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Nobody knows more ...

Our Library

All the films are gradually being studied  in  detail  so that they can be converted into important  historical  records.  This  typically  involves  preparing  a  transcription  of  the original  soundtrack,  translating  it  into  English  and  Spanish  and  producing  subtitles. Then, all the scenes in the film are studied and top titles produced identifying each person  and  place.  This  identification  process  involves  travelling  to  the  homes  of many of the  older generation of the  Welsh community and showing the films to try and jog their memories. A scene-by-scene summary is then produced, followed by an analysis  of  each  film,  paying  particular  attention  to  people, places,  and  those contents whose significance is considerable but which are not specifically highlighted in the film. For example, in one of the films of 1962, advertisements in a nineteenth century newspaper were shown  illustrating the fact that these advertisements were placed  to  encourage  Welsh  emigration  to  North  America  and  Australia. 

At  the bottom   of   the   newspaper   page,   there   was   a   part   of   an   advertisement,   not mentioned  by  the  speaker,  where  you  could  read  the  words "Bydd  y  llong  Halton Castle ......"  Of  course,  we  recognised  these  words –  this  was  an  advertisement  for emigration  to  Patagonia!  But  on  the  Halton  Castle,  the  ship  that  didn't  arrive  in Liverpool  when  due  and  whose  absence  caused  the  Emigration  Society  to  hurriedly organise  a  replacement  (The  Mimosa).  The  BBC  didn't  realise  that  they  had  missed such an important element of the history of Welsh Patagonia.

Advertisement for the 'Halton Castle'

And, continuing on the same theme, and  connecting a document in our library with this  missing  ship –  we  have  in  the  library  a  number  of  British  Parliamentary  papers, including correspondence between various Government departments in London and the  representatives  of  the  British  Government  in  Buenos  Aires  between  1865  and 1902.  In  a  letter  from  Edward  Thornton  in  Buenos  Aires  to Earl  Russell  (the  Foreign Minister  at  the  time,  later  that  year  to  become  the  Prime  Minister) dated  25  July 1865,  where  Thornton  provides  a  detailed  briefing  of  events  from  the  visit  of  Lewis Jones  and  Love  Jones  Parry  in  late  1862,  Thornton  says about  250  Welshmen  left England in April last, for New Bay, where they should have arrived by this time. He obviously  hadn't  been  told  that  the  sailing  had  been  delayed  and  so  we  learn that the  Mimosa  carried  100  fewer  passengers  than  had  been  initially planned.  But  the interesting   thing   is   that   the   British   in   Buenos   Aires   and, we   assume,   the Argentineans,  also  knew  the  number  of  people  expected  in  the  Halton  Castle.  This information  had  been  communicated  by  the  Emigration  Society  in Liverpool  to British   Government   representatives   in   Buenos   Aires.   In   a   subsequent   briefing document for Mandarins in London, this time from Mr Francis Clare Ford  in Buenos Aires and dated 22 April 1866, we are told:


"Owing, however, to the ship not arriving at Liverpool on the day fixed for her departure, the emigrants, who were a set of fine able-bodied  men,  and  well  adapted  for  the  service  they  were  embarking  on,  lost patience  and  returned  to  their  native  homes.  The  President  of  the  Society,  a  Welsh gentleman,  Mr.  D.  Jones,  unwilling  that  the  scheme  should  fail  on  account  of  this untoward  event,  collected  together  a  new  set,  who  finally  started  for  the  east  coast of  Patagonia,  on  the  31st  of  May,  1865.  The  composition,  however,  of  this  fresh batch of colonists was  very defective, and far inferior to the original one, and to this circumstance  must  mainly  be  ascribed  the  signal  failure  that  has  hitherto  attended their  movements.  Of  the  130  souls  who  embarked  on  the   Mimosa,  on  the  31st  of May,  one-third  only  were  able-bodied  men.  The  rest  were  women  and  young children.  Señor  Rawson  was  greatly  disappointed  when  he  heard  that  the  colonists expected in the  Halton Castle  were not to arrive, and still more so when he learnt the sort of emigrants who had set foot on the Patagonian coast"

From this, we have learned  that  the  Argentine  Government  (Mr  Rawson  was  the  Interior  Minister  who had  conducted  negotiations  with  Lewis  Jones)  were  probably  aware of  the  ages, genders  and,  possibly,  occupations  and  names,  of  the  contingent  of  250  that  were due  to  sail  on  the  Halton  Castle  and  that  he  obviously  didnt  think  that  the replacement  group  were  suitable  colonists.  Therefore,  we  are  led  to the  conclusion that  somewhere  in  Buenos  Aires  is  the  proposed  passenger  list  from  the  Halton Castle! Another treasure waiting to be found.

This  is  just  one  example  of  how  the  combination  of  these  important  documents, books  and  films  allows  us  to  learn  so  much  about  those  early  days,  all  of  which  we use to enrich the quality of the historical aspects of our tours. Of  course,  we  can’t  always  believe  everything  we  read  in  books,  especially  some  of the   older   ones   or   ones   by   less   well-known   authors.   For   example,   Rodolfo Casamiquela  (not  a  Welsh  speaker)  published  a  very  entertaining  volume  about  the place names used by the Welsh in Chubut. Not all the names he mentions are Welsh and he was, perhaps, more keen on getting his book to the publisher than checking it fully for  accuracy.  He  lists  a  couple  of  hundred  names,  including  some  that  have been  slightly  polluted  by  English,  including  Drofa  Gabets  (Cabbage?) and Drofa Sandiog (Sandy?). 

The  links  below  will  take  you  to  the  contents  of  our  library.  As  well  as  many interesting  photos  of  places  and  people  in  Welsh  Patagonia,  taken  by  us  over  many years,  you  will  also  see  hundreds  of  books  on  Patagonia  and  dozens  of  rare  maps, films and radio programmes. It is thought that there is no more complete collection of early films and radio programmes of Welsh Patagonia anywhere else in the world. Similarly, the book collection, in English, Welsh and Spanish contains the majority of important works. The map collection, most of which have been carefully scanned in very high resolution, even includes maps made by the Welsh explorer, Henry Libanus Jones,  discovered  only  comparatively  recently  in  their  hiding place  in  the  vaults  of the Royal Geographical Society in London.

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