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Welsh History Review


Vol. 14, nos. 1-4 1988-89

Ventures in Sail : aspects of the Maritime history of Gwynedd, 1840-1914, and the Liverpool connection. Book review.

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matters and more attuned to the artistic niceties of life. J. H. Vivian was fortunate
in being succeeded by such an able son as Henry Hussey Vivian, whose career
culminated in elevation to the peerage as Lord Swansea. A Liberal in politics and a
notable philanthropist, H. H. Vivian displayed all the strengths and weaknesses of the
age. He was a hard but fair employer, suspicious of unions but supportive of
individual rights such as those of the nonconformists. He sympathised with Welsh
national aspirations in education and with the Welsh language, but he hesitated over
home rule.
There is a sense of inevitability, however, about the decline of the Vivian family
as a force in the Swansea area. Following Wiener's analysis, they seem to have
become progressively more gentrified, the younger sons in particular, and less
attracted to business, and neither of H. H. Vivian's heirs had the application to
address the worsening terms of trade faced by the copper industry. Singleton Abbey
thus became more marginal in the family's growing remoteness and was rescued
finally by its new-found academic function.
We are given a succinct and lively account, therefore, of one family among the
Welsh social elite of the nineteenth century, and the publication's dedication to
Mrs. 'Ginge' Thomas will please many Swansea historians and students, past and
AND THE LIVERPOOL CONNECTION. By Aled Eames. Gwynedd Archives and
Museum Service, Merseyside Maritime Museum, National Maritime Museum,
London, 1987. Pp. 365. £ 18.00.
For too long nineteenth-century Welsh history has been seen in terms solely of
industrialization. The stock Welshman, at least for outsiders, has been the south
Wales miner, himself now a vanishing species, not the mariner of west and north
Wales. This book successfully attempts to correct this unbalanced interpretation and
to connect Wales, and particularly north Wales, with the wider maritime world.
Eames draws sociological and economic parallels between the maritime communities
of nineteenth-century Gwynedd and similar communities in Scandinavia and the
north-east seaboard of North America. Away at sea, mariners left largely matriarchal
societies to manage life and work. Here is a theme for 'Women's History' to develop.
Both sexes and all classes in such communities were investors in locally built, owned,
managed and crewed vessels. All shared a deep concern in the successful outcome of
voyages to places like Iquique or Chinchas, names as familiar to them as Nefyn or
In his earlier work, the author has shown how Welsh shipping was of economic
importance not only to Gwynedd but to Liverpool and its hinterland and, thus, to the
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