A MOST GENEROUS GESTURE FROM DEVON TO
As an Australian member unable to attend the Society's 1993 gathering, I wrote to the Revd. Roger Cornish hoping that some member present might have information on "my" Cornishes of Highampton, Devon (see Vol 3 No 1, Jan 1994). At the same time I wrote to Mr William Cornish, jeweller of Okehampton. Caroline Knapman of Sampford Courtenay who had been so helpful with Knapman family tree information when were in England in 1992 had approached Mr Cornish and from him heard of the existence of the Society, and had also forwarded birth dates of the Cornish family of Highampton from Revd Roger Cornish.
As a result of this I joined the Society. Not only have I found the information in "The Chough" most interesting, but received one of the most important records concerning my family as a result of writing to Mr William Cornish.
"My" LOUISA CORNISH of Highampton (baptised 1829) married JOHN KNAPMAN of South Tawton, in Highampton (1852). Their daughter JANET LUCY KNAPMAN married SAMUEL DREW , Watch and Clockmaker of Okehampton (1872). They migrated to Australia when my grandmother LOUISA JANETTA DREW was 11 years old in 1884 and established a Jewellery business in South Brisbane, the then centre of the Queensland capital.
I have excellent photos of their place of business, the Victoria Building at the southern end of the Victoria Bridge across the Brisbane River. The records are so good of this because the disastrous 1893 flood washed away the northern half of the bridge and badly flooded South Brisbane. On the side of the two-storied building the occupant's names are in large print, among them, "S.R.Drew, Clock and Watchmaker, Official Clockmaker to the Queensland Government and the South Brisbane Tram Company."
Knowing that my grandmother's grandmother was a Cornish of Highampton, some 10 miles from Okehampton, and that her daughter JANET LUCY KNAPMAN married SAMUEL DREW, jeweller of Okehampton, I decided that just perhaps a WILLIAM CORNISH , presently a jeweller of Okehampton, might be connected to the family which originated in Highampton. This proved not to be so, but I received from him the most wonderful gift and surprise for anyone researching their family history.
About two weeks before Christmas last, a large white cardboard envelope arrived from Mr Cornish, and its contents were, as he hoped, "... a unique Christmas present". Inside was a copy of an 1860's photo of St James Chapel, Okehampton, the photo of a painting taken from the original and several laser copies. Several years ago Mr Cornish had seen the old photograph in a photographer's window and his wife gave him a copy of it as a gift. Later, he had a painting done from it, the artist using a lens for details and researching the colours of the buildings. The painting is excellent and now hangs in Mr Cornish's home.
Central in the photograph is a 3 or 4 storied building of probably tudor architectural style and prominent on the side is the sign, "S Drew, Watch and Clockmaker, Jewellers." As this building is almost across the front of the entrance to the church which most likely post-dates it, I would be surprised if it still exists. It still seems incredible that the very person to whom I wrote seeking information on the Highampton Cornishes had such a treasure (to me) in his possession, not because of family history, but because of its historical value in terms of Okehampton. But then the element of coincidence or contingency is just as important in genealogical research as in history itself.
What is not so frequently found is the thoughtfulness and generosity shown by Mr Cornish in sharing information which was so exciting to someone on the other side of the world. And none of this would have occurred without my having been directed towards the Society.
Billie J Mulherin