I am delighted to offer you something different, a piece by Jeremy Wood on an obscure publication relating to the Welsh settlement in Patagonia. Jeremy and I have never met but we have corresponded for quite a few years, having had a mutual friend in the late Rhobert ap Steffan (‘Castro’) who visited Patagonia a number of times over many years.
Llawlyfr y Wladychfa Gymreig
With the 150th anniversary of the arrival in 1865 of the first Welsh migrants to Patagonia looming, an English translation of a long-forgotten document has recently come to light. The pamphlet was written by Hugh Hughes (Cadfan Gwynedd) in 1862, when the emigration project was being pilloried in the Welsh and English press, in an attempt to address the criticisms and explain the project in detail. It was unearthed by Jeremy Wood, who lives in Esquel in Welsh Patagonia, in the Welsh museum in Gaiman in Patagonia. A number of copies of the Welsh-language original exist, but all are in museums, universities and libraries and the document has never been published on the internet nor have any detailed studies of it been published. Jeremy Wood digitally remastered the original work in Welsh and worked with Cynog Dafis, who produced an excellent English translation.
The first part of the “brochure” explains why the Welsh should leave Wales and set up their own colony overseas. Hugh Hughes was a passionate Welshman and didn’t pull any punches. He filled the first 19 pages with anti-English invective of such intensity that its publication would surely test England’s anti-discrimination laws today. He put forward a passionate case for the capability of the Welsh to run their own country and addressed individually the major criticisms raised in the press. He then went on to quote more than 20 reference works from explorers, sea captains and settlers to give the potential emigrants a good idea of what sort of place they’d be settling in.
When one reads Hughes’ account of the sorry plight of Welsh citizens having to give up their language to have any chance of progressing in life and having to live under the thumb of the English in all walks of life, one wonders what our politicians have been doing for the last 150 years. His predictions of increased English dominance were remarkably prescient. But nothing much seems to have changed and the lessons we could have learned, we have ignored.
Had Hugh Hughes actually told the truth about Patagonia (he Bowdlerised almost every reference he quoted and made up the rest!), few would have been brave enough to sign up for the first voyage on the Mimosa. But, of course, the Welsh did emigrate to Patagonia and their language and culture is still very much alive there. Hugh Hughes was, and still is, a Patagonian hero. We could do with men cast from the same mould in Wales today.
A trilingual version of Hugh Hughes’s pamphlet is due to be published next year. In the meantime, feast your eyes on some of the extracts taken from the first few pages of the book. Stirring stuff, indeed!
Jeremy Wood can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org