The G7 summit
With the 2021 G7 Summit arriving at Carbis Bay from 11th to 13th June, we explore the history between Cornwall and the nations it will be welcoming. Taking a chance up north for the gold rush or jumping in a barrel down Niagara Falls for the head rush, here are five Cornish connections with our friends in Canada.
You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat,
It’s the 1820s and the Canadian craze is in full swing; barely a harbour in Cornwall doesn’t have a ship making the journey to the rich lands of Canada. Families of Penzance, Padstow, Malpas, Hayle, Charlestown, Bideford and St Ives head for the likes of Quebec and Nova Scotia on boats with names such as the Endymion, the Phoebe, the Springflower, the Alchemyst and the West Briton.
The journey was made extra profitable by the trade of Canadian timber, loaded up for the quiet return leg from Canada for the British markets. The abundance of cheap oak would make for excellent ship-building, which is precisely what James Yeo would do on Prince Edward Island – decking out additional transport to cope with the demand of Cornish movement.
You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat,
A journal of the time joked that “a female who had given birth to a child but three days before, would not be persuaded by the most urgent [pleas] of her friends to remain behind for another season.” The exodus to Canada would have been more than noticeable, with many a broken heart left behind in Cornwall. Not that this would ruin the cheer of those leaving for fresh beginnings, though, as this little ditty would hint:
“And now my boys we’re outward bound,
Young girls go a-weeping;
We’re outward bound to Quebec Town
Across the Western Ocean!”
Given that Prince Edward Island was swarmed by the migrating Cornish, it’s no wonder that one of the province’s most populated towns is called Cornwall. But this is a recurring theme amongst the landmarks of Canada, with many Cornishmen vacating their homes in Britain only to find themselves looking upon the placenames they just left behind.
Cornish winds may be frosty at times, but a resident of Truro or Falmouth is unlikely to experience night temperatures of -16°C – unless you are in the Truro or Falmouth of Nova Scotia, of course. Camborne was so greatly loved that they named it twice, one in Ontario and the other in British Columbia; while the Cornish Camborne mined tin, the British Columbia Camborne mined a medley of silver and gold, lead and zinc until the site became abandoned.
Once again home to glorious views, St Ives gives its name to a Canadian resort swaddled by the Monashee Mountains and the shores of the Shuswap Lake. Cornish Penzance may hold the south-western extremity of Britain, but it’s no match for the Penzance of Saskatchewan at 50 miles from the nearest city; with a population of 41, it is also decidedly more quaint.
While the Chynoweth name will be most familiar in Cornwall as the name of a family within the Poldark series, the Cornish surname – literally meaning ‘new house’ – has also given rise to a family powerhouse within the hockey world.
Ed Chynoweth acted as the president for one and then both of the Western and Canadian Ice Hockey Leagues over the course of 23 years, widely regarded as a pioneer of the modern game. His sons have since gone on to have successful careers in their father’s field, with Dean Chynoweth having coached such teams as the Carolina Hurricanes and the Seattle Thunderbirds while Jeff Chynoweth has managed the Calgary Hitmen.
The Ed Chynoweth Trophy and the Ed Chynoweth Cup have both been named in the elder Chynoweth’s honour, a Cornish heritage engraved forevermore.
The tale of one man with a simple dream…. to jump off Niagara Falls in a barrel. Bobby Leach had long established a madcap life by the time he had reached the Canadian/American border, joining the circus at the age of 18 after a childhood of uncertain origins; many sources believe he had been toughened by a Cornish upbringing, including Canada’s Niagara Falls Museum, but he was truly a wanderer with non-stop touring in the circuses of Britain and America – including under the stewardship of P. T. Barnum, he of The Greatest Showman fame.
In his early fifties and never caring much for slowing down, Leach would begin testing his barrel in some of the Niagara rapids. On one occasion he became trapped in a whirlpool and, when he was recovered from his barrel, blood was trickling from his eyes, ears and nose.
Unconcerned, Leach would perform his greatest feat in front of an audience thousands. Each amongst them would hold their breath as the man tumbled down 170 feet, watching on for twenty minutes as the barrel was slowly retrieved and dragged ashore. Leach was alive; he had broken his jaw and both knees, but he was alive.
Thirteen years later – in his sixties, still not slowing down – it was reported in Canadian newspapers that Leach wanted to repeat the jump in a giant rubber ball. Canadian and American authorities refused to allow it from either border, however. Bobby Leach would make a deadly fall in rather different circumstances just two years later, slipping on an orange peel in the street and dying from the resulting gangrene. The most absurd of endings for a most absurd life.
A Washbowl on
Much like Bobby Leach, Billy Barker was rumoured to have a Cornish history; he was one of the earliest to find a life-changing sum of gold in the Cariboo of British Columbia, setting up the town of Barkerville in the wake of his finds. But he was reported to be a man of exceptional generosity, bankrolling the ventures of others even when it went beyond his extravagant means. Expecting his gold fortune to set him up for life, Billy Barker would die without a penny to his name.
John Teague would be another to try their luck in the canyons and creeks of Cariboo, travelling all the way from Redruth to pan in the river with a washbowl on his knee. But Teague would not take the same road to fame as Billy Barker; a victim of the hardship of paltry finds, Teague found that he would rather try his hand at the architecture industry – of which he had no formal training. Yet here he would prove to be extremely gifted; working his way up from lowly contractor work, Teague would become one of Victoria’s most successful architects with dozens of his buildings still standing today.
A Washbowl on
While one’s life journey was lined with bricks and the other with gold, Teague was not immune to the same fate as Barker. The renowned architect would be kind in his loans to friends and trusting in his investments, dying with little more than he left the gold fields with.
Canada would prove a tough match for the generosity of Cornish community spirit; what supported some would break another. The New World was all too unforgiving for those who were giving.