Here are some articles by Mr Ivor Griffiths originally written by him for the Hendy & Pontardulais Carnival programmes, and included here with his permission.
They cover the general area of Hendy and Pontardulais.
By Ivor Griffiths
Whenever some unpleasant incident occurs or a shocking scandal comes to light,many of our senior citizens shake their heads and claim,"That would not happen in our day." This seems to give the impression that previous generations in the Bont and Hendy were all law abiding people with high moral standards and that the 19th century were years of pleasant good order and behaviour. So let us look back at life in this area during the 1800s,to see if it was free of 'unpleasant incidents' and'shocking scandals.',
On June 9th 1810,the following advert appeared in the "Carmarthen Journal"
RED LION INN
(Betwixt Swansea and Carmarthen)
The Nobility, Gentry,and travellers are respectfully
informed that the above house is completely fitted
up for public accomodation,and every attention will
be manifested to give satisfaction,and meritsupport
The beds are kept well aired, and the larder
plentifully supplied; The wines and other liquors are
also of the very best quality; and the stabling is
commodious and good.
Post-Chaises with able horses,and Careful drivers
This advert gives a picture of a society where "Everyone knows his place," and the 'lower orders' would bow to the nobility, show respect to the gentry,and any familiarity would be frowned upon. Traditions were respected although some were slowly dying out,such as the issuing of Bidding Notices for a wedding. Presenting gifts to the bride and groom is still customary,but in the old days,a bidding would be held in the homes of the bride and groom where gifts would be presented on the understanding that they would be returned on a similar occasion. The last known Bidding notice to be issued in the Pontardulais district was for the marriage of William Roberts, the son of Evan and Sarah Roberts of Llandremorfawr to Mary Ann Edwards.
Here is the Bidding Notice:
|January 24. 1829. |
We beg leave respectfully to acquaint you that it is our intention
to enter the matrimonial state on TUESDAY the 10th day of MARCH
next and from the encouragement we have received by the kind
promises of our Friends we purpose to make a BIDDING on the
occasion which will be held the same day, the Young Man at his
Father's House called LLANDREMORFAWR in the Parish of Llandilo
tal-y-Bont, Glamorganshire and the Young Woman at her Father's
House called GLEINAU in the Parish of LLANELLY,Carmarthenshire
at either of which places we hope to have the pleasure of your
company and influence; and whatever favours you may then think
proper to confer on us will be gratefully acknowledged and repaid
with thanks, whenever required on a similar occasion.
By your obedient Humble Servants.
MARY ANN EDWARDS.
TheYoung Man's Father and Mother, Evan and Sarah Roberts,
also his Brothers and Sisters---John and Mary Roberts, Elizabeth
Davies, Mary Thomas, and Sarah Roberts, request that all gifts of
the above nature due to them (as well as those due to his late Grand-
father, John Morgan ) be returned to the Young Man on the said day,
and will be thankful for all additional favours conferred. Also the
Young Woman's Father, Griffiths Edwards. and her Grandfather,
John Morris, Ffosfach, desire that all gifts of the above nature due
to them, be returned to the Young Woman on the above day, and will
be thankful for all additional favours conferred on her.
NB.- The Young Man's Father and Mother, and also the Young
Woman's Father will repay all Gifts conferred on the Young Couple
during their life time.
*No gifts will be received on the following Sunday
J Williams, Printer, High Street, Swansea
In the early years of the19th century each year would pass in steps of births,marriages and deaths with very little happening in between. Gambling and Cockfighting had been furtively held by young men in Waungron away from the eyes of the authorities,which sometimes ended in fighting, but the evangelist Howell Harries had shown them the error of their ways with threats of the "Wrath of the Lord," so in general, life in the 1800s was peaceful and tranquil with keen anglers coming to Pontardulais on weekends to fish in the river Loughor which boasted better fishing than the Towy,and to enjoy the hospitality of the eight inns along the road between the Black Horse Square and the Fountain Inn.
This peace and tranquillity was shaken on Sunday,December 9th 1832 with the discovery of the battered body of a young woman named Eleanor Williams down a well in Felindre. Rumours as to who had committed the evil deed were rife,and the reporter from the "Cambrian" newspaper was inundated with accusations by unnamed informants,but no hard facts to go with them. The only information that the newspaper could print was the following paragraph:-
"On the 9th inst., the corpse of a young woman named Eleanor Williams was discovered in a well of a farmyard in the parish of Llangyfelach with her skull fractured,and other marks of violence;and the jury at the inquest held before Charles Collins Esq.,Coroner,after a very patient investigation returned a verdict of 'Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.---Several suspicious circumstances have however transpired,which it is not thought to be prudent at present to publish and every exertion is made in the neighbourhood to bring the foul assassin to justice."
