The Welsh Connection

David Jones set up the first school in about 1820.

At the side of a busy road in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, there is a carved stone dedicated to the memory of two Welshmen, David Jones and David Griffiths. Madagascar seems an unlikely place to have any connection with Wales. How did this happen?

In 1818 the London Missionary Society sent two young men, with their families, from West Wales to Madagascar but, within a few weeks of landing on the island, all but David Jones had died of fever. In 1820 another courageous young Welshman named David Griffiths volunteered his services and he and his young wife reached the capital safely in 1821.

The two Davids learnt the Malagasy language very quickly and started teaching and preaching. With the active support of King Radama they set up a system of schools for both girls and boys and, with the help of their more able pupils, they translated the Bible and a number of other books into Malagasy.

A large number of British missionaries and volunteer teachers (including many from Wales) have served in Madagascar in the 190 or so years since the time of the two Davids, but today there is traffic in the other direction too, with young volunteers coming regularly from Madagascar to Wales to help at a church centre in Penrhys in the Rhondda valley.

For a splendidly readable history of the island see "A History of Madagascar" by Mervyn Brown, published by Damien Tunnacliffe. (ISBN: 09506284 5 X).

Money for Madagascar was started by Welsh people and continues to receive strong support from the Welsh community. Most recently the re-design of the new Money for Madagascar Website was funded by the Welsh Assembly.