Tanners, talkers and trappers? Three Cornish nicknames.

These three rare Cornish surnames originated in nicknames or occupational names.

Croggon is usually assumed to come for the Cornish word croghen (leather or skin) and be a name for a tanner. Its connection with Grampound’s tanning industry and its concentration in Grampound and Creed until the 1800s look to prove the point. The only slight doubt is that the name didn’t appear in the records until 1700, when Jacob Croggan was buried at Creed. This implies it arose in the late 1600s, which seems quite late for a surname to be derived from the Cornish language this far east.

Flamank was a family name well established at Bodmin in the middle ages. John Flamank, who had been MP for Bodmin, was one of the commissioners appointed to oversee the collection of the subsidy of 1525. His elder and more famous brother, lawyer Thomas Flamank, had been one of the leaders of the Cornish rising in 1497. Thomas’s execution for treason didn’t seem to affect the fortunes of the family however. The surname came from the French word for Flemish speaker. In the 1500s there was some switching between Flamank and the English version Fleming, which was found in the west, at Penryn and Helston, and in mid-Cornwall around St Blazey. By the 1600s Flamank had dislodged Fleming, apart from at Penzance. The name remained concentrated in mid-Cornwall, with its core area between Padstow on the north coast and Bodmin and Lostwithiel.

Gynn could either be from the Old French word for skill and ingenuity and been given to an inventive person. Or it may have arisen from the middle English for a snare or trap and been used as a name for a trapper. It was present in Cornwall as early as 1544, when Thomas Gyn was listed at Launceston. The Launceston district remained the centre of this surname into the 1600s, although a few examples began to penetrate mid-Cornwall from the 1590s.

One thought on “Tanners, talkers and trappers? Three Cornish nicknames.

  1. A little more support there for Croggon from Cornish croder-croghen‘ / ‘siever (of) skin might be that in the west, still in the 1800s, according to W Bottrell’s 1870 volume I of “Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall”, is mention of “the time beaten up on the crowd (sieve covered with sheep-skin)” (listed over on a Wikipedia entry for ‘English folk music (sic)’ – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdy-crawn ) Crowdy-Crawn was also the name of a radio program on what used to be Radio Cornwall, in the 1980s/1990s. Whether tis possible that the latter word stuck around, even in mid Cornwall, long enough to stick to people, well …?

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