This webpage formed the basis of an article in the March 2019 Edition of Beyond Bree, the Newsletter of the Tolkien Special Interest Group of American Mensa, by Seamus Hamill-Keays MA MSc. The complete article Tolkien and the Wines of Jerez with Notes and References can be obtained from the Editor of Beyond Bree through

A noted American reviewer wrote: "Tolkien and the Wines of Jerez" is an outstanding essay in biographical, geographical, and antiquarian detective work. Surely Scull and Hammond will take note of it in a future edition of their commentary on The Lord of the Rings. The Professor himself would be impressed. Publication of this essay is a coup for "Beyond Bree".


An important and detailed biography of the guardian of J R R Tolkien; Luna Press 2018


The Brandywine River and Brandy Hall first appeared in the earliest days of the writing of The Lord of the Rings; curious names.This webpage draws on "Uncle Curro" and other important sources in showing the generosity and guidance of Father Francis bestowed on Tolkien was commemorated in The Lord of the Rings in a surprising, and hitherto unrecognised manner, in his adoption of these names.

Here are other pages on this site:
Tolkien at Buckland Hall; Searching for the Truth
Tolkien at Buckland Hall; The Discovery
Tolkien at Buckland Hall; The Genesis of The Lord of the Rings
Tolkien at Buckland Hall; Botanic Memories
The Last Will and Testament of Mabel Tolkien
Tolkien and the Zeppelins; The untold story of a Signals Officer
The Gallant Edith Bratt - J R R Tolkien's Inspiration




Tolkien's astonishingly inventive mind, allied to vast etymological knowledge, created a huge range of names, of people, beings, places, plants and things, names that adorn his legendarium. Some of these, as he sometimes explains, transmuted into everyday English from his own languages.

The Brandywine River and the River Usk

The Brandywine River is first explicitly named in the main text of The Lord of the Rings in Book 1, Chapter 1, A Long-expected Party:

'And no wonder they're queer,' put in Daddy Twofoot (the Gaffer's next-door neighbour), 'if they live on the wrong side of the Brandywine River, and right agin the Old Forest. That's a dark bad place, if half the tales be true.'

Christopher Tolkien tells us that a boating accident in an unnamed river in which 'Bilbo' lost his parents appeared very early in the writing of the LOTR, in the Second Version of Chapter 1 but was then removed (Tolkien & Tolkien 2015: 19). The boating accident later reappears in a river named as the Brandywine and is described as follows:

And Mr. Drogo was staying at Brandy Hall with his father-in-law, old Master Gorbadoc, as he often did after his marriage (him being partial to his vittles, and old Gorbadoc keeping a mighty generous table); and he went out boating on the Brandywine River; and he and his wife were drownded, and poor Mr. Frodo only a child and all. ''I've heard they went on the water after dinner in the moonlight,' said Old Noakes; 'and it was Drogo's weight as sunk the boat.'

There are remarkable coincidences to this tragic event and a real night-time drowning in the River Usk after a party at Buckland Hall in Breconshire in Wales. This was reported in a local newspaper and was well-remembered at Buckland decades later when Father Francis and the two boys are thought to have visited there in 1905 (Hamill-Keays 2018).

Comparison of the course of the Brandywine as drawn in Tolkien himself in the earliest map 'Part of the Shire' that survives (Tolkien & Tolkien 2015: Frontispiece), and the course of the River Usk along a stretch next to the real Buckland demesne provides compelling evidence that Tolkien used Ordnance Survey maps to create a template for part of the Brandywine River. It can be with deduced that he doubtless resorted to OS maps when the plot under creation brought the Fellowship close to the Bucklebury Ferry, probably in early 1938 (Hamill-Keays 2019: Genesis). Each Buckland appears as a bulge of land on the left bank of a south-flowing river, there is a bridge at each northern end, there is a ferry crossing of each river and there is an island upstream of each Buckland.

Figure 1. The Brandywine River and Buckland.
Section adapted from the frontispiece of The Return of the Shadow, The History of the Lord of the Rings. Part 1.

Figure 2. The River Usk and Buckland.
From 1905 Ordnance Survey Sheets XXXIV NE, XXXIV SE and XL NE.

Brandywine and Barandun

Tolkien, explaining derivations of names, wrote (LOTR: App.F):

The hobbit-names of this river were alterations of the Elvish Baranduin (accented on and), derived from baran 'golden brown' and duin '(large) river'. Of Baranduin Brandywine seemed a natural corruption in modern times. Actually the older hobbit-name was Branda-nîn 'border-water', which would have been more closely rendered by Marchbourn; but by a jest that had become habitual, referring again to its colour, at this time the river was usually called Bralda-hîm 'heady ale'.

