Day 7 Sat 11th Jan 2014
As we contemplate leaving Gaiman, I stumble upon a strange coincidence. I have always felt a little odd about being an Englishman involved with a project that is investigating aspects of the history of Welsh settlement in Patagonia. After all, the Welsh came here largely to escape the pernicious effect of the English language and customs on their own tongue and culture. I speak no Welsh and have no Welsh heritage, and my only connection with Wales is that I happen to have lived there for the last third of my life. But suddenly it strikes me that my baby son is Welsh by birth, having been brought into this world in Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth just over 7 months ago. I have been thinking about him, and it suddenly strikes me also that one of the streets is Gaiman is named ’25 de mayo’. This is not unusual in South America … many streets are named after dates of important events in the past. But ’25 de mayo’? 25th May. That’s my son’s birthday! It also turns out to be the date that the good ship Mimosa, carrying the first contingent of Welsh emigrants to Patagonia, set sail from Liverpool nearly 150 years ago. What are the odds of my son’s birth coinciding with this date? Clearly, the odds are quantifiable: 1 in 365 (ignoring possible complications arising from leap years and so forth) but it still seems like the odds should be longer and is at least a very tenuous connection between this project and my family.
[Postscript: Upon reaching Esquel, I discover that they too have a street named 25 de mayo. It turns out that 25 de mayo 1810 is also the date when the local (America’s born) population in Buenos Aires claimed power, initiating a series of events that culminated in independence from Spain on 9 de julio 1816. Mild panic ensues …. have I got my facts wrong? Some debate between myself and a local contact takes place, and I’m told that The Mimosa left on the 28 de mayo. Perhaps The Mimosa did leave Liverpool on a different date … after all, after pulling away from the dockside she had moored in the middle of the Mersey for three days to prevent deserters. But, no, a check of facts reveals that I have it correct …. The Mimosa did leave the dockside on the 25 de mayo and anchored in the Mersey for three days until the evening of the 28 de mayo. This doesn’t resolve which events the streets in Gaiman and Esquel are named after. But it barely matters. The coincidence between the date of two important events in the making of modern Argentina and Hamish’s birth is even better.]