Rhodri Morgan in America

Collections - Posted 09-08-2021

Between 1961 and 1963, Rhodri Morgan, who later became leader of Welsh Labour and First Minister of Wales, studied at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Thanks to a scholarship from the Thomas and Elizabeth Williams (Loughor School Board) Fund he was able to study and travel in the USA. A lack of applications from Loughor meant that the fund was opened up to residents of Swansea, providing Morgan with a wonderful opportunity. During his time in the USA, he wrote a series of letters to his family in Swansea.

A phone call from a member of the Welsh Political Archive Advisory Committee came late last year saying that Rhodri’s brother, Professor Prys Morgan, was eager for a collection of 88 letters, written by Rhodri Morgan during this period should come to the National Library of Wales. Shortly afterwards a collection of letters, photographs and an explanatory note had reached my desk.

Receiving such packages is one of the reasons why I enjoy my work so much. It was a privilege to read about Rhodri Morgan’s adventures, his work and university life, meetings, and various trips. His travels across the country to Georgia, Iowa, California, New Orleans and Puerto Rico can be followed in the letters; most written neatly in Welsh on thin Aerogramme paper, and in the accompanying photographs. One letter is written from the United Nations Plaza in New York and another contains a draft essay for Prys to comment on!

The first letter from New York contains a description of the journey by ship from Rotterdam, with arrival a day and a half late. Rhodri noted that he missed seeing the Statue of Liberty! In another letter he talks about the big celebrations on St Patrick’s Day compared to a much quieter St David’s Day and in another from Berkley where he talks about meeting people from differing political groups such as the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade and the Socialist Party Social Democratic Federation.

The letters provide an opportunity to see the world through Rhodri Morgan’s eyes, to see his political interests develop and to get an idea of ​​the experiences and friends that influenced him. We are very grateful to Professor Prys Morgan for sharing them.

Rob Phillips
The Welsh Political Archive

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