I’ve now progressed from “easing myself gently” back into blogging and onto lazily recycling previous writing on old stories. I’ve been planning to post about a recent development concerning Cornwall for about a month, but was too damn disorganised tied up with other things. So I thought I’d discuss the developments and then quote some of Lance’s Travels Does Cornwall to pad out the post explain the story’s background in greater detail.
So the Cornish have been granted minority status under European rules for the protection of national minorities (congratulations!). This means they’ll be able to enjoy the same protections as the Welsh, Scottish and the Irish Celtic communities. It also means government departments and public bodies will need to consider Cornish views when making decisions, that their rights will be respected by combating discrimination, promoting equality and preserving and developing their culture and identity.
Dick Cole, who leads a group campaigning for Cornish devolution, said: “This is a fantastic development. This is a proud day for Cornwall.” Communities Minister Stephen Williams added: “This is a great day for the people of Cornwall who have long campaigned for the distinctiveness and identity of the Cornish people to be recognised officially.”
But alongside those happy at the decision there were, of course, those against the move. The BBC’s comment section was opened up and attracted the inevitable curmudgeonly comments of, “Groan, yet another gang of people attempting to set themselves apart from the rest of us (they’re no different really),” and, “Much of the UK has a proud history and distinctive identity so can we all be given minority status for own own (sic) geographical areas?” Although my particular favourite was the amusing, “As a 40+ left handed, white male who doesn’t like tomatoes can I claim miniority (sic) status?” There’s clearly a great deal of confusion about the reasons for the decision, but this is only owed to people having forgotten about Cornwall’s distinct ancestry. As I explained in Lance’s Travels – Does Cornwall:
[S]tudies have found that the native Cornish population actually represent one of the most genetically “pure” groups in Britain. They have been found to possess a far higher degree of pre-Roman genetic history than those in other parts of England. In contrast, as you move beyond the Cornish border the DNA evidence reveals traces of Anglo-Saxon and Danish Viking heritage. As a consequence it’s recognised that the people of Cornwall are genetically different from those in the rest of England. They are in fact far more closely related to the native inhabitants of Wales than anywhere else. And together with the Welsh they comprise one of the most genetically distinct groups in the whole of Great Britain.
One of the main explanations for this is that they can both trace their ancestry back to the Celtic tribes that inhabited Britain before Roman occupation. Both Cornwall and Wales were ancient Celtic kingdoms and the modern day inhabitants of these regions are descended from those ancient tribes.
Around the time of the 5th century the Anglo-Saxons from northern Europe began to invade what would one day become England. Before this the Celtic tribes were spread all over England and southern Scotland but these invaders forced the native Celtic tribes to retreat west. Their last remaining strongholds became Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Mann, Western Scotland, and Ireland. The inhabitants of England beyond the Cornish border are largely descended from these Anglo-Saxons, and later Viking, invaders meaning that the Cornish and the English (and likewise the Welsh) have completely separate ancestry. Consequently, the Cornish are more closely related to the Welsh and the other Celtic nations than the English.
The truth is that Cornwall was recognised as separate to England, in the same way that Wales is, until only a few centuries ago, but this distinction has been largely forgotten. So congratulations to the Cornish on this step towards being properly recognised again. I realise that I’m over a month late to offer those congratulations, but better late than never. If you wish to read the full story from the BBC the link is here. And, of course, Lance’s Travels – Does Cornwall is still available for free here. Look forward to my next post where I’ll inform you on some other out of date news. Apparently there are some problems brewing in Ukraine…