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The Welsh Gold King (Hardback)

The Life of William Pritchard Morgan

P&S History > By Century > 19th Century P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > Social History World History > UK & Ireland > Wales

By Norena Shopland
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 25 mono
ISBN: 9781399090605
Published: 24th August 2022

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In 1864, a poor Welsh boy, William Pritchard Morgan, emigrated to Australia to make his fortune. He returned a wealthy lawyer and aspiring politician, having used his riches to invest in gold mines and develop new techniques of recovering gold. His political aims were unsuccessful in Australia: the newspaper Morgan used to promote himself was involved a sensational trial against another editor; and a man was even shot whilst bringing in his votes - so Morgan claimed. He returned home, ready to tackle the mining of Welsh gold.

After ousting the key players of the 1860s Little Gold Rush, Morgan soon took over Gwynfynydd, one of the area's most lucrative mines, and stood as an independent MP for Merthyr. He boasted of a fantastic seam of gold, so great he would pay off the national debt… a hero overnight, the Welsh Gold King took the title of Merthyr's MP.

Despite the massive successes of his mines, the government taxed Morgan hard and almost crippled his business, so he refused to pay. When the government tried to shut him down, the public rose to his defence, and Morgan was sued in an avidly watched trial that could change mining in Britain forever.

The Welsh Gold King bestowed gifts on many well-known people, including royalty, and promoted the tradition that all royal brides wear wedding rings of Welsh gold. He gave golden prizes – some of which caused great controversy – and his liberal politics were a forerunner of Labour views that were hard for many of his contemporaries to agree with.

An extraordinary character, Morgan was pivotal in the story of mining for gold in Wales.

This was an interesting and revealing book and actually, one I think would interest a lot of people here in Wales, certainly a less celebrated character.

Read the Full Review Here

The History Fella

Article: 'The Newport-born MP -- and gold miner'

South Wales Argus

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating account of the life of a fascinating man. William Pritchard Morgan grew up in Usk, Monmouthshire with little money. His father William Morgan was a carpenter. William P. Morgan travelled to Australia and made his fortune and returned a wealthy lawyer and aspiring politician, having used his riches to invest in gold mines and develop new techniques of recovering gold. On his return he attempted to mine gold in Wales with some success. However, he was hit hard by crippling taxes and fought hard to have them significantly lowered. He was a very important part of the history of gold mining in Wales.
The book is very well written and engaging with interesting photos at the end of the book. William Pritchard Morgan comes across as a very proud Welshman who tried but ultimately failed to makes gold mining a new and productive industry in Wales.

NetGalley, Jill G

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About Norena Shopland

Norena Shopland specialises in researching, recording and promoting LGBT+, women’s and Welsh histories. Working closely with heritage organisations she curates exhibitions on these subjects, hosts workshops on research techniques and is in great demand as a speaker. Shopland regularly appears in the press, on radio and TV.

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