In performing an etymological loop from Brandywine in English, through the Elvish Baranduin back to Brandywine, Tolkien demonstrated his well-known jesting imagination. The question that needs to addressed is 'Why Brandywine?' Indeed why was the great smial next to Bucklebury-on-the-River called 'Brandy Hall'. Why is the hobbit family called 'the Brandybucks'?

Brandewijn and Brandy de Jerez

Brandywine is derived from the Dutch for 'distilled wine', brandewijn. (Vogin 1901). The Dutch attachment to this spiritous product is due to the considerable wine trade that existed between the one-time Spanish Netherlands and Andalusia from the mid-sixteenth century onwards. The term holanda (name given to wine spirits of low alcoholic content used in the production of Brandy de Jerez) is derived from the name of the country to which most of the exports were destined: Holland. From there the product was shipped all over the world (CREBJ 2019).

It was at the end of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth that English merchants, together with Spanish gentlemen with commercial instincts, were establishing the process of making and aging Brandy de Jerez and promoting it in major markets of the world together with sherry, a wine fortified with brandy, that derived its name from that famous winery town, Jerez. In the twentieth century their products became world famous.

A major bodega in Andalusia is the House of Osborne. It was founded in 1772 in Port St Mary (El Puerto de Santa Maria) by an English trader, Thomas Osborne Mann. In 1851, a daughter of the house, Maria Manuela Osborne, married Francis Morgan, a merchant from London, with noble Welsh connections, whose family had moved the administration of their long-established wine shipping business from Lisbon to Port St Mary in order to exploit the burgeoning sherry trade. One of the two sons of this marriage was Francis Xavier Morgan Osborne, the future guardian of Ronald and Hilary Tolkien, born in 1857. In the 1860s and 1870s many of the family moved to live in England. Augustus, Francis Xavier's older brother, returned to Lisbon and from 1898 administered 'Morgan Bros. (Wine Shippers)' in Andalusia on his own and his brother's behalf. Francis Xavier was thus better provided for than most of his clerical brethren. He was ordained as a Catholic priest at the Birmingham Oratory in 1883.

Father Francis, Guardian

Mabel Tolkien, widowed mother of Ronald and Hilary, died in a diabetic coma in November 1904. Father Francis and her sister May were by her side. In her will, Mabel appointed Father Francis to be the guardian of her sons, Ronald 12 and Hilary 10 . Her conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1900 had set her at odds with her relations; she was anxious for the boys not to be transduced from the True Faith in which she had found comfort. The financial support that May's husband had provided ended on her conversion. Tolkien wrote of the years before her untimely death:

I witnessed (half-comprehending) the heroic sufferings and early death in extreme poverty of my mother who brought me into the Church; and received the astonishing charity of Francis Morgan (Carpenter: Letter 250).

In a letter to one of his sons, Michael, he commented:

I have met snuffy, stupid, undutiful, conceited, ignorant, hypocritical, lazy, tipsy, hardhearted, cynical, mean, grasping, vulgar, snobbish, and even (at a guess) immoral priests 'in the course of my peregrinations'; but for me one Fr. Francis outweighs them all, and he was an upper-class Welsh-Spaniard Tory, and seemed to some just a pottering old snob and gossip. He was - and he was not. I first learned charity and forgiveness from him...(Carpenter: Letter 267).

And in 1972, a year before his own death, he wrote:

And again I remember after the death of Fr Francis my 'second father' (at 77 in 1934), saying to C. S. Lewis: 'I feel like a lost survivor into a new alien world after the real world has passed away.' But of course these griefs however poignant (especially the first) came in youth with life and work still unfolding. In 1904 we (Hilary & I) had the sudden miraculous experience of Fr Francis' love and care and humour ...(Carpenter: Letter 332).

A webpage of the Birmingham Oratory records:

The assets left for the boys' upbringing were slender but Fr Francis was a man of considerable private means and he was more than happy to support them in every way necessary (Birmingham Oratory).

A 2011 review, by E Garcia-Malquez, of José Manuel Bru's earlier Spanish version of Uncle Curro, in the Cadiz newspaper La Gaceta comments:

Father Morgan administered the income of his wards, but seeing that it was not enough, quietly increased it with the money from the prosperous bodega business in Port St Mary. The descendants of Tolkien today acknowledge with appreciation that he could study thanks to the money from the wine of Jerez. (Trans.Author) (Garcia-Malquez)

Tellingly, the reviewer, in commenting the relationship between English literature and the wine of Jerez adds:

A new page of that relationship is written alongside Father Francis Xavier Morgan Osborne and J R R Tolkien. The money coming from the wineries paid for the sophisticated education that enabled the construction of the complex world of The Lord of the Rings (Trans. Author).

Buckland's Connection to the Lisbon Wine Trade

Father Francis's great-grandfather was Aaron Morgan (1742-1818) (Sellers 1899). In 1803 he had formed a partnership with Charles Dixon in further pursuit of the wine trade in Lisbon (HMSO 1803). A connection has been found between this partnership and of the Gwynne-Holford family of Buckland: a common history in the Lisbon wine trade.

