AT RUGBY WORLD CUP
Will spectators excitedly chant Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! at the Rugby
World Cup matches in Australia this month, just as they did at our 2000
Olympics? Australian descendants of the 19th century Cornish miners who used to
chant Oggie, Oggie, Oggie! hope they will.
The Cornish Association of New South Wales estimates that two per cent (more
than 100,000 people) in this State have Cornish ancestry. Its members, who
include sixth-generation Australians, hold an annual Cornish Day and a biennial
Cornish Heritage Weekend.
Whenever a stirring chorus of Aussie Aussie Aussie! echoed around the
world on TV and radio from the Olympic Games three years ago, those shouting it
unknowingly boosted the worldwide popularity of that ubiquitous but peculiar
British dish, the Cornish Pasty.
Long ago, Cornish miners shouted Oggie Oggie, Tiddy Oggie in unison at
crib (meal) time, before eating their traditional pasties, also known as oggies
(or tiddy oggies). And that's where the famous Olympic chant was born.
Australian sailors stationed in Cornwall, England's south-west county, in
World War II are thought to have imported the cry when they returned home. Since
then, the chant, with Aussie replacing Oggie, has flourished,
until these days it rings out at football matches and other sporting events in
all parts of Australia.
"An oggie is a Cornish pasty," John and Anna Coles wrote in Cornwall's
Kernow Sound magazine. "The word has come into increasing use as a slang
word for a pasty, and people often talk of having an oggie for lunch, or granny
making the world's best oggies...
"The pasty is a kind of pastry turnover casing, containing meat and
vegetables, sometimes with the 'first course' of meat and veg. at one end, and
'second course' of apple at the other. The pastry had to be indestructible,
because this pasty had to travel down the tin and copper mines, to be eaten by
the miner as his 'croust' at 'crib' time.
"Now, the cry by one person of 'Oggie, Oggie, Oggie!' will be taken up by
thousands of voices replying 'Oi, Oi, Oi' and it has become the battle cry of
In case you've forgotten the words of the Aussie chant (and once heard,
that's unlikely), it goes:
Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!
Oi! Oi! Oi!
Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!
Oi! Oi! Oi!
Oggies have a long history. Nobody knows exactly when pasties (pronounced
PAHsteez) originated, but there's a letter in existence from a baker to Henry
VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour (1510-1537) saying "...hope this pasty reaches
you in better condition than the last one ..." Cornishman Leonard Ward has found
a reference in the diary of William Carnsew of St Kew who wrote on November 15 ,
1576 "Myche trobly by ffleeme eatynge an ogye pye."
Cornish pasties originated as portable lunches for tin miners, fishermen and
farmers to take to work. Housewives used to make one for each member of the
household and mark their initials on one end of the pasty. The miners carried
their pasties to work in a tin bucket which they heated by burning a candle
underneath it. They threw away the oggies' thick, wide pastry edges after eating
the rest of their meal, to avoid being poisoned by tin or copper dust from their
Sadly, the Cornish mining industry collapsed in the mid 1800s, forcing large
numbers of miners, artisans and merchants to seek work abroad. Over a 50-year
period, hundreds of thousands of Cornish men, often with their families, set out
to make a living overseas. Most of them travelled to mining areas of North
America, South Africa and Australia. Smaller numbers went to South America,
Mexico, India, Spain - anywhere that required skilled miners.
"This scattering has produced a Cornish diaspora which is unequalled by any
county in England," Phil Hosken said in an interesting article, The Overseas
Cornish. "In addition to their skills the Cornish established their culture,
religion and community life in the nether regions of the world. They taught
football and wrestling in Mexico and pasty making 14,000 feet up in the Andes."
Pasties have accompanied Cornish settlers (who were often called Cousin Jack
and Cousin Jenny) overseas, and are prepared, eaten and sometimes sold by their
descendants in many parts of the world, including Australia, New Zealand, South
Africa, Canada, and many parts of the United States.
In Michigan (U.S.), a major mining area, pasties are more popular than
hamburgers. A firm in that State, Mackinaw Pastie and Cookie Co., Mackinaw City,
advertises on the Internet:
|Pasties...the balanced meal in a crust. Voted Michigan's
Best by the readers of the Detroit News in 2002 and 2003!
originally as a meal for the miners of Cornwall, England, Pasties date
back about 800 years. Wives would bake meat and vegetables in a crust and
wrap it in many layers of linens or newspapers for their husband's lunch.
It provided a warm and filling meal in the cold, damp mines.
Pasties arrived in Michigan over 100 years ago with immigrants who came
to work the iron and copper mines in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The
Pastie provided a hot and nutritious meal that had good holding capacity
and could be eaten anywhere. This full bodied flavor soon became a
favorite with locals and visitors alike.
A trip to Northern Michigan is not complete without a pastie. Pasties
from our store are acclaimed by people from all over the world as the best
they've ever eaten.
Traditionally, pasties are a complete meal, their contents varying slightly
in different parts of Cornwall. They are also popular in other parts of England.
In Bedfordshire, for instance, they put fruit in one end of the pasties for
dessert and call them Bedfordshire Clangers.
Three years ago, a campaign was launched, aiming to ensure that all pasties
described as Cornish are actually made in Cornwall. The county produces more
than three million pasties a week, for distribution throughout Britain and
overseas. As well as being one of Cornwall's most successful food exports, the
Cornish pasty is also an essential part of the holiday experience for 3.5
million tourists a year.
Peter Bray, a former Cornishman living in Australia, said "Cornish bakeries
sell thousands of pasties to tourists from all parts of the world. There are
many varieties, including vegetarian, cheese and onion, leek, fish, and curry -
I even saw a chocolate and banana variety in a shop window in Truro!"
Peter and his wife used to live in the Camborne/Redruth area, which was the
tin mining centre. "We and all our Cornish friends still make traditional
Cornish pasties regularly," he said. "They are very popular with our Australian
and English friends and taste nothing like the pasties that can be purchased in
our pie shops here. We still eat them on their own - no additions of gravy or
"The traditional way of eating the pasty is in the hand, which was convenient
for the tin miner working in waist-deep water, the only light being from the
candle fixed to his tin hat."
In Moonta, South Australia, a town with many Cornish miners' descendants,
residents and the then Premier, Don Dunstan, held the first Kemewek Lowender, or
Cornish Festival, in 1971. They sold so many Cornish pasties that they ran out
of flour (they swept the floor of the mill to find more) and filling stations
ran out of fuel. A Kemewek Lowender is now an annual event in the three
neighbouring towns of Kadina, Wallaroo and Moonta.
FOOTNOTE. Not everyone appreciates oggies. Chris Johns was astonished to be
asked by an English coach steward to refrain from eating his pasty during a
London-bound journey five years ago. Chris, then 40, who worked as a chef in
Buckinghamshire, was enjoying the pasty his mother had made him for the journey.
"I couldn't believe it when the steward said the smell gets into the air
conditioning and was making the other passengers feel ill," said Chris.
Copyright © 2003
Story first posted