Well,the 'foul assassin' was never brought to justice,and poor Eleanor's body was buried in the graveyard of Nebo Chapel unavenged. The villagers placed a gravestone over her grave with the following inscription:-
TO RECORD A MURDER
This stone was erected by general subscription over the
body of ELEANOR WILLIAMS,Aged 29 years. A native of Car-
marthenshire living in this Hamlet in the parish of
Llangyfelach. With marks of violence upon her person she
was found dead in a well by Llwyngwenno farmhouse,then in
the occupation of Thomas Thomas, on the morning of Sunday,
December 9th 1832. Although the savage murderer may escape
for a season the detection of man,yet doubtless God hath
left his mark upon him forever.
VENGEANCE IS MINE SETH THE LORD
I WILL REPAY
Nac ymddielwch,rai anwyl,ond rhoddwch le i
ddigofaint: canys y mae yn ysgrifenedig,I mi
ymae dial; myfi a dalaf,medd yr arglwydd.
A poignant touch was the setting up of a small stone in front of Eleanor's gravestone in memory of the unborn child that she was carrying at the time of her death.
Eleven years later another murder was committed on Sept. 9th 1843 when Sarah Williams,the tollgate keeper was shot during a Rebecca attack on the tollgate at what is now called Hendy square. There was no village of Hendy at that time,the only dwellings along the road from Black Horse square to the tollgate were Neuadd Fach on the right,occupied by Mr Robert Kisck,and further down on the left,Ystomenlle Farm,occupied by Richard Davies and family,then a few hundred yards further on the right,Hendy farm held by the widow Jane Jones and her son William,and finally over the Gwili bridge to the tollgate house with John Thomas the carpenter's cottage on what is now the village green.
The killing of Sarah Williams did not have the same effect on the community as the Felindre murder. They were more startled than shocked;more disaproving than horrified. In fact, the jury at the inquest failed to regard it as a murder at all,returning a verdict of "Effusion of blood into the lungs from an unknown cause."
Another crime of violence was the attempted robbery on Sunday night,July 7th 1867,when Ann Harries of Gelliwernganol farm,Felindre,was attacked as she was returning home on horseback from Swansea at about 10:00pm. When she was nearly home,she was accosted by Daniel Matthews who grabbed her dress and said,"Give me all you have or I'll kill you!" He pulled at her dress which tore in his hand,and it appeared that he had a hatchet. She screamed "Murder!" at which he swore using foul language and aimed a blow at her,but the horse shied and he fell under the animal and she spurred forward and the man was thrown into a ditch. At the house,some men went back to the spot and found the man's cap and jacket which were handed to the police and a warrant for his arrest was issued.
Scattered among these major crimes were numerous petty crimes that seemed to occur almost weekly. Today's motorists have a standing feud with traffic wardens,but they should have met up with P.C.Thomas Hughes. On July 4th 1867,he charged John Player, ironfounder of Pontardulais with having no name on his wagon. Fined 5 shillings with 12s:9d costs, January 29th 1868 he charged George Barnes of Talyclun Issa of allowing a cart to be used on the highway with no name. Fined 5 shillings with 9s:6d costs. November 2nd he charged David Mainwaring, a farmer of Brynrhos in Glamorgan with having no name on his wagon at Pontardulais, Llanedi. Fined 5 shillings with 7s:6d costs. An interesting point here is the use of the term 'Pontardulais,Llanedi." The fast growing village alongside the recently built Hendy Tinplate Works was called Pontardulais,Llanedi to differentiate it from the village across the river Loughor which was called Pontardulais Talybont. The name Hendy had been given to the works because it was built on part of Hendy farm land,but the village that sprang up around it was not called Hendy until about 1870.
While still on the subject of police activities,they were diligent not only with transport offences,there was the serious crime of selling beer out of hours. William Jones of the Hendy Castle was charged by P.C.Thomas Hughes with selling beer at unlawful hours. Case dismissed; P.C.Thomas Hughes charged John Thomas of the Pelican,Llangennech with selling beer at unlawful hours. Fined 20 shillings with 7s costs; John Michael of the Gwendraeth Arms,Llannon,charged by P.C.Thomas Hughes(this officer gets around) with selling beer at unlawful hours. Apparently the beer had been drawn for three men from Aberdare who claimed to be travellers. Case dismissed.
It appears that P.C.Thomas Hughes was not only the terror of carters and publicans,but also the ogre of poachers and drunks,and if the sentences of the civil court seem lenient,the military courts of that period were not. In 1865,two gunners named Powers and Suthurland were tried for breaking into the hospital stores in Pembrocke and were recaptured after escaping from their cells at the fort. They were sentenced to receive 50 lashes each; branded with the letters B.C.,on their chests; imprisoned for 365 days,and then dismissed from her Majesty's service. They were flogged on Saturday July 22nd, and branded on the following Monday,then drummed out of the barracks to serve their prison sentences.
