Thoughts on the links between Cornwall and the USA from Grand Bard, Melennek

As we welcome a new President of the United States of America to Cornwall on his first trip overseas after taking Office, when he joins other World leaders in June at the G7 Summit, this is a moment to stress the relationship which endures between Cornwall and the USA as the result of the economic and religious migrations of the 19th century, and to highlight the role which Cornish miners played in the US. 

Cornish miners left much evidence of their culture, organisation, dialects and religion in many parts of the USA, and their descendants today form a proud and active diaspora, a number of members of which are Bards of Gorsedh Kernow. The Cornish-American Heritage Society is a long-standing partner of Gorsedh Kernow.

The Cornish Mining World Heritage Site has long-standing and important links with mining heritage communities in the USA, not least at Grass Valley in California, and Mineral Point in Wisconsin. Many American visitors come to Cornwall not simply to discover the facts of their family history but also to experience first-hand the places, landscapes, sounds and cultures of the communities from which their families stemmed. This is a matrix of relationships, interests and delights that has been greatly enhanced by the internet, so the links made in the 18th & 19th centuries are burgeoning today as never before.

In Pelynt it is quietly celebrated that the family of Samuel Clemens emigrated to the mid-west. Sam changed his name to Mark Twain and became America’s most famous and enduring storyteller – an art possibly influenced by the droll tellers and bardic traditions of his native Cornwall.

The last-but-one American poet laureate was Natasha Trethewey. During a recent visit to the university at Tremough, Natasha enthusiastically explored the Cornish aspect of her identity which derives from her father – Eric Trethewey.

Cornwall was one of the places where forces mustered to launch the D-Day landings. Eisenhower was billeted at Perranarworthal, and many US veterans retain fond memories of their times in Cornwall. Former Bard, the late Arnold Hodge, remembered the great American boxing Champion, Joe Louis, fighting an exhibition bout in a makeshift ring on the mine waste near Chacewater.

These are all reasons why the links between Cornwall and the USA are not simply about conference destinations and tourism attractions – they are real, deep and emotional. I hope that the President, as he gets to know the other G7 leaders, will have time to take a good look around Cornwall, one of the places which helped build the nation of which he is so proud, and to acquaint himself with some of our native culture.

The G7 Summit will be hard work. I’m sure that one and all will contribute to ensuring that we provide our usual high standard of hospitality, and that the G7 leaders, including President Biden, will take away a very strong and positive impression of Cornwall as a place of deep resonance, of strong values, of distinctive constitutional pride, and of trading instincts that reach deeply into the earliest days of our history, and which persist today in so many fields. Kernow a’gas dynnergh!