Cornish by Name: Cornish by Nature

Richard Cornish was born at Trebollance, Germoe in Western Cornwall, 26 May 1844 to Samuel Cornish and Elizabeth Carter. 

Photo of Richard Cornish and one of his sons. Richard was survived by two sons, Richard Cornish born 1870 and Joseph Allen Cornish born 1876, my maternal grandfather whom I never knew. As this photo was in my moth’s possession I think the child is Joseph Allen Cornish.

Apparently Elizabeth could not write and signed Richard’s birth certificate with an ‘X’.  Samuel Cornish, Richard’s father, as were most of his generation born in that part of Cornwall, a miner. 


Richard Cornish emigrated to Australia where he married Sarah Piper, a window whose family name was Allen, on 7 November 1867 at Sandhurst (Bendigo), Victoria. 

The Cornish census data records the Cornish family as at 1841, 1851 and 1861.

1841 census

1851 census

1861 census

Richard Cornish married Sarah Piper (nee Allan), a widow, in Bendigo in 1867.  They had six children, three of whom died before Richard’s death in 1906.  The marriage certificate confirms both Richard and Sarah were born in Cornwall and where from families who were miners.

Richard Cornish and Sarah Piper marriage certificate

Richard Cornish died in Bendigo 19 March 1906 at the age of sixty which accords with the details of the 1851 Cornish census.

Richard Cornish is not recorded on the 1861 census when his son, Richard, would have been sixteen years of age indicating that the young Richard Cornish had left home by this time.  However, his death certificate indicates that he had been living in Victoria for forty-one years which would indicate that he arrived in Victoria in 1865 which leaves a hiatus of some four years between the 1861 Cornish census and 1865 when he presumably arrived in Victoria. Richard Cornish became the manager of the Hustler and Redan mine in Bendigo where he died in 1906 at his home in Arnold Street Bendigo at the age of sixty in 1906.

There is a record of a Richard Cornish arriving in Melbourne on the SS Norfolk in 1862 as a fare paying passenger.  Unfortunately, Victoria, as has many other national archives, handed over these national treasures to private profit making ancestry websites without considering that the population they are supposed to serve might like to access those records.  The indifference shown by the Victorian State Archives is in stark contrast to Scotland where both the Old Parochial Records and the Statutory Records have been digitised and made available on line.

Fortunately, an ancestry searcher sent me the passenger list for the Norfolk which left Plymouth carrying ninety passengers and arrived Melbourne 28 July 1862.  Richard Cornish is recorded as twenty-one years of age, a miner and of English heritage.  It would appear he was a fare paying passenger.  The passenger list record confirms what we know of Richard Cornish.

Richard Cornish was obviously held in high regard in Bendigo as two newspaper articles speak favourable of the man and his life.

One concerns a farewell function prior to taking six months leave of absence from his mining managers position to travel to England.  The other is an obituary following his death.  A copy of the newspaper articles are difficult to read and I have included a printed version.

PRESENTATION TO MR. CORNISH CORNISH.    Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), Wednesday 21 May 1902, page 3

There was a large gathering at the Arnold Street Methodist Sunday School last evening, when Mr. Richard Cornish, manager of the United Hustler’s and Redan Company, was tendered a farewell, banquet by this employees at the mine, and others. Mr. Cornish, as has already been stated in the “Advertiser,” has obtained six months’ leave of absence in order to visit the old country. 

He has been in the employ of the United Hustler’s and Redan Company for over ,21 years. After five years’ service he was appointed.shift “boss/” and some three year* later-was promoted to the position of underground manager. . He received the appointment of mine manager . about nine years, ago. 

At last night’s function Mr. J. Rogers’ presided.’ .After the customary loyal, toast, the chairman called, on Mr.T. Langdon to propose the health of “The Guest.” Mr. Langdon said that he had been acquainted with Mr. Cornish for many years and had always found him a man of integrity and upright character. The appointment he held was sufficient, evidence of his capabilities as a mining manager.  He (the speaker) was in a position to know how carefully Mr. Cornish had attended to his work. One thing spoke volumes for his management, and that was the “immunity from accidents which the mine had enjoyed. It afforded him the greatest pleasure to wish Mr. and Mrs. Cornish a pleasant trip to the old country, and a safe return to Bendigo. (Applause.)

Mr. Langdon then presented Mr. Cornish with a massive gold chain and locket from the employees at the time. He also presented Mrs. Cornish with a gold ring.

The toast having been honoured with enthusiasm, Mr. Cornish made a feeling response. He was deeply touched by the kind remarks made concerning him. . He had endeavoured to do his duty while manager of the mine, but had never expected to be accorded such a large farewell gathering. His wife’ and he would always value the beautiful presents, which would serve to remind them of the many friends they had in Bendigo.

The coast of  ‘The Commercial Travellers‘ was proposed by Mr. J. Rogers, and responded to by Cr. Ryan.

Mr. Carne proposed “The Mining Industry,” which was responded to by the inspector of mines, Mr. V. Abraham.

Harmony was contributed by several of those present.

Mr. Cornish will leave for. England, by the S.S. Persic on 30th inst.’  During his absence the management of the mine will be in charge of Mr. J. Langdon.

THE LATE RICHARD CORNISH.  Bendigo Advertiser, 19 March 1906 page 5.

