‘You don’t have to be a Morgan to live in Wales, but it helps’, jokes Morgan Specht. The 44-year-old outdoor instructor from the US has lived in Wales for well over a decade now and considers the country his home. He says that Morgan is the name he puts down when ordering takeaways because, unlike his surname, it’s instantly recognisable to people in Wales.
Morgan was raised by his parents in Maryland near the West Virginia border, a place that he says shares similarities with Wales thanks to its landscape of rolling hills and mountains, mining history and its destination status for those hungry for outdoor pursuits. It was here that Morgan got his first job during high school as a white water rafting guide, paving the way for his eventual career in outdoor instructing. It’s a career that has seen him take part in one of Wales’s biggest caving rescues, attending to a caver who had fallen over 30ft and was in grave medical danger. In October this year, he received a Queen’s Medal for Voluntary Services.
The Brecon Beacons have been the backdrop for the majority of the dad of two’s career. Morgan remembers flying over the UK on his way to a year of study abroad in Italy and wondering if he’d ever visit. He’s now raising his young family in the Welsh capital with his wife, Becky, a doctor and an avid caver who provided vital medical care at the scene of the caving rescue last year. Morgan says the beauty of the landscape, the proximity of outdoor adventure to bustling towns and the warmth of the people are all part of what’s kept him and his family here.
Morgan Morton, 24, works at a communications agency in Cardiff’s creative sector. Born and raised in Wilson, North Carolina, nature also played a big part in this Morgan’s childhood. Unlike Morgan Specht, it was always Morgan Morton’s plan to the come to the UK, leaving behind a close-knit family to pursue her ambition of a career in the media.
Morgan has been drawn in by Wales’s beauty and, while she isn’t crawling through caves regularly, she loves to explore her neighbourhood of Cathays in Cardiff by roller skate. She counts Wales as one of her many homes, as Wilson still holds a big place in her heart.
While Wales may not be where the two Morgans grew up, both of their jobs play a role in giving back to Welsh communities. For Morgan Specht, this is helping the people he instructs (usually children) develop confidence, critical thinking and social skills through activities such as caving, canoeing, climbing, or mountain walking. For Morgan Morton, it’s about telling stories that make positive changes within communities in Wales, like a project she led looking at how diverse identities are represented in the media at a time when Cardiff Capital Region has £50m investment to its media sector into a global hub for media innovation with a focus on green and fair economic growth.
The two Morgans assimilated to the culture differences long ago. Although while Morgan Specht said he instantly took to the dry sense of humour and “taking the mick” as a way of showing affection, Morgan Morton sees similarities with sensibilities back across the Atlantic:
‘At the same time, I feel like southern hospitality and general Welsh friendliness goes hand in hand - although it's more effort to break the ice, the authenticity of the Welsh people reminds me very much of people back home,’ she said.
They certainly seem to be living up to their Welsh names but where will their loyalties lie when it comes to the World Cup? Morgan Morton says she’ll be backing Wales, going against the interests of her England-supporting long-term boyfriend, Cal. Morgan Specht, meanwhile, is covering all bases of Group B of the World Cup with his family. He’ll be supporting the US, who he’s backed since the 1994 World Cup. His wife Becky will be supporting her native team England, while four-year-old Milo, who was born in Cardiff, will be supporting his home country. And the remaining team in the group?
‘We might assign Iran to our one-year-old, Franklin, as the country is having a tough time at the moment and needs some support’, Morgan says.