Emigration from Cardigan was already taking place by the middle of the 1600s some people left to find religious freedom, some to make their fortunes and some were apprenticed to foreign plantations but the early 1800s saw an increase in emigration from the area. Some travelled north to leave from Liverpool but many boarded ships sailing from Cardigan’s own quayside to establish settlements around the world but particularly in Canada and the USA. Causes of this were a series of poor harvests in this largely agricultural area, reduced demand for produce owing to depression in the industrial areas of South Wales, rising unemployment resulting from land enclosures and increasing use of agricultural machinery, and heavy taxation to fund the Napoleonic Wars. Scarcity of food and shortage of money drove people to seek a living in the New World. Between 1819 and 1822 the Albion, Active and Fair Cambrian left Cardigan and crossed the Atlantic, each time carrying more emigrants from the town. They were primarily cargo ships but their owners, realising that passengers would be more lucrative than ballast, responded to the demand and converted their ships to accommodate passengers. Crossings were by no means easy or comfortable.
The brig Albion left Cardigan bound for Canada, on 9th April 1819 with passengers including 27 families from the lower Teifi valley. They were delayed by violent storms and it was nearly the end of the month before the ship was able to leave local waters after putting in at the Teifi estuary, Fishguard in Pembrokeshire and Kinsale on the southern tip of Ireland. After six weeks at sea fighting hunger and sickness in cramped conditions they were within view of the coast of Newfoundland where they were greeted by boats offering fish for sale and they were able to cook themselves fresh meals. The Albion sailed into St John, New Brunswick and the Mayor welcomed them. Work was found quickly in St John for many of the young people but it was a different story for the families who wished to work on the land. They had little or no money to buy plots or resources with which to work the land – and no-one to turn to for help. The Surveyor General of New Brunswick offered ‘tickets of location’ which entitled the immigrants to clear land and settle there. Some local merchants formed the Cardigan Society to help them with tools and advice on building log cabins although, still without the means to make a living, some were forced to beg for food and earned the resentment of the local people.
Eventually things improved and after six years of hard work and struggle they were granted full title to their land and became self sufficient. The settlement at New Brunswick still has connections with Cardigan and members of that community were able to join Cardigan at its 900th anniversary in 2010. Twenty years later, following the unrest of the Rebecca Riots in the 1840s, there was a further wave of emigration from Cardigan and the Triton left Cardigan for New York. The Rebecca Riots took place in the rural parts of Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire, and were a series of protests made by tenant farmers against the payment of tolls charged to use the roads.
References: Lewis, W J, ‘The Gateway to Wales, a History of Cardigan’, Dyfed County Council, 1990 Davies, Donald, ‘Those were the days’, The Cardigan and Tivyside Advertiser, Vol 1 1991, Vol 2 1992