I was a teacher, for 3 years, at Poltair School. When I trained, back in the day, higher education was still free. All new, young teachers in Cornwall given some extra in service training. At one of these events I recall a fellow Cornishman asking why the education authority didn’t favour us Cornish when they recruited staff, after all the local authority paid for their training. The response he got stuck with me, nothing else did. The response was simple. “We just recruit the best".
Now I’m probably as Cornish as any other proud Cornishman but I won't nessecelery order a Cornish cheese board in a restaurant just because it’s Cornish, I’ll order it because I like the cheese. (Historical note: Restaurant; a place where people used to pay to sit and eat meals that are cooked and served on the premises). I’m definitely not a Cornish xenophobe.
Now when I say Cornishman, I’m as Cornish as any 3th generation American Irishmen living in New York. I grew up with a vague notion that there was something different in the woodshed. What happened was in my motorcycling days, probably well over 10 years ago Tricia and I were on the way to the London ExCeL centre to a motorbike show. The last bit of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) had a bus replacement service, we were sitting on the top deck of a bus when my dad phoned. He was surprised when I told him I was sitting in a bus in Poplar in London. “That’s where your grandmother was from" he said. That explains how dad had relatives in the East End of London although my knowledge was so scant I never had enough pieces of the jigsaw to work it out....until then. My paternal grandmother was the daughter of an Irish Boilermaker who worked in the London docklands.
Had my grandfather, when he married, settled in London, an alternative me could have featured in “Call the Midwife".
Dad never elaborated much on the London connection even though he still had first cousins there. I vaguely remember a visit when I was quite young but that’s about all. That got me thinking about my first cousins and my Aunts and my Uncles.
My father had two sisters, Lona and Margaret. Lona married Nick and had two children Valerie and Malcolm. They were generally based around Plymouth. I haven’t seen them since my father’s funeral. Margaret married Ivor who had three offspring. Nigel, Gareth and Andrea. I know Gareth died but I have no idea of where the others are, somewhere around the Bodmin area I think. So my father’s side of the family has all but slipped through my fingers.
Mum, whose maiden name was Pinch, was proper job Cornish, even with a bit of Spanish by all accounts. She had one sister and three brothers. Marion was the eldest. Her fiancé died from a football injury before they married. Subsequently she never did get married but she lived in the same village as us, Bugle. She was a kind of second mum who actually did make the best pasties in the world. Mum’s next sibling, Jack, married Mary they had two sons Stephen and Andrew. Stephen, a frequent visitor to our pub, died a few years ago but I’m still in touch with Andrew. The middle child was Fred. I think he married and divorced. A shameful thing back in the 50s and 60s. By today’s standards he would probably be diagnosed with PTSD (Shell Shock from WWII) he had no offspring (as far as I know). Mum’s youngest brother Rex married Elsie. They account for my cousin Janet. Janet and I are very much in touch, we talk regularly. Mum was the youngest.
In total I had eight first cousins. I still have six. I’m in touch with two by phone and social media. Not a huge haul from six families.
Mum and dad did their best to make up for it. They had five sons. I’m the middle one. We’ve all produced and sometimes accumulated.
Jon my eldest brother married Elizabeth. They have three children all of whom I'm in regular contact with through good old social media. Chris, Katherine and Owen. Next in line is Richard who's married to Val. They provided the family with three sons, Simon, Nick and Adam, again we're all in contact with each other. My younger brother Colin, is married to Catina (AKA Lai) they have two daughters Amanda and Louise. Slightly more tenuous contact but contact nevertheless. My youngest brother Matt who's married to Si (Simone) has Eileen and yes we are in touch, not much, but in touch. Matt, like me, for various reasons hasn’t stayed married to the same person which complicates things a little. I’m now gathering great nephews and nieces some of which I know, some of which I see less often.
Then there’s me. I’m married to Tricia (as if you didn't know). I have three daughters, or should I say I’m dad to three daughters. Vicky, Lauren and Abbi. One got me as a dad, two got me as a step-dad. They’re all sisters, they all needed a dad, that’s what matters.
Abbi has recently married Callum. They have provided me with my absolute favourite relatives, my grandchildren, Louie and Mila.
So here’s a thing. In a few short weeks there’ll be another great nephew or niece, then there’ll be more.
These stories continue with or without us. This is just the story of one Cornish boy who, had his grandfather emigrated, would probably claim to be Irish.
Thanks grandad, for settling in Cornwall.