Monday, 29 October 2012

Genealogy notes 26 - 30 Oct 2012 Cornish Cultural Celebration

I'm writing this Diary entry on the shores of Lake Macquarie near Swansea in NSW. We are on our way back up the NSW coast to Queensland. This is an area that we have always wanted to visit, but never quite made it before so we are here for two days to soak up its natural beauty and to visit some of the historic areas as well.

Our stopover in Nowra for the Cornish Cultural Celebration organised by the Southern Sons of Cornwall was great and we caught up with quite a few old friends as well. On the Friday afternoon there was a group whale watching tour on Jervis Bay and it had to be one of the coldest windiest days I've ever seen there. However that doesn't seem to bother the humpback whales and we spotted quite a few mothers with their calves. Towards the end of the tour one mother and calf entertained us with quite a few fluke slaps, tail waves and semi breaches as well as swimming around the boat. Having seen the whales at Hervey Bay many times, I have to say the whales seem to be more active in the warmer waters but then it was such a miserable day perhaps even the whales didn't want to jump up into that cold wind!

Saturday was the official start to the Celebration (of all things Cornish). As I have two great great grand parents who were Cornish, I've always had an interest in Cornwall and its differences with the rest of England. I've always wanted to go to the Cornish festival in South Australia (Kernewek Lowender) but something always seems to clash with it so when I heard about this one organised by my Shoalhaven friends, I couldn't resist.

After registering I raced off to my first session which was a Cornish cookery class where we were shown how to make 'real' pasties and I have the recipe! But I can't practice until we get another house and an oven! Sonia and Trina had precooked some pasties for us to taste and I can confirm that the smell and taste were spot on. For dessert they demonstrated what you can do with really soft bread rolls, cream and golden syrup. I hesitated to try them as it seemed a bit weird but I'm willing to try exotic foods overseas so this wasn't that different and I was pleasantly surprised at how good they tasted.

Then there was morning tea and delicious muffins followed by the official opening ceremony. My next session was Nigel Pengelly on Cornish Communications and Keeping in Touch with our Cousins in the 21st Century. As you may have guessed from the title this was based around social media especially blogs and I was able to have a chat with Nigel about this at lunch on Sunday.

After lunch on Saturday there was a bardic ceremony which I found fascinating. It was all in the Cornish language although an English overview and transcript was provided. It seemed strange watching the bards in their flowing blue robes against an Aussie bush backdrop. I really need to read up more on Cornish customs and rituals. The ceremony was followed by a photo opportunity and afternoon tea.

The Celebration dinner was at Worrigee House and of course dinner was a pastie and 4 vegies (not as good as Sonia's, less moist but then cooking for so many is more challenging) followed by apple/berry pudding or chocolate tarts both very nice. Dinner was accompanied by a Celtic concert with Scottish pipes and dancing (there was a fascinating session with the pipes in conjunction with a didgeridoo), an Irish harp, Manx and Welsh dancing, Cornish songs and dancing. All really interesting to watch and listen too. It was a much later night that we usually have.

The raffle was also drawn during the evening and as usual I didn't win but it was good to see that both Ancestry and FindMyPast donated subscriptions as well as Cornish World magazine. There were beautiful paintings and quilts as well for those not into family history.

Sunday's sessions started with a Cornish service followed by morning tea. My talk on Tracing Your Cornish Mining Ancestor was next (on my website Resources page, scroll down to Presentations) and it was well received and there was lots of follow up discussion over lunch. The last session I went to was Julie Wheeler talking about Famous and Infamous Cornish and this was an interesting and often funny look at people who I didn't even know were Cornish or of Cornish descent. Then there was a final afternoon tea and everyone started to say their goodbyes.

The only exhibitors were a Cornish sales table and I bought my Cornish by Descent badge and a Cornish tartan scarf so that I looked a bit Cornish (although most people assume that the Hicks part of me is Cornish but it isn't). Claire Gleeson was also there demonstrating her wiresmith jewelry with Cornish stones and these are really beautiful and I was very pleased to receive one of them as a speaker's gift.

While I didn't advance my Cornish genealogy I did learn a lot more about Cornwall and the place my two great great grandparents came from. I also caught up with a fellow GOON member and had a wide ranging chat with him. I chatted to lots of other people and heard all sorts of family stories which I encouraged people to capture by either recording or writing down.

It was a great weekend and the organisers are to be congratulated on a smooth running event and if they ever decide to do a 4th Cornish Cultural Celebration I'll be one of the first putting the date down in my calendar! I'm told there is a Cornish group in Queensland so I will have to look them up when I get home. But for now I'm in Lake Macquarie and this afternoon we are doing the touristy thing and I have a number of historic places I want to visit if we have the time to fit it all in! Safe travels as they say in caravan world.

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