The most famous attempt to set up a Welsh colony outside Wales is the Gwladfa in Patagonia, (a name which translates as ‘settlement’ or ‘homeland’). Although this was not the only such venture, as there were other Welsh settlements organised in North and South America, Australia and South Africa, this is the only one to have kept a Welsh character to the present day.
After an initial expedition to check out the area in 1862, the first emigrant party of 163 colonists gathered in Liverpool for the voyage. The initial plan was for this party to sail at the start of April 1865, but this fell through and the party had to find another ship at short notice. It cost £2500 to hire & refit the Mimosa, a ship just 140 feet long, which had spent the previous 12 years in transporting tea from China, but now had to be modified to carry passengers across 7000 miles of ocean. The ship left Liverpool in late May 1865, and sailed south and west for two months. During the voyage three children died and two babies were born, before the party landed at Porth Madryn at the end of July.
In the first decade, the colony only attracted a small number of emigrants, the majority of whom came from Welsh settlements in the USA and Brazil. So many negative letters from the emigrants were published in the Welsh newspapers in the early years that it was difficult to entice many new volunteers to join the venture.
- Veronica Jones de Kiff
Then, when the colony began to become more successful, more Welsh people ventured to join them, and between 1874 and 1876 over 500 settlers came over from Wales. The flow continued through the 1880s, with 550 arriving in 1886 alone. The present-day residents of the Gwladfa are still proud of their connection with Wales and some, such as Veronica Jones de Kiff, have migrated back to Wales to live.
However, in terms of numbers, the flow of emigrants from Wales to Patagonia is less significant than that to other emigration fields. Between 3000 & 4000 Welsh settlers landing in Patagonia in the years between 1865 & 1914, whereas in that half-century it is estimated that 80,000 - 100,000 emigrated from Wales to the USA, and maybe 15,000 or more to Australia.
For more information on the Welsh settlement in Patagonia, click here.
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