But enough of the crime wave of the 1800s,valiantly repelled by P.C.Thomas Hughes. What about the lighter moments of relaxation? In 1863,there were summer trips to Tenby from Llanelli by the. steamers "Samson"and "Ranger." By the end of that year,the railway from Swansea to Pontardulais via Gorseinon was completed making Swansea Bay an attractive venue in Summer.
In Llangennech children of the National school had their annual treat of "Tea and Buns" provided by Mr and Mrs William Neville of Llangennech Park,who later gave a "Roast Beef and Plum Pudding" party to the children of the Sunday school. On Saturday August 11th 1866, all persons connected with Llangennech colliery were presented with free excursion tickets to New Milford by the colliery owner,Mr.T.J.Margrave. On June 1st 1870,an amateur concert was held in the Hendy Tinplate Works Reading Room with the Hendy school choir under the direction of Mr.Edmunds. Mrs. Williams and Miss James of Llanedi Vicarage sang duets; Mr Edmund sang "Will of the Whisp,"and Mr.Hall sang "Captain Jinks ". But the hit of the evening was the rendering of "Champagne Charlie " by, Captain Homfrey of Neuadd Fach . Also a surprise were the violin solos by Masters Harry and George Edmunds. The room was nicely decorated by Mr.Hall,Captain Homfrey's gardener. The concert is to be repeated in Llanedi on June 24th. In July 1870, Mr.Harry Ll Edmunds,whose musical abilities were well known, started a Drum and Fife Band for the older boys of Hendy school. It was liberally subscribed by local inhabitants.
Then there was cricket ! The Pontardulais Cricket Club versus The Prince of Wales,Llanelli on July 23rd 1870. The Llanelli team were defeated by 136 runs by the destructive bowling of Arthur and Trower,while Mr.Jenkins,Dantwyn, played a magnificent round game of 70. Pontardulais: H.Edmunds,O ; S.W illiams,24 ; J.Jenkins,70 ; F.Trower, 3; W.Arthur, 18 ; D.Godfrey,16 ; D.Williams, 2 ; W.Roberts, 9 ; J.Davies, 3 ; H.Edmunds, Jr.,1; and G.Jones, 6. Extras 28. Total,180. Llanelli 44 runs.
As one can see,brave attempts were being made to make what little leisure time that was available as entertaining and enjoyable as possible,and to educate and improve the mind with a series of readings held on Friday evenings in the Hendy National School which became quite popular. The main force behind this as usual was Captain Homfrey and family of Neuadd Fach. And let us not forget the Eisteddfod. On April 1st 1871, an Eisteddfod was held in a spacious tent erected near the National School which proved to be a great success. Among the prizewinners was Watcyn Wyn, Brynamman,who carried off 3 prizes. The adjudicators were Mr.Rees Harries, Bolgoed, for essays and music, and Mr.Morgan Morgan for poetry. A grand concert was held in the evening.
As mentioned earlier,each year was dotted with births, marriages, and deaths. On January 8th 1864, there was great rejoicing when the Princess of Wales gave birth to a baby boy. Later on January 27th there were celebrations in Llangennech when Mrs W.H. Neville gave birth to a baby girl. On February 29th, Mrs Henry Edwards,of Lower Mill, Pontardulais gave birth to a son with hardly any fuss at all.
Still,for the masses it was long hours of hard work for low pay and it usually meant from the "cradle to the grave, "as shown by the reports of these two deaths. An inquest was held on June 12th 1865 at the Engine Inn,Llangennech,on John Lewis,aged 10 years,a tram driver at the Victoria colliery. Verdict: Accidental death. OnTuesdayJuly 15th 1869,a most shocking accident which caused instantaneous death happened at Hendy Tinplate Works at about 2:30 pm. Thomas Williams,aged 70 years of Pontardulais was at his work at the above works on the sidings leading to the boilers. A truck of coal was shunted towards him,struck him down,and the wheels went over his head,crushing it completely
The gentry would at times display benevolence and concern for their workers. Mr.Neville started to summon his workers together every morning at 8:20am for 10 minutes of religious devotion. A clergyman. attended and read a portion of scripture, then a hymn would be sung and a prayer offered to God. This sacrifice of time of 200 men amounted to 33 1/2 hours per day at a cost to Mr Neville of £130 per annum. When the Neville family left Llangennech Park after 40 years residence in December 1870, the new tenant Mr.Morewood decided to show the same benevolence to the community. On May 11th 1871, he kindly invited one thousand children with their teachers to partake of tea, etc. at the Park on the following Saturday. All the neighbouring schools from Dafen,Llangennech,Hendy,Pontardulais, church and. dissent had received tickets.. The mention of "Church and Dissent " highlights the antagonism that existed between the National and British schools. This report of a meeting held. in Bethesda chapel in Llangennech to discuss the need for a British school in the neighbourhood reveals how strong the feeling was. Mr.Thomas, Cornhwdd proposed ;---
"That we do consider it our imperative duty to erect a British schoolroom to provide the means of free education for the children of the place."
