“Wherever there’s a hole in the ground, you’ll find a Cornishman.”
Less than 10 miles from Carbis Bay, Penzance has many connections to the member states arriving at the UK G7 Summit in June 2021. The rich mining heritage of the wider West Cornwall area led to the hardy workmanship of these parts becoming in demand around the world, with many Cornishmen taking up foreign offers and creating their own Cornish communities in distant lands. With its world famous pasties and cream teas, there’s plenty of reason for these Cornish descendants to make their way back to their ancestral home, too; Penzance has a higher percentage of non-UK visitors than any other town in the UK.
In celebration of the many expatriates of Penzance and West Cornwall, here is an article connecting the dots of our shared history.
Connecting the Carbis Bay G7 to… the USA
↑ Nearly 400 years ago, a ship carrying around 100 colonists left the shores of England for the new world. The voyage of the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower is legendary as part of the founding of the United States. It is believed that Newlyn, West Cornwall, was the last home port visited by the Mayflower.
Thomas Lawson, a seven-mast American sailboat, met its unfortunate end off the coast of the Isles of Scilly.
Penzance & St Just are twinned with Nevada City, California.
Rick Rescorla, born in the small Cornish town of Hayle, became a hero of the Twin Towers disaster when he safely led over a thousand employees out of the burning building – keeping everybody calm by singing Cornish folk songs. He was last seen heading back up the South Tower to attempt further rescues.
Brought up in Penzance, Thandie Newton has made a name for herself across the Atlantic with major US productions such as Westworld and Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Cousin Jack is the Cornish American Heritage Society, ‘linked to Cornwall by blood and by the tug of our hearts’.
Pirates of Penzance has previously found success on Broadway.
Bonus: Woodstock Guest House, of course, took its name from the world famous festival that took place in the United States.
Born in Penzance, George Marsden Waterhouse was a businessman and prime minister of both South Australia (1861–63) and New Zealand (1872–73) – the only man ever to be the premier of two British colonies.
In South Australia, the area of Moonta, Kadina and Wallaroo is known as ‘Little Cornwall’ as it was settled by Cornish miners. The flag of Saint Piran abounds and Cornish pasties are served in many bakeries. Their Kernewek Lowender festival is the biggest Cornish festival outside of Cornwall.
With Penzance grandparents, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies was twice the prime minister of Australia, in office from 1939 to 1941 and again from 1949 to 1966. He played a central role in the creation of the Liberal Party of Australia, defining its policies and broad outreach.
The connections between the two regions of Brittany and Cornwall go back thousands of years, particularly in the Middle Ages when Cornish migrants settled there; before roads, the sea was the highway, and you could get to Brittany in a day under favourable winds. The language of Breton is from the Brittonic family of languages, a sister tongue to Cornish and Welsh.
Fishing has been especially resilient at maintaining the Breton links. Cornish fishermen have become stuck in Breton ports in the past when weather was bad, and likewise for Breton fishermen in Cornish ports. This is more irregular in modern times, but has been known to still occur.
Penzance is twinned with Concarneau in Brittany, and there are often school exchanges between Breton schools and Penzance.
Countless town and village festivals (e.g., Golowan in Penzance and the Lowender Peran festival in Newquay) have been known to have a Breton presence, while plenty of Breton festivals (such as the Lorient Inter-Celtic festival in Brittany) have a contingent of Cornish lurking. There’s also the AberFest celebrating Breton-Cornish connections, held annually and alternating between Falmouth (known in Cornish as ‘Aberfal’) and Brandivy in Brittany.
Despite England and France being embroiled in war, Sir Humphry Davy undertook a risky voyage to France in order to collect a medal from the Institut de France – awarded to Davy by Napoleon Bonaparte for his electro-chemical breakthroughs.
↑ The seemingly unique St Michaels Mount, a castle-topped tidal island near Penzance, has a French counterpart – also a castle-topped tidal island and also named St Michael’s Mount (Mont-Saint-Michel). Following his victory in 1066, William the Conqueror offered land to the French monks living in Mont-Saint-Michel; having spotted this rocky Cornish mound within their property, the monks knew exactly what to build.
Twinned with Cuxhaven, Germany, there is a strong German community living within Penzance. 20% of overnight guests in Penzance are from Germany.
