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The Welsh influence on American life

Aug 28 2004

Catrin Pascoe, The Western Mail

 

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES recently topped US presidential hopeful Senator John Kerry's list of sexiest women - the latest in a long line of Welsh influences to have shaped American life.

New BBC Wales three-part series Star Spangled Dragon, narrated by John Humphrys, traces the Welsh descendants of some of America's key players.

Among them is Thomas Jefferson, whose father came from the foothills of Snowdonia.

During the American Civil War, both sides were led by men with Welsh forefathers - the Union by Abraham Lincoln and the Confederacy by Jefferson Davis.

Even today, many famous American faces including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Robin Williams and Tommy Lee Jones descend from Welsh stock.

Star Spangled Dragon seeks out these Welsh descendents from the founding fathers to the present day.

Humphrys said, "The American Declaration of Independence which announced America's break from Britain in 1776 was written by son of Snowdonia Thomas Jefferson, and 18 of the 56 signatories were of Welsh descent, making the Welsh by far the largest ethnic group involved.

"Another Welshman, Governor Morris, wrote the final draft of the American Constitution, a pivotal document which was to become a blueprint for later democracies."

Howard Stringer, Sony Corporation's chief executive, a native of Cardiff, said, "You can find Welsh people all over the place, but the Welsh have never attempted to sell themselves as the Irish have.

"There's never been an identity crisis in Wales, so when they come over here they slip in very easily."

Star Spangled Dragon, made by Element, will be shown on BBC1 Wales on Tuesday, September 7, at 10.35pm

 
 

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