The Welsh Diaspora and its Literature

Part of Reading Wales 2019-2023 (and beyond)

Hiraeth coverThis was the first in a series of occasional features about Wales, its people, history, culture and most importantly, its literature, to be posted on Book Jotter in the months preceding the first ever Dewithon, or Wales Readathon, which took place from 1st to 31st March 2019.

It was hoped that by providing some rudimentary details about the Welsh Nation, readers from all parts the world would gain a greater understanding of Wales, and perhaps be motivated to seek out published works by its many accomplished poets and authors.

In this post we took a brief look at the Welsh diaspora.


The Welsh nation has its own language and government, and its people are an ethnic group native to, or otherwise associated with Wales. The native Welsh language (Cymraeg or y Gymraeg) falls within the Insular Celtic family and has historically been spoken in Wales, along with its predecessor, Common Brittonic, which was once heard throughout most of the island of Great Britain. The majority of people living in Wales can now speak English, but the Welsh language continues to thrive.


You will find pockets of Welsh settlers almost everywhere, and Welsh surnames turn up in the most unexpected places. The Welsh have long spread to the rest of Great Britain, particularly during the Industrial Revolution when they headed in their thousands to Liverpool and Ashton-in-Markerfield. A great many went to other parts of Europe – in particular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when they migrated to northern France, where the populations centred in coal mining towns of the French department of Pas-de-Calais. The early 1900s also saw many from Wales heading to Newfoundland, the coast of Labrador and the Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.

Countless groups and individuals went to Canada, New Zealand (you can visit The Welsh Dragon Bar in Wellington), Australia and the USA – in particular, Pennsylvania, Jackson County in Ohio (sometimes referred to as ‘Little Wales’), and Malad City in Idaho (which started out as a Welsh Mormon settlement). The Ukrainian city of Donetsk was founded in 1869 by Welsh businessman, John Hughes, and the former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was born in Barry.


Wales Arg FlagIf you were to visit Y Wladfa, in Argentina, you would find a thriving Welsh colony that began in 1865, occurring mainly along the coast of Chubut Province in the far southern region of Patagonia. Its best-known authors include Eluned Morgan (1870-1938), chiefly remembered for her travel books, Dringo’r Andes (1904) and Gwymon y Môr (1909); and Richard Bryn Williams (1902-1981), a Patagonian historian who published many children’s books, poetry collections, plays and studies.

Suggested Reading

Welsh colo coverIf you would like to know more about the history of Welsh settlers in Argentina you may wish to seek out a copy of Glyn Williams’ 1975 University of Wales Press publication: The Desert And The Dream: A Study Of Welsh Colonization In Chubut, 1865-1915, or R. Bryn Williams’ bilingual: The Welsh Colony in Patagonia 1865-2000, which was published in 2000.

Mimosa – the Life & Times of the Ship That Sailed to Patagonia, Susan Wilkinson’s fascinating account of the terrifying voyage made by an ageing tea clipper in 1865, from Liverpool to Patagonia, carrying 162 Welsh people fleeing persecution, was published in 2015 by Y Lolfa.

In fiction, you may enjoy the collection Hiraeth: Stories from Welsh Patagonia by Steph Davies.


Have you come across any interesting Welsh writers living and working outside Wales – perhaps in your own town or country? If you would like to share your knowledge about literature of the Welsh diaspora, please get in touch (or leave a comment below). I will gladly accept guest articles on all matters relating to this subject.




Categories: Reading Wales

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

23 replies

  1. Welsh people must be born to write no matter where they are in the world! Nene Davies has lived in my city of Brisbane Australia for fifteen years and has written some great stories. I particularly like this interview and for her books visit Nene’s website 🙂

  2. Joan Aiken, though not Welsh, was much indebted to Welsh culture in her children’s books, for example riffing on the Welsh colony in South America in ‘The Stolen Lake’ and on her alternate history ‘The Whispering Mountain’ set in a strangely truncated 19th-century mid-Wales. I’ve written at length about these in related posts.

  3. Great post! Dw i’n dysgu siarad/darllen Cymraeg.

    – Caidyn

  4. And the coolest flag in the world!

  5. Having spent annual breaks in Wales for over 20 years, I have a great love of the country. Particularly fond of the Lleyn Peninsula – and R.S. Thomas’s poetry is just marvellous.

    • The Llŷn is a beautiful part of the world. I have a caravan a little further down the coast in Talybont (near Barmouth) and go there with the dogs as often as possible. I agree re. R.S. Thomas. He was so good at Welsh landscapes.

  6. This is so interesting! I don’t think I have read much by Welsh authors, but would love to!


  1. DHQ: Dewithon19 – Book Jotter
  2. Winding Up the Week #14 – Book Jotter
  3. Winding Up the Week #15 – Book Jotter
  4. DEWITHON ‘22: Llyfrbabble (Bookbabble) #1 – Book Jotter
  5. Are You Looking Forward to Reading Wales 2023? – Book Jotter

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: