Is your Surname registered?

Our 2,768 members have registered
2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.
Nov 302015

How many One-Name Studies can claim a real saint as part of their number? There are the Saint, St. John and St. Paul One-Name Studies, but they are not what I mean. It’s 30th November, St Andrew’s Day, the patron saint of Scotland. But St Andrew is not whereof we speak either. 

Cuthbert Mayne in front of the gallows and Launceston Castle

Cuthbert Mayne in front of the gallows and Launceston Castle

On this day in 1577, in Launceston, Cornwall a man named Cuthbert Mayne was hanged to within an inch of his life and then disemboweled, beheaded and quartered, each piece of him then being displayed in a different part of the county as a warning to others.

He died for his beliefs, the first seminary priest ever to be martyred for his faith in England.  Beatified in 1898, he was created a saint in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

How did all of this come about?  The son of a poor shepherd, Cuthbert Mayne grew up in Shirwell, in the North-western corner of Devon.  His uncle was a Rector in the established church, then going through enormous upheaval with the transition of monarchs from Mary Tudor to her sister Elizabeth I, and the consequent massive switch in the national practice of religion from catholic to protestant.  Elizabeth was excommunicated by the pope in 1567 after which it became very dangerous to be a catholic in England.  But South-Western England had many “hold-outs” for the old ways, for many years. 

The Rector sponsored young Cuthbert to go to Barnstaple Grammar School, after which he became a priest in a local church at the age of seventeen!  He then went to Oxford and gained a degree and a “living” as the chaplain of St John’s College.  In those troubled times, that had necessitated him to sign an oath of loyalty to the Queen as head of the church.  However, his conscience troubled him and within three years he found himself at a seminary in Douai, France, where he was ordained again in a different faith.

In March 1576 he returned to Cornwall and lived with a wealthy local catholic family, ostensibly as their steward but in practice their priest.  He and his patron were arrested by the local Sheriff and imprisoned for five months and at the local Assizes he was condemned to die, his crime being refusing to recant his faith and recognize Elizabeth as the head of the church.


Actually, this is just a summary, taken from a chapter of a book, Soldiers, Saints and Scallywags, authored by Guild member David Gore about some of the people in his One-Name Study into the Mayne name. He writes much better than me and I do recommend that you read the original here:  David Gore eBook.  By the way, while reading that chapter I happened to notice reference to three other study names too: Body, Carey and Edgecombe, and I suspect there are references to others in the extensive Index Nominorum.  David tells us that he has been a member of the Guild for almost thirty years and has received much good advice from other members along the way, most notably from our Front Desk and DNA Advisor.  Do you have a Mayne man or woman in your study?  If so, you can click here to send David a note or on the other names above to contact the respective study owners.

With two English schools named after him, it seems both ironic and fitting that Cuthbert’s name should have lived on longer than his persecutors.  Every time I read a story such as this I give thanks that I grew up in more enlightened times and in a more enlightened place.

This is the third in an occasional series.  If you are a Guild member reading this, does your study have a special day for remembering your name, like 5th November or Trafalgar Day?  Would you like us to publicize your study on that day?  If so, send us an email by clicking this link.

3,642 total views, 1 views today