Nobody knows more...
An advertisement for the 'Halton Castle'
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?).
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.
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.
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.