The Morris brothers

Morris Prichard Morris was a cooper and smallholder who lived at Tyddyn Melys and later at Fferam, in Llanfihangel Tre’r-beirdd parish, at the beginning of the XVIII century, and it was in the Maenaddwyn area that his four sons were born-

Lewis in 1701, Richard in 1703, William in 1705 and John in 1706. In 1707 the family moved to Pentre-eiriannell, Penrhosllugwy, a larger farm overlooking Dulas Bay, and it was there that the brothers grew to manhood.

Richard (ob. 1779) left home for London before he was 20, and there he remained, a clerk at the Navy Office, dispensing generosity. The youngest, John, joined the navy, and died at sea aged 34. Lewis (ob. 1765) stayed at home for a while, but by 1742 he too had moved away, in his case to Cardiganshire where he spent the rest of his days in litigation and dispute concerning lead mines. Only William (ob. 1763) spent his whole life in Anglesey, a Customs official at Holyhead, carefully tending his garden and plants.

But although they were separated geographically, the brothers kept in touch by corresponding. They sent chatty, interesting letters to one another, and to others, and fortunately more than a thousand of their letters have been kept for us. They provide a wealth of information on most aspects of XVIII century life, for the Morris brothers, between them, took an interest in pretty well everything. And in the letters, especially in those written by William from Holyhead, we get a full and detailed account of social life in Anglesey as it then was.

Lewis, the eldest, was the most gifted and most creative of the brothers. He was a fine poet and a writer of excellent satiric prose in Welsh. He was also a notable scholar with an exceptionally far-ranging knowledge of Welsh antiquities and of the contents of old Welsh manuscripts. He set up his own printing press at Holyhead. William and Richard shared Lewis's interests in literature and learning, but their rôle was essentially to patronise. They collected Welsh manuscripts; they encouraged writers and scholars; and it was Richard who founded the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion to support and patronise Welsh scholarship and culture. The three brothers at one time or another helped Goronwy Owen (1723-69) who was born at Rhos-fawr, Llanfair Mathafarn (not far from where the California Inn now stands). Goronwy was one of the two outstanding Welsh poets of his age, a literary critic of much influence, and a man who tasted more than his share of bitter disappointment. He was ordained deacon at Bangor, but spent his days thereafter as a curate in England and for the last twelve years of his life as an exile in the tobacco plantations of Virginia.

Lewis Morris, poet, antiquary, mining engineer, manuscript collector, philologist, mineralogist, was also no mean map-maker. He had trained in his youth to be a surveyor, and between 1724 and 1727 he carried out a survey of the Bodorgan estate on behalf of Owen Meyrick. The estate plans which Lewis then drew remain to this day at Bodorgan, finely executed in colour. Later, whilst he was a Customs Officer at Holyhead, Lewis undertook to prepare a hydrographic survey of the coast from the Orme to south Wales. Despite numerous difficulties, financial and otherwise, he completed the survey, and in 1748 there was published his Plans of Harbours, Bays, and Roads in St George's and the Bristol Channels. The map of Dulas Bay reproduced opposite is from this atlas. In 1801 Lewis' son, William Morris, published a second revised edition of the Plans of Harbours: it included additional plans, for example of Amlwch harbour which by then had became important for the export of Parys Mountain copper.