LANGUAGE FOCUS GROUP:
KEMMYN Ė ĎCOMMON CORNISHí
Saturday 19th February 2000 12:30 Ė 14:00: Church Hall, St. Austell.
Persons present (in order of signature on sederunt, with own description):-
Gary Angove Member Cornish Language Board.
Kathryn Bounsall Student
Wella Brown General sec Kesva an Taves Kernewek
Ken George member Kesva an Taves Kernewek
Mike Daniels Novice Student
Tony Walpole Learner
Jane Ninnis Sales Sec Kesva an Taves K. Kowethas. Bard.
Jori Ansell Chair, Cornish Sub-Committee EBLUL
Pol Hodge Cornish language poet Dew Vardh Kowethas Yeth Kernewek
Huw Rowe Stannator of the Cornish Stannary Parliament
Marsha Taylor Student of the Cornish Language
Nigel Hicks MPS, Cornish Stannary Parliament. Studying Kernewek
Graeme Hicks Studying Kernewek
Raymond Appleby member of Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek ha Keskerdh Kernow 500
Trystan S-Jenkin " " " " " " " "
Loveday C. T. Jenkin member Kesva an Taves Kernewek
Audrey Metcalf Kowethas an Yeth member & Cornish Speaker
Vanessa Moyle 4th Grade Speaker Camborne Class Cowethas an Yeth Member
Jill Warden - Language bard Ė teach 2 Classes in Cornish in local primary
school (years 5 & 6)
Susan Roberts - Student of Cornish language and Cornish language bard
Geoff Orient Cornish Language Student and Cornish Language Bard
Total persons present: 26
Wella Brown: Shall I briefly introduce you then? Ö..So Professor MacKinnon, whom I may introduce, has come from far parts Ė Enys Du - from the Black Isle, by Dingwall, and whoís, on several occasions visited Cornwall. He knows Cornwall, he was brought up here as a lad, being an evacuee in Porthia, knows some Cornish, even I believe six years ago coming to one of our Penseythun, and is here to discuss with us, to find from us exactly what our views are on Cornish as she is spoken and used today. Now, we are due to start at half past, the Language Board is speaking at quarter past two. I can see some of you are munching and munching. So good luck to you. So if we could stop, I donít know, say about quarter to two, something like that? So we are in your hands. So Professor MacKinnonÖ
KM: Mur ras dheugh-why lemmyn. Genough-why-oll Iím here from the North of Scotland, on a Government contract, Iím with the Government Office for the South West relating to an independent academic study on Cornish. Iím the principal researcher on this and colleagues in an associated company called EKOS are managing this study in carious ways. The government has set this up in order that they may be advised of the Cornish language in relationship to signing the European Charter for Minority or Regional Languages. The promise to sign this document is part of the fall out that promised to sign the document is part of the fall out from the Good Friday Agreement. The Government promised to sign it in respect to Irish in Northern Ireland. The immediate response was for those representing interest in such as Welsh language, Scots language, Gaelic language that the document should obviously be signed in respect of these languages. And this was readily agreed to, at which point that various interests in Cornwall pointed out that there was also a Cornish language and this also should be seen similar recognition. Although the government readily gave promises for those former, perhaps, more higher profile languages in UK society and politics, the government, I take it, wish to be reassured that there was such a thing as the Cornish language, that it is a language that lives in various ways, that there is a tradition of use of this language, and thatís one of the key concepts in terms in the European Charter. The language not only has a historic place within a particular territory, but that there is also a tradition of use, so they wanted a report which would look at both of these aspects. They put out various tenders to people and, do you know, me dears, on Tom Bawcockís Eve I got a telephone call and they intimated that we were going to be appointed to this, so that was good news for Christmas and shortly in the New Year we were. Iíve been down earlier, last month, and one or two folk here, Iíve been in contact with. I hope to interview thirty or forty people in all the various aspects of the Cornish language, and we are also holding these focus groups, which will enable those within the different aspects of the language movement to make their own points, contributions to be felt. Itís something which is, I think, a timely development.
The European Charter is under the aegis of the Council of Europe so that is wider than the European Union. Iit is an International Treaty and if the Government signs this it will give a measure of, not only national but international recognition for the Cornish language. I would say, off the record, is deserved and should be the case. Certainly I shall report in comparison with other minority languages. Iíd better not say too much now except just to indicate the basis on what this is happening.
By the way, Iíve left my crowst in the car. I meant to bring it with me to eat.
Voice: Left your what?
Voice: Do you want to go and get it?
KM: No, the point is I donít mind anybody else eating theirs. I think Iíll wait and not bother nowÖ Please do feel free, because it is within the lunch timeÖ.and I will have a bit of a break after this.
Various people speaking re lunch/coffee time
KM: Iím going to circulate a sederunt and if youíre able please to indicate who you are, signing on this and this representing the Kemmyn aspect in St Austell Church Hall. Iím saying this in relation also to the fact that I am recording this. Now if thereís anybody who has any objection to my recording this, I shall not record it. If anybody wishes to say something which should be off the record, Iíll stop the recording.
Saturday the 19th Feb 2000, we started at 12.30. Now, Iím going to ask you please if youíll sign this as it goes round. Please let me have the pen back. If you just put your name and if you have any particular sort of function, or any particular office that you hold in relationship to language movement or of youíre just a member of any language group to put that. I think actually put like the highest status one, because many of you do a lot of things. I do recognize, I remember reading what Anne Jenkins said New Cornwall in about 1957 that so many of us do so many things and hold so many offices and thereís so few of us that hardly any of us dare drop out and if we did so much would collapse. So, itís still true of the language movement. So if I could ask you to sign that, and if anybody wants a pen borrow mine.
KM: Iíve got a number of prompts here, move this back slightly so I can see all of you. And some of these prompts which Iíve got are in sort of note form but take them as points of departure. Iím going to look at aspects such as, weíve got just a little over an hour, havenít we, Wella?
WB:: Letís call it that shall we.
