The voyage of the 'Mimosa', 1865
' ... May 28 , the anchor was raised and we bade farewell to the land of our birth.' Thomas Jones, Glan Camwy
On 28 May 1865, the first group of Welsh emigrants began its long journey from Liverpool to Patagonia. Although many of the 150 passengers aboard the 'Mimosa' would probably have been anxious about the voyage ahead, they would also have been relieved that the waiting was over and that they were starting on their journey to South America.
Many of the passengers had spent over four weeks in Liverpool. The original intention had been for the 'Halton Castle' to set sail on 25 April 1865. However, at the last minute, the organisers were informed that the 'Halton Castle' had not returned from its previous voyage, and that it would not be ready to depart for Patagonia on the arranged date. Upon hearing this news, many of the passengers withdrew from the venture. Several families who waited for alternative arrangements to be made could not afford to stay in Liverpool, and they borrowed money from Michael D. Jones and his wife Anne in order to pay for food and lodging. In the meantime, the Emigration Committee hired the 'Mimosa', a small tea-clipper, to make the journey to Patagonia. On 24 May 1865, the passengers were granted permission to board the ship. Many of them hailed from the industrial areas of Mountain Ash and Aberdare, and only a minority came from agricultural communities. As well as a number of coal miners and quarrymen, the first contingent included a schoolmaster, preachers, a builder and a doctor. Before leaving, a Council ('Cyngor y Wladychfa') was elected to govern the Settlement. The Council consisted of twelve members, and a president, secretary, treasurer and auditor were also elected. On 25 May, the captain of the 'Mimosa', a 25-year-old man named George Pepperrell, announced that the anchor was about to be lifted. Hundreds of people, including Michael D. Jones and his wife Anne, gathered on the dock to bid farewell to the passengers. The Welsh banner was raised, and the passengers sung an anthem composed especially for the occasion, to the tune of 'God Save the Queen'. However, after leaving the docks, the 'Mimosa' remained on the River Mersey for three days until the wind was favourable. Finally, at four o'clock in the afternoon on 28 May, the anchor was raised and the 'Mimosa' began its voyage to Patagonia.
The passengers had an eventful start to their voyage - strong winds and huge waves came crashing down on the ship soon after it left the River Mersey. The weather remained relatively calm while they crossed the Atlantic Ocean and until they reached the shores of Brazil, where the ship was caught in another storm. In addition to the bad weather, the passengers had to cope with the humdrum of life at sea, as well as the poor standard of food and accommodation. Trouble brewed on one occasion after the captain ordered that the females should all have their hair washed and shaved. Little is known of the conditions aboard the ship, but several passengers were struck ill and four children died before reaching Patagonia.
Occasionally, there would also be a cause for celebration on the 'Mimosa'. On 11 June, Mary Jones, the wife of John Jones of Mountain Ash, gave birth to a son named John. On 15 June, a few days after the death of their 2-year-old son James, Aaron and Rachel Jenkins had a baby daughter named Rachel. Also on the voyage, William and Anne Lewis of Abergynolwyn were married in a ceremony officiated by the Rev. Lewis Humphreys. Some entertainment and games were also to be had aboard the 'Mimosa'. The passengers would often share stories and sing. As the ship crossed the equator on 28 June, many of them watched members of the crew as they celebrated this important milestone. John Seth Jones wrote an account of this event in his diary: 'Two sailors wore long fake beards, made from bits of rope; fireworks were thrown in the air; the sailors threw buckets of water over each other, &c. This practice took place tonight. Water was poured over almost all the emigrants, apart from the women and children. I had some three bucketfuls over my head as well as some water splashed here and there. I went down before they finished, this all took place before nine. I waited until dawn before going to bed, and I then stayed in bed throughout the morning. After they had thrown water, they sent rockets up in the air, and many were sent up. Then many of the more respectable members went to have drinks with the captain in the cabin, and it is said that many of them were rather drunk, but none of those whose names appear in this book.' [Translated from Welsh] On 26 July, after almost two months at sea, a member of the crew announced that land was in sight. The ship arrived at New Bay that night and the passengers climbed to the deck to catch their first glimpse of land in the morning. The following day, another ship called 'Juno' was seen nearby, and the captain and Watkin P. Williams took a small boat to meet it. They returned to the 'Mimosa' before long, accompanied by Lewis Jones. He was immediately called upon to address the passengers, and there was much celebration. He later returned to his ship, and the 'Mimosa' sailed on before dropping anchor in the bay. A small crew of men went ashore that evening, but the remainder of the passengers waited another day for an opportunity to set foot on Patagonian soil.