Thomas Harry of Glamorgan and Patagonia

Our 75th accession in 2005 was the papers of Thomas Harry of Patagonia (ref.: D376).

Thomas Harry was the son of David Harry of Tranch, near Laleston, Bridgend. He lived briefly in Mountain Ash before emigrating to Patagonia in about 1865.

A Welsh settlement, known as ‘Y Wladfa’, was established in Patagonia during the mid-19th century. The first Welsh settlers, 153 in number, set sail for Patagonia in 1865 on board the clipper Mimosa. Today there are some 50,000 Patagonians of Welsh descent, a small number of whom are still Welsh speakers.

By 1876, Thomas Harry had established a new life in Patagonia as the farmer of 200 acres in ‘Chupat Colony’, otherwise known as Chubut. His papers comprise one letter, in which he asks for news of his family back home in Wales. He writes to Anne Jenkins, ‘ever since I came to this place about 11 years ago I have not heard a word from any of my relations’.


Thomas Harry's letter, p1

Thomas Harry’s letter, p1

Thomas Harry's letter, p2

Thomas Harry’s letter, p2

The letter also gives details of Thomas Harry’s new life in Patagonia, where he lived at Tan y Castell, still a single man, the owner of 30 head of cattle – 9 of which were milking, 6 horses, and 40 acres of corn. Despite his apparent success, he writes that ‘I have lived here four years and have not received the reward for my labour yet…’ and states that ‘If my brothers should feel like coming out I should not advise them to come…’

It seems that life was hard in Patagonia for those early Welsh settlers. We have no further details of Thomas Harry here at Glamorgan Archives; we don’t know if he stayed and thrived in his adopted country or whether he returned to Wales. If anyone does know what became of him, we would very much like to find out.


Telynfab: The Revd. Benjamin Evans of Aberdare

In 2007 we received as our 75th accession at Glamorgan Archives papers relating to the Revd. Benjamin Evans (Telynfab) of Aberdare (ref.: DX555). The papers comprised a series of photographs of Revd. Evans and his descendants.

Benjamin Evans was born in Dowlais in 1844. He worked as a coal miner before gaining a place to study at Haverfordwest Baptist College. Ordained in 1871, he moved to Aberdare in 1876 where he became minister of Gadlys Welsh Baptist Chapel. During his time as a Baptist minister he served as Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society; he was also one of the first members of Aberdare Urban District Council, the clerk to the governors of Aberdare Boys Grammar School, and he later served on Aberdare School Board. He participated in local Eisteddfodau and was the author of several published works.

Revd. Benjamin Evans married Ann James and together they had 6 children. He died in 1900.

Those featured in the photographs include the Revd. Evans himself and his wife Ann, as well as their youngest daughter Ethel. Ethel Evans married the Revd. Robert Gwenffrwd Hughes, who also became minister at Gadlys Chapel, and their son Percival Arwyn Hughes is also shown in the photographs.

Wedding of Revd. R. G. Hughes and Ethel Evans

Wedding of Revd. R. G. Hughes and Ethel Evans

These photographs detail not only elements of the social and religious history of south Wales, but they also contribute towards a personal history of the Evans and Hughes families.

Seventy Five Seventy Fives

Glamorgan Archives is 75 this year.  We share seniority in Wales with our neighbour, Gwent: they were the first to set up an archive service (1938) but we were the first to appoint an archivist (1939).  The county showed impeccable timing with the result that our anniversary year will also be shared with two world wars and one national strike to name but a few of the major commemorations we will also be marking in 2014.

Glamorgan Archives

The first County Archivist, Emyr Gwynne Jones, soon moved on, becoming Bangor University’s Librarian in 1946.  He has had only 4 successors and this continuity of senior staff is reflected in the continuity of the service’s core function, defined by Madeleine Elsas in 1959 as: the task of preserving records, restoring them, collecting additional material about the geographical county, and making these records freely available.”

To celebrate our 75 years of care for the documents of Glamorgan we have trawled the lists of accessions and extracted the 75th deposit received in each year.  Some of them have been transferred, some have been removed from the Collection.  Some years fewer than 75 accessions were received.  All illustrate something about the history and development of local authority archive services in general and Glamorgan Archives in particular.  Archive staff will be blogging about the 75s throughout the year, either as single items or as categories. 

We hope you’ll enjoy reading our blog and we look forward to receiving your comments.