism proved to be very popular amongst the working classes in Cornwall. Methodist chapels became important social centres, with church-affiliated groups such as male voice choirs playing a central role in social life. Methodism still plays a large part in the religious life of Cornwall today, although Cornwall has shared in the general post-World War II decline in British religious worship. Cornwall and Gwennap Pit in particular were favourite places of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley.

[edit] Fry an Spyrys

In 2003, a campaign group was formed called Fry an Spyrys (English: "Free the Spirit") [32] dedicated to disestablishing the Church of England in Cornwall in favour of an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion; a Church of Cornwall. They appeal to the precedents set when the Anglican Church was disestablished in Wales to form the Church in Wales in 1920 and in Ireland to form the Church of Ireland in 1869. The group's chairman is Dr Garry Tregidga of the Institute of Cornish Studies.

[edit] Cornish emigration and diaspora

In the 18th and 19th centuries many Cornish people migrated to various parts of the world in search of a better life — this is called Cornish migration. A driving force for some emigrants was the opportunity for skilled miners to find work abroad, later in combination with the decline in the tin and copper mining industries in Cornwall. Migration became so common that a slang term to describe a Cornish migrant abroad appeared: "Cousin Jack" [33].

Today, in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, South Africa and other countries, some of the descendants of these original migrants celebrate their Cornish ancestry and remain proud of the Cornish family names they carry. This is evidenced by the existence of both Cornish societies and Cornish festivals in these countries, as well as a growing overseas interest in the Cornish language.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Appendix I: Sample Profile (downloadable '.doc' file) from QUALITY OF LIFE IN CORNWALL: Summary Report (2004), by Cornwall County Council Research and Information Unit. Retrieved 16 July 2006.
  2. ^ Morgan Stanley survey shows that 44% identify as Cornish rather tha English or British
  3. ^ Calls for Cornish identity on census
  4. ^ Payton, Philip: Cornwall – A History. ISBN 1-904880-05-3
  5. ^ Various authors: Cornish Studies series, ed. Philip Payton ISBN 0-85989-771-0.
  6. ^ Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly from Census 2001: National Statistics Online, UK state website. Retrieved 14 July 2006.
  7. ^ a b Welsh are 'more patriotic' from BBC News website. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  8. ^ a b Cornish people the most attached to their county: Morgan Stanley, March 18, 2004, p1
  9. ^ Cornish ethnicity data from the 2001 Census
  10. ^ Cornish demand tick box for 2011 Census
  11. ^ Mebyon Kernow support 2011 Census Cornish ethnicity tick box
  12. ^ Halliday, p51.
  13. ^ Halliday, p52.
  14. ^ Stoyle, Mark: West Britons -Cornish Identities and the Early Modern British State ISBN 0-85989-687-0.
  15. ^ TAXATION NO TYRANNY by Samuel Johnson, From The Works of Samuel Johnson published by Pafraets & Company, Troy, New York (1913). Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  16. ^ Detail by Gerardus Mercator (1569) from The Mercator Atlas of Europe Retrieved 16 July 2006.
  17. ^ Anglia & Hibernia by Sebastian Munster (1550), from Old Maps from a genealogy website. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  18. ^ Epitome Theatri Orteliani by Abraham Ortelius (1595), from Old Maps from a genealogy website. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  19. ^ Anglia et Hibernia Nova by Girolamo Ruscelli (1561), from Old Maps from a genealogy website. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  20. ^ Regional Government Debate: The United Kingdom Parliament, 12 Jul 2005. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  21. ^ The Cornish in the south-west of Great Britain article in FUEN - Now Actuel No 77, p. 4, October 2001. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  22. ^ Minorities, native people and ethnic groups from Eurominority website. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  23. ^ Stateless nations and regions Eurominority website. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  24. ^ A Y Chromosome Census of the British Isles, Cristian Capelli et al in Current Biology, Volume 13, Issue 11, Pages 979-984 (2003). Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  25. ^ General Election 2005, Results in Full Map of constituencies from Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 15 July 2005.
  26. ^ Cornish gains official recognition: BBC News, 6 November 2002. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  27. ^ Local MP swears oath in Cornish BBC News, 12 May, 2005. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  28. ^ Blair gets Cornish assembly call: BBC News, 11 December 2001. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  29. ^ Aid cash bureaucracy criticised: BBC News, 28 October, 2004. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  30. ^ Historic election deal between Cornish party and Greens, Green Party of England and Wales website, 25th Mar 2004. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  31. ^ The Cornish New Testament was published by the Cornish Language Board on 13 August 2004.
  32. ^ Fry an Spyrys: The campaign for self-government for the churches of Cornwall. Website. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  33. ^ Cousin Jack: BBC - Legacies - Immigration and Emigration - England - Cornwall. Website. Retrieved 6 September 2006.

[edit] External links