KM: We are looking towards an hourís time twenty to, quarter to two. Some of the aspects which Iíd like to have discussed, the past and why the language died, the revival of the language, how it came about and what drove it, the current use, how the language features in everyday life. We will also, as we get more towards our allotted time span, I would like to discuss the problems or the opportunities which have arisen in respect that the revival has produced a variety of language forms, and I would very much welcome your views on that, and how the future looks to you in relationship to the forthcoming prospects for the Cornish language.
Mur ras dheugh-why. Our first question is, why did the language die? Just one or two brief little, it might be good to produce to come out with a few brief, you know, sound bites rather than perhaps a thirty minute, you know, dissertation or discourse.
Male voice: One of the fixed reasons why the language died is the Prayer Book Rebellion, death of Cornish speakers.
KM: Yes, thatís a good point. What about its later phases like 18th, 19th century.
Male voice: Economic conditions mainly.
Male voice: Yes, apathy, general awesome Cornish consciousness.
Not clear Ė decline of certain occupations, such as fishing
Male voice: I think you can get a lot of these factors from books and stuff, I donít know whether youíre actually.
KM: I have.
Male voice: Well, if you have, Iíll just put Number One is what Ray said is the Prayer Book rebellion or as someone has recorded it The Cornish Holocaust. We lost 11% of our population.
KM: Yes, think people like John Angarrack have drawn attention to the.. Ö People like John Angarrack have drawn attention to these issues.
Male voice: We have yea, but itís important to recognize that 11% of the population died. They were all males. In fact what that was, was every other man of breeding age. If you look at the way they died there was 900 put to death at Clyst. They were all of them prisoners and they were just butchered in the space of ten minutes. AlsoÖ
KM: Thatís quite a powerful point.
Male voice: Also, there were over a thousand killed on their way to Somerset. I mean, and afterwards there was Sir Anthony Kingstonís death squads hung crowds of people the length of Cornwall. Just the sheer loss of blood, thatís what killed the language.
KM: I think this is valuable because this has only very recently been, started to be brought before public attention.
Male voice: It was brought to public attention on the March that quite a few people they marched all the way from Bodmin, where the Prayer Book Rebellion had started, to Exeter and they planted 900 flags to represent that 900 prisoners were killed in the Cathedral Green.
KM: This was 1549.
Male voice: 1549. But, the point of it is, why were they burned? And it has severalÖ two articles they actually published were to do with the language. One at Castle Collithy (?) before they left and one they made while they were doing the siege of Exeter. So, that rebellion did have an ethnic dimension to it. Why did Sir Anthony Kingston cover apparently the length and breadth of Cornwall, didnít come anywhere else. Why was the language made illegal of the church? The real thing, why is it being brushed under the carpet is because the Council, the King was too young at the time actually had a policy of ethnically wiping out the Cornish. One of the markers was the language, and the other thing is in that same sense we were actually cut off from Brittany, but these things were actually done in the name of the Church of England.
KM: Any Church of England members here, communicating members?
Male voice: I am, yes.
KM: What do you feel about this, does the Church of England? I donít want to get up on this tack too much, we are in church premises and enjoying their facilities, so how do you feel, Iíve often thought to myself there are many very sort of staunch Anglicans in the language movement and, I donít want it to entirely get under this tack though but I did want, you know, Öpractising Anglicans to have the opportunity to come back on this one.
Male voice: Ö.Whatever denomination you are today the Church of England, the Catholic or Methodist but, I mean, really are there Englishmen learning the Cornish language? Thatís the reason I wanted to learn Cornish because our ancient forefathers were speaking Cornish 900 years ago. Like we see films on the television today and you see like Celts, you know, Vikings and that, the Romans and the English, they all speak the same language, English.
KM: Yes, I know.
Male voice: Ö..thereís none of the critics speak in a Celtic language. Theyíre always speaking the same common English Ö.
Male voice: In the matter of the relationship to the Church of England, the Cornish of course ought to be remembered ÖÖin view of things that the revival in the last fifty years Ö. Was clustered around certain Anglicans and of course the service that we had, and the only service translation is of course the one which is used from the Anglican Church, and the church services were of course were held in Cornish for a long time.. So, Iím not disagreeing with whatís being said but Iím saying there is a slightly counter- balancing phenomenon in modern science.
KM: Some very strong parallels with our Gaelic situation in North of Scotland. Jori!
GA: Yes, perhaps we could question to what degree the language did die out? Weíre coming up to celebrate the centenary of the revival in 2004, 1904 Jennerís Handbook. In fact he wrote a handbook in 1904 and finds that heís working on it many years before then. Thereís the Kowethas Kelto-Kernewek, which was formed in 1900 I think. There must have been people working on it a long time before then. There was the centenary of Dolly Pentreathís death in 1777, and there was a Cornish dimension to that. There were competitions in newspapers of the 1870s for people writing essays in Cornish. This knowledge of the language seems to have rumbled on as we go down throughout the last century although around 1800, as means of communication, yes it probably did almost die out. But, there seems to have been a basic knowledge, understanding of Cornish in the west right throughout the last century.
KM: Throughout the century, if weíre going to be pedanticÖGood, well Iím with you there.
GA: Throughout the 19th century, yes, and a knowledge among fishermen, some people have said perhaps they actually spoke it in their boats when they went to sea. I donít know. Certainly they counted their fish. There seems to have been this very low residual knowledge of Cornish, right throughout the century. So, there is a question as to whether it did die.
KM: Yes, thatís a point which I very much bear in mind. Nance (actually it was Charles Thomas), used the expression, Ďapostolic successioní, and, you know, how the Cornish language came down and I think I might use that phrase in my report and talk about these issues. Iíd like to steer us over now as to why the language got revived, so, Iíll come in on you because youíve been sort of.
