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Mimosa migration

12 April 2010 by stepheng

archive photo of a group of people

Settlers in Patagonia, including some of the original Mimosa emigrants, 28 July 1890.

I like the idea of moving en masse to a distant country and setting up a community just as the Pilgrim Fathers did to found America.

Most emigrants settle as individuals or small groups in existing communities and become part of their adopted countries while retaining their cultural links. It is more unusual for large numbers to leave together, travel together and settle together.  

A group of Welsh people sailed into the unknown to found a successful settlement thousands of miles away in South America where their descendants continue to live today.

Many people emigrated from Wales in the 19th century to escape poverty – most going to the United States. As time went by the children of the Welsh settlers neither spoke Welsh nor kept up the cultural traditions of their ancestors…

The idea of creating a Welsh colony spread from Ohio to North Wales and Liverpool. The place chosen for a settlement was Patagonia, a remote region in southern Argentina where land was granted by the country’s government.

The Mimosa was a wooden clipper built in 1853 by Alexander Hall & Sons of Aberdeen and she was owned by Vining & Killey of Liverpool.

On display in the emigrants’ gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum is a model of the Mimosa presented by the Merseyside Welsh Heritage Society in September 2008. It was made by Tony Fancy of Poole, Dorset, with sponsorship from the Liverpool Culture Company.

The emigrants paid £2,500 to hire and convert the Mimosa for passenger use. The fare was £12 for adults and £6 for children although anyone willing to travel was taken on board.

Settlers included cobblers, carpenters, brickmakers, tailors and miners but few farmers  which was unfortunate when they discovered the conditions they faced.

On 28 May 1865 the Mimosa sailed from Liverpool for Patagonia carrying 160 Welsh emigrants. During the two-month voyage five children died, two babies were born and a violent storm off the Argentinean coast swept the three-masted sailing ship 300 miles off course.

On 28 July 1865 the settlers landed at Port Madryn. They then faced a trek of 40 miles south to create the first settlement by the Chubut River where many places still have Welsh names.

Today there are more than 150,000 people of Welsh descent living in Patagonia. Although Spanish is the main language, Welsh is still spoken.

A photograph (pictured) shows settlers in Patagonia taken on 28 July 1890 – exactly 25 years after they first arrived – with some of the original Mimosa emigrants.

A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo. A paperback – Mersey Maritime Tales (£3.99) – is available from the museum, newsagents, bookshops or from the Mersey Shop website (£1 p&p UK).

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