Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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MORGAN , HENRY ( 1635? - 1688 ), buccaneer .

Numerous attempts have been made to identify the parents of Henry Morgan , all based on the assumption that he was related to the Morgans of Tredegar . These attempts have all proved unsatisfactory. The following entry in the Bristol Apprentice Books (Servants to Foreign Plantations) can be regarded with virtual certainty as referring to him: ‘ 1655, February 9 . Henry Morgan of Abergavenny , labourer , bound to Timothy Tounsend of Bristoll , cutler , for three years to seruve in Barbadoes on the like Condicions .’ This was the usual form of indenture for intending emigrants to the West Indies , and the ‘like Condicions’ meant that he should be paid ten pounds at the end of his service.

Morgan was said, on 21 Dec. 1671 , to be about 36 years of age. He would, therefore, have been born about 1635 . In 1655 , when he emigrated, he was about 20 years of age. Esquemelling , in his History of the Buccaneers , 1684 , writes: ‘ He served his time in Barbadoes , and, obtaining his liberty, he took himself to Jamaica , there to seek new fortunes .’ Esquemelling speaks of him as immediately engaging in piracy with financial success. He was said, in 1670 , to have ‘ bin in the West Indys 11 or 12 yeares ’ and ‘ by his valour ’ to have ‘ raised himself to what he now is .’ He had established himself sufficiently by 1665 to marry Elizabeth , daughter of Edward Morgan of Llanrhymney , who had become deputy-governor of Jamaica in June 1664 , and who was, in fact, related to the Morgans of Tredegar .

In 1666 Henry Morgan is found in command of a vessel under the Englishman , Edward Mansfield , a notable buccaneer , and on his death Morgan was elected ‘ admiral ’ by his associates. He received privateering commissions from Sir Thomas Modyford , governor of Jamaica , and, in 1668 , he sacked Porto Bello with fiendish cruelty. His greatest exploit was his march across the isthmus of Panama and capture of the town of that name in 1671 . This embarrassed the British Government , and Modyford was recalled. His successor reversed Modyford 's policy of using privateers for defence against the Spaniards , and Morgan soon followed Modyford as prisoner to England . William Morgan of Tredegar at this time speaks of him as ‘ a relation and formerly a neer neighbour .’ He soon obtained the favour of Charles II , and on 23 Jan. 1674 , was made deputy-governor of Jamaica . It would appear that he was knighted at the same time. He was buried at Port Royal on 26 Aug. 1688 . In his will (proved 14 Sept. 1688 ) he mentions his sister, Catherine Lloyd , and ‘ my ever honourable cousin, Mr. Thomas Morgan of Tredegar .’ His estates in Jamaica were named Lanrumney and Pen-carn .


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ;
  • W. Llewelyn Williams , ‘Sir Henry Morgan,’ in The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion , 1903-4 .


Emeritus Professor David Williams, D.Litt., (1900-78), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959