Eluned Morgan (author)

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Eluned Morgan (20 March 1870 – 29 December 1938), was a Welsh-language author from Patagonia.

Born aboard the ship Myfanwy en route from Britain to Patagonia in South America, she was the daughter of Lewis Jones who gave his name to the city of Trelew, in Chubut, Argentina. She was partly educated in Wales, and worked for a time in Cardiff Central Library until her final return to Patagonia in 1918.

She was sent by her father, Lewis Jones, from Patagonia to be educated at Dr Williams school in Dolgellau. In the Welsh colony in Patagonia, education was through the medium of Welsh, however, in Wales, Welsh was forbidden due to the policies and attitudes known as the Welsh Not. Eluned arrived in Wales speaking Welsh and Spanish and very little, if any, English. Winnie Ellis, sister of the Meirioneth MP, T.E. Ellis, who would translate for her from English, recalls her as 'walking like a prince' and that she stood out with her dark skin and eyes. Upon arriving at the school she led a procession out of the class in protest at the Welsh Not policies and attitude of the school. The despute was only settled when Michael D. Jones, the founder of the Welsh colony in Patagonia, traveled from Bala to mediate.

She wrote numerous articles on Y Wladfa (the Welsh Settlement in Patagonia) for Welsh periodicals such as Cymru, edited by Owen Morgan Edwards, but is chiefly remembered for her two travel books, Dringo'r Andes (1904), about a journey across country from the Welsh Settlement to the Andes, and Gwymon y Môr (1909), about a sea voyage from Britain to Patagonia. She also wrote a book on the history of the Incas, Plant yr Haul (1915).

'Dringo'r Andes' is a fascinating account of early Welsh life in the Patagonian settlement, including accounts of the relations between the Welsh, and the native Americans, which were good on the whole, the ruling Spaniards, and the immigrant Italians. An account of a flood that devastated the colony in 1899 is particularly striking:

"The rain began in May. No-one took any notice of the rain at first, because May is the start of our winter, and rain was expected in this season and people were prepared for it. But in the year of 1899 there wasn’t one dry, navigable road from May to November. It rained very heavily for about a fortnight, then the sun came out in its glory, and the blue sky above looked so summery and serene that you would have imagined that all the bad weather had been over for some time. But it began again within a few days, till, by the middle of June, the whole valley was a bog, and all dealings and trade were at a standstill.

The river rose slowly but steadily, and the greyish yellow water went swirling turbulently on its way to the sea. Some of the old settlers foretold that a flood was coming, as small floods had occurred in the first years of the Colony. But most people smiled sceptically at this, imagining that this was just a season that was slightly wetter than normal, and that the sun would appear over the hill again. But it carried on raining, and the river went on rising, and in the lower parts of the valley it had already burst its banks, but the Upper, and most fertile, Valley was still safe. Hundreds of brave Welshmen were working day and night on the banks of the river to keep the enemy from destroying their sheltering homes.

The frost wasn’t as cold as usual, and not a whisper of wind stirred the small waves of the river, or in the tops of the trees: the cloudless, blue sky had turned into one huge, impenetrable cloud. For four months neither the sun in the day nor the stars at night were seen. The rain fell day after day and night after night with an awful quietness. Even the animals seemed to sense that something was amiss. They gathered together in large herds on the high lands, pawing miserably in the wetness that was so unknown to them. The sheep complained miserably on the boggy flat lands for solid ground and sheltering pens. And throughout the valley every heart beat with foreboding and fear.

On the 15th of July, on a never to be forgotten Sunday, disaster descended on the quiet valley with a terrifying roar, sweeping away in a few hours the labour and sacrifice of thirty years.

It was dark, starless night in the depths of winter, with the rain still falling steadily, when the sharpest lads on their healthiest horses galloped all over the area, from house to house and village to village, and the cry was the same wherever they went "Flee for your lives, the water’s coming!"

