Follow me down cousin Jack

Following my previous post on Family History, a folk song called Cousin Jack is one of my favourites and gives me the opportunity to forget the snow and heavy rain in our part of Northern Europe this week and instead recall a visit to Cornwall a few summers ago. The song tells the story of men and their families having to leave their homes and villages in Cornwall and emigrating all over the world to find new jobs. Although I am unaware of this being the case in my family  history the words "I'm leaving the country behind and I'm not coming back. So follow me down cousin Jack " always touches me!

In each decade from 1861 to 1901 the county of Cornwall lost 20% of its male population - of these the majority of these were miners who left Cornwall following the decline of the mining industry in Cornwall and a fall in the price of tin.  These men were nicknamed "Cousin Jack" there are various theories for this name. Some think that when they reached new countries that they asked if there were any jobs for their cousin "Jack." Another theory was they would greet fellow countrymen as "Cousin" and the most popular name in Cornwall for boys was "Jack".

A few years ago when we visited the mines between Land's End and St Ives we sat having a pasty lunch (what else in Cornwall!) and sat listening to this song as we looked out to the remains of the mines, many of which went miles under sea and  we thought of those men.

                                                                 Cousin Jack 
This land is barren and broken,

Scarred like the face of the moon

Our tongue is no longer spoken

The towns all around facing ruin

Will there be work in New Brunswick?

Will I find gold in the Cape?

If I tunnel way down to Australia

Oh will I ever escape?

Where there's a mine or a hole in the ground
That's what I'm heading for, that's where I'm bound
So look for me under the lode and inside the vein
Where the copper the clay the arsenic and tin
Run in your blood and under your skin
I'm leaving the country behind and
I'm not coming back
So follow me down cousin Jack.
Written by Steve Knightly Show of Hands

Wishing you a good week, hopefully the weather forecast is better than predicted and it starts to feel more like Spring than Winter! I hope the blue skies above are a reminder of warmer times!



  1. What lovely photos. Never been to Dorset but may have to visit. Wish I lived nearer the sea.

  2. Lovely photos again and an interesting post, Sarah. This band plays at our local Arts centre sometimes. I look forward to seeing this scenery soon. Best just ignore the snow xo

  3. Your beautiful post brought tears to my eyes. Such a shame that the people had to leave their homes for a better life.
    I didnt know the story about the people of Cornwall. It must have been the 'jack's and the jennies' that introduced cornish pasties to south africa.!
    What beautiful scenery Sarah.
    Would love to read more about the people that immigrated to all the other lands.
    Also, they spoke with a dialect or in a way, that we couldnt understand I believe.
    My brother in law in called Jack. He told me once , that when he was a boy and someone wanted to know your name when they called you.. they replied, just call me Jack.
    happy weekend Sarah.

    please can you tell me if you have seen my post.. i had some blogging problems yesterday..
    val x x x

  4. Hi Val,
    Although it must have been hard leaving their country and travelling in small ships across the sea, I hope most of them gained a better life out of it. It was interesting that pasties were familiar in South Africa too, and the story about your brother in law's name!
    Sarah x

  5. So nostalgic. Love Cornwall - I used to think it was like Scotland but with a better climate, but lately I wonder if that's still true!

  6. Oh Sarah,

    The words of this song ring true for me, or at least for the HISTORY of my father's family, who immigrated from Spain to Mexico, then from Mexico to California, USA. The moves still go on, for the sake of survival. Leaving one's homeland is never easy, but makes for a life history of pain and BEAUTY.

    These images are delicious. The sea, the stone dwellings, the humble cottages....what more could I ask for this Sunday morning? Anita

  7. We spent a lot of time in Cornwall, even as far as Land's End, while looking for a house down here. Your photos have really brought it back. Must go back there again this year.

    It's been interesting to read some of the history associated with Cornish mining too. Thank you Sarah.

  8. Your pictures are breath-takingly beautiful. Cornwall is high on my list of "must visit" places in the UK. I don't think it will happen this year, but perhaps next. I am sheepishly admitting it is seeing the scenery when watching Doc Martin that has inspired me to want to go there.

  9. Beautiful photos of my neck of the woods. The coast road between St Ives and Lands End is spectacular, and you've captured it beautifully!! I love the wild flowers too. I always think there is something mysterious and magical about West Cornwall. The derelict mines certainly add to that feeling.

    I've written down the lines of the song. So sad that so man men were forced to move so far away to find work.

    Leanne xx

  10. My Uncle's name is Jack but he was Christened John. Often London cabbies will refer to a male customer as John when asking where to go, or when paying etc. So I guess that Jack/John is the name people would use when they didn't know their name much like Val's story above. Lovely photos Sarah.
    Patricia x

  11. Beautiful photos and such an interesting story. I really feel I learned a lot from reading this post. Thank you for sharing. :)

  12. We have dear friends, met them in Mexico, who live in Cornwall at Land's End. They have visited us twice in California, but we have yet to visit them. I remember when we told them we lived in an old house, built in 1928 - old by US standards. They said they too lived in an old house, built in 1625. They no longer live there. We hope to visit them before too long and see all the beautiful sights.

  13. They came here to Nova Scotia to the Rawdon Mines ...I expect descendants are still alive. And as the song says..they went to New Brunswick as well. May I mention this link which speaks of the miners from Cornwall in our area.

    Lovely post...and photos. Such abundant wild flowers.

  14. What an interesting post Sarah. Your photos are beautiful and I loved the vibrant blue sky in the background as it's so gloomy, wet and cold here today.

  15. What an interesting post. Lovely photos too. We're freezing and under inches of snow and although no more snow is forecast (I don't think) it's not going to get much warmer this week.

  16. A wonderful post dearest Sarah! Cornwall is so charming and I learned a part of his history!I couldn't imagine that people coming from "fertile" lands like yours have been forced to immigrate somewhere else in order to gain a better life. Hope I can come again to your country,we are planning a trip to Scotland for summer, but we'll see.Wishing you warmer days as soon as possible !

  17. Dear Sarah,

    Such an interesting story! I never realised there have actually been mines in Cornwall. Nowadays the ruins of the buildings look very impressive with the sea as a backdrop.

    Thank you for your kind email too! I will email you tomorrow.

    Have a lovely new week!

    Madelief x

  18. Another interesting post Sarah and lovely pictures again, I've not been to Cornwall since my teens. I've just become a follower, I was sure I already was, don't know how I managed to miss that!

  19. Such a lovely part of the world you photos are lovely.

  20. I very much enjoyed your post about Cornwall and the poem about Cousin Jack ! I happened upon your blog at another site when I was attracted to the beautiful little West Highland your little photo snippet showed. My mother always had Westies, and I loved them so. If you ever stop by for a visit you will see our little farm is full of wonderful animals, but not a lovely Westie in sight :(

  21. Hi Sarah,

    I enjoyed seeing the gorgeous scenery and thanks for sharing the lovely post, very poignant.
    Do hope that you can start seeing Spring there.

    Happy new week

  22. Liebe kleine Meerjungfrau,
    schöne Bilder hast du uns wieder beschert. Ich glaube, die meisten Familien, egal ob aus England, Irland, Deutschland, Frankreich, überall in Europa, haben Vorfahren oder Verwandte, die ausgewandert sind oder das Land während der Nazidiktatur verlassen mußten.
    Auch ich habe Verwandte in den USA und Süd-Afrika. Die Bedingungen auf den Schiffen waren teilweise katastrophal und wenn man in New York ankam und den Aufnahmetest nicht bestand oder zu wenig Geld dabei hatte, wurde man mit dem nächsten Schiff wieder zurück geschickt, wie grausam. Viele blieben daher illegal in den Staaten. Die Geschichte der deutschen Auswanderer kann man in Bremerhaven im Auswandererhaus erleben. Ein wundervolles Museum, eine tolle Ausstellung und ganz nebenbei kann man auf Ahnensuche gehen.

    Liebe Grüße Babsi

  23. How lovely to see the blue sky Sarah! Cornwall's coast is magnificent.

  24. Lived and went to school in Cornwall, so I enjoyed seeing your photographs and posting. I am not so sure that the Cornish miners found better places to be as some of the mining sites they went to in other parts of the world are pretty barren, and without the compensation of the seascapes. However with the tin and copper mines declining, there really was not much choice in those days.

  25. After our emails I have found these two posts fun to read! Such a beautiful area. Hopefully more will come to light in my history too. In fact, I think I'll start that book this weekend. Have a wonderful easter friend (wonder if we're related somehow, hee hee??!!) xx

  26. Dear Sarah, 'd somehow missed this post. Love your photos of the engine houses. You can't go to Cornwall and not have a pasty!

  27. I heard that some tin mines in Cornwall were operating again

  28. Hi Sarah! I send you my comment since you made this post but I see now that it isn't published. Did you recieve it ?
    Hugs Olympia

  29. What a fascinating post, thank you for this :D

    Beautiful, poignant song.

  30. Lovely photos
    Wishing you a very happy Easter Sarah!


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  32. Such a thought provoking post... thank you.

    The 'Cousin Jack' folk song is one of my favourites also... have you heard it sung by the West Country folk duo 'Show of Hands'? they sing it with feeling and it always stirs the emotions within me for the plight of the miners.
    Frances x

    1. We are avid fans of Show of Hands and it was their singing we were listening to as we sat among the ruins eating pasties. It moves me too thinking of the miners having to leave their homes. It is always the most popular song at their concerts. Sarah x

  33. Haunting lyrics...
    "Where there's a mine or a hole in the ground
    That's what I'm heading for, that's where I'm bound"
    Thinking of my Grandfathers, Father and Uncles who worked down the mine all their lives!


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