Mr.J.Joseph in seconding the proposal alluded to the very cunning manner in which the catechism and religious tenets of the church of England are enforced upon the children of Nonconformists in the National schools.
This benevolence shown by the gentry had its limitations. Woe betide the people who stepped out of line. In April 1869, notices to quit were being served to a great number of tenants who had voted against their Tory landlords at the late election, and several large landlords had agreed to adopt this policy against all 'refactory tenants.' There was an unanimous demand throughout Wales for the ballot.
In this article I have quoted only a fraction of the stories that I have collected about the 1800s,but I hope that they are enough to build a picture of life as it was lived in those days.I leave it to the reader to decide,.....were they the good old days or the bad old days?
By Ivor Griffiths
In 1850,Llanedi and Llandeilo Talybont were country parishes,but were crossed by a very important turnpike road. Still, they were not important enough to have a Grammar school like Carmarthen, or the centre well populated enough to be termed a Market town to come under Cromwell's education regulations. Even the "Welsh Trust" established in 1674 failed to provide anything in this area until the end of the 17th century, and no mention of a charity school anywhere nearby.
Between 1699 and 1737,the Society for the Propogation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) established at least 124 schools in Wales, but none came to this community, in fact, in 1743.the only school known to be in the area was at Pentwyn, Llannon, which was kept by the Rev. Samuel Jones, and continued successfully for over 22 years. There was an attempt at education as early as 1703 in Llanedi when the church warden reported that "We have had lately a young man that taught a few children, but his encouragement being small he desisted some time since."
The Gryffydd Jones Llanddowror schools were usually maintained for three months and often carried on unofficially afterwards under the direction of the senior pupils of the class. In 1740,Llandeilo Talybont sent a letter to Gryffydd Jones stating with pride that the church had organised schools since 1730, and Llanedi and Llandeilo Talybont were among the first to invite the schools as soon as Gryffydd Jones started to plan them here and there. In the winter of 1744-1745 there was one of these schools in Llandedi church with 50 pupils.
Here is an extract from Gryffydd Jones' attendance records:-
- Glancymbychan, Llanedi 68 Pupils
- Penfedwfach,Llanedi 55
- Night School. 28
- Ty Ucha'r Fforest , Llanedi 36
- 1758-1759 Penrhiwgoch,Llanedi 25
- Gellivoy fach, Llanedi 51
- Gellifach,Llanedi 53
- Glancwmbychan,Llanedi 49
- Llanedi Parish Church 26
- ditto, 12
- ditto, 24
It is a similar story for Llandeilo Talybont except that here the ground had long been prepared. Here is the register from Gryffydd Jones' magazine,"Welsh Piety" :-
- 1739-1740 Llandeilo Talybont 107 Pupils
- 1740-1741 ditto, 53
- Penyrheol. 52
- Bolgoed 59
- Llandeilo Talybont Church 77
- 1761-1762 Coedsaeson Fach 48
- 1766-1767 Taldy,Llandeilo Talybont 50
It was schools like these that brought the well known hymn writer David Williams(1712-1794) as a teacher to Llandeilo fach near the old church on the marsh,and he was a good example of the influence of these itinerant schools throughout Wales.
Gryffydd Jones left all his property as an endowment to his work,a sum of nearly £7000, and his patron Madam Bridget Bevan added another £3000 to it,but on her death in 1778,Lady Stepney tried to gain possession of the lot. The estate went into Chancery and the schools ended. The estate remained in chancery until 1809 by which time its value had reached £30,000.
In spite of the efforts of religious and charitable people,the state of education at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century was shocking,and the church records reveal that very few men could sign their name on their wedding day.
At a Nonconformist meeting in 1808 where Quakers,Moravians and Baptists gathered,the "British and Overseas Schools Society" was born. Naturally the church was not going to be left behind,and in 1811,formed the "National Society for the Teaching of the Poor." Everything was in the favour of the National Schools because although the majority of the coming generation was Nonconformist they did not receive money from the state, while the church drew from this source and weighed heavily on subsidies of well to do gentlemen.
Still, in 1827, the parishioners of Llandeilo Talybont built a British School on the Goppa,and a report by a visiting government commissioner in 1846 could find no fault with it. It is said that the schoolmaster's salary was £20 per annum,and taught 30 children nominated by a committee. He was 26 years of age and had spent 3 months at the Normal College in Brecon. The secretary of the committee was Griffith Morgan of Glynhir.
