Census – To Be Or Not To Be Cornish?

Today my Census forms arrived for me to fill out. There has been much talk on certain questions contained within the Census. These questions surround nationality, religion, ethnic background and country of birth. They seem simple questions, but, what happens if you live in Cornwall, or were born in Cornwall? Are you different to the rest of the UK? Is being Cornish a different ethnic grouping, or a bigger question a different Country and therefore nationality?

The question could be what makes you Cornish? Wikipedia’s opening line on this subject says “The Cornish (Cornish: Kernowyon) are a people associated with Cornwall”. Can you only be Cornish by birth because your parents by chance lived, or were visiting Cornwall? Can you feel Cornish, and therefore be Cornish?

For instance I was born in Germany, not because my parents are German, but because my father was serving overseas in the RAF. Does that make me German? I would answer no, just because you were born somewhere does not mean you are of a certain nationality.

I have lived in Cornwall all of my adult life. I moved to Cornwall, and more importantly Porthleven when I was 17 years old. Porthleven and Cornwall is my home, and I feel more connection to Cornwall than anywhere else I have lived. But, does that mean I can enter Cornish in any of those boxes? Would I be a fraud if I did?

Many could answer that you are only Cornish by birth, but I would answer I return how many generations do you have to go back? Are both your parents and grandparents from Cornish stock? I think in a lot of cases at least one of your near and distant relatives would be from ‘across the Tamar’ Are you of less Cornish than someone who can trace your history back to one of the first Census’ undertaken by the Duke of Normandy?

The box for ethnicity is also likely to throw up a few interesting comments. No doubt we will see alien or some other interplanetary classifications, but I also expect to see in rather large numbers the word Cornish written in that box too. In the 2001 Census around 37,000 people entered Cornish as their ethnicity. This was around 7% of Cornwall’s population. I would imagine this figure is likely to rise, but by how much? If it does rise by a lot, will the Government do anything about it, especially at the next Census?

It gets me back to my original point can you be Cornish by feeling? If you love and care for Cornwall as much as someone who can trace their history back many generations would that enough to be Cornish? Would it be wrong to put Cornish in any of those boxes because of you feel Cornish? Does anyone really care what you put in those boxes? The Government may argue, no, as long as you fill it out.

At the end of the day one of those boxes will have to be ticked. Shall I play it safe and just tick/enter British? After all I have a British Passport and my last few generations of family are from all the corners of the UK. So in reality, I have a real mixture of ethnic backgrounds that more than likely includes Saxon, Angle, Norse and Norman to name but a few of the ‘visiting’ peoples that decided to stay on a more permanent bases.

Life would be so much simpler if I was a pasty, as that has now a clear legal definition.


  • Anonymous

    "I entered 'European' as my nationality."

  • Anonymous

    lol i love the pasty bit!!

  • Rob's blog

    Bit of a shame you've lived this long among the Cornish and don't yet feel one of us.

    As you indicate with your various questions and ponderings there is no definitive objective answer so we can only be subjective and write what we feel.

    I am Cornish not because I was born and bred and not because my parents were, I am Cornish because that is the group I identify with.

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