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Brief History of the Cornish in Bendigo -

2013 Dates

Next Gathering:

Maureen Fuller and Rob Lloyd

Kernewek Lowender Dancers 2013

Maureen Fuller - Grand Bard

Leanne and Rob Lloyd

Libby Luke, Maureen Fuller and Tom Luke

From what we can establish the first official Cornish group in Bendigo was suggested in November 1891 when a group of people gathered with the object of forming a branch of the Cornish Association of Bendigo. 

The next mention of a formal group was the formation of a Cornish Society which was publicised in The Argus newspaper on 6th May 1913.  Mr S. J. Langdon was appointed secretary pro tem.  On 10th June, the same newspaper reported that “at the meeting of the Bendigo Cornish Society on Monday night, Sir John Quick was elected president.”
There are numerous articles which show that this society functioned quite well up till the late 1920s at least.  No doubt the start of the great depression helped contribute to its demise.

In more modern times the now defunct Cornish Association of Bendigo and District was formed in 1986.  As the Bicentennial year of 1988 approached there was a renewed interest in Genealogy and a large number of people had a desire to learn more about their Cornish heritage.  This resulted in the formation of the Cornish Association of Bendigo and District Inc.  It was formed in September 1986 with Edward (Ted) Hocking taking on the role of President. There is no doubt that Bendigo has the largest number of Cornish descendants of any locality in Australia and a desire by so many to discover their heritage enabled the Association to survive for over 25 years. 

The main aims of this Association were to foster goodwill amongst people of Cornish descent, promote the Cornishness of our beautiful city and to maintain strong ties with Cornwall.  Many plaques have been erected around the city and surrounds and the Association assisted with the erection of a wonderful statue to the Cornish Miner in the heart of the city.  As a noted Cornish born Mayor of the city James Henry Curnow stated in 1921 to the then Prince of Wales (Duke of Cornwall) "It was the Cousin Jacks that made Bendigo" and this tradition has been followed.   The Cornish Association of Bendigo & District ceased to exist as a group in September 2011 but that does not mean that passionate folk here in Bendigo have not continued to promote, educate and share their love of all things Cornish and that a commitment by them to continue to celebrate strong Cornish ties has abated.

The Bendigo District is somewhat unique in that it has a Cornish culture of its own.  Gold was discovered in Bendigo late in 1851 and Cornish miners were amongst those in the first hectic rush, most at that time, having trekked across from the copper mine fields of South Australia.  During the 1870s there was a considerable influx of Cornish miners into Victoria, many going to the Bendigo and district mines.  As the alluvial gold petered out and quartz deposits were exploited, the Cornish experience of metal mining was essential to the economy of Bendigo.

The Cornish Association has taken part in a number of Dahlia & Arts festivals, showing people some of the Cornish contributions to the area by putting up displays and making members available to assist people who wish to learn more about Cornish heritage and history.  Our first Bardic ceremony in Bendigo was held at a Dahlia & Arts festival and it was the first time that flower girls and The Lady of Victoria were part of the ceremony in Victoria.  Bendigo has the distinction of having seven of its residents being recognised and honoured by being made Bards of Cornwall for their contribution to retaining the history and culture of Cornwall overseas.  There are at least three other Bards of Cornwall who although they do not currently reside in the area, are Bendigo born.  Five of the Victorian bards have the word Bendigo in their Bardic name. This is rather unique for such a small geographical area and reflects the strong Cornish connections which still exist in this part of the world. 

There is a well known saying that states: “By Lan, Car, Ros, Tre, Pol and Pen—ye shall know most Cornishmen.  As Ruth Hopkins pointed out in her publication “Where Now Cousin Jack” this saying fails to acknowledge  surname prefixes such as Nan, Che and Chy amongst others, however, Williams is the most common Cornish name.  The very first Cornish in Australia were amongst the convicts and settlers who arrived with the First Fleet in 1788 and with the subsequent Second and Third Fleets of 1790 and 1791. Indeed, the first person to step ashore at Sydney Cove in 1788 was the Cornish convict James Ruse, who later became a farmer at Parramatta. Amongst those who sailed with the First Fleet was Lieutenant Philip Gidley King from Launceston in East Cornwall (Governor of Australia).   A second Cornishman to rise to high office in Australia in this early period was Captain William Bligh.