It was obvious that the building was unsuitable and although there was a loft,it could only be reached by a ladder and push through a narrow opening. But the commissioner did compliment the master and stated that 8 of the children read with merit and ease .... probably in English. Later,stone steps were made outside to reach the loft which was turned into a room for the girls. The report further stated that there was a Welsh Sunday school in the Goppa,and one in "Wesle Fach," with a part-time school in Pentre bach where Goppa chapel had raised a building. It is said that David Williams the hymn writer of Llandeilo Fach taught there. In 1862,William Prydderch of Garnswllt was the teacher, but in 1868 he left for Brechfa and returned in 1872 as minister of the Goppa. During his absence,a Miss Jonathan from Llangadog who had made her home in the district ran the Pentre Bach school
The report went on to give details about the National school. The building was unfinished and therefore had not been opened,but it was seen that it had two rooms 30 feet by 17 feet each:one to hold 57 girls and the other for 33 boys. The girls section was under the patronage of Howell Gwynne of Baglan Hall, and the boys section under the wing of D.P.Llewellyn of Penllergaer. The headmaster and his assistant were shopkeepers, and apparently husband and wife. They were paid £35 per annum with a promise of a further £10 which they complained was unworthy saying that. a. copper worker earned a full £1 a week.
The 1870 Education Act permitted the setting up of local "Boards" composed of a number of people chosen by the public to plan the children's education. They were entrusted with the authority to build schools and put part of the cost on parish rates. There were already two schools in Pontardulais,but the Goppa school was in a building that was too small,and in financial difficulties,while there was nothing wrong with the fine building of the National school,it became increasingly inadequate to meet the growing number of children in the parish,and worst of all,the ill feeling between church and chapel kept intensifying. An example of this hostility was displayed at a meeting held in Bethesda chapel in Llanngennech on June 29th 1870 to discuss the need for a British school in the neighbour-hood. Mr Thomas,Cornhwrdd, proposed:- "That we do consider it our imperative duty to erect a British schoolroom to provide means of free education to the children of the place." Mr J. Joseph,in seconding the proposal alluded to the cunning manner in which the Catechism and religious tenets of the Church of England are enforced upon the children of Nonconformists in the National schools. This hostile attitude between church and chapel was long and wasteful,and because of it several European countries were well ahead of us in educational matters.
At a Vestry meeting which the vicar,the Rev.J.W.Jones convened and presided over,Mr Octavius Williams of the Glamorgan Works proposed"That the parish was unable to meet the requirement of the department for increased school accomodation and that the vicar be authorised to inform the department and begs so to be in my Lord's hands to form a Board." In March a meeting was held at the Goppa schoolroom to nominate candidates for the new school Board,and the result of the following election was
- J.Williams (Churchman) Gwenlais Fawr 301
- Rev.J.H.Rowlands (Baptist) Carmel Pontlliw 245
- Mr.T.Harries (Methodist) Cwrt-y-Carnau 243
- Mr Rees Harries (Methodist) The Bolgoed 190
- Mr.D.Jones (Churchman) Dantwyn 159
- Rev.J.W.Jones (Churchman) Vicar 159
The Board's first meeting was at the Goppa schoolroom on April 6th 1876 where David Jones Dantwyn was proposed as Chairman but there was no seconder. Finally the Rev.J.N.Rowlands of Carmel was elected,and David Jones never attended another meeting claiming that the parish did not appreciate his services.
The site chosen for the school was the corner of Oakfield street and Alltiago Road with the work of building the new school given to Thomas Jones,Cross Inn(Ammanford). The new school was ready to be opened. on Thursday June 27th 1878. Out of 70 applicants,the headmaster chosen was Mr John Roberts,head of the National School,at a salary of £150 per annum. He had two assistants,Mr John Morgan and Mr Thomas Protheroe. Their salary was £10 per annum with periodical rises. Mr Morgan left before claiming any rises and eventually became sub-editor of the "Daily Post,''while Mr Protheroe became a clerk in the office of the Cambrian Works. Mrs Roberts the ' headmaster's wife was appointed to teach sewing at £6:10:0 per annum,but was always referred to as Miss Louisa Jones. John Roberts' work was exceptionally successful and built up a good reputation for the school,and from 1906 his work was carried on by his right hand man Mr Isaac L.Davies. In 1934,Mr A.C.Jones succeeded Mr Davies and was given one of the finest schools in Glamorgan to teach. the older children.
The days of the National school did not end with the opening of the Board school but served quite a number of children, much use being made of it until 1920. Between 1898 and 1909, £765 was spent on the National school in improving its facilities. It is not certain who was the first headmaster but the shop-keeper Mr Thomas Lewis and his wife were in charge in 1850 with the 'unworthy' salary of £35 per annum. Here is the list of the following headmasters:-
- Thomas Lewis ?-1859
- Isaac White 1859-1872
- John Roberts 1872-1878
- J.Williams 1879-1888
- William Jones 1888-1898
- W.Jolliffe Harries 1898-1914
- David Griffiths 1914-1920
Mr Isaac White retired to become the landlord of the "Prince of Wales Inn" which stood near the place where the Pontardulais Surgery now stands. The inn was later demolished to make way for cattle pens and sidings for the LNWR,and Mr White became the landlord of the "Gwyn Hotel" which had been built across the road.
