by Cornwall Branch Celtic League’s Convenor Mike Chappell
I often wondered over the years exactly what makes you ‘proper’ Cornish.
And a little while back, I was lucky enough to get the answer! And it’s not as simple as you might think…
My paternal family tree recorded on a series of sheets of paper neatly attached together, shows my ancestors were living in St. Buryan in Cornwall’s far west some 500 years ago – and just after 1500 AD!
My maternal family has been traced back with ancestry from the Isles of Scilly.
Around two years ago, I and many other volunteers went to one of the church meeting rooms in Redruth and submitted to a series of painless tests administered by a multinational team from Oxford University headed by Professor Sir Walter Bodmer and sponsored by the Wellcome Trust.
The qualification for participation was having had both sets of grandparents resident in the area where one now lives which I and a surprising number of others attending did.
Following registration, all participated in a circuit of blood samples, hair samples, mouth swabs, 3D photographs of face and hands, taste tests and more, all really interesting. That and a cup of tea as well!
A month or two later, the results! I carry the DNA of the first peoples to come to these islands. I share this with people from the west of Cornwall and my closest genetic relatives are from the west of Wales.
To see the reconstructed faces of my ancestors was amazing – they looked a lot like me albeit carrying a little less weight!
No surprises there but fascinating all the same. I always knew in my heart where my roots were and deep roots they are too.
I say that having travelled the world and lived all over.
To have sat with Native North Americans in their ‘reservation’ homes, with Kurds living in a deserted Roman amphitheatre somewhere in the Turkey, with fleeing Serbs in the west of Hungary, with Romanians on a Transylvanian mountain top has been inspiring and my views, my outlook on life is very similar to those held by these peoples.
But all that said, home is where the heart lays and identity arises from knowing where your home is.
If you feel something, then that is what you are. This is far deeper than a genetic test or a family tree, this is far older, something which cannot be scientifically measured.
When you have that special feeling crossing the Tamar, when you hear that heartbeat of Cornwall, when you are able to scrape off the surface of what can be seen today and to view things as they were, as they should be now, then you know who and what you are. You know that you are home and in my case, my homeland is Cornwall and I am Cornish.