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24 Dec 2016

Child of Cornwall: Forget Me Not

Margaret Trewhella was born at Towednack on the Atlantic coast in 1784. At this time her great grandmother Catherine Baragwanath (born 1701) was still very much alive, which is far back into the Trewhella annals. Margaret had access through this channel to a wealth of old Cornish folklore, including uncle Matty whose love for a mermaid was doomed from the off.

Margaret married a dapper thin tinner, whose photograph and miner's tinder box I once saw. Lord knows where that is now. She was 30 at her marriage and doubtless a strong influence on her four daughters.

Before they spread over the world, the second daughter produced a sampler, photographed above. "Oh my child, forget me not!" A strange sampler for a child, unless firmly directed by a mother like Margaret.

This morning I attempted to date the doggerel. Couldn't be 1851 as Eliza, the embroideress, was married by then. That year, a book, Fields's Scrap-book, came out, and was sentimental and mushy enough to securely cross the Atlantic. A peek at Fields's biography suggests he penned a first edition much earlier, in 1833, Kentucky. Not only was Eliza a young girl then (12) but her uncle J. T. Hichins of Trannack in Sithney was then still living nearby, a woollen merchant. Did he provide the colourful skeins, I wonder?

Some university library in the States is sure to have Fields's first edition, and I for one would like to know if he remembered to include the rhyme "Forget Me Not" back in 1833, as I strongly suspect.

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