Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 17:32 UK

Alabama backs Madoc plaque return

Image of the Madoc plaque in Mobile Bay
The Madoc plaque was taken down after a hurricane struck Mobile Bay

Politicians in the US state of Alabama have called for a plaque marking the legend of Welsh prince Madoc ap Owain to be reinstated on its shoreline.

But the memorial, taken down after a hurricane struck in 1970, is no longer held by the state's heritage body.

Madoc is said to have landed in America in the 12th Century, before Columbus, and he passed on the Welsh language.

An online petition by the Alabama Welsh Association (AWA) has attracted more than 1,000 signatures.

Madoc, or Madog, an illegitimate son of King Owain of Gwynedd, is reputed to have landed at Mobile Bay circa 1170 to escape the war of succession in his homeland following his father's death.

The event would make him one of the first Europeans to settle on American soil and put him three centuries ahead of Columbus.

Welsh Prince Madoc, commemorative plaque, Historical Commission directed to restore to prior placement
Alabama Legislature resolution HJR679

The Mobile Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) commissioned, paid for and installed the plaque on the Madoc legend in 1953.

The southern state's historical commission said the plaque was removed in 1970 after a hurricane struck.

Commission executive director Frank White said a member of staff "took it upon himself to remove the plaque and took it to Fort Morgan for safety's sake and temporary storage".

He said: "The plaque was evidently forgotten about until it was recently brought to our attention."

Fort Morgan is a state-owned historic property near the original location of the plaque. It focuses on US military history from 1800 to 1945.

The plaque can still be viewed on request, but the ABA, a group for descendants of Welsh settlers in Alabama, wants it to be restored to the bay's shoreline.

It argues the state should capitalise on the tourism benefits of promoting the Madoc legend.

The resolution is a suggestion, but it's like getting a suggestion from your boss, so it does hold a lot of weight
Janice Gattis, Alabama Welsh Association

Among those who have signed the AWA's online petition are Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans and AM Dr Dai Lloyd, Welsh assembly Conservative group leader Nick Bourne and Liberal Democrat AM Jenny Randerson.

The ABA's campaign has been boosted by Resolution HJR679 tabled at Alabama's House of Representatives by Republican Blaine Galliher.

It read: "Welsh Prince Madoc, commemorative plaque, Historical Commission directed to restore to prior placement."

The resolution was passed by representatives and went before state senators for consideration.

However, the plaque is no longer in the care of the historical commission.

Mr White told the BBC: "The Alabama Historical Commission carefully considered the facts and chain of events and concluded that the plaque should be returned to the original owner.

"The plaque was delivered to the Mobile Chapter of the DAR on April 21, 2008 and is now in their sole possession."

Janice Gattis, AWA president, said: "The resolution is a suggestion, but it's like getting a suggestion from your boss, so it does hold a lot of weight."

Mr Galliher and the DAR have been asked to comment.


SEE ALSO
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02 Jul 04 |  Wales

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