When The Mimosa set sail for Argentina on that stormy May morning in 1865, one of the 153 passengers on board was a seventeen year-old boy from Bridgend by the name of John Murray Thomas. He soon went on to become a Welsh legend in Patagonia.
Soon after landing at Porth Madryn beach, John Murray Thomas joined eighteen other men on a gruelling journey across the pampas to find the Chubut Valley – the idyllic Garden of Eden that had been sold to them when they were back home in Wales. After a few months John travelled to Buenos Aires to train as an accountant, where he met and married the daughter of one of the city's leading businessmen.
Soon after, he bought a ship to carry goods and passengers from Buenos Aires to Patagonia so that he could rejoin the Chubut Valley Welsh settlement.
Around that same period he began taking a prominent role in the first expeditions west. They searched for new land, for gold and other minerals. John Murray Thomas was also a pioneering photographer and took a large number of pictures documenting the early history of the Welsh settlements.
His photographs are amongst the few visual references of that time in existence and continue to be studied by scholars around the world.
A selection of John’s photos can be seen at the website for Welsh heritage and culture (search for John Murray Thomas).