Male voice: I just wanted to make a very brief comment on the church aspect. The church in Cornwall has always been a political issue from the very, very first days of the Saxon revival, they were using the church as an excuse to or for invading it, and the Norman Conquest. But the point that in the 17th century the Cornish language had a terrible decline. It wasnít just as a result of maybe thousands of people being killed, but it lost its status, the status it had before, its status practically disappeared. There were aristocrats and others who were using the language until then, and the church was using it, even in the 17th century. Weíve got several accounts of vicars who were still preaching sermons in Cornish, or those who knew it. I donít think you can entirely blame the churchís attitude if the people had remained solidly Cornish speaking, the church would have accommodated itself to it and so much for the Church of England.
Male voice: I donít think you should put it down to the church particularly as some folk do in Cornwall regarding the language. But I think it was a reflection of the fact that the language declined in status terribly in that period.
KM: I really do want to move on from the past because the main focus of the advice to Government will be present day use and tradition of use. So, I really want to get on to why it was revived as the leader into that. Iíll come to you in a minute because youíve had one go and if I could call upon you please. Yes please, mar plek.
Male voice: What I would say is that it was not so much a case of revival as an awareness of the language because itís always been there. For example in place names, grandparents and older relations passing on lots of words and even parts of Cornish words in the English language, and itís nothing other than something hidden from you, which is part of our culture, which is only natural that people want to learn more about. And from that being the nature of learning and communications etc., people are looking and searching to find their roots and other things. Thereís a lot of questions being asked. For instance, my grandmother said that she learnt the Lordís Prayer in Cornish from my great grandfather, that is Ö and there are words that sheíd pass onto me in Cornish, although there were words that often I never remembered. I often wonder where did our language die or disappear to?
Male voice: It never actually did. It always existed but it was people that have been people sharp enough to recognize that it was still there in the background.
KM: My grandfather refused to impart one word of Gaelic to me. He actually refused. Yes. Mar plek.
Male voice: Thank you. I just wanted to talked about the Rebellion, and of course the word Rebellion is also a word that is used by the, todayís establishments and in fact at that time the Cornish people were actually standing up for what they regarded as a violation issue, what we would quote today as their human right. I think that that the term Rebellion is wholly inappropriate but because the actual rebellion happened, continually recurred and re-occurred through history and of course our history that our children here in Cornwall are taught in fact is an English history. We donít get any Cornish history at all because it is very unsavoury or distasteful to the English palate. We only have to take up the newspapers here and look at how Anglocentric todayís country is, and I think it is again to be added to the overall suppression of Kernewek. .So, the history in fact, although we donít talk about it, we canít get it across itís a total suppression not being spoken. Itís very, very unpalatable to certain very influential people in society today.
KM: I can take that point. Thank you.
Male voice: Can I just sort of expand. I think one of the reasons we talk about revival now.
KM: I want really to get onto the revival, and why it was done and who did it and what sort of people they were.
Male voice: One of the reasons I think why itís happening so much at the moment, thereís a lot of it around, thereís a whole lot of reasons, increased communications and ability to be able to publish material, the ability to be able to talk, the ability to study, you know, we have a lot more opportunity. I think also, very importantly, is the loss of self confidence that the English are having at the moment with their own identity which is allowing us to reassure our identity. You say, hold on, Iíve got nothing against your English accent, your English history and your worldview, thatís fine, you can have that, but Iím not the same. Now, before, because they were so powerful that voice was very much sat on and ignored all through the revival. Now, theyíre given this crisis of conscience of what are they, who are they, theyíve lost the Empire, they havenít found a new role for themselves. So we have been able to come forward again and actually say, well, okay, fine, we are Cornish and we can stand up and say. Now that, I think, tied in with all these other developments which allowed us to do that, technology and all the rest of it. This is one of the reasons why I think a revival is happening now, and didnít happen 100 years ago when the Empire was at its height. I think itís interesting that the Empire was at its height, English view points could be quite easily and successfully sold to Cornish people. You want to get on, you want success, become English. You want to go abroad, you want to get job, become English speaking, become part of the English establishment. I mean that globally not just in this respect. And then you will get on. Now, they canít sell that same thing to the Cornish people today, because they are having their own problems. So the Cornish people are beginning to go, okay, we bought your dream for a hundred years. Weíre not going to follow it any more, and I think thatís why the times are right.
KM: Interesting point, but there were people, the revivalists, 100 years ago who were doing this in the teeth of all that. I mean, you mightnít look at Jenner and Nance as being sort of raving gun-waving revolutionaries, but I mean, you know, were they?
Male voice: That was part of rediscovery, wasnít it? Rediscovery as has been mentioned. There was a general awareness of things Celtic as being part of the European culture and that occurred as much in Brittany and Scotland as it did in Cornwall. These people like Duncombe-Jewell rediscovered.
Male voice: Yes, they rediscovered the fact that there was a language, the place names, the personal names and they set about doing something about it. Ö, and hence getting the Handbook and everything. So rediscovery I think is the key for it then.
KM: Rediscovery. One thing we should all, often struck me as, worth noting is that the two sort of domains in which the Cornish lingered longest were like the Lordís Prayer and counting, a sort of spiritual, ideological domain and a very sort of weíre going to keep the transactions, you know, under our control domain, a very instrumental, economic domain. I donít know whether thereís anything in that theory? Thank you. Mar plek Ö.
Male voice: I think itís also very much the recognition on the part of those protagonists for the language revival, in that in the language there is represented the richest aspect of Cornish heritage. And if you look at every county of England, for example, you canít say that one amongst them has a language which can be revived, and of course, our language has scarcely if at all actually died. So, itís ripe therefore for the picking, and these clever men saw it as a value, reviving a sort of patriotism in Cornwall regenerate the whole of Cornwall.
KM: And if you are saying regenerate, can I ask you in what senses you mean that word?
Male voice: Pride which has been lost. A loss of status for community gain.
KM: Okay, thank you.
Fem voice: I think that thing about status is quite important because again itís academia or educated people saying, ĎWell, there is something important in this.í And that people who have it, been their sub-culture, if you like, in terms of, you know, place-names around, that dialect words in speech whatever, and it being considered the lowest of the low. Because when you get antiquarians coming along, you think, well, actually this is really interesting, we want to know all about it. It gives people a bit of a compliment, saying about their background and that must have been strong and everything.
