Journalist, lecturer, and historian of southern Africa;b. of South African parents (either in Japan or at sea en route to South Africa), 1871; d. Sea Point, Cape Providence, Sept. 2, 1956. Welch attended the Marist Brothers College in Cape Town and the Propaganda Fide College in Rome (now the Propaganda University) where he was ordained in 1894. After returning to South Africa, he collaborated with Frederick kolbe in apologetic lecturing and work to improve Catholic education, and contributed frequently to the South African Catholic Magazine, founded by Kolbe in 1891.
Welch succeeded as editor in 1909 and, both in the magazine and on the public platform, frequently spoke out on controversial topics. From 1907 on he advocated a gradual political and social integration of the Bantus into the "European" community, and during World War I he campaigned for moderation and acceptance of the papal peace plan. After 1918 he vigorously criticized the terms of the Versailles Treaty. Most South African Catholics either disagreed with his positions or simply were disinterested; as a result, the magazine ceased publication in March of 1924.
Welch thereafter devoted himself almost exclusively to historical writing. His extensive research into the early Portuguese and Dutch colonization of southern Africa led him to the Vatican Archives and the Portuguese government archives in Lisbon. In 1954 the Portuguese government awarded him its Camões literature prize for The Portuguese and Dutch in South Africa. Most of his priestly life was spent at St. Mary's Cathedral in Cape Town, where he was administrator from 1909 to 1925. He was pastor of St. James parish, Cape Town, from 1925 until his retirement to a monastery at Sea Point in 1944.
Dr. Welch's historical works are: Some Unpublished Documents Relating to the History of South and East Africa (1930), Europe's Discovery of South Africa (1935), South Africa under King Manuel, 1495–1521 (1946), South Africa under John III, 1521–1557 (1949), South Africa under King Sebastian and the Cardinal, 1557–1580 (1949), Portuguese Rule and Spanish Crown in South Africa, 1581–1640 (1950), and Portuguese and Dutch in South Africa, 1641–1806 (1951).
Bibliography: w. brown, The Catholic Church in South Africa from its Origins to the Present Day, ed. m. derrick (New York 1960).
[j. a. bell]