DR RALPH DUNSTAN (1857-1933)
Wife Eliza Jane Juleff, daughter Lillian (married Stanley Harding)
Who was he?
Ralph Dunstan was born in Carnon Downs, near Truro, on 17th November 1857, the second youngest of 12 children. He was very musically gifted.
The family were steeped in Methodism and Ralph’s early musical experience was through chapel services, tea treats and local regattas, later playing several instruments himself. His father was a carpenter and also the local undertaker. Ralph recalls the funeral processions that were typical of the time with hymns being sung as the coffin was carried along to the church.
Dunstan spent most of his career at Westminster Training College, London, where music and its teaching were his life’s work. He obtained his doctorate in music from Cambridge in 1891.
Why is he important to Cornish Music?
Following three family tragedies during the First World War with the loss of their son, son-in-law and granddaughter within 30 months, Dunstan took early retirement and moved with his wife and daughter to Perranporth in the parish of Perranzabuloe. It is during his time there that he compiled his influential book of Cornish songs, published in 1929, and still used by music researchers today. The Cornish Song Book: Lyver Canow Kernow was published in 1929 and was important in disseminating Cornish folk music and song to a wider audience. In so doing it underpinned the revival of Cornish cultural identity. Nowadays it is still a valuable reference for song collectors and researchers.
Dr Ralph Dunstan died on 2nd April 1933 and is buried in Perranzabuloe churchyard with his wife who survived him by four years.
Karin Easton Sept 2020
Dunstan, J. (2016, pp31-52). Cornishman of Music: Ralph Dunstan 1837-1933. Journal of The Royal Institution of Cornwall.
Dunstan, R. (1929). The Cornish Song Book: Lyver Cannow Kernewek. London: Reid Bros.
Easton, K. article, Kernow Goth, Old Cornwall Journal, Vol 15, No 7, Autumn 2018
Perranzabuloe Museum Collection, Perranporth, TR6 0BW. firstname.lastname@example.org