KM: Thank you. Ken.
KG: Iíd like to reinforce that point about academic people. Although the language, especially in its later stages appeared to be the province of say the working classes, which I suppose are miners, fishermen and farmers. Nevertheless, the development, the promulgation, and the development of the language and its revival will always be in the hands of academics. From Glasney onwards, where it was used in school, in Late Cornish some of these people could speak a dozen languages: Bosons, Angwin, ScawenÖ..They were all highly educated and fluent in Cornish. And revivalists later on, all highly educated and
Fem voice: But I think we would have stayed in the realms of academia if it hadnít been for the will of the people saying, "Yes, this is something we treasure, if other people give us permission to treasure it thatís great." A bit more confidenceÖ
KM: Iím very conscious that this study is the 300th anniversary of Lhuydís peregrinations. I fell very, sort, of, a sense of responsibility with that date in mind.
Male voice: Getting back to Philís point about regeneration isnít important, because although the people who revived the language were activists and antiquarians, and as such are very much atypical, they werenít getting into contact with the working people, in a way. But, the point is there was something there, lots there, to regenerate, and they couldnít put that in place, they couldnít prevent something, they couldnít simply establish a language, they couldnít invent the consciousness, itís already there. What they did, in a way, was to give it some direction, some focus and of course nowadays itís up to people who are involved in the Cornish language are much more of Öand thatís it, working class really.
Male voice; Öman in the street, lady in the street.
KM: Yes, weíve had a look at the sort of people whoíve been leaders in the Revival and then we see what sort of people now. Itís interesting to talk about the sort of people who took up the Revival. Did it appeal to them, and why? Itís another point. Go on.
Male voice: not clear at the beginning but there is a political aspect to this but thereís even there in some of the earliest Revivals although they donít make much of it, the fact that having the language and the culture made it quite distinct and ancient, worthy of respect and they wanted it to be used, could be used by the Cornish people to escape from the trial of being looked upon as ignorant peasants, basically as west-country yokels. Itís something which Cornwall has apart from the fact that Cornish people have always been in the past anyway held together as a type of community, and rid themselves to some extent of being inferior. But the language is a positive sign that could be used to give people a feeling of self worth which could be exploited in ways of economic life, of industry and planning and business/.
Fem voice: Itís something to think about, quite important..
KM: Yes, somebody told me the other day that in their Cornish class they, there was a lady who was an ordinary sort of house looking after person and she had never been out into further education or, even had much of a job at any time,. She came and she did Cornish and she got to a good standard. She said, ĎNow I can speak Cornish I really think that Iím a somebody, Iím not nobody anymore.í So, if that can do something for an ordinary person without a marvellous job, marvellous qualifications and the rest, itís really fulfilling one of the, you know, one of the very sort of high profile aims of adult education, further education.
Male voice: Can I just add something, following on from that. I was atrocious at languages at school. Iím still not very good now actually, but I got kicked out of French in Second Year because I was useless. I went to learn Cornish and from that Iíve been sort of inspired by people I can learn fromÖWell, I can learn Cornish, I can learn other languages. So, now Iím learning Modern Greek and I will soon be taking up and learning Welsh, and I would never, never have even contemplated that if I hadnít gone to Cornish. So, itís really in a purely, interesting way, educating, and all the other reasons you gave. I think youíre right to say it can be a way of motivating people and inspiring them to do things individually which possibly they never would have thought they were capable of.
KM: Interesting point. Jane, isnít it?
Fem Voice: Ö. that the language has changed from the general public and Iíve noted that from the stalls that we do, and when we started we didnít have very much to sell, we had a few books and only in Cornish and the only people who would buy them were obviously Cornish speakers, who probably would have had them. We didnít sell very much. We started by giving out information sheets about the language Öand people would come up and ask aboutÖ The attitude changed very subtly over the years from the hostile, and I would say, that Iíve got Cornish, because I donít think Cornish ought to be taught in schools, do you know? Why donít we hear more about the language? I think peopleís attitudes have changed an awful lot in the last 15, 20 years.
KM: That was my next question. That was, what had been the main trends in the use of the Cornish language in the last twenty years? What are the main reasons for these? So, well anticipated.
Male voice: ????gone through the Cornish education system, that whole awareness of attitudes. So people were beginning to ask a number of enquiries, a number of people who came out of the woodwork, wouldnít normally have come up, and theyíd really want to know. Of course these peopleís attitudes , might have changed to Cornish in the public domain.
KM: I tell you, going back about sixty years, war evacuee, one of our teachers, London teacher, was a Cornish woman called Miss Tregale, and we got Trelawney from her and stories about Tregeagle and the leaky limpet shell, various Cornish folk songs. When the London kids went back, we were then, the remainder of us were sent up to the local school, Stennack school, So, I had some of the local education authority here, primary education. When the teacher, his name was Mr Chirgwin. We got a few things like, what the Cornish motto was, and what the streets meant. We were in these Sunday School premises next to Street-an-Garrow. The old Wesleyan schools, and what the names of these streets round about which were Cornish meant. So, you know, thatís sort of stick with me, and actually, it actually sort of put me in the way of realising that there were similar languages in my own family background, Scots and Irish, you see. And then started to make enquiries when I went back home, and finding some very entrenched and very peculiar attitudes, which have puzzled me all my life to unravel. But, which explains why Iím here. But, I was very fortunate really to have that little sort of, you know, little spurt in my education as a result of being down here, I always thought. I suppose actually in that sense words of Cornish were actually the first words of another language which I ever learnt, apart from English, as it so happens. Thank you.
Male voice: I used to be a deputy headmaster in Camborne, and I found over the course of fourteen years as deputy headmaster in Camborne, more and more, year in year out, people were asking about the teaching of the Cornish language in the school and actually sending their children to other schools in the county and that was a definite difference in changes of attitudes, or so I thought.
Male voice: First of all you are likely to be thought to be a bit cranky, you know, teaching Cornish in school. I donít actually think the school is without kudos having Cornish.
