What do an American Ivy League university and a Wetherspoons in Wrexham (Wales) have in common?

I currently have 50 reports, and two dissertations to mark, and on Thursday next week I’ll have not one but two exam papers to mark. So I am taking a break from the endless marking to share with you something surprising that I have learnt, not about science but about history. My sister bought me The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, for Christmas, and I am enjoying reading it. The book mentions the Ivy League (i.e., posh, presitigious and expensive) Yale university in the north east of the United State, although it omits the Elihu Yale Wetherspoons pub (i.e., pub that is not posh, lacks prestige but has cheap beer) in Wrexham in north east Wales.

The two institutions are named after the same, interesting, man, Elihu Yale. Although born in America (in the seventeenth century) he and his family returned to their ancestral lands in north-east Wales when he was only three. The name Yale may come from the Welsh place Plas y Iâl. I am not sure how many people know Yale is ultimately named after a place in north-east Wales.

Elihu Yale acquired fame through wealth. In the late seventeenth century the British East India Company was milking India for gold, gemstones, spices, and a whole lot more. Elihu Yale became the East India Company’s President of Madras, whereupon he become so wealthy that the company ultimately removed him for corruption. He then returned the UK (and was buried in Wrexham), and splashed the cash from London, to Wales, to America.

Yale university benefited from his generosity, and so changed its name to honour him. I don’t know why Wetherspoons named a pub after him. Anyway, I found this quite diverting, but sadly it is back to the marking for me.

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