The shipwreck of the SS Schiller, a German liner, can be found off the coast of the Isles of Scilly. This rescue operation for one of the worst incidents in British maritime history was extensive, including ferries and steamers from Newlyn, Cornwall.
The novels of Rosamunde Pilcher found exceptional popularity with a German audience and over a hundred of her stories have received German TV adaptations, many filmed in the Penzance area. Rosamunde Pilcher was born in Lelant in West Cornwall, later attending school in Penzance; her life-held affection for Cornwall can be found in many of her books, including her first breakthrough The Shell Seekers which topped the New York Times bestseller list for 48 weeks. Her works continue to draw in large volumes of fans visiting the Cornish locations.
Connecting the Carbis Bay G7 to… Canada
There is a rural municipality called Penzance within the province of Saskatchewan. With a population of 41, it is decidedly more quaint.
The common surname of Chynoweth originated in Cornwall; it gained recognition in its home country from the Chynoweth family in the Poldark novels and TV series. It means ‘new house’ in Cornish – ‘chy nowydh’ – and there is a village east of Penzance with the same name. Famous Canadians with this surname are Ed Chynoweth, president and architect of the modern Canadian Hockey League, along with his sons Dean Chynoweth and Jeff Chynoweth – a National Hockey League player and a manager of the Calgary Hitmen respectively.
Yeo is another surname which originates from the South West of England. this time meaning ‘river’. James Yeo Senior (1789-1868) was a Cornish shipbuilder from the village of Kilkhampton, Cornwall; he emigrated to Canada where he became a politician. His sons James and John were politicians, representing Prince County.
The famous scientist Claude Ernest Dolman (1906-1994) was born in the quaint fishing village of Porthleven, Cornwall and emigrated to Canada in the 1930s. He held posts at the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia, and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1947.
Another surname associated with Cornwall is Pascoe; James Pascoe (1863-1931) was a farmer and politician in Saskatchewan, born in Cornwall before emigrating to Canada with his parents in the 1870s. His son, James Ernest Pascoe, was a Member of Parliament for Moose Jaw.
… South Korea
↑ The Seoul Olympics in 1988 was received for broadcast by the Goonhilly Earth Station near Helston, using their Ghy-3 satellite dish. Jon Matthews, now the owner of Woodstock Guest House, watched everything live from the Operations Control Centre and remembers the event fondly.
The British romantic comedy About Time was partly set in Cornwall; it was commercially very successful in South Korea, earning $23 million (about 25% of the film’s total earnings). South Korean visitors to Woodstock Guest House have sought out About Time‘s filming locations, such as Gorran Haven.
The highly successful Leach Pottery has special links to Japan; Bernard Leach, considered the father of British Studio Pottery, established this St Ives workshop with the help of Hamada Shōji. The duo set up the first noborigama, a type of wood-fired kiln, in the UK before Shōji returned to Japan to set up his own long-standing bastion of the ceramics industry.
Returning to Goonhilly Earth Station, the multinational NEC Corporation of Japan refurbished Ghy-3 in 1992 & built Ghy-23 in 1997.
↑ Porthcurno’s PK Museum pays tribute to the pioneering work of Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian who investigated a means by which to transmit signals across the Atlantic in competition with British transatlantic telegraph cables. Marconi established a wireless transmitting station at the Marconi House in Ireland, acting as a link between Poldhu in Cornwall and Clifden in County Galway.
The Eastern Telegraph Company once held the largest international telegraph operation; its Porthcurno station was the hub of both Britain and its empire across the world, less than ten miles from Marconi’s site in Poldhu. Concerned by the Italian’s wireless efforts, a 170-foot mast was erected on a Porthcurno clifftop to spy on his work. The eventual merger between the Eastern Telegraph Company and Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company was a considerably more affable solution.
The flight from the Isles of Scilly to Cornwall uses an Italian Leonardo helicopter; this route has the longest distance in the world for a passenger helicopter service.
And finally, connecting the Carbis Bay G7 to… India
In 1870, a ground-breaking international link stretching all the way from the UK to India became one of the longest telegraph routes in the world; it was an incredible feat, but technical difficulties meant a last-minute decision had to be taken to bring the cabling ashore a few miles short of its original destination of Falmouth, Cornwall. The location chosen, of course, was the quiet cove of Porthcurno – setting the scene for Marconi’s struggles to come.
For more on the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, check out our articles on G7 accommodation in Penzance and the green future of Cornwall.