Even after the 1870 Education Act, Hendy continued with the National school situated where the present modern church now stands. It is not known when the school was opened,but old Llanedi records do reveal that when the church licensed a school in Tycroes in September 1863,there had already been a school in Hendy for some time under the care of the curate,the Rev. Jabez E.Jenkins. Here is a list of theheadmasters of Hendy school from 1869 to 1930:-
- Mr.Manning Oct 23rd 1869-Feb 1870
- Mr.Evans ..... to Mar 1874
- Mr.David Jones Apr 1874-Jan 1889
- Mr.J.H.Spoor Jan 1889-Oct 1890
- Mr Alexander Lloyd Nov 1890-Nov 1890
- Mr.W.Owen Jan 1891-May 1892
- Mr.T.N.Tonk May 1892-June 1892
- Mr.J.C.Knowles June 1892-Apr 1899
- Mr.J.J.Hill July 1899-Sep 1930.
- Mr D.J.Bowen Oct 1930 +
Apart from Mr David Jones and Mr J.J.Hill,the early schoolmasters did not stay long enough to make a great mark on the course of education in Hendy. Mr David Jones,affectionately called "Y Mishtir Bach," was a native of Bridgend-on-Usk,and was the head of Hendy school for 15 years. He instilled a passion for learning in the children and won his B.A.,London while still teaching. He finally took Holy orders and obtained a living near Sandringham where he died around 1905.
Mr J.J.Hill,a young teacher in charge of Myddfai school was appointed in 1899,and came to Hendy full of the zest of youth,and governed the school successfully until his retirement in 1930. It was during his headmastership that the school was moved to its present home in 1912.
Although the education system of those early years would appear to be fairly primitive according to present day standards, they succeeded in turning out some very eminent persons such as
He hailed from Dafen,but his parents moved to Hendy and he went to work in Hendy works. He was educated in Hendy;Aberavon;Pontypool,and Bangor,eventually gaining his B.A., London in 1884,and his M.A.,in 1888. In 1886 he was appointed classics master at Llangollen College,and afterwards became the headmaster of the Baptist College in Bangor,a post he held for 27 years. He was editor of "Seren Gomer" for 11 years. He was, buried at Sardis,Llanedi in July 1923.
JOHN "GWILI' JENKINS M.A.,D.LITT.
He was born in Hendy,and like Silas Morris.,came under the spell of David Jones, "Y Mishtir Bach," and worked under him as a student teacher. He started composing poems at an early age. He went to Gwynfryn school and passed to the Baptist College,Bangor,and joined the University.. He became an assistant teacher in Gwynfryn and after graduating a B.A.,in Oxford in 1908,he obtained the assistant master post in Welsh at the University College, Cardiff. From 1923 to 1936 he was Master of Theology in Bangor. He was crowned Bard in the National Eisteddfod in Merthyr in 1901. He also edited "Seren Gomer" from 1914 to 1927.'and again from 1933 to 1936. He was buried at the "Hen Gapel" in Hendy in 1936.
The old buildings that housed the early education system have disappeared. The National school in Hendy became a store for the Llanelli Farmers Cooperative,and was finally pulled down to be replaced with the new modern church. The Pontardulais National school had to go to make way for a housing development in Pentre Road. But the old British schoolroom on the Goppa is still standing although it is now a dwelling house. It is the first house one sees on the incline to the right of Goppa Road after passing the piece of common land between the building and the Fountain Inn.
In 1925,the Carmarthenshire County Council opened an excellent school on the side of the main road between Pontardulais and Ammanford at Llanedi. Here are the names of the people that directed it through its early years:-
- Mr D.J.Watkins 1925-1933
- Mr D.J.Griffiths B.Sc 1933-1944
- Miss Joan Roberts (Temp) 1944-1944
- Mrs G.H.Roderick 1944----
In this brief chronicle of people who strove to bring an education system to the two parishes,there are many who have not been mentioned,such as John Leigh of Pandy bach,the son of the Rev.Edmund Leigh,curate of Llanedi and Llandeilo Talybont for nearly 60 years. John Leigh was mentioned as a school teacher in 1819,and at about the, same time,a carpenter known as Shoni Ty Morfa (Johnny Marsh House) held a school in a building opposite Caxton House the newsagent shop.. He later kept a school in Wernbwll, Hendy. His strong. subject was spelling. He lived in a cottage on the Hendy bank of the River Loughor opposite the old church on the marsh,hence his nickname.
