I have a small connection with Redruth as I was born in the Camborne-Redruth maternity unit in 1958, however I grew up in Hayle. Hayle is a coastal town best known for its three miles of golden sands and its industrial heritage. It had been a significant port for the export of copper ores and foundry work to serve the mining industries. The area is renowned for producing the largest steam engines in the world, with a bitter rivalry between two iron foundries, Copperhouse and Harvey’s. Richard Trevithick and Arthur Woolf were the two influential engineers responsible for transcending Hayle to one of the most important towns of the industrial revolution.
My parents, Henry & Tilly Mitchell, met during the second World War at an engineering factory in Gloucester. They got married in 1943 and after the war moved back to my father’s home town of Eastbourne where my brother Thomas was born. Eventually my parents returned to Hayle where my father and his brother started a printing business called “Mitchell the Printers”
My Cornish ancestry can be traced back through my mother. Her maiden name was Thomas and was born and brought up in Hayle, living at Carnsew Cottages, the youngest of eight children. My mother and her sister Jessie were well known competitive swimmers and both became champion swimmer of Cornwall in their youth. I have done some research and am lucky enough that my mother kept a number of birth and marriage certificates. The earliest record I can find is the 1861 Census recording my Great Great Grandmother Elizabeth Sampson. Her father’s occupation was noted as “Tin Miner” and many of the records I have found have my ancestors living in Crowan, near Helston.
I went to Penpol Country Primary School, Hayle and was the third generation to attend after my mother and brother. My mother attended as a VIP guest for the 100year anniversary of the opening of the school in 2011 when she was aged 89. From there I went to Hayle County Secondary School that was better known to the locals as High Lanes School. I was lucky enough to live in St Georges Road, with the primary school located at the bottom of the road, and the secondary school at the top of the road. We moved into this bungalow when I was 9 months old and it remained in the family for 59 years until sold.
On finishing school, I joined the army but found being away from home was something I wasn’t ready for. I returned back to Cornwall and enrolled on a secretarial course at Camborne Technical College. After getting my qualifications I had a number of secretary/clerical roles with my most favorite working for Cornwall Library services, gaining my library qualifications and driving and operating the mobile library service around the villages of West Cornwall.
In this time, I got married, living in Heamoor, nr Penzance and then moving to Newlyn. I had a daughter Emma, who is now living in Bristol with her husband Andrew and my beautiful grandson Jack. I got divorced moved back to Heamoor, remarried and returned to live in Phillack, Hayle.
Moving to New Zealand was a big step. My husband, Stephen, who is a civil engineer, decided that to further his career there were more opportunities available in New Zealand. So, in 2004 we decided to take the plunge!! Being married to a civil engineer means you don’t stay anywhere too long and over the years in New Zealand I have spent time criss-crossing from North Island to South Island and back to the North Island picking up various jobs along the way.
In 2014 we moved to Christchurch and I discovered the Christchurch branch of the Cornish Association. The enjoyment of attending those monthly meetings was the link that had been missing since emigrating to New Zealand and I was sorry to have to say goodbye in 2018 for yet another move to Tauranga, only to return back to the Lower North Island in early 2019 settling down in Martinborough, about an hour’s car journey from Wellington. In these days of modern technology and working from home becoming much more the norm, my husband can work and travel from home without us having to move and I have decided to retire.
In all of my moving I have still remained a member of the Christchurch branch and have for some considerable number of years prepared a “News from Cornwall” PowerPoint presentation that I email and is presented at the monthly meeting by one of the members. I have also tried to attend at least one meeting a year to catch up with the many friends that I have made and to soak up that Cornish connection. Being nominated as National President of the New Zealand Cornish Association was a huge surprise but something I have embraced and I can only hope that I can do justice to those past presidents.
During my time here in New Zealand I have made several visits back to Cornwall. Unfortunately my parents are no longer alive but I still have family and friends that I love to catch up with. Due to the Covid pandemic these visits have been put on hold but hopefully in the not-too-distant future these visits can begin again.