I grew up on the south-east coast of Cornwall with the sea and moorlands as my playground but when I call myself Cornish, the English laugh and the Cornish begin to quiz me on the hospital I was born in.  

When speaking to my Dad about this he said: “You only went over the bridge to be born, and then you came back again. No other hospitals on this side of Cornwall had a maternity department.”  

I was born in Derriford hospital over the bridge in Plymouth – but so was everyone in my area. Due to the proximity of the towns on this end of Cornwall to Devon, our nationhood has been diluted.  

My Grandad lived in Looe, a small seaside town, his entire life and built boats that he let out to tourists in the summer. He married my Nan, a Londoner who came down on holiday one summer. My dad then married my mum who grew up in Reigate and often holidayed in Cornwall. This is a pattern that is common in Cornwall.  

The National Wales: Rowenna's grandad Darrel Hoskin at Looe harbour 1962 Picture: Chris Hoskin Rowenna's grandad Darrel Hoskin at Looe harbour 1962 Picture: Chris Hoskin

Such a beautiful place is obviously going to be a magnet, just as Pembrokeshire is for Wales. The difference is that Wales has managed to keep hold of its language, and although there are struggles concerning the loss of Welsh history, at least there are plenty of people left who know it.  

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Many think that the demise of the Cornish language came when the English introduced the Act of Uniformity in 1549, enforcing English as the national language by replacing Latin with English in all religious rites and ceremonies. This triggered the ‘Prayer Book rebellion’ which saw 4,000 Cornish die. 

A Cornish politician in the 1600s wrote an essay that detailed that the language was declining because of the ruling class’s opposition to Cornish, the dominance of English in Devon, Cornish records were lost in the English Civil war (1642-1651), there was no Cornish translation of the Bible and that the nation had lost contact with Breton-speakers in Brittany.  

The language died so long ago, and the nation has become so diluted with English people that it feels slightly hollow when I say that I am Cornish. What does that word really mean now?  

It still means something: If you go to Cornwall, you will see lots of Cornish flags, whether they are flying on a pole high in the sky or stickers on the back of a car.  

People who live in Cornwall now are a mix of English people and born-and-bred Cornish people, the love they all feel for the area is great and I hope that the appreciation of our traditions continues.  

In 2002 the UK government recognised Cornish under the European Charter for Regional or minority Languages and the council started funding bilingual signage. In 2010, the language was taken off Unesco’s ‘extinct’ languages list.  

The National Wales: Rowenna's grandad Darrel and right Penzance. Pictures: Chris Hoskin/SuppliedRowenna's grandad Darrel and right Penzance. Pictures: Chris Hoskin/Supplied

I have always felt close but separated from the Cornish language, as a kid I had no interest in it. When my dad began to illustrate the Cornish Language books written by Will Coleman the issue was brought to my attention. I was curious that this language had disappeared but now was re-emerging.  

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According to the 2011 census there were 557 people who said that they spoke the language, this number is likely to be higher now following the work that has gone into reviving it.  

While we have lost our language we retain culture in the form of Morris dancing, the ‘Obby ‘Oss festival in Padstow and a series of other events. Cornish folklore lives on.  

I am not saying that I believe that Cornwall should once again become its own nation, but I feel sad that English people laugh at the notion that we could be. 

I look at Wales and I see it has devolved power and there is more autonomy for Welsh people. In Cornwall, the UK government seems to see the landscape for its profitable potential rather than its people.  

The National Wales: Children wave Cornish flags on St Pirans Day in Truro.Children wave Cornish flags on St Pirans Day in Truro.

It is hard to stay in Cornwall as a young person, we are being pushed out. I remember telling my parents that when I was older, I was going to live in our house, and they can move down the street.  

As I got older, I realised that it was very likely that I was going to have to live with my parents after university if I wanted to move back to Cornwall.  

I wanted to make my own way in the world. Society has taught us that you go to university to get a good job, buy a house and be successful. I, like many others, am struggling to conceive how this is still an obtainable dream.   


Meanwhile, English tourists buy second homes in desirable locations at ridiculous prices and leave them empty for most of the year. In October 2021 official government figures revealed that there are 13,260 houses and flats in the county classed as second homes for council tax purposes. 

Much of Cornwall has a sixth-month economy based on the tourism industry, leaving holiday hotspots ghost towns for the winter. As a result of this, the infrastructure is terrible and public transport is severely limited. 

You are very lucky if the bus even arrives. Trains are more reliable but to use this to get to rural areas is impossible. If you live and work in Cornwall, you must have your own mode of transport.  

The loss of culture is the least of Cornwall’s worries, but it doesn’t mean that this is any less significant because it unites the people who feel Cornish and are proud of their heritage.  

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