The marvellous Morgans

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We all know the old jokes and one-liners, the sayings or references to peoples names that are supposed to be typical of Wales - Jones the Milk, Jones the Bread, even Jones the Spy. But there are plenty of other names apart from Jones that are representative of Wales and the Welsh nation. Take Morgan as an example.

There have been thousands of Morgans in Wales, some of which have made a significant contribution to the history, the social life and the development of the country.

Henry Morgan

Henry Morgan, of course, is well known. Born in the middle years of the 17th century and related to the Morgans of Tredegar House, Henry was supposedly the son of a farmer from the Cardiff area. As a young man he decided to leave Wales and sailed for the West Indies to make his fortune. Once there he quickly took to piracy, basing himself in Jamaica, then the pirate capital of the Caribbean.

Henry Morgan led several expeditions against the Spanish, the principal land owners in the West Indies; his activities were given a degree of tacit approval by the British government. Morgan was a cruel and blood thirsty individual who showed little mercy to his victims but his actions should be viewed in the context of the times. He undoubtedly made himself rich but the British government also benefited greatly from his actions.

Indeed, so successful were his campaigns and so well-thought of was he back in the UK that he was knighted in 1674 and appointed deputy governor of Jamaica. Not bad for a farmer's lad from Llanrhymney.

Griffith Morgan

Griffith Morgan was the real name of Guto Nyth Bran, the legendary Welsh runner. One of many professional runners in the 18th century, Guto would run and the gentry would lay bets on his performance.

Guto even ran several races against horses and many of his exploits have gone down in folklore - like the time he supposedly ran from Mountain Ash to Pontypridd in the time it took his kettle to boil on the fire!

Guto's most famous race was his last. He ran from Newport to Bedwas, a distance of 19km, in a time of just under an hour, defeating his arch rival in the process. But he dropped dead when one of his supporters slapped him on the back in congratulations. His achievements are still celebrated each New Years Eve in the Nos Galan Races at Mountain Ash.

The Morgans of Tredegar House

Then, of course, we have the Morgans of Tredegar House. Godfrey Morgan, Baron Tredegar, took part in the Charge of the Light Brigade - and survived. His horse, the mount that carried him down the "valley of death," is supposedly buried somewhere in the grounds of Tredegar Park. A picture of it hangs in the house.

Godfrey's grandson, Evan, was the last man to hold the title. Eccentric and clearly living in a different world from the rest of humanity, Evan was obsessed by black magic and even built himself a magik room (the spelling was deliberate) somewhere in the bowels of Tredegar House. Always a right winger, he knew the Nazi leaders Hermann Göring and Rudolph Hess quite well - his pet parrot once bit Göring on the nose. A very astute bird, some might say.

More Morgan achievements

Other Morgans may not be so well-known but many of them were significant figures. Dynallt Morgan is renowned as being the author of the best poem never to win the crown at the National Eisteddfod. In the 1880s, David Morgan created Cardiff's largest department store - the shop ran until it finally closed its doors in 2005. Teddy Morgan? He was the man who scored the try that beat the previously undefeated All Blacks in that memorable game at Cardiff in 1905.

Bishop William Morgan was the man who translated the Bible into Welsh. The book came out in 1588 and was an immediate success. Such was the quality of Bishop Morgan's Welsh that there are many who believe the survival of the Welsh language - when everything from the reign of Henry VIII onwards seemed to be actively attempting to destroy it - is down to his skill. Morgan, who became Bishop of St Asaph in 1601, died a poor man - even the exact spot of his grave is not known.

Morian Morgan

One Morgan who seems to have entirely slipped under the radar is Morian Morgan. Born at Bridgend in 1912 and educated at Cowbridge School, he was the man who led the Concorde project. He was short sighted but this did not stop him achieving his goals and during World War Two he became a test pilot. As director of the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, his enthusiasm and drive pushed the Concorde project to its successful conclusion.

There are many more Morgans whose contributions to Welsh life have been immense, so many in fact that they certainly deserve the accolade of The Marvellous Morgans.

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