Buckland Hall was the family mansion of the Gwynne-Holford family. They were major landowners in Breconshire and Carmarthenshire. William Retlaw Williams, a local solicitor and notable historian of Brynore, Talybont, who, inter alia, published an extensive series of journals, Old Wales, in the first decade of the twentieth century, researched the histories of many leading Welsh families. He records that the Holfords 'had been for a considerable time merchant princes in London, being extensively engaged in the wine business, in Lisbon.' (Williams 1907: 367).

The French invasion of Portugal in 1807, that led to the Peninsular War, seriously affected the wine shipping business that was conducted principally by British merchants, Josiah Holford (1726 -1817) and Aaron Morgan (1742 -1818) being among them. The Master of Buckland in 1905 was J P W Gwynne-Holford (1832 -1916), Josiah Holford's great-grandson.
The French invasions of Portugal had also caused great distress to the people, not helped by the British under Wellington laying waste to the approaches to Lisbon in creating the Lines of Torres Vedras. A committee of merchants in London was formed to raise funds to alleviate the distress (De Chabry: Doc. 91). Aaron Morgan and Josiah Holford were both on this committee, the latter being given responsibilities for foreign correspondence. Aaron's company contributed £100, Josiah Holford £50.

The wine trade connections above show a wine business association of the Morgan and Gwynne-Holford families. This, together with the remarkable similarity of the two tragic drownings, one in the River Usk, the other in the Brandywine, and the undoubted template of the Usk used as a model for the latter river, more firmly place Father Francis and the two boys in the Breconshire Buckland. The only contemporaneous visit to Wales is that noted by Daniel Grotta:

Shortly after Mabel Tolkien died, Father Morgan, Tolkien and Hilary went by railway for a fortnight's holiday in Wales (Grotta: 27).

Daniel Grotta does not provide details of his primary source. After Tolkien's death he had met Charles Carr, Tolkien's scout, at his lodgings in 21 Merton, Oxford, and his Welsh-speaking wife, Mavis (Grotta: 151). This may have been the railway journey featured in his famous English and Welsh lecture (Tolkien 1963). They would have travelled on the Brecon & Merthyr Junction Railway:

I heard it coming out of the west. It struck at me in the names on coal-trucks; and drawing nearer, it flickered past on station-signs, a flash of strange spelling and a hint of a language old and yet alive.

The Death of Father Francis; Generosity.

Father Francis died at the Birmingham Oratory on 14th June 1935. No letters between him and Tolkien are available in the public domain but as Carpenter observes, 'Between 1918 and 1937 few letters survive…' (Carpenter 1981: Intro.). Tolkien did not attend his funeral but his son John is believed to have done so (Hammond & Scull: Note June 1935). Father Francis was buried in the Oratory's graveyard in Rednal.

This is the kernel of his will:

I give devise and bequeath all and every my real and personal estate whatsoever and wheresoever unto and to the use of my brother Augustus Morgan his heirs and whosoever he assigns. And I appoint him sole executor of this my will and in the event of my said brother predeceasing me I give devise and bequeath all and every my real and personal estate whatsoever and wheresoever unto and the use of the Provost or Superior for the time being of the Oratory Edgbaston aforesaid when in the like event I appoint him sole executor of this my will.

The net value of Father Francis's estate came to £24,901 13s 2d. His brother Augustus predeceased him in 1932 having willed all his possessions to him. This total inheritance was bequeathed to the care of the Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, Father Francis Vincent Reade, by the end of August 1935. By a prior private arrangement Father Francis Morgan had arranged for Ronald and Hilary to each receive £1000 from this bequest (Confirmed by email from the Oratory 2018). In 2019 terms this is in excess of £70,000, another example of the 'astonishing charity' of their guardian.


In his Foreword to the Second Edition Tolkien wrote, '…for the composition of The Lord of the Rings went on at intervals during the years 1936 to 1949…'. Questions as to the reason the names Brandywine, Brandy Hall and Brandybuck appear in the earliest chapters have been asked. There can be no doubt that Tolkien benefited from the 'Wines of Jerez'. Father Francis, as he acknowledged a number of times, was charitable and generous of both money and time. The magnificent gift of £1000 in 1935 was a windfall that must have helped J R R's family in a time of heavy financial demands. It would seem appropriate for Father Francis's generosity to be memorialised in Brandywine and Brandy Hall, referring to a spiritous liquour that would have figured largely in conversations between the boys' guardian and the Master of Buckland on their meeting. Possibly an avuncular 72-year-old J P W Gwynne-Holford was the germ for Gorbadoc Brandybuck. One can imagine Father Francis and JPWG-H raising a crystal glass of fine Osborne Brandy to Aaron and Josiah, the wine merchants to whom they owed so much, whilst being astutely observed by a keen pair of young eyes.