The late Richard Cornish, whose death was announced in our issue of Saturday, was connected to the Hustler’s and Redan mine for about 25 years, during a great portion of which time he was underground manager. For the last 12 years he was manager.

While there he introduced two inventions. One was a safety catch for drums, preventing the drum from running away when thrown out of gear, or in the event of the brakes failing to hold the drum. They were generally applied with modifications. The other was an appliance overcoming the difficulty of tanks used for boiling water hanging when striking the surface of the water. 

He took an active part in establishing the Bendigo Co-operative Distribution Society, and for a time occupied a seat on the board of directors. He was also a trustee of the Arnold-street Methodist Church, and connected with the Star of Bendigo Tent for 16 [?] years. 

He leaves a widow and two sons and a daughter to mourn their loss. 

One son is Mr. R. Cornish, proprietor of the Woodend “Star,” and for a number of years connected with the Bendigo press. The other son is Mr. J. A. Cornish, of the Education department, and the daughter is Mrs. Mitchell, wife of Mr. Mitchell, grocer, of Arnold Street. 

The funeral took place yesterday morning to the Bendigo Cemetery from his residence, Arnold Street. There was a very large attendance of friends, the many representative gentlemen connected with the mining industry, including Mr Abraham, mining inspector. 

Service was held at the residence, where the hymn “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” was sung, Mr. J. Rogers officiating. The coffin was borne to the grave, in the Methodist portion, by Messrs.W. Foley, I. Manthorpe, J. Neilsen, and W. Loader, his fellow workmen.

The service at the graveside was conducted the Rev. J. A. Judkins, the hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ being sung.  The service of the Star of Bendigo Tent I.O.R. was read by Secretary Taylor and funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr. W. Farmer, M’Crae Street.  

Tracing the ancestral descent of Richard Cornish has not been easy.  England, unlike Scotland, provides the researcher with no easy access to the English archives of births, deaths and marriages.  The only way to negotiate the labyrinth imposed by the English system is through local parish volunteers who transcribe the local parish records onto their own website.  Under this cumbersome system, having hopefully identified the person concerned one then has to engage with the Government Registry Office (GRO) to obtain a copy of any certificate required.  The most profitably way of negotiate the maze is to start off with the census records which began in 1841 and then occurred every ten years.

The 1841 English Census documents Samuel Cornish aged twenty-five working as a tin minor and his wife, Elizabeth, also aged twenty-five.  His family includes,Thomas aged five, Samuel aged four, Elizabeth aged three and John aged nine months.  We can concluded from this data that both Samuel and Elizabeth were born in 1816, Thomas 1845, Samuel 1846, Elizabeth 1848, and John in 1840.  The only information we have to the place of their birth is in the county of Cornwall. 

The census of 1851 records confirms much of the 1841 with some additional details.  The census records the ‘head’ of the house as Elizabeth Cornish aged thirty-five years.  She is now living a ‘pauper at home’ which indicates that she is supported by the local church.  It is evident that Samuel Cornish is now deceased.  The names of the sons are consistent with the 1841 census with the addition of David, born 1843 and Richard born 1845 which indicates that Samuel Cornish died between 1845 and 1851.  The daughter seems to have had a name change from Elizabeth in the 1841 census to Mary Ann in the 1851 census although the age is consistent.  This would seem to be some mistake perhaps by the scribe.    

What the 1851 does provide is a birth place for the family, something missing from the earlier census’. Elizabeth was born in Germoe as was Samuel, Mary Ann/Elizabeth, David, and Richard.  Thomas and John were born in nearby Breage.  It may well be that Elizabeth stayed with a nearby relative at the birth of Thomas and John. 

Richard Cornish was born in the Breage/Germoe area in Cornwall, England located between Helston/e and Penzance.

The two faces of Cornwall, then and now, mines and coast, beauty and poverty. Women and children working in the mines, while today Cornwall is advertised as the ‘Mediterranean of England’. The flag flying at Portloe, a small village and tiny harbour near Veryan, is that of Saint Piran (Baner Peran in Cornish) the recognised flag of Cornwall.

The area is close to the sea but is surrounding by tin and copper mines which have been operating from a time that disappears into antiquity.  Both the sea and the land provided the means for living, one which, as we will learn, extracted a cost in lives.

Being close to the coast many of the mines workings extend beyond the coastline and extend out under the Atlantic Ocean.  Remember that men, and women, and children, had to walk to their place of work at it was only when they were at their ‘workplace’ that they earned their pay.  Coming back to the surface would take some more than a two hour climb to the surface.  As a result, many mines built ‘man engines’ which were an early method of raising men to the surface.  The initial man engines were power by water but later converted to steam.      

The man engines certainly save the legs but even so the workers had to get themselves home without the benefit of public transport.

Geevor tin mine, and after mining was finished.

Richard Cornish was part of Bendigo as was James Ford and I am left wonder if the two men had met.

The above photograph appears to be a joyous occasion when the two families did meet a generation or two later.  From left to right, Florence Josephine Margaret Ford and her husband, William (Bill) Ford, the younger brother of Jim Ford.

Esther Grace Collins (Bill Ford’s mother), James (Jim) Ford, brother of Bill Ford and Florence Maud Cornish,  mother of Florence Josephine Margaret Ford.

The lass is unknown.