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14.12.11

15 named Cornish speakers who lived after Dolly Pentreath and before the revival.

Dolly Pentreath didn't speak a word of English until her twenties, so we can safely say that she was a monoglot in her adulthood, I am not aware of how much English she actually did speak and have been meaning to check the contemporary sources for a while now.

There are over a dozen named Cornish speakers that lived after her death. John Nancarrow of Marazion, not yet forty in 1777. William Bodinar, died 1789, would chat for hours in Cornish with Dolly. An engineer from Truro called Thompson who was the author of Dolly Pentreath's epitaph and was said to have known far more Cornish than she ever did. Ann Wallis, died c. 1844. Jane Barnicoate, died c. 1857. Mary Kelynack. John Tremethack, died 1852 at the age of eighty-seven. George Badcock, grandfather of Bernard Victor of Mousehole, taught some Cornish to his grandson who went on to impart much of his knowledge to Cornish revivalists Rev. Lach-Szyrma, Henry Jenner, and Fred W. P. Jago. Anne Berryman (1766–1854), of Boswednack, Zennor. John Davey Snr. and John Davey Jnr., died 1891, also of Boswednack. There is good evidence that at least three native speakers outlived John Davey junior: Jacob Care of St Ives, died 1892; Elizabeth Vingoe of Higher Boswarva, Madron, died 1903, who taught at least some Cornish to her son; and John Mann of St Just, alive in 1914.

One of the main definitions of a living language is that it is passed on to children. John Mann was interviewed at the age of 80 in 1914, he said that he had always conversed in Cornish whilst at play as a child in Boswednack.

We do know that the Cornish Lord's prayer, Creed and counting systems were used quite widely through the 19th and into the 20th century. In 1935 there was a man who reported that when he was a youth, in about 1875, he used to go to sea with some Newlyn fishermen who were in the habit of speaking Cornish while on the boat and held conversations which lasted up to ten minutes at a time. John Davey Jnr. could converse on a number of subjects in Cornish and was known for songs and poetry learnt from his father. Unfortunately only one piece is known to have been recorded.

A guest post above from the indefatigable Ellery, many thanks to him. If anyone has ever posed the question as to the place of the Cornish language and Cornish dialect on this blog then let me clarify things. My abilities in both do not permit me to do them justice and I have no desire to do anything but a proper job. That being said however if people want to submit articles in either Cornish or  Anglo-cornish dialect that follow the line of the Cornish Republican then I'd be happy to publish them. 

For those who wish to learn Cornish start here: Maga - the Cornish language partnership.

For those that want to learn Cornish dialect start here: The Federation of old Cornwall Societies.

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