KM: Well, one or two come backs. Thereís George, thereís Ken, I donít know your name? Loveday. Right, I think Iím coming to see you. Very good. Nice to meet you. I think weíll give the second one to you, Loveday.
L. J.: Ö. Specifically on schools and the revival, and I think going back twenty years is not enough. Iíve sort of been immersed in Cornish for forty years now and ..
KM: I canít believe that. You amaze me.
L.J: And someone said, oh, thereís no opinion polls had been done, but there was an opinion poll done in Helston School in the seventies. In Helston School in the seventies the whole of the population of the school was polled, all the students in the school were polled. I donít know if Cornish?
KM: This is with Andrew George, getting a petition up.
Fem voice: Well, this was done in Richard Gendallís day.there. There were various people involved in meetings.
KM: He was one of the pupils that was going round with the petition.
Fem voice: Yes. He was one of the ones that was learning the language. But, yeah, there was a petition and the majority of students, they didnít necessarily want to learn Cornish themselves but they thought that it related to them. They didnít actually relate to Cornish themselves. But that was in the mid seventies, and there were language classes in some of the schools. I meet people in Four Lanes (?) who remember they were talking something in Cornish, thee was a cluster of schools. But going right back to the sort of fifties and sixties there were a few teachers that taught some Cornish and then of course there was the Talek School, where, I still meet people who say, "Oh, I went to his School. Thatís where I spoke Cornish, we did a lot of Cornish.
KM: This school was a private school, wasnít it?
Fem voice: Yes, a private school, but thereís still quite a lot of people around who went there. And, I think what it is, itís not so much that thereís more demand now, but people feel more free to do this. People didnít in the sixties, seventies it was a very cranky thing to say, "Oh, yes I speak Cornish." And, you got fret for it. You got bullied for it. In my primary school, the head teacher in my primary school was very anti. Anything different in Cornish and was very much opposed to anything that was setting the Cornish language in England. He was calledÖ?
Male voice: Just follow up on that point. Iím a self-employed person, I earn my living through the translation from various languages and teaching evening classes and various other things. In the last twelve months Iíve been contacted by several schools, by headmasters whoíve said there is a demand from parents and pupils to learn Cornish, and Iíve been into three schools and thereís been enormous enthusiasm from the young people and from the staff and each of these classes has collapsed through lack of financial support. Iím not in a position to do it and as Iím paid to do it as part of my work and yet there doesnít seem to be the availability of funding and of course there isnít the provision within the curriculum for it, and it seems very frustrating and very disappointing that this should be the case. The young people want to learn it. Iíve seen this at evening studies, theyíre very, very keen to learn it and they look it as part of their heritage but because of this lack of funding, lack of provision in the timetable and curriculum. With the best will of the world the school just canít keep it going and it has collapsed. This is something that I would have liked to have seen tackled in the future, I mean this is vitally important.
KM: Mar plek.
Fem voice: I have been, I knew this school so I know exactly what George is saying and I do actually give my time and up until the last four, five years we are having an after school Cornish class in the primary school which gives the children a knowledge that there is something other than English.
KM: Please. Mar plek.
Fem voice: I too work in the school, Iím an ancillary helper supporting special needs but at luch time I take two classes now as part of one, years five and six.
KM: What school?
Fem voice: Godolphin Cross Primary School.
KM: Thankyou. Excuse me a minute, what was your school?
Fem voice: Reeth in Camborne.
KM: Thank you.
Fem voice: I started a class in October 98 with eight children and I kept the eight until two went up into the secondary school but the other six are still with me. And, I started a class last year, eight children again, and theyíre still keen. I do it in lunch-times, spare time, so they donít have to pay but there was reluctance on the part of parents to get text books, to buy a book, so we accepted extra preparation by me to try to, and funding would be very helpful.
KM: Thereís a lot of parents who canít just shove out for this and that and the other.
Fem voice: No, I realise that.
KM: Their circumstances are reduced.
Male voice: Ken, can I ask you a question, how is Jeff Grigg?
KM: Yes, I saw Jeff Grigg yesterday morning, I had quite a session with him and explored these issues more than somewhat. Iíve got a lot of information on this. He also did a very, very helpful survey, when I rang him up just out of the blue, a few weeks or so ago. He said, "Well, we did have a survey but it was oh very much out out-of-date. Iíll do you another one," he said. I thought, um, yes, okay then, I wonder. But when I went to see the first thing yesterday morning, he said, ĎHereís the survey and the result, responses from all the schools. Of course, we havenít got responses from some but of course that might mean they are not doing anything." But, I was quite impressed with all that had come back, so, I think that there is some encouragement in that.
Fem voice: Not clear
KM: It did. Good. Well, you could be assured that it was received and it was passed on. Mar plek.
Male voice: You know, I think it was important to actually learn Cornish, because I found that when I started learning Cornish, it improved my knowledge of English quite a lot. It tightened the nuts and bolts of the language as it were as a result of Cornish grammar, you know, when I started learning that but thatís also improved my knowledge of English as well. I think it maybe get more to improve Cornish they also improve their English, itís what I found anyway.
KM: I think in education they found that where there is another language present, this is especially so in the case of Wales, theyíve also found it with a recent survey related to Gaelic medium education, that these Welsh medium schools, these Gaelic medium schools, are the schools that have the highest levels of spoken and written English. And theyíre teaching through another language. It sounds, well, whatís happening is of course that childrenís linguistic awareness and linguistic profile as a general thing is being enhanced, and this as it were spills over into English as well as into the language of the curriculum. Okay, thank you.
Male voice: Just quickly, I think you mentioned ??
KM: One I mentioned.
Male voice: unclear he talkedÖÖ.to teach Cornish in schools, amongst other things he was a very early environmentalist. Ö. But I still meet people now and again who remember bits of Cornish that theyíd learnt from him in the thirties.
KM: And the name was again?
Male voice: Chirgwin
KM: Yes, the same name as my teacher.
Male voice: The more I Ö.the more I respected him, very much into green issues, the ÖÖ.environmental services, but I just want to say that ÖÖwhatever little snippets of Cornish they managed to teach will be remembered for ever.
