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Sailing Away - Some North East Wales Migrants and Travellers.

Kevin Matthias

15 February 2023    

Kevin entertained us with stories of some of the Welsh who left these shores, for a variety of reasons, in the nineteenth century.  

This is just a summary of his presentation, and we can only offer a small selection of the images we were shown.

From the 1830s to the early twentieth century emigration form Britain exceeded immigration. This is reflected in census returns.

Firstly some snippets of information were provided:

  • Earlier, Madog - one of the sons of Owen Gwynedd (who built Tomen y Rhodwydd - see under the Archive menu) according to a poem dated 1485 crossed the Atlantic in 1170, long before Cristobal Coloni (Columbus).

  • In Daniel Owen's novel 'Enoc Huws' the hero escapes the vicissitudes of his life in Mold by emigrating to Chicago.

  • Dr. Thomas Wynne of Caerwys accompanied William Penn i the foundation of Philadelphia - is the grid-iron street plan of that city inspired by that of Caerwys??

Caerwys plan.png

Elihu Yale, (pictured)  from Plas yn Rhal, Bryneglwys, born in Boston, spent three years in America and later, after other travels and making his fortune in Madras with the East India Company, , donated money and books towards the rebuilding of a college in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1718, which now famously bears his name.

  • David Samwell, of Corwen, was Ship's Doctor on the Endeavour, for James Cook's final and fatal voyage.

  • The family of Kylie Minogue originated in Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Kevin then spoke in more detail on three families, representing different aspects of emigration.

1. The Matthias family and Patagonia.

  • Five members of Kevin's ancestral family emigrated to Patagonia.

  • Edward Jones Williams of Mostyn was instrumental in creating the irrigation schemes in Patagonia which eventually allowed the Welsh colony to achieve a degree of prosperity.

  • Rev. David Jones, of Pendref Chapel, Ruthin, organised part of a second wave of 500 migrants.

  • Edward Jones Williams was also an engineer on the construction of the railway inland from the coast. (There was quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between Patagonia and Britain).

  • The Matthias family and others had three-year contracts to work on the railway construction. Roberto Mathias in listed as a railway engineer in Rosario, 1895.


2. Frances Williams - the first female from North Wales deported to Australia (?)In August 1783 Frances Williams was accused of burglary at the home of Moses Griffith, artist, in Whitford. He was working at the time for Thomas Pennant, the eminent zoologist and antiquarian and also a local magistrate. Clothing, crockery and butter  were stolen. She was arrested at Parkgate, coming off the Dee ferry, wearing some of the clothes!. She was sentenced to death, later commuted, and spent three years in Flint gaol before removal to a prison hulk at Portsmouth, followed by deportation to Australia on the Prince of Wales..In 1790 she was  transferred to Norfolk Island - part of a programme to populate the island to prevent French colonisation. She had two children, followed by two more to a husband. No doubt her descendants inhabit the island to this day.



3. Ebenezer Parry - Australian Gold Rush.

A number of letters in the Denbighshire Archives tell the story of Ebenezer Parry from Bwlchgwyn who joined the 1850's Gold Rush to Australia , where he joined the prospectors at Gaffney's Creek in the state of Victoria (pictured). Extracts from these letters reveal the hopes of a young righteous man in the face of a number of challenges and sometimes raucous environment. The letters from his family in the other direction revealed their hopes of him returning with a Nugget, as well as their fears.
Sadly it was the fears which proved to be the reality as he died aged 44 from injuries sustained by a mine collapse.

Prince of Wales 1787-8.png
Frances williams.png
Gaffney's Creek.png
Letter 2.jpg
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