At the end of another week of newspaper archive research for my Cornwall Heritage Trust sponsored PhD on The Cornish Language from the Late 18th Century to the Early 20th Century, some fascinating information was unearthed which may well prove worthy of further examination.
A report from The Cornubian and Redruth Times in 6th September 1901 reveals a tourist from the Midlands referring to an old man who was in charge of a boat they were travelling in between Boscastle and Tintagel “using some Cornish”. The report states some of what the man said – whilst it is fair to say that almost all of which was said would fall under the heading of “dialect” rather than “language”, it shows that there was a potential of the odd Cornish word or two slipping into the conversation and so worth trying to find out just who this may have been.
The same newspaper reported on 23rd January 1904 about a Redruth man who had received written communication from Wales in the Welsh language because “the publishers thought Redruth people still spoke Cornish” and so would understand the Welsh!
One of the most fascinating finds this week relates to an article in The Cornubian and Redruth Times dated 21st February 1924 revealing that the London Cornish Association was planning on holding a meeting at King’s Weigh Clubhouse, Oxford Street using the Cornish language, with it stating that: “It is believed that this will be the first occasion since the time of Oliver Cromwell that real Cornish has been spoken in London.” A planned address by Mr. Trelawny Roberts entitled “Nebbaz Gerriau Dro Tho Carnoack” (“A few words about Cornish”) and songs sung in Cornish. After making this find, I have contacted the London Cornish Association and, along with a fellow 1st Year MPhil/PhD student hope to go along in January to view their archives in a bid to find out more about this event and any other potential material.
There was also mention of an article published in the French radical republican newspaper Le Rappel, which was founded on the initiative of Victor Hugo. In the piece in Le Rappel, dated 12 August 1902, Charles Hancock writes about the similarity of Breton and Cornish, shared history and characteristics. A browse of Le Rappel‘s archives (thanks to Anton Chatalier, University of Rennes for links) reveals several other articles relating to Cornish issues. One such piece, by Victor Hugo, albeit published posthumously on 28th May 1889, talks about links between Cornwall and Brittany, and another article on 16th September 1903 by Hugues Destrem talks of the possibility of “peasants from Cornwall coming to Brittany” if the financial hardships being suffered across the territory continued, as a result of this shared history and language roots.
Plenty of food for thought in these pieces!