Thomas Harry of Glamorgan and Patagonia, revisited

Regular readers of the Glamorgan Archives blog may remember that last year, as part of our 75th anniversary celebrations, we posted a short article on a letter within our collection written by Thomas Harry, a native of Glamorgan who emigrated to Patagonia in 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 on board the clipper Mimosa. They arrived in Puerto Madryn on 28th July 1865, exactly 150 years ago today. Amongst them was Thomas Harry.

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When Thomas Harry wrote his letter home in 1873, he was a single man, living and farming at Tan y Castell Farm and struggling to make a living on the harsh Patagonian plain. In our article we appealed for information from anyone who knew what became of Thomas Harry. Did he stay and thrive in his adopted country, or did he return home to Wales? We received a number of responses, and this is what they revealed.

Thomas Harry was brought up in Laleston, Bridgend, but by the time he was 18 he was working underground in Mountain Ash and living with his Aunt, Mary Jones, the sister of his mother, and her husband and their family. Others from Mountain Ash on board the Mimosa included John and Elizabeth Jones and their daughter Margaret; whilst Mary Jones, Thomas’s aunt, gave birth to a son John on board.

Although Thomas Harry was still a single man when he wrote the letter home which is now held at Glamorgan Archives, he later married Jane Jones, widow of Eleazor Jones, and together they had three children. In an account of Anglican baptisms performed in 1885 we read of Luther, Arthur and Mary being presented to the Reverend Hugh Davies at Trelew for baptism on 26th March by Thomas Harri and Jane Jones of Tan y Castell. The family house was destroyed in the great flood of the Camwy Valley in 1899, but was rebuilt on the foundations and called Granja del Castillo in honour of the original home.

Today there are some 50,000 Patagonians of Welsh descent, a small number of whom are still Welsh speakers. Amongst them are Thomas Harry’s descendants. The Harry family also continues here in Wales.

A photograph of those who sailed on the Mimosa, taken 25 years after their arrival in Patagonia, can be viewed on the People’s Collection Wales: http://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/14135 Thomas Harry is pictured standing, fifth from the left.

We would like to thank Rita Tait for much of the information used in compiling this post. Rita’s maternal great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Harry, came from Colwinston and was a first cousin to Thomas Harry.

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