IN THE last column, we read about the Welsh Patagonians who migrated to our shire over 100 years ago to the district known as Colando.
They took up a number of blocks and were soon committed to making a living by growing lucerne.
The Welsh Patagonians had come to Australia primarily for the available land, but the Colando district did not provide the quality land necessary for providing an adequate income.
In fact, the entire Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area soon ran into difficulties resulting in two Royal Commissions.
The nature of the inquiries included the suitability of the area for growing lucerne, the nature of the advertising material, whether there was any corruption in local administration.
It would also determine if any compensation should be awarded.
Eleven Welsh Patagonians were among those who gave evidence at the Royal Commissions.
They argued they had been misled by immigration agents and publications, the land allocated was not suitable for growing lucerne and that they had suffered considerable financial loss.
The Irrigation Commission was not particularly impressed by the Welsh Patagonians describing them as "... not energetic farm workers. None of them aspire to much and are satisfied just to move along".
Notwithstanding this criticism, the Commissioners acknowledged the farms were on inferior soil and, together with 129 other settlers, were awarded compensation on the condition they surrender their farms.
By the 1920s most of the families were scattered throughout the country while some returned either to Argentina or Wales.
There are distant relatives however, still residing in Leeton today.
Ellis Williams was 32 when he arrived in Australia in 1912 from Patagonia and started working in Mystic Park, Victoria as a contractor ploughman describing Australia as "... a great country with a pleasant climate".
By April 1913 he had moved to Leeton and was allocated Farm 509 and described the land as "... good for making decent living ..." and estimated he would show a profit of 1000 pounds a year.
However, it was only a short period of time before he was in conflict with the Australian authorities over farming practises. "... the government officers claim to be experts in irrigation, but they know nothing ..." he complained in a letter to his grandfather.
By 1916 and with repeated yearly losses, it was clear the authorities had been misleading and Ellis was granted 600 pounds compensation from Justice Bevan's Royal Commission.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Remarkably, that same year, Ellis enlisted with the Australian Army and joined the 56th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Forces.
Interestingly, his letters to family now to be written in English and not Welsh as per Army regulations.
On April 7, 1918 at the age of 38, Ellis was killed in action near Somme in France and is buried in the Hangard Wood British Cemetery near the village of Villiers Bretonneaux.
His name appears on a number of war memorials including the National Memorial in Canberra, the Leeton War Memorial and on the memorial at the Parish Church of Llanddeiniolen in Wales near where he was raised as a child.
In November 2006 a Welsh Film crew descended upon Leeton to film a documentary on the life and death of Ellis.
The documentary was shown on Welsh television on Christmas Day that year with some local residents playing a handful of extras roles.
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