After many years of research Cornish researchers here in Bendigo have been able to identify over 200 mine managers with Cornish heritage working in Bendigo and district mines.  Names such as Jewell, Youlden, Grigg, Eddy, Allen, Bartlett, Bray, Butson, Coakes, Kneebone, Langdon, Richards, Rickard, Roscrow, Rosewarne, Rowe, Rogers, Truscott, Veale, Renfrey and Nankervis to name just a few.  There were many other Cornish folk who made their mark here in Bendigo.  Among them are  ‘Jimmy’ Jeffrey who conducted the first religious service on the Bendigo goldfield.  He and others were strong leaders in the Methodist, Bible Christian and Wesleyan churches, of which there were many in the early days of Bendigo’s history. 

Other names which are but a small sample of Cornish people of note include :
Sir John Quick—often referred to as “One of the Fathers of Federation’;
V.C. winner Lieutenant W. J. Symons;
William Matthews who was the owner of the Cornish Store at White Hills;
Henry Hattam, Cornish born Mayor of Bendigo;
John Praed, Mayor of Eaglehawk;
James Scaddan, educated at Eaglehawk—went on to become Labor Premier of Western Australia;
James Curnow, served for 28 years with five terms as Mayor of Bendigo.

It is worth noting the following Cornish connections which often go unrecognised.
David Fletcher Jones who was the founder of the clothing firm of Fletcher Jones was the son of Cornish born Sam Jones.  This family arrived in Bendigo in 1852.

Henry Madren Leggo is another person who should be acknowledged.  He began work with Mr. F. Rickards in 1882, was taken into partnership with the firm and in 1894 bought out Mr. Rickards.  He began trading as H. M. Leggo and Co. and the products coming out of his business included jams, pickles and sauces which became household names and which are still being sold—albeit nowadays with an Italian slant!

Another prominent business in Bendigo was Reed Bros.  They were a household name in Victoria in their day and their products included sauces, cordials and soft drinks. 

Gripe Brothers were in business as timber merchants in Bendigo. 

Other contributors to the building industry in Bendigo were Walter Meager—a stonemason; William Caddy—a builder of note; Johns Brothers—contractors for a number of important buildings and George Davey J.P. who was another builder of note.

Blacksmiths and foundry workers including Sam Jones, Abraham Roberts, George Gripe, Sydney Osborne, William Mitchell, Holman Bros, W. J. Dunstan and Thomas Pearce all made valuable contributions in this field.

John Goyne cornered the market for manufacture of stamper gratings and Charles Perry, a tailor originally, began the fuse factory in Wattle Street.

J.H. Ebbott had a coach building operating in Long Gully and Thomas Edwards set up a pyrites works in Clunes before moving to Bendigo in 1871.  Other pyrites operators were J. Frances, Spargo Bros. and J. Deeble.

Mr. Ley Boase set himself up as a draper in Pall Mall.  Part of his store was eventually acquired by Sydney Myer.  J. H. Teague and James Curnow set themselves up as Estate Agents.

These names are just a small sample of Cornish folk to whom Bendigo owes homage.  There are many thousands more who helped make Bendigo what it is today.

Now, after almost two years since the demise of the Cornish Association of Bendigo and District we are pleased to announced that a new group has been established to continue the celebration and promotion of all things Cornish here in Bendigo.  This group is called “Cornish in Bendigo” and is a special interest group of the Cornish Association of Victoria.  Partnering with the main Victorian Cornish group means that members are part of a larger parent group with all the benefits of the Victorian membership, including access to a wonderful library and research options but still having a smaller group focus here in Bendigo where we will be able to meet socially during the year and assist the CAV with events and functions held here in Bendigo, including the next Cornish festival in 2014, which will form part of the 2014 Dahlia and Arts Festival.

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