Whenever you observe the educational facilities in fine buildings available to the children of today,give a thought to those early dedicated pioneers who struggled to provide an education to the children of yesteryear.
By Ivor Griffiths
Pontarddulais was sweltering under a heatwave in late July of the summer of 1899. There had been graphic reports in the newspapers of the volunteers of the T.A.,returning from a week's training under canvas in Minehead badly blistered from sunburns and suffering from heat exhaustion. In the"Bont" the air was heavy and oppressive,with the people being lulled into a sleepy stupor by the steady drumming sounds of the various tinplate works surrounding the village. Only the children seemed to have enough energy to play in the street,and even their laughter and shouting seemed to have a comforting effect on their elders relaxing indoors. All were unaware of the terror that was approaching down Fforest Hill on that Thursday afternoon,July 20th 1899; a day to be remembered with horror by the people of Hendy and Pontardulais for many years to come. In a short time,eight of those little children playing so happily would have the shadow of a horrible death hanging over them --- death from Hydrophobia ---Rabies! The approaching terror was a stray setter dog suffering from that dreaded disease.
The dog ran into Black Horse Square snapping and snarling,and the laughter and shouting of the children changed to screams of pain and fear as the demented animal ran amuck among them. It dashed across Loughor bridge into Pontardulais spreading panic wherever it went,its trail being traced by the shrieks of terror resounding through the village. Police constable Saer was urgently sent for,and he immediately had the animal caught and destroyed,but not before eight children had been bitten as well as several animals. When things calmed down,the one question that was on everyone's mind "was the dog rabid?" and if so,"what would happen to the children?"
An inspector of the Board of Agriculture sent the head of the dog to London for tests as the rabies virus attacks the brain, travelling along the nerve fibres from any open wound infected with a rabid dog's saliva. Meanwhile, on the following Wednesday,the Bench under the chairmanship of J Beavan Phillips in the Llanelli Police Court,at the request of Captain Scott,excercised their powers under the Dog Act of 1871, Sec.3.,to enforce the muzzling order in the parishes of Llangennech and Llanedi for three months,while in Hendy and Pontardulais the people waited in dread for the results of the tests to come back from London. The Rev.D.Lloyd Morgan,minister of Hope chapel,whose 6 year old son Vavassor was one of the victims,aptly, expressed the feelings of the parents when he stated to a newspaper reporter,"I was terrified beyond belief. I understood the seriousness of the situation with my own flesh and blood in danger of that awful disease, and fully realising the painful and heartrending stages through which it pursued its fatal course,my condition is a sad one. I sleep with the boy each night since he was bitten,and frequently wake up at all hours of the night fancying that I could hear dogs barking and all manner of noises. They are the most horrible nights I have ever experienced."
The waiting ended on Thursday August 3rd when the inspector from the Board of Agriculture arrived to confirm their worst fears, and advised the local authorities to dispatch the bitten children to the Pasteur Institute in Paris immediately,and all the bitten animals to be destroyed,including the puppies of a bitch that had been born a few days after she had been bitten. The Swansea Board of Guardians resolved to send the children to Paris immediately. A sub-committee was appointed on the Friday morning to formally investigate their powers in the matter. Mr.Rees Harries (Bolgoed) was dubious as to whether the Board could incur the expense in cases of this nature,but expressed the opinion that, inasmuch as the parents of the children are of the working class, the Guardians must stretch a point and act immediately on the recommendation of the inspector. As to the state of the children, they had not revealed any symptoms of Hydrophobia,and the wounds inflicted by the dog were healing up. But the incubation period of Rabies ranged from a few days to a few months,and even longer, so speed was essential. The local government board and the Board of Agriculture telegraphed that the treatment of the children at the Pasteur Institute would cost nothing,and it was at the discretion of the Board of Guardians to defray the expenses of the journey to and from Paris. A letter was received from the Dowager Countess of Portsmouth in which she offered to defray the expense of two of the children if they were sent to the Buisson Institute in London,but the medical officer of Swansea,Dr.Ebenezer Davies, decided that as arrangements had been made for all the children, advantage could not be taken of the offer.
