Dolly Pentreath - The last native speaker of the Cornish Language

Dolly Pentreath Memorial - Paul
Dolly Pentreath Memorial

Here lieth interred Dorothy Pentreath who died in 1777, said to have been the last person who conversed in the ancient Cornish. The regular language of this county from the earliest records till it expired in the eighteenth century in this Parish of Saint Paul. This stone is erected by the Prince Louise Bonaparte in Union with the Revd John Garret Vicar of St Paul. June 1860.

So reads the memorial stone of Dolly Pentreath set into the wall of Paul churchyard, near Mousehole. Her main language was Cornish and she only learned a little English as an adult. She is considered by many people to be the last person to speak Cornish as a first language, although this is contested by some. Cornish persisted as part of the local dialect until the 20th century revival.

Dolly Pentreath House
Dolly Pentreath's House

The Cornish language was already believed to have died out when Daines Barrington visited Mousehole and discovered Dolly and others conversing in the language. This aroused a great deal of interest over a long period. Eventually the monument in her memory was set into the churchyard wall in 1860 by Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon’s nephew. One story says it was originally placed over the wrong grave and had to be moved later.