Friday, 4 July 2008

The Cornish Diaspora

Going to California, New Zealand, Australia, Canada...

I came across this today and the juxtaposition set me thinking. According to the family. the Pascoes I am descended from were Cornish tin miners by profession (however all the Pascoes in St Just of the 1850s and 60s were listed in the census returns as agricultural labourers, grocers, masons, fishermen, or boatmen). They left St Just in Roseland (Not the St Just of the article - that's in Penwith) for either NZ or Australia in around the 1860s. I don't know for sure because I keep hearing vaguely different stories. Anyway, apparently there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing across the ditch in the early days.

There are still a lot of Pascoes on the West coast of the South Island in New Zealand, and at least some of them did very well in the goldfields. Not my mob though, who around the turn of the 20th century left the Victorian goldfields for a selection in Roma, in the Darling Downs of Queensland. Got there by bicycle, would you believe (though they may not have been Pascoes but a different family branch). Whenever I read or listen to and laugh at Dad and Dave, I think about them.
Actually come to think of it, I remember my dad telling me once that they also earned a living digging bore wells. You can take the man out of Cornwall, but it seems you can't stop him from digging holes.

Anyway, during the 1860s, when things were apparently really bad, the life expectancy of a Cornish miner dropped to about 30 years. That's not working life - that's cradle to grave. After hearing about the disaster in Boscawen and about NZ where you could just pick gold up off the ground without having to dig a hole for it, I don't blame them for saying "Pack up the pasties my lover - we're off".

Even though Roseland is very pretty and now and a tourist haven barely populated, in the 19th Century the men spent most of the time underground and the women working the smallholdings. When they weren't doing that they were fishing or ferrying their wares to Falmouth. Not an easy life by a long way. That's why they all lit out I guess. Add to this that the loss of land access due to the enclosures, and the disaster of the last public house on the peninsular closing its doors in the 1860s, and well, it's a bit of a no-brainer!

Mind you, Britanny is real close so maybe the drink came from there on the quiet.

The clipping for this post comes from Leeds, I looked for a Cornish one, but the Cornish papers aren't on the database in numbers yet - it's still a work in progress. One day I'll take all my questions to Colindale and look it all up in hard copy.

Source: the Leeds Mercury. 21 April 1863

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