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This report is taken from PN Review 166, Volume 32 Number 2, November - December 2005.

Letter from New Zealand Sam Adams

Welshmen were among the earliest Europeans to visit the coastline of New Zealand, but they did not arrive in any numbers. They lacked the economic and political incentives to abandon Britain that prompted the flight to foreign shores of the Irish and Scots, and perhaps they were more law-abiding than the English, whose convicted felons turned up by the shipload not too far off, in Australia and Tasmania. In the 2001 census, asked to indicate their ethnic affiliation, 3,784 New Zealanders admitted to being Welsh, barely enough to hold a decent eisteddfod, or maintain the traditions of choral singing, cawl and Welsh cakes.

In 2005, between mid-June and mid-July, this meagre total was increased three-fold. Of more than twenty thousand supporters of the British and Irish Lions rugby union party then touring the country, a good half were from Wales. Wherever you went, North Island or South, in that month, there were cheerful Welsh voices. If you started singing that fine old hymn 'Calon Lan' on a crowded bus shuttling between bars and hotels, before you could finish the first line the rest of the hitherto unidentifiable passengers would have joined in. You would be mistaken in thinking this an index of the relative affluence of the Welsh (no matter how carefully you budget, a month in the Antipodes does not come cheaply); rather, it shows how far some people are prepared to save, or run into debt, for the sake of a drink ...


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