KM: What was his first name?
Male voice: Edward.
KM: Edward Chirgwin thatís right. Not Edwin, there used to be a music hall performer with the same name.
Male voice: Heís got a very well-made Cornish-inscribed headstone in Ö
KM: Edwin Chirgwin. Now, just off the top of your head, without worrying what anybody else says or thinks, I want some answers to the following questions. How many speakers of Cornish are there in total, who are able to hold an ordinary conversation on everyday topics at normal speed? Now, everybody shout out their answer.
Male voice: 200.
KM: 200. Any advance on 200?
Male voice: Who could have continued the discussion in Cornish this morning.
KM: Well, it seems to be very consensual.
Male voice: If youíd asked that question twenty years ago the answer would have been between twenty and forty at the most. Twenty I would say.
KM: Well, well, well.
Male voice: And it would also depends exactly what it means. Our paper, which has been in operation now, how long, nearly up to the three hundredth monthly edition. An Gannas If you were to count all the contributors of the Cornish papers. Quite a life sentence., it would be more that 200. But, you know, itís whether you hope that they could converse. Thatís another matter. It would have been thousands of actual contributors.
Male voice: There are loads of people, tip of the iceberg, also the large, the thousands who can speak it well (?) and lots of other people who can speak it a bit (?). Weíre always asked this question, people who ring from the newspapers, how many speak Cornish? I say, well, how many people in Cornwall can swim? Over the channel or the coast of Africa. So, itís the same kind of question.
KM: Yes it is, so, thatís why I carefully qualified it because we tried to get a general language question which used the same definition onto the census which would prompt people for their knowledge of indigenous languages, ethnic minority languages, other European and world languages. It actually bit the dust at a fairly advanced stage Iím afraid But thatís another story.
Male voice: There again you have to be kind to us to make sure that this doesnít give a sort of, another estimate other than exists. Youíre talking about A-level standard Cornish arenít you really, maybe say 200, would you agree with me on that?
Male voices: Yes.
Male voice: And, so you know, just to make sure we know what weíre talking about. You could say that O-level can but sometimes converse.
KM: Well, we had a number of grades of ability and it might very well be that I could shoot these at you. How many people know a few words and phrases?
Male voice: Majority of the population.
Male voice: 3,000.
KM: 3,000. Youíre saying that the majority of Cornish population, so that would be something like 400,000 out of 500,000.
Male voice: Like they all know Onen hag oll because itís on the coat of arms. Every place name, or virtually every place-name..
KM: Well, they mightnít know what they mean. So, if somebody could, you know, put a Cornish sentence together, like, the pen of my aunt is in the garden, translate that into Cornish please. Alright, 3,000 about.
Male voice: Thatís the lower, I think Ken was right in saying if one relates it to the examination results you have the grounds for that, you know.
KM: Thatís right, thatís very helpful.
Male voice: The explanation for that, one could say that the kind of criteria that you require would, in one sentence thing be 5,000. Iím certain of that. I mean, Iíve been teaching a good many years now, and Iím aware that this number of people exists.
Fem voice: And also people who study and donít have a familyÖ..
KM: If, for example, you get a bit of simple conversation going, and you come and say, Fatel yu genough-why, and you say Da mur ras. You respond to it, and a few simple exchanges like that become possible. How many people could function at that level?
Male voice: Only again itís just a subjective thing and I would say 5,000, after a little prompting.
Male voice: I would say, just thinking about it, to every Cornish speaker thereís probably many with a little bit of Cornish to probably two or three other people, a sentence, you know, backed against that. At least three or four people each will have taught that to, yea, everyone here. So, whatever figure you were saying is relatively good in a sentence you can multiply that by two or three to get, they can have the odd phrase, they can respond back I would guess. I mean, thatís just purely a guess on my own of work.
KM: Some people have got special subjects of study and somebody might be able to get up and run a service or preach a sermon, and thatís just a Cornish speaking Methodist, local preacher, somebody might be expert on local history and antiquities and get up. Somebody might like to talk about web-sites, their own special subject. How many people could talk about their own area of special knowledge in Cornish, get up and actually give an informative talk on it?
Male voice: Do you mean here or altogether.
KM: Anywhere. No, throughout, the whole total number, not how many of you, so, I assume that everyone here is able to do that.
Male voice: About 200?
Male voice: I think the same number that we have already quoted because heís going to have a special interest.
KM: Right, and they could actually know the business for their specialism, the special words, the special register.
Male voice: not clearÖ.spontaneous it might have to go at that
Fem voice: Iíd like to have a chance of saying at the Penseythun, when Ken was talking about the eclipse, talked about theÖ. (indistinct)
KM: Excellent, now you see how Cornish is able, you know, at each stage of development to be capable of being used as a, not only a general medium of discourse, but also as the medium of specialisms and higher registers, and is so used.
Male voice: Yes.
KM: So, if weíre looking at the way now in which Cornish comes into everyday life beyond the Cornish language community, which has acquired the language other than learnt it or having been taught it or acquired it, say at home. Now, how many people would you say were bringing up their children through the medium of Cornish? How many Cornish native speakers have we got?
Fem voice: Depends what you mean by bringing up children. Certainly, I mean, we were brought up speaking Cornish and after that in school and after that it gets very, very difficult In particular places theyíve been speaking Cornish. But, I definitely think that maybe the ones that get to school late can carry on in the same way as you can where at home rather than speaking just Cornish. A home environment where itís just Cornish.
KM: Just Cornish. I mean there are such homes. How many are there?
Male voice: Half-a-dozen.
