Saturday, 28 June 2014

Golowan and the Cornish diaspora

The last week in June is the Golowan festival in Penzance.  This is a revival of ancient celebrations for the patron saitn, St John the Baptist.  There is a week of events and the town is decorated with banners made in special workshops.

The week culminates in Mazey Day on the Saturday and Quay Day on the Sunday.  Mazey Day is marked by a series of processions through the town while Quay Day is based on the traditional fair for people from the surrounding villages and area.

Each year there is a theme and this year it is the Cornish Diaspora.  I find this very interesting as my maternal grandmother's family came from Penzance and emigrated to New Zealand in 1874.  In fact we live less than a mile from where they lived.  The Golowan celebrations included a small exhibition about the diaspora mounted by the Cornish Global Migration Project  Some of us contributed short summaries of our families' experiences.  I found it difficult to reduce my text to 400 words but when I visited the exhibition the piece on my family, the Sam Lukes, looked very good as they had put a photo of the family that I sent them at the top

and a photo of the house that one of my great-grandfather's brothers built as his 'gentleman's residence' in Wellington at the bottom of the article.  This house was called 'Treneere' and named after the gentleman's residence that lies between the street where the family lived and our place here.  In the mid-nineteenth century the area between our village and their street was all farmland so I assume that the children played there.  In 1939 most of the land was turned into a large council housing estate but Treneere House is still there and is now part of Penwith College.

Unfortunately no-one in my extended family has a photo of my great-grandfather's house in Wellington which was called Tregellas after the farm on the Lizard where his mother grew up.  It took me years to track this down as all anyone in my mother's generation knew was that it was named for her.  We knew she came from St Keverne which is a huge parish at the far end of the Lizard and my grandmother used to talk about The Manacles a lot but it was not until shortly after my mother died that I located the actual farm.  It is now the base of the Roskillys ice-cream firm

The exhibition had a number of individual stories like mine and displays provided by Cornish associations in many parts of the world.   There was even a photo of two Australian Lukes who are Cornish Bards.  I had not realised that Cornish pasties were such an important feature of the diiaspora but there were photos of 'pastes' in Mexico which is their version of the pasties introduced by the Cornish miners.  Between 250,000 and 500,000 people left Cornwall in the century from 1850.  New Zealand does not seem to have had as many Cornish immigrants as places like Australia and the USA but I was told 150,000 went to NZ. Most of them were miners but my family were foundry men and there were also farmers and other occupations.  There were certainly plenty of people I knew in my childhood who had Cornish surnames.  The thing that strikes me about the diaspora is that it was just like immigration to the UK from the Empire after the Second World War.  Most of the migrants were single men who remitted money back to their families here and many of them returned.  Cornish miners were considered to the best 'deep' miners in the world.

I expect a lot of the schools' in today's processions also depicted the diaspora in their displays but I have given up going to Mazey Day because it is extremely crowded and very much for families.  I will just have to look at the photos in the local newspaper next week.

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