Welsh Country Magazine is not appearing in printed form this month but you can enjoy it for free online! There is a link at the bottom of this post which will take you there.
My piece is about Elihu Yale (1649 – 1721) who is buried in the graveyard of the parish church of St Giles in Wrexham. He was a divisive figure who made a considerable (and dishonest) fortune in India as an official in the East India company. He was deeply involved in the slave trade and had a reputation as a brutal master.
Yale was removed from office in 1692 for using company money to buy land for himself and eventually returned to Wales to live on what is now the Erddig estate near Wrexham. Despite his fall from grace, he was still ridiculously wealthy and it was a donation he made that sealed his place in history.
In 1718 he sent a gift of nine bales of goods, together with 417 books and a portrait of King George I to the Collegiate College in Connecticut . Their sale raised money for a new building, creating the basis on which the university was founded, the third oldest institute of higher education in America. It later changed its name in recognition of this gift in 1745 to Yale University.
The university now sees this as something of a problem. His life as an enthusiastic slave trader and fraudster means that Elihu Yale hardly displays the university’s values. After all, he is regarded in India as a ‘arrogant ruthless braggart…who cheated both his employers and the people of India.’ After complaints from students in 2007, a portrait of Yale with a dark-skinned servant wearing a metal collar was removed from a wall in the university.
But he still has a Wetherspoons named after him in Wrexham.
If you would like to read the complete article – for free – then just click here
This story features in my new book, Grave Tales from Wales, which was published in July 2021, along with 29 other fascinating gravestones from across the whole of Wales. You can pre-order now on the Grave Tales From Wales in the menu
Click on the link below to watch an introduction to the book