January 19, 2010

The American Diaries of Iorthryn Gwynedd: A Fascinating Discovery in Swansea University Library

Writing about web page http://voyager.swan.ac.uk/vwebv/holdingsInfo?searchId=4676&recCount=10&recPointer=2&bibId=337344

Back in Wales over Christmas, I had a brief opportunity to have a look in Swansea University Library. I was searching for books on the Welsh in the United States and what I found that was of particular interest was a set of diaries written up by typewriter. The first page explains that they were completed on the ship ‘New World’ on the Atlantic Ocean , June 10th 1852.

Iorthryn Gwynedd

An introduction by Clare Taylor explains the significance of the diaries: ‘“Iorthryn Gwynedd”, the Rev R.D. Thomas, was to make other visits to America and to settle there, but this little diary of his first visit to America from 1851 to 1852, still remains a vivid travel account of a tour of Welsh settlements in the mid nineteenth century’ (1973: 1) Discovered among the papers of Samuel and John Roberts, the diary was translated from Cymraeg (Welsh) by a Mrs T.I. Ellis and typed by a Mrs. Gillian Glover.

The diary itself is very factual and includes all kinds of interesting material such as:
  • the wages of Welsh-American labourers,
  • the distances and fares of rail road journeys,
  • the exchange rates presented to immigrants at the New York exchange offices,
  • the value of American money in other currencies,
  • maps of towns and villages,
  • details of land “bought” from the Native Americans in Oregon for settlers (some among them Welsh),
  • a newspaper clipping about lows in temperature across the Eastern United States,
  • a note about tragic deaths in Brooklyn when a frozen river collapsed (1852),
  • and a letter from home included in the diary, a friend asks Iorthryn, ‘Why did you leave Wales to come to this barren country?’(!).

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Gwawr Jones

    The original diary is in Welsh, and this English translation is not entirely sympathetic, and cannot convey the true nature of the comments, as some of them are accompanied by poetry. The original is in the National Library of Wales, Abersytwyth, and I have a photocopy here at home for my own use.

    I have always known about RDT as his wife was a sister of my great-great-grandfather from Montgomeryshire. Their pictures are in our family photo album. I started researching his work in earnest 45 years ago, but I keep on finding more and more about him. I have several of his books that are now extremely rare and valuable. A book(Welsh language) by me is in progress!

    It is good to know that someone in the big wide world out there is taking an interest in this remarkable man. In Wales we all too often forget our true giants and raise midgets on to pedestals. His wife who wrote under the pen-name’Sarah Maldwyn’ was also someone of spirit and intelligence.

    15 Mar 2010, 19:45

  2. Yes that’s right! How interesting that you have a copy in Welsh. Why do you say that the English translation is not entirely “sympathetic”? There didn’t seem to be much of an effort to properly translate the englyns – I did notice that. It’s amazing that you’re related. Good luck with the book. Let me know when you finish it. Your comment about giants/midgets made me laugh! And thanks for bringing my attention to Sarah Maldwyn. She sounds like a woman after my own heart!

    16 Mar 2010, 14:06

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