Oldest Living Clerk James Carne 1806-1909

I’m sure many of you have a passing interest in history, antiquities, curios and just odd facts. Whether or not you’re interested to pursue the matter further at the moment is another matter, but I do like to present odd facts and curious things occasionally to make people think a little outside of their regular boxes.  The story of James Carne, 1806-1909 caught my eye.

In 1882 the Newquay parish was formed, making it separate from St Columb Minor, so this is a change in Newquay’s history that would have affected the life of James Carne.  He’d have been involved in that changeover; the reduction in volume of daily duties probably came at the right time for him as he’d have been 76 at the time, or maybe he was concerned about a reduction in income than thinking of the benefits of a slower pace of life.

The oldest living clerk, James Carne, came to my attention while I was reading an old book by PH Ditchfield called “The Parish Clerk”. Not the most enthralling of editions for many people, but this is a fascinating glimpse into life just over 100 years ago, full of anecdotes and tid-bits.

Chapter XXII looked at longevity and heredity of Parish Clerks. As with many trades, jobs stayed in families. If your father was the Parish Clerk, you’d probably be the Parish Clerk after him. Some of these lines were quite long, but one chap that stood out was the oldest living James Carne. The piece said

“The oldest parish clerk living is James Carne, who serves in the parish of St. Columb Minor, Cornwall, and has held the office for fifty-eight years. He is now in his hundred and first year, and still is unremitting in attention to duty, and regularly attends church. He followed in the wake of his father and grandfather, who filled the same position for fifty-four years and fifty years respectively.”

The book was published in 1907, so Mr James Carne is (clearly) no longer the Parish Clerk of St Columb Minor.

James Carne, 1806-1909, St Columb Minor

James Carne, 1808-1909, St Columb Minor

James Carne, 1806-1909 (aged 103)

Born May 1806, died October 1909, James Carne died two years after the book was published, in 1909. And there’s a photo of Mr Carne sitting beside his Cornish range in his home, aged 101.  Mr Carne’s father and grandfather had both been Parish Clerks of St Columb Minor before him.  James succeeded his father in 1849 who had taken over from the grandfather in 1795.   James Carne’s grandfather had been a parish clerk since 1745, so those three gentlemen spanned 1745-1909, over 160 years as parish clerk between them.

I found the details of James Carne’s passing using the Genes Reunited website (which I am addicted to for random lookups).

James Carne even met the Prince of Wales, in 1909 when he was aged 102 and there’s a photo of that too on the Ancestry site.   The visit by the future King George V was of major importance at the time, King George’s party stayed at the Headland Hotel on 8-9 June 1909, before stopping off to meet Mr Carne in St Columb Minor.  The future King is reported to have said to him “I’m glad to make your acquaintance, you are a grand old man.”. When James Carne died four months later his doctor remarked that he had never got over the excitement of meeting the Prince.  AH Hawke, photographer, of Helston, took some photos, I wonder if James Carne ever had saw one of those.

RIP Mr Carne, you’ve not been forgotten. Immortalised by a photo in a book and documentation that you existed.

I wonder how many of us will be able to say the same.

He was married to Mary Carne (1810-1897), but they don’t seem to have had any children.    So James Carne was the oldest Parish Clerk and the end of his line.

This entry was posted in Newquay History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.