Male voice: Can I just say because Iíve got two children. I live in a bilingual house. I speak Cornish, my wife doesnít. We started of I would just speak to the two kids in Cornish and she would speak to them in English obviously. It didnít work basically because Cathy didnít understand a word I was saying, so I had to translate it into English, so what I did is I taught them basics and I stopped. Now, Iíve literally, in the last few weeks, started again but Iím doing it because they both go to school now I can teach it as a lesson. I can sit them down and Iím actually teaching them as though it were a lesson because they are at the age that they can do that. Whereas before I found it impossible to teach, so rather than have bring them up as native speakers what Iím having to do is actually teach them as theyíre growing up. One is eight and one is six, and we both sit, we all sit down now and we actually do it that way, and I have found that that was more successful when trying to go weíre just use the Cornish medium because of the problems of having am English speaker and not having enough Cornish speakers around. They know Wella. They know Wella speaks Cornish. They know (someone else) speaks Cornish. They know many people, here and they will say dydh da and they can understand stuff like that way back and theyíve always been able to do that. But, they havenít been able to engage beyond that. But, now they are beginning to. So, I think weíre in a different situation in the way, certainly in the way Iíve had to do it, than you could do it in Wales and Scotland, because of the special circumstances.
Fem voice: because of problems of isolation, theyíre got families but theyíre not necessarily close together. I mean in the 1980s when there was quite a few families planning to get together, it was maybe a bit easier, but now youíve got East Cornwall, West Cornwall, Mid Cornwall, different aged children, different interests, it is difficult to even create a Cornish speaking link here. Obviously youíve got things like that, then you can do that but there is a real need for some sort of more Cornwallised education in Cornwall. Thereís a real death now to actually be able to make them speak Cornish as an everyday language. The fact that all their peers and all their learning from the age of three or four is through EnglishÖ... Whereas in somewhere like Brittany itís not quite such pressure, although thereís French everywhere thereís also quite a lot of English, itís not so much
Fem voice: Yes. If youíre trying to bring up your child speaking Breton in Brittany, this obviously more people speaking Breton but thereís also not so much pressure from French because say he doesnít speak say English or other languages.
Male voice: And it seems impossible where one parent is purely English spoken and the other is, thatís the main difficulty really. If both parents speak Cornish youíre away.
Fem voice: Youíve got to create a Cornish community in your home in order for them to maintain the language.
Male voice: I would say that all this effort that has been going in since the late seventies has paid off. There are young people too who might never spoken anything but English who are now in their teens or their early twenties. Iíve spoken Cornish to them throughout their lives. Iíve never ever spoken English to them so it has had quite a marked effect. Sometimes, you think all this effort might be wasted.
KM: Yes, this is very good news actually especially from the point of collection of evidence, traditions of use and especially over, say, the past twenty years, which I was specifically remitted to report on. Iím also remitted to report on the extent to which Cornish is seen to enter into everyday life, outwith the speaking community, in public domain, in work place, culture activities, economic life, religious life. So, are there any observations here which could be valuable to make?
Male voice: I work as an architect and on a project with Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek, actually work with a professional playwright to produce a play with professional actors who didnít speak KernewekÖ..
END OF SIDE A
Male voice: Itís important what heís been saying that people are producing music in Kernewek but in CD form, not tokenistic couple of words in a song, not tokenistic one song and the rest English but all Kernewek . Have been doing it for quite a long time now but not enough recognition. Iíve got people like Garry there with Mamvro, youíve got a cross between heavy metal and punk. Fantastic, youíve got people like Phil that produces songs like this Ö. not only one pan-Celtic song contest in Cornwall, but gone on to do the whole thing. I mean, give us a chance Ö. a lot of people do it, and just like bang on with poetry as well because lots of people write poetry. I myself have done that. Iíve been on solo gigs, and with other people have done 123 readings in the last three years including the Isle of Man, Wales, Ö and a tour of Kent. But thatís getting it out into theÖ
KM: An annual Celtic festival in Kent you know. They have an annual Celtic folk festival in Kent.
Male voice: Öin Kent teamed up with them ChristiansÖ Youíve got all of that going on. Quite interestingly because playwriting thatís concerned youíve actually got plays by Martyn Miller and Pauline Preece (?). They have been performed at Penseythuns. Theyíve been excellent. They went to Perran mostlyÖ.Youíve got people writing in plays that have been performed at the ? and the rest of it. Youíve got this sort of burst of activity and if you go back twenty years you havenít got that, youíve just got a tokenistic thing. Youíve got people like Matthew Clarke producing tapes. He sings and plays about five different instruments at the same time.
KM: Heís got a CD out, recently.
Male voice: I mean, Iím taking about a general scope of artistic activity is tremendous the largest Cornish language publisher in the world happens to be Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek. Youíve got all the lads, from the full range of artistic activities actually there and by its very nature you end up working with people that have nothing to do with the language, but I donít think thereís anybody in Cornwall at all thatís come across the language. As far as I can see itís all happened in the last twenty years. The reason I say that is I give a little lecture to the people who do cultural things, and so I do actually think, well, music and then go back. First music, somebody like Peter ( ?) who actually put some Cornish to music and then thereís like bugger all till you get up to Brenda Wootton and then Bob ( ? ) of course. But, I mean, itís, you know, after, round about that time it certainly took off . But, I mean, if we were given a chance we could do things a different way. Weíve actually got a Cornish language film, Cornwall has got membership of the Celtic Film Television Association and the rules are for us you actually have to produce one film in Cornish language per year. So, the fact that weíre in there, the Isle of Man arenít in there because they havenít got a film industry apparently and films in Manx. I donít know if they exist or not, but theyíre not strong enough, theyíre not Celtic enough to be in there, but we are.
KM: Is that right?
Male voice: Thatís a thing. There again when we get bloody West Country, BBC South West off our backs. People that actually do great things are independent film makers. In 1997, these films they actually won Gold Torque with a Cornish language film and the year after
KM: I saw that one.
Male voice: You know, all there is, the only thing, the tremendous amount of work going on, the tremendous amount of talent, a lot of it in this room, but weíre just not getting the funding, not getting the recognition.
KM: Youíre going to get Objective 1 status and the thing is that if you can raise match funding youíll get European money. That might be a problem.
Male voice: With all due respect Iíve been to endless seminars about Objective 1 in the arts field. You need partnership organisations and, I mean, the business of actually succeeding in getting funding and ESF stuff. Weíre talking about sixteen, seventeen groups getting together as a partnership organisation.
