Sneak peek: Pictorial History of Australia’s Little Cornwall

Thanks to our friends at Wakefield Press, here is a sneak peek into Pictorial History of Australia’s Little Cornwall, written by Philip Payton.

In South Australia today, there can be few long-established families who cannot point to Cornish branches somewhere in their family trees; and the mark of the ‘Cousin Jacks’ – who came in such numbers in the past century – is to be found stamped indelibly upon the social, economic and political history of South Australia. Elsewhere in the world, particularly in North American and southern Africa, the distinctive contribution of the Cornish migrants can also be traced. For the Cornish were themselves a distinctive people. Cornwall had inherited the ancient Celtic tradition and this stood her apart from the Anglo-Saxon counties across the River Tamar border. Instead she shared a common heritage with the Welsh and Bretons.

Cornwall had her own Celtic language, similar to those of Wales and Brittany, which was spoken as a natural tongue until modern times. It lingered on into the 20th century to be revitalised by the enthusiastic vanguard of the great Cornish Revival. Constitutionally, too, Cornwall was ‘different’. Despite her ostensible administrative status as being just another British county, the Duchy of Cornwall (an institution linked with the Principality of Wales) gave her a unique relationship with the Crown. There was, in addition, a Stannary (or Tinners’) Parliament, thus affording Cornwall a certain measure of theoretical political independence from London. Although the Parliament last met in the 18th century, its associated legal system of Stannary Courts continued to function until 1897.         

In the 19th century, many of the attributes of Cornish individualism remained, and Cornwall was recognised as a land apart by commentators on both sides of the Tamar, and by the ordinary Cornish folk themselves. Cornwall was known popularly as ‘West Barbary’, and there existed the saying ‘into Cornwall, out of England’.

To continue reading, head into your local bookstore of visit Wakefield Press to secure your own copy!

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