10 - Emmigration

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Emmigration On the Lincoln monument in Washington it is written: “Fy iaith, fy ngwlad, fy ngenedl Cymru – Cymru am byth!” “My language, my country, my nation Wales – Wales forever”

Lincoln’s ancestors were from Ysbyty Ifan in North Wales. Indeed the Welsh have been emmigrating to the Americas for almost five hundred years. By 1700 there were around six thousand Welsh settled in Pennsylvania and today around 3% of the American population can trace their ancestry back to Wales. The largest and perhaps best known Welsh settlement in ‘the new world’ is in Patagonia in Argentina where there are 50k Welsh descendants, some of whom have names such as Myfanwy Gonzalez and speak with a wonderful Welsh/Spanish accent.

These people did not leave their homes and lands and undertake a treacherous journey to the other side of the world because they fancied a change of scene. These were a people in a state of desperation. They were the subject to extreme poverty and famine, land enclosures and religious persecution (as was the case with the Quakers) and they were also sent as slaves - we have records of children as young as 12 being taken from their homes and sent on ships from Bristol to the new world. One common occurrence in Wales in the 19th C which drove many people away was that of landlords evicting tenants who refused to vote for the landlord’s party of preference (there was no such thing a secret ballot), or refused go to the Anglican church instead of the chapel.

Here is one first hand account we have from a farm called Rhydyceir in Capel Dewi. This is typical of the circumstances which were driving people to seek a new life at the time.

“Yr oeddwn yn Rhydyceir fel tenant blynyddol. Yr oedd Sgweir Llwyd Alltyrodyn yn gwasgu yn galed arnaf i bleidleisio dros yr ymgeisydd Toriaidd. Pleidleisiais gyda’r Ceidwadwyr yn ddieithriad oherwydd ofn fy meistr. Wnaeth hefyd crefu arnaf I fyned I’r Eglwys yn lle’r Capel. Yr oedd hynny’n groes iawn gennyf. Dywedwyd wrthyf yn eglur fod yn rhaid I mi ddewis un o’r ddau, fy nghartref neu’r Capel. “Gwell I ti fynd I’r Eglwys neu wyt ti’n siwr o golli dy fferm. Yr oeddwn wedi blino ar y fath fywyd, bywyd o lafur a gofid, o orfodaeth ac erledigaeth, o galedwaith a chaethwasiaeth.”

“I was in Rhydyceir as a yearly tenant. The Squire Lloyd from Alltyrodyn was pressing me hard to vote for the Tory candidate. I voted for the Tories without exception because I was scared of my master. He also pressed me into going to the church instead of the chapel. This was very difficult for me. It was explained to me that I had to choose one of the two – my home or the chapel – “You’d better go to the church or you’ll be sure to lose your farm”. I was tired of such a life, a life of labour of worry, of being forced, of persecution, hard work and slavery.”''