PORTHMADOG SHIPS. By Emrys Hughes and Aled Eames. Gwynedd Archives Service, Caernarvon, 1975. Pp. 426; 61 plates (1 col.); illus., facsimiles. £ 4.00. In An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith stated: 'As, by means of water-carriage a more extensive market is open to every sort of industry than what land-carriage alone can afford it, so it is upon the sea-coast that industry of every kind naturally begins to subdivide and improve itself. This assertion has certainly been borne out at many points along the Welsh coastline, from Caernarvon to Chepstow, even before the coming of the railways and when road transport was hazardous and often impossible. For the first half-century or so of its history the slate industry of north Wales was almost entirely dependent on the water transport facilities afforded by the natural and man-made harbours and ports of Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire (now Gwynedd). Around these small centres of maritime trade, boat-building often developed into an industry subsidiary to the local export trade, and so provided a broader economic base upon which the welfare of neighbouring communities rested. Porthmadog was a good example of such interdependence, for the history of Porthmadog was interlinked with the local demand for ships to transport the slate that came down from the Ffestiniog slate quarries, in the same way as Port Penrhyn and Port Dinorwig, in neighbouring Caernarvonshire, were linked with the extraction of slate from their respective local quarries. Mr. Aled Eames, in the introductory chapters of his book Porthmadog Ships, reminds us of how Porthmadog was built by William Alexander Maddocks after enclosing Traeth Mawr, sometime before 1814, and completed in 1824-an undertaking described as one of the wonders of the nineteenth century. During the first year of its existence 11,000 tons of slate were exported from Porthmadog, and in 1892 its highest export total of 98,959 tons was reached whilst, significantly, 54,878 tons went by rail. In the intervening period a new maritime community had grown up in and around the town of Porthmadog where, as in other towns of similar origin, almost every family was either directly or indirectly involved in the shipbuilding business with its ancillary trades and occupations. By reference to several editions of Slater's Directory we are shown how the various trades and occupations had expanded between 1829 and 1880. We could have been told more about the sources of labour recruitment and the extent to which the local shipbuilding industry provided full-time employment for local workers. A fuller picture of the structure of the population might also have been attempted here in order to supplement the information taken from Slater's Directory. An estimate of the growth of population could have been attempted by applying a multiplier to the census figures relating to 'houses occupied' and 'houses being built', despite the difficulty presented by the inclusion of census figures for Porthmadog with those for Tremadog, Borth-y-Gest and Morfa Bychan. Shares in local ships were bought by members of almost every section of the community, including many farmers and quarrymen from adjacent villages. But it was the shipbuilders themselves, the master-mariners and
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