The search for Kolar’s gold – by Shrabonti Bagchi (Live Mint – February 29, 2020)

A multimedia project explores the lives and music of Cornish miners who made Kolar, in Karnataka, their home in the early 20th century

One rainy evening in the summer of 2018 in Cornwall, UK, Laura Garcia was watching a documentary about Indian music on the BBC, wondering if there was any link between this tiny part of England—with its distinctive culture and language—and India. Curious, she did a Google search.

Garcia wasn’t expecting to find anything but after a few pages of inconclusive results, she stumbled upon a cursory mention of Cornish miners making their way to a small town in southern India to work in the country’s only gold fields in the early 20th century. The find kicked off an obsession for Garcia, a member of Cornishfolk band The Rowan Tree.

The history and movement of the Cornish diaspora is well documented but the stories of the miners who went to the Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), now in Karnataka, are not as well known as, say, the histories of those who went to Australia or Canada.

Garcia found a small paragraph about the Kolar miners in a book titled The Cornish Overseas: A History Of Cornwall’s ‘Great Emigration’ by Philip Payton, which pays special attention to the mining community that made its way across the world between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, comprehensive as the book is, it had limited information about the miners who went to India. Garcia was intrigued enough to start digging deeper.

Slowly, with the help of newspaper archives in the UK that contained announcements of births, marriages and deaths among mining families in KGF and the oral histories of people she reached out to with links to KGF, Garcia started uncovering the history of over 300 families who had worked in the gold fields in the early 20th century.

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