Joseph Emidy

The Churchyard at Kenwyn includes the grave of Joseph Emidy, a former slave from Guinea, West Africa, who became a famous musician both in Truro and throughout Cornwall. In 1787, at the age of twelve he was sold to Portuguese traders who took him to Brazil where his owner arranged for him to be taught by Jesuit priests before taking him to Lisbon in 1791. Showing an aptitude for music his owner provided a violin and lessons, gaining Joseph a place amongst the second violins of the Lisbon Opera three or four years later. Here renowned Cornish seafarer Captain Sir Edward Pellew heard him play when his frigate HMS Indefatigable was in port for repair having struck a rock during the war in France. Crew members were ordered to "Press" Emidy (against his will) to join the ship so that he could play for their popular off duty dancing jigs and hornpipes. Here he remained for four long years until February 1799 when he was discharged, a free man, in Falmouth.

He earned a living in Cornwall teaching piano, cello, clarinet, flute, guitar and mandolin as well as composing, organising concerts and events. In 1802 he married at Falmouth Parish Church, Jenefer Hutchins, daughter of a respected local tradesman, and they went on to have several children, the eldest of whom was also named Joseph. The family moved to Charles Street in Truro in 1815, and the West Briton of 26th April 1816 reports a mixed race 11 year old boy named Joseph Emidy being indicted for stealing money from a shop in St Clement Street Truro, and, having pleaded guilty, being sentenced to six months hard labour. Thomas, his second son, became a cabinet maker, musician and repairer of musical instruments, whilst daughter Cecilia was acclaimed whilst still a teenager for her singing.

Joseph (senior) died at the age of 60 in April 1835 and was buried in Kenwyn Churchyard. His fifth son Richard lies next to him, dying some two years later aged twenty, whilst his wife lived on until 1842. The only known portrait is a sketch of 1808 showing "A Musical Club", possibly made in the "Concert Room" of Truro's Assembly Building and now in the Royal Cornwall Museum.

To find the grave walk along the lower path well into the churchyard and you will see the restored portland stone headstone to your left, close to the path. 

Emidy, JPG