KM: What I was saying is this, I better not sort of Ė true - but Highlands and Islands got Objective 1 about 7 years ago. We had it from period and the difference before and after is quite considerable. There was, even though it was a, not a particularly sympathetic governmental administration at the time, Objective 1 money was got but all sorts of initiatives, many Gaelic initiatives, arts initiatives, much culture infrastructure and Objective 1 money has been a remarkable fillip to small business, to high-tech small industry coming in, to the arts and to the Gaelic spheres in particular. And it has happened in the Highlands and Islands and itís given lift off. So, I leave you with the thought.
Male voice: I was in Skye, the trouble is itís here, you know, Cornwall is not Ö
KM: I know, well, have you been trying to get in for quite a while?
Male voice: A practical question is that Iím aware that our time is drawing to a close.
KM: So am I. Well, I wanted to leave you with one last question as I said, at about twenty to, against the quarter to finish, that is the fact that there are, for whatever reasons, at least three versions of Cornish, three revived varieties, how do you see this? How do you view it? What do you feel about it?
Fem voice: I think in a way itís actually more proactive in developing our resources in going out and having a stall. Itís also really the main reason I did but we have done that, we, I donít have much time for arguing I think people have got very firm beliefs that theyíve got to stick with you, I donít even find the start really much of a change. That was my decision, Iím not going to beat somebody over the head and say they must do the same. Itís up to them to produce their books, to support their classes, to resource their need. I think there was a lot of enmity in the time. We got, awful things, personal things said, little attacks made on people, which hopefully that is all in the past. You want to just forget about it. You have the effect of galvanising new forms of action, and say, look weíll show them, we will continue with our language, with our friends, we will continue with An GannasÖ
Male voice: Can I say something, one of the things is the division between different forms of spelling whatever, are being fielded by English speaking idiots that know bugger all about the language. Theyíre doing it for very specific reasons. Most of them are, I have to say, academics that sought to undermine the efforts of the language over a number of years. This is not all in the past, if you look at the last Cornish Studies publication, Cornish Studies 7, youíve got two attacks on Kernewek Kemmyn. Three, sorry. But there you go. Iíve read these things and the standard of scholarship is absolutely appalling. Itís in the interest of the people within the Institute of Cornish Studies to undermine the language, and thatís what they are about. They donít want to do that because the language will probably seen as a threat to their academic superiority in Cornwall.
Male voice: On a more positive note, Iíd like to say
Fem voice: All Iím going to say is that last Christmas the Unified had their Christmas party at Camborne, and they asked me if I would go over and take my accordion for some community singing, which I did happily, and we conversed quite well together and I, if they want to stay Unified, and weíre Kemmyn, so what?
KM: You were going to come in with something positive.
Male voice: I was just going to say on a positive note, the spelling argument, shall we say has actually have been helped in some ways because itís made us look at the language and I know Ken can do a lot more work, which I know is unfortunate but it has had a positive effect, we have learnt more about the language. We have opened up to the debate. I think, thinking positively, as Phil was saying, as long as I can speak to them I can understand what they say, I donít care how they spell it they can spell it in Arabic for all I care as long as I can talk to them and chat to them Iím quite happy. I mean it doesnít cause me that much of a problem. I can suspect most people are the same, as long as you can talk itís the same language itís not a problem.
Male voice: Itís a problem for the English speakers. In practise we all get together and we all speak together.
Male voice: Much as Phil and all the other people feel the same, at the present time with Cornwall being soaked with tourism so much, as well as such an influx of incomers, Cornwall at present is unique, and is somewhat different perhaps for holiday and encompasses people from all sorts of other places. But, because of the strength of the incoming persons in ratio to the number of Cornish people that are here there is a very great risk of Cornwall becoming sterilised and appearing the same as everything else, and so for that reason I feel itís very important to let the language and the culture is helped and assisted in every way so that we can keep up part of our uniqueness and make it still worthwhile it does become another area that is forced as being just the same as anywhere else. Which certainly itís not.
KM: What about just finally ending up with just one or two perhaps phrases for the future. If anybody would like to chuck in any motto or phrase or wise word, for future prospects, this is going beyond our remit but it would be nice to end on that note.
Male voice: To see where youíre going and to know where youíve come from.
KM: Right, Another point?
Male voice: Iíll put two in one. The best is yet to come.
KM: Excellent. Excellent.
Male voice: Ösplan.
KM: Youíve got to repeat that because it was lost with people laughing.
Male voice: Children learning Kernewek
KM: Yea, good. Da, da. Right, well, Iíd like to thank you all very much mur ras dheugh-why for what has been a very, very useful discussion. Iíve had the evidence of many developments presented here very graphically, perhaps better than it could have been done with any other method. I feel sure that people have been quite open and free in their contributions, and I have certainly learnt something, and many useful things and Iíve made notes of points which I would like to give certain emphasis to in the report which Iím due to give, and in that this is recorded we hope actually to be able to bring out some of the phrases, some of the contribution. They wonít be attributed as such. They will be just in as that the view was put that.. a contributor said, it will be, although peopleís names have been used, it will not be sort of attributed to an individual. For that reason I hope to get something of the Yeth an Werin over to the powers that be in GOSW. So, Iím very grateful for this opportunity. I have said to GOSW that in doing this report, it is public money being spent on it, and the public deserve to hear and see the results of it. I shall certainly recommend to the Government that this report is going into the public domain, and Iíve also said that when itís completed Iím quite prepared to come down to Cornwall, and face the music and to present it in public, and anybody who feels that the report could be improved in any way, these helpful criticisms will be taken on board, whether itís too late to affect the official report or not. But, nevertheless, weíre all on a learning curve, and I hope to put this report forward in that spirit. So, I do hope to see you again after the report has been tabled,. So, once again thank you very much indeed.
Wella Brown: Thank you, Ken. Sitting in a chilly hall.
KM: Oh, no this is warm, compared with the Black Isle.
END OF SESSION
(Various business with next activity commencingÖ
personal conversations with individual participants.)