Fathers hastened to the fields to roundup the horses to attach them to the wagons, and frightened mothers got their children up out of their cosy, warm coverlets, rushing to dress them as quickly as they could; the young men and women gathered together around the cattle to herd them towards the hills, so as not to lose them in the waters of the flood. But who could describe the strangeness of all that bustle, only a quarter of an hour’s warning was all that was had at times, and effort had to be made to pack provisions and clothes to keep hunger and cold away. But more often than not, before the wagon had set off, the water would arrive – the faithful horses were whipped onwards, and then it was away for their lives, with the waters of the flood like mountains behind them.

This isn’t the story of one person of one family, but of three thousand: men, wives and small children. And where were they to go, and what was to be their shelter? Only the bare rocky hills that surrounded the vale, where there were no sheltering trees or hedgerows, and remember that it was night, and the rain still pouring mercilessly on the terrified beings in flight.

By now there were thousands of animals on the hills too, and each one protesting in its own voice. But above it all the sound of the destroyer was clear: it roared like a lion roaming the forest in search of prey. The sound of houses collapsing, one by one, was heard, with each person wondering in their heart, in anguish, if that was their home, that had given them safety and shelter, and thinking of a thousand treasured family possessions that would never be seen again.

But, thankfully, there was not much time or leisure to think. Some sort of shelter had to be built for the women and children, and …….

……Imagine if you will the whole of the colony now camped out at the top of the hills, waiting for the dawn, and more anxious watchers there never were in any encampment. They were longing for the dawn and yet also dreading it greatly. As though in mockery, the sun rose in all its usual glory that first morning, or did it come as a herald of peace and hope? For its serene rays gave strength to many a burdened heart that day.

I’m losing heart, dear reader, at the task of describing the scene, so impossible to imagine except for those who were silent witnesses of the devastation. There was scarce anything to be seen but water, in the first days of the deluge, which spread from mountain to mountain, with no sign of canal or river, houses or land, only the tops of trees here and there like small islands in the middle of the sea. The children argued with each other over where their homes were situated. Every here and there one house, more stable than the others, was seen to have survived, with only its roof and chimneys in sight."

Bibliography "Dringo’r Andes" ("Climbing the Andes") by Eluned Morgan, Published by Honno, 2001 First published in Wales in 1904; translated into English by ennarog.

Books

  • Dringo'r Andes (1. Y Brodyr Owen, Abergavenny, 1904; 2. Southall & Co., Newport, 1907; 3. Southall & Co., 1909; 4. Southall & Co., 1917; 5. Southall & Co. n.d.)
  • Gwymon y Môr (Y Brodyr Owen, Abergavenny, 1909)
  • Ar Dir a Môr (Y Brodyr Owen, Abergavenny, 1913)
  • Plant yr Haul (1. Evans & Williams, Cardiff, 1915; 2. Southall & Co., 1921; 3. Southall & Co., 1926)

Further reading

  • R. Bryn Williams (ed.), Eluned Morgan[:] Bywgraffiad a Detholiad (Clwb Llyfrau Cymraeg, 1948). Edited selection of her work plus lengthy biography.
  • Meic Stephens (ed.), Companion to the Literature of Wales (University of Wales Press).
  • E. Wyn James, ‘Plentyn y Môr: Eluned Morgan a’i Llyfrau Taith’, Taliesin, 148 (2013), 66-81. ISSN 0049-2884.
  • E. Wyn James, ‘Eluned Morgan and the "Children of the Sun" ’, in Los Galeses en la Patagonia VI, ed. Marcelo Gavirati & Fernando Coronato (Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Argentina: Asociación Punta Cuevas, Asociación Cultural Galesa de Puerto Madryn & Centro de Estudios Históricos y Sociales de Puerto Madryn, 2014), 249-65. ISBN 978-987-24577-5-4.
  • Siôn T. Jobbins, 'The Phenomenon of Welshness II - is Wales too Poor to be Independent' (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2013), chapter on 'Eluned Morgan, Patagonia' ISBN 9781845274658