The PHILLIPPS Family’s Experience with the Cornish Diaspora
“You have a couple grandmas; a couple grandpas too. They each had two parents and they’re all part of you. Did any come from Cornwall?”
Jim Wearne, “Surprise! You’re Cornish!”
Good day! Last year I became aware that one of the features at the 2014 Golowan Festival was going to be an exhibit on the Cornish Diaspora. As part of this exhibit the organizers were seeking stories from families who had Cornish ancestors, who left Cornwall, what their experiences were, and highly important – what, if anything, were their descendants doing now days to ‘keep Cornish’.
I dug into our family tree and presented the festival with several short vignettes about a few of the Cornishmen and Cornishwomen in our PHILLIPPS (now PHILLIPS) family tree. These stories are included here for your reading pleasure and to see how our small family has deep Cornish roots and how we try, as best we can, to ‘Keep Cornish’.
But first let me provide you with just a very brief backgrounder on our family. My paternal grandfather, or ‘Gramps’ as he preferred to be called, was Edward George PHILLIPPS. He dropped the third ‘P’ on the fly sometime after arriving in the United States. Gramps was born on February 21, 1888 in Bodieve, Egloshayle to Thomas James PHILLIPPS and Mary Louisa (nee BATE) PHILLIPPS. Once in the States and living in Cleveland, Ohio, he met and married, quite naturally, a good Cornish girl, Ina Marie COTTLE of Launceston, destined to become my ‘Nana’.
Luckily for me, my Nana was an awesome maker of pasty, sausage rolls, and lamb and when it came to Nana I like to say I was thrice blessed! Equally lucky for me, Gramps was an inveterate storyteller and most of his stories revolved around family and his years in Cornwall. I can thank my Gramps for two things really. First, his stories about Cornwall, which always stuck in my memory and second, he would always include in his stories somewhere this phrase “Remember, Scott, you are Cornish, not English, and there is a big difference!” Gramps’ stories and his admonition have stayed with me now for many decades and have fueled my desire to trace my Cornish roots.
No one had ever worked on our PHILLIPPS genealogy before I took up the task. Now, after just a few years of work I have documented our family back to the mid-1400s and continue to try and get back even farther. So what have I found so far? First and foremost that we were a Cornish family through and through. Nicholas PHILLIPPS (1574-1642), my 10x great-grandfather was the owner of Old Melorne. This is the site of the current archeological dig being undertaken by the good folks at North Cornwall Heritage. We’ve a Knight in the family, Sir Jonathon PHILLIPPS (1725-1798), a couple of MPs from the ‘rotten borough’ of Camelford, one of whom was John PHILLIPPS, described by William Pitt as ‘the vilest of men I have ever employed’, a couple of vicars; William PHILLIPPS (1723-1794) who presided at St. Julitta in Lanteglos by Camelford, one at Minster and Forrabury, and one at St. Clether, but by and large we were a simple, working lot of Cornishmen and Cornishwomen.
I must admit though my family hero happens to be my great-great-grandfather, Nicholas PHILLIPPS (1821-1886) who, while blind from the loss of both eyes at 18 years, walked a daily postal route for decades from St. Miner to Wadebridge and back – by himself. That, however will have to be a story for another time.
Over the coming few days we will present for your enjoyment the short stories of just a few of the Cornish members of this PHILLIPPS family tree as prepared for and presented at the Golowan Festival, 2014.
Onward To Our Past®