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STRANGERS FROM A SECRET LAND: THE VOYAGE OF THE BRIG ALBION AND THE FOUNDING OF THE FIRST WELSH SETTLEMENTS IN CANADA.

Thomas, Peter.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, c1986. 319pp. paper. ISBN 0-8020-5694-6 (cloth) $32.50. 0-8020-6620-8 (paper) $14.95. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Jerry McDonnell

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May


Among the many ethnic groups that immigrated to Canada in the nineteenth century, the Welsh who settled at New Cambria, Nova Scotia, and Cardigan, New Brunswick were among the smallest, although none the less interesting for all that. Following the Napoleonic wars, economic conditions in Britain were catastrophic for many, including the small farmers and artisans of west Wales. Mining and manufacturing in the valleys of the south were not yet in full swing and so migration was one of the few choices left. Many, of course, went to England, but many also crossed the Atlantic. Of the latter group, most went to the United States, for several reasons: a dislike of the English, their institutions, and possessions.

However, between 1818 and 1822 several shiploads of Welsh went to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Some were absorbed into the mainstream of society, but others chose to live in Welsh settlements. One reason for this is that many of these people spoke no English and another is that it was easier to practise their Methodist and Baptist religions in homogeneous groups.

Thomas found that the voyages of the brig Albion were particularly well documented and this made it relatively easy to make a thorough study of the migration to Cardigan and of subsequent events. As late as the 1980ís, there were people in that area who could remember ancestors who spoke only Welsh. It was also possible to uncover the reasons that these Welsh communities did not prosper, but went into a long slow decline.

This is a very thorough and well-written local history. It is also a history of one particular group and of the captain (and his family) who brought these people to the new world. There are illustrations in the form of maps, photographs, and sketches. The appendices of names and the thumbnail biographies would be particularly helpful for studying the Cardigan settlement.

This book is very thorough and would be useful for adult readers or for students of New Brunswick local history who are in the senior grades of high school. Where there is interest in the Welsh or in Atlantic-Canada this would be a very good purchase.


Jerry McDonnell, F.E. Madill S.S., Wingham, Ont.
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