A short time in Tasmania is time enough for any Cousin Jack/Jenny to recognise a clear Cornish footprint across this early Australian Colony. Tasmania, once described as “the amazing garden in the antipodes” features some amazing similarities to the land of our Cornish forefathers. In fact, the similarities are so widespread and profound that there is no doubt that Tasmania can rightly claim the title of being Australia’s biggest Little Cornwall.
* Early Occupants:
In Cornwall there is an early antiquity of Britain/Celtic tribes and a history of Norman and Saxon invasion.
In Tasmania, at the time of Colonial settlement it was estimated that three to seven thousand Palawa aboriginal people had lived in harmony with the isle for over 40,000 years.
While in Cornwall Laun(ce)ston became a gateway fortress-town to Cornwall with its Norman hill Castle. Tasmania also became the gateway to European settlement in the Australian colonies.
* Unique Identity
Both Tasmania and Cornwall are geographically remote. This sets them apart to preserve their distinct heritage and identity.
In Cornwall, early isolation beyond the Tamar and the Celtic language set it apart. It was different from the Anglo counties of the England.
Tasmania/Van Deiman’s Land was isolated by Bass Strait. It was set apart as a penal settlement in order to exploit the island’s resources. It was different from the mainlands free settlers. Like Cornwall, Tasmania still has a slower place of life and a heritage environment that includes hawthorn, hedgerows and scarlet robins.
* Early Government
In medieval Cornwall there was a split administration. The Stannary Parliament looked after the rights and privileges of tin miners while the Duke and Dutchy of Cornwall were responsible for government.
In Tasmania/Van Deiman’s Land, Cornish Governor Philip Gridley King created a split administration by geographically dividing the colony in two. The northern portion was called Cornwall and the southern Buckinghamshire. (This arrangement lasted until 1813.)
* Common Names
Launceston in Tasmania derived its name from Laun(ce)ston in Cornwall. Although pronounced differently, today these cities with the same name share a twinning arrangement.
A special water fountain for Tasmania’s Princes Square was cast by a foundry in Cornwall. On its completion the fountain was sent to the city Laun(ce)ston in Cornwall and it was received with delight until it was rightly claimed by the city in Tasmania.
* River Tamar.
In 1804 Colonel William Paterson in Tasmania named the Tamar River after the river of the same name in Cornwall. Both rivers run north for 50 miles (approx) and pass the cities of Launceston in Tasmania and Laun(ce)ston in Cornwall.
In Tasmania the Tamar boasts of its magnificent natural attractions that include Cataract Gorge Reserve and it stretches along to the mining activities of Beaconsfield.
In Cornwall the River Tamar with its numerous vineyards is listed as a World Heritage site due to its mining activities and it forms the border between Cornwall and Devon.
* Apples and Orchards.
In Cornwall apple orchards go back centuries, especially in the sheltered valleys of the Southern Coast and Tamar Valley. A range of ciders are still produced but while the orchards and industry has declined Apple Day is still celebrated every October.
In Tasmania, Cornishman Capt. William Bligh in 1788 anchored at Adventure Bay, off Bruny Island and planted a selection of fruit trees including three apple seedlings.
Colonel William Paterson who was a botanist also planted fruit trees at York Town in 1805/6. Settlers planted many apple and pear trees that thrived and by 1860/1 there were 150 varieties. Exports to Victoria and Sydney made it an important industry.
In Cornwall it can be said, “The juices of the onion in the hot Cornish pasty flow down to your elbow.”
In Tasmania it can be said, “The juices of the fresh Tassie apple glisten in the sunlight and drip from every bite of a Tasmanian apple.”
Cornwall’s mining history is next to none and is internationally recognised at World Heritage level.
Tasmania’s rugged West Coast is recognised as one of the world’s richest mineral deposits containing almost every known mineral. By 1901 mining represented 60% of Tasmania’s export earning.
* Fishing markets.
Where Newlyn harbour Cornwall has been the home of the largest fishing fleet in the UK with 700 vessels, the fishing industry in Tasmania has been important to the viability of Tasmania with its salmon ponds in Macquarie harbour, wild abalone and crayfish.
* Places of outstanding Natural Beauty
Just as Cornwall is blessed with many places of outstanding natural beauty. Where the mist the Cornish call ‘missel’ floats in from the sea, in beautiful Tasmania it floats down from the mountains.
Where Cornwall relies heavily on tourism, historic sites, agriculture, fishing and rambling, in a similar way the natural beauty of Tasmania is so outstanding that it has been called ‘God’s Garden’ and it relies heavily on a tourist industry, historic sites, trout fishing, bush walking (rambling).
* Festivals and Regattas
Just as Cornwall is famous for its maritime history and museum, seasonal festivals and regattas, so Tasmania has an important maritime museum, the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and the biggest penny farthing bike race in the world attracting 10,000 spectators.
* The Poor Cousin
Just as the Cornish-born are fewer in number and Cornwall is often regarded as the poor cousin to the wealthier counties of the United Kingdom and this leads to poorer infrastructure like ‘bumpy roads. So, Tasmania has a smaller population that means it struggles financially to compete with other Australian states. And it seems to specialise in ‘bumpy off-track’ roads.
* Outstanding Memorials
In Penzance Cornwall we have the statue of Sir Humphrey Davey. In Geeveston Tasmania we have the memorial to Bill Tre-askis 1914-99, the swearing chemist carved out of King Billy pine.
* Blooming Daffodils
Cornish daffodils have long made their impact on London and international markets. In Tasmania, on the edge of Hobart, Glenbrook Bulb farm has an international reputation with the American Daffodil Society for growing Miniature Gold Ribbons.
* Money Tree
While Cornwall often benefits from Charities and EU funding, in Tasmania its hard to find major industries that do not benefit from State or Federal funding.
* The Biggest.
For visitors to reach Lemonthyme Lodge near Tasmania’s biggest Cradle Mountain they have to travel down Dolcoath Rd. Dolcoath recalls Cornwall’s biggest underground mine.
With so many similarities— the tourist to Cornwall could think they had arrived in Tasmania and the tourist to Tasmania could be confused, thinking they had arrived in Cornwall.
E.A. Curnow 2018.