Joseph Antonio Emidy (c.1775-1835):
Kenwyn Parish Church, Kenwyn Church Road, Truro TR1 3DR
Joseph Emidy’s early life was remarkable. Born in Guinea, he was enslaved by Portugese traders and taken first to Brazil, and then to Portugal. His musical virtuosity led to him becoming a leading violinist at the Lisbon Opera House. There, he caught the ear of Captain Sir Edward Pellew, who had him pressganged to serve as a ship’s fiddler aboard the HMS Indefatigable. It was said that Pellew was so worried about his prize fiddler escaping, that he forbade him from shore leave for several years. For the next four years, Joseph saw action during some of the most dramatic episodes of the Napoleonic Wars before finally being abandoned in Falmouth in 1799.
In Falmouth, his skill quickly led to finding work as a violinist, music teacher and repairer of musical instruments. In 1802, he married a local woman, Jenefer Hutchins, and together they had eight children. The family eventually moved to Truro where Joseph became a leading figure in the Cornish musical scene, including leading the Truro Philharmonic Orchestra. He was a prodigious composer. Unfortunately, however, none of his work survives.
Much of what is known of him now is from the autobiography of one of his students, the abolitionist politician and social reformer, James Silk Buckingham (1786-1855). Silk Buckingham described him as “an exquisite violinist, a good composer, who led at all the concerts of the county, and who taught equally well the piano, violin, violoncello, clarionet and flute”. A sketch of him playing with the orchestra, the only known depiction of him, is in the Royal Cornwall Museum.
HERE LIE DEPOSITED
The mortal remains of
Mr Jos:h Antonia Emidy
Who departed this life,
On the 23
AGED 60 YEARS
And sacred to whose memory
This tribute of affection is erected
By his surviving family.
He was native of PORTUGAL
Which country he quit about
forty years since and pursuing the
Musical Profession, resided in
Cornwall until the close of
his earthly career.
Devoted to thy soul-inspiring strains,
Sweet Music! Thee he hail’d his chief delight
And with fond zeal that shunn’d nor toil nor pain
His talent sear’d, and genius mark’d its flight
In harmony he liv’d, in peace with all
Took his departure from this world of woe,
And here his rest, till the last Trumpet’s call,
Shall ‘wake mankind to joys that endless flow.