St Cleer: to stay or not to stay, that is the question

Whether to stay overseas or return to Cornwall was a question that many Cornish emigrants grappled with. Some seem to have found it very difficult to answer. The engine of St Cleer's long-forgotten industrial boom times was South Caradon mine. Its remains stand as brooding testimony to its short 50 year existence, to the riches … Continue reading St Cleer: to stay or not to stay, that is the question

Probus: from one side of the world to the other (and back)

Even in rural parishes Cornish participation in the emigration flows from Europe to the New World was a constant background presence. It had a stark day-to-day reality in mining parishes by the mid-1800s but also could scarcely be ignored in non-mining parishes such as Probus, to the east of Truro. Golden Manor in 1872 Take … Continue reading Probus: from one side of the world to the other (and back)

Patronyms and the Cornish language

Does the presence of patronymic surnames (surnames derived from first names) tell us anything about the last days of the traditional Cornish language? I have argued elsewhere that the distribution of the most common surnames in nineteenth century Cornwall – Williams, Thomas and Richards – offers a good indication of the geography of the language … Continue reading Patronyms and the Cornish language

Which is more ‘Cornish’, Stevens or Stephens?

In the 1950s the surname researcher Richard Blewett asked ‘are the Stevens at present in Cornwall descendants of Breton Celtic immigrants’, citing the Cornish revivalist Robert Morton Nance. This was repeated by G.Pawley White in 1972 who claimed that Stevens was the ‘Cornish form’ of Stephens. But is this actually the case? In 1881 both … Continue reading Which is more ‘Cornish’, Stevens or Stephens?