Part one of the story of the Welsh in Leeton shire:
THIS week we celebrate Harmony Week in NSW and marvel at the number of different nationalities that now call the Leeton shire home.
Following European settlement, the abundance of water and the legal title to land was a real attraction for people to migrate to the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.
Many Italian families today who call the Leeton shire home, had grandparents who took advantage of this in the early European days.
There is one group of migrants however who are often-forgotten and who once called the Leeton shire home, they were the Welsh.
In fact, between 1910 and 1916, 151 of them migrated to Australia with a number settling in the Leeton shire in a district known as Colando.
That area too is often forgotten about, and it once boasted its own public school.
Located roughly near Murrami, the Colando Public School opened in September 1917 and operated continuously until its closure in December 1951.
IN OTHER NEWS:
The teacher in charge of the school included Hilary Davy until 1919, then Alf Blatch until 1922 and E.A. Ouig from 1922 to 1933.
The history of the migration of the Welsh is an interesting one and stems from the oppression of the English in the mid nineteenth century.
At that time children were beaten at school and adults fined if they were heard speaking the Welsh dialect in the streets of Wales.
In order to escape this oppression and to maintain their own distinct language, culture and religion, a pioneering group of 163 Welsh settlers left Liverpool in England on board the Mimosa on May 24, 1865 to start a new life in Patagonia.
Patagonia spans the southern parts of both Argentina and Chile in South America.
The group colonized a strip of land in the lower Chubut Valley and were able to maintain their identity, values, morals and traditions.
They produced Welsh newspapers and kept their cuisine, churches and sports and, while the Welsh language itself, once so frowned upon in England was now taught in schools, sung in churches and spoken freely in the streets.
The group became known as The Welsh Patagonians.
At first the group did not mind the remoteness and the harsh conditions of Patagonia.
Freedom from the English meant more than everything and the meagre financial returns from their endeavours on the land was not an issue.
However, discontent slowly built up over the years and the location and extreme climate became increasingly unattractive to the Welsh Patagonians.
The NSW government saw an opportunity for themselves in the newly-formed MIA and convinced a number of Welsh Patagonians to migrate to the "lucky country".
Thirteen farms were allocated initially at Colando and from 1913 to 1916 about 66 new migrants arrived in Yanco.
What became of them is set out in part two of this story, which will feature in The Irrigator next month.
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