cornish cousins


I hadn't given too much thought to the Cornish Cousins...

    until some months ago when we embarked on 'Project Brenda Wootton' and the subsequent released of the "All of Me' CD, ( but as anyone who tries to make a living from writing will appreciate, experiences are words unwritten until triggered by a reason to put 'pen to paper'. The interest in the revival of Brenda's music has brought us contacts from across the world, and in particular, I have become 'e.friends' with two women from the US, both of whom can follow their bloodline back to mining families. One is Flora (Tommi) O'Hagan, President of the Cornish American Heritage Society, whose mission is to recognise the courage and contribution of Cornish immigrants and help research family histories. This August will see the 16th Annual Gathering of the Cornish Cousins at Mineral Point in Wisconsin. The other is Kitty Quayle, current President of the California Cornish Cousins. They too, celebrate Cornish culture and preservation of their heritage and tradition and are having their 20th Gathering at Placerville in June. Personally, the most satisfying outcome of e.mails zinging back and forth through the ether, has been the transposing of history into living reality; Kitty and I discovered that she is the 5th cousin to a personal friend and they have a common link with an ancestor who was murdered by cut throats at Traboe Cross on Goonhilly Downs; while another of her ancestor, Richard Harry from Godolphin Cross, was captain of the New Almaden quicksilver mine in San Francisco.

Drexel Lory Pasty sign Rucka-Chucky Pasty Hut in Georgetown Early Cornish Miners Raccoon eating a pasty

The defining symbol that brings Cousin Jennies together is the dear old pasty, even if the original concept has been sometimes tweaked in translation. In Grass Valley, St. Piran's Day is celebrated with the annual Pasty Olympics where certain irreverent practices have evolved. One of which is tossing a pasty filled with dog food towards the flag of St. Piran; the nearest to the flag is the winner - of course, the real winners are the town's dogs who clear up! Some may protest that this ' tesn't proper' and that due deference isn't being shown, so I'm treading very carefully at the risk of being branded a heretic and spit roasted over a Rayburn. To illustrate how this avant garde approach is a celebration of the integration of cultures and nations, I came across the Rucka-Chucky Pasty Hut in Georgetown, an old gold mining town in the Sierra Nevada's. The shop is owned by Juli Oates and here she makes pasties with mouthwatering fillings such as pulled pork, chile verde, chicken alfredo, BBQ beef, ragin' cajun and apple and blueberry.

When I researched the story behind the production of the "All Of Me' CD, I realised that in some ways Brenda Wootton was no different from the women who left their homes in the 19th century as she took 'Cornwall' with her on every tour and concert at which she performed across the world. My understanding from Kitty and Tommi, is that Cornwall is never far away from the hearts and minds of the descendants of mining families and the The Spirit of Cousin Jenny is alive and well - proud of her heritage, traditions and history but quite happy 'doing it her own way'.

My thanks to Kitty Quayle, Juli Oates (Rucka-Chucky Pasty Hut) and Truckee C.O.C. for use of their photographs.

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