So,on Monday evening of the Bank holiday,August 7th,the four boys who came under the Swansea Union:- Vavassor (6yrs.)son of the Rev.D.Lloyd Morgan;Edward Mathias (10 yrs) son of J.Mathias, butcher; Stanley Howells(8yrs.)son of Mr.Howells,Tynybone; and Simon Jones(3yrs.) grandson of Mrs.Evans,Dulais Terrace,---left Pontardulais at 6:30p.m.,to catch the 8:15p.m. mail train from Llanelli to London,en route for Paris. They were accompanied by the Rev.D.Lloyd Morgan,and Mrs.Evans,the grandmother of little Simon Jones,and a professional nurse would join the group in London. At Llanelli,Mr.Evans, the stationmaster, kindly arranged for a special Ist class compartment on the train for the little band of victims,and quite a number of relatives and friends had gathered on the platform to bid the children a safe journey -- a scene which was repeated on Wednesday morning August 9th when the Hendy party left on the same journey. The four children who came under the Llanelli Union were:- Priscilla Jane Bowen(4yrs.)the daughter of Mr.E.Bowen,the chemist;Emlyn Benson(4yrs.) the son of Mr.James Benson;W.Idris Hopkins (8yrs)the son of Mr.David Hopkins,Green Dragon Inn,and David John Edwards(5yrs.) the son of Mr.Thomas Edwards,Hendy. They were accompanied by Miss Anne Bowen ,the sister of Priscilla Bowen, and Mr.J.L.Thomas,Bradf6rd House, Hendy.
The Pontardulais party,after arriving in Paddington at 5 o'clock on Tuesday morning,rested for a few hours before taking the 'Underground' to Charing Cross,and the kindness of Mr.Evans in Llanelli was repeated by the railway officials at Charing Cross who provided them with a special saloon to take them to Dover,and in a short time they were on a steamer crossing the channel for Calais. The Rev.D.Lloyd Morgan gazed with some trepidation at the approaching French coast. What to say, and how to say it? That was his main worry,and on landing in France,he soon discovered the difficulties of being in a foreign country with no knowledge of the native tongue. However,they managed to get a ,train from Calais to Paris,alighting at the Nord Station at 5 o' clock on Tuesday afternoon where they were met by a porter with transport to the Grand Hotel --- their destination and domicile during their stay in France. This hotel was connected with the Pasteur Institute as no other hotel would accept anyone suspected of being infected with Rabies. At the hotel there were six other English people. Three soldiers bitten by dogs,and an officer bitten by a jackal,and from Dublin a Mrs.Coffie and a Mr.Mulholland.
Next morning the children were taken to the Institute nearby,an impressive building of native greystone standing in extensive grounds with pleasant walks among well kept trees and shrubs. In front of the main entrance was a life size statue in bronze of a youth in a bent position strangling a mad dog with a whip. This youth had been badly bitten by the dog at a time when Pasteur had completed his discovery and was the first victim of Rabies to agree to be experimented on. The success of the treatmant resulted in the present Pasteur Institute,and Pasteur personally appointed the young man to be porter of the establishment for life. Inside the entrance hall is the tomb of the founder,a richly carved and ornamented vault with white marble steps leading down to it. It was said to have cost 500,000 francs. A tablet on the wall has the following inscription: -
"The treatment of Rabies at the Pasteur Institute,founded by voluntary contributions,is given free to all persons. The hours of attendance being from 10 a.m.,to 12 o'clock Midday. M.I.Econome."
There was no favour or partiality shown to anyone:all being treated alike. The native Frenchman had no privileges beyond those extended to foreigners. The standing rule was that each day new patients were always the first to be treated. The operation was performed in the following manner. The doctor would sit in a chair and the little patient placed on his lap with the legs firmly gripped by the doctor's knees,and the arms pinioned in a vice like grasp of an assistant. The stomach is exposed and a white mixture brushed over it. Then the doctor takes hold of a fold of abdominal flesh on one side of the stomach and a serum is injected into it with a syringe passed to the doctor by the assistant,who incidentally is the son of the founder. This process is repeated on the other side. Both sides are injected daily for the first five days,and alternately on one side each day for the remainder of the treatment.
Naturally the children did not take too kindly to the inoculations, but on the first day they marched through the gates unsuspectingly and in accordance with the rules laid down,were the first to be treated. Poor Stanley Howells was the first in the treatment room,and the other children,on hearing his shrieks, were convinced that he was being killed. The operation was soon over, and the rest of the patients similarly treated. The doctor and his assistant were kindly,but unable to soothe the children due to their inability to speak to them in their own tongue,so force had to be employed. The verbal abuse that the children delivered against the doctor and his assistant on leaving the building was amusing,and the next morning,considerable difficulty was experienced in persuading the little ones to visit the Institute. Simon Jones was almost frantic with fear,lying in the road outside the hotel,kicking anyone that tried to pick him up.Their tender appeals had to be ignored,and force used. These scenes were repeated for some days,but before the end of the 14 days, they could fairly well stand the inoculations without flinching.
A few days after their arrival,Simon Jones was taken ill and it was feared that,in spite of the treatment,he was falling victim to Rabies. The doctor was sent for, and he diagnosed Gastric Fever and prescribed some medicine. Simon.still had to attend the Institute every day for his inoculations as no break in the treatment was advisable. Vavassor Morgan also had to be treated for his wounds which,unlike the others,had not completely healed.
Boredom was another thing to contend with. In the morning the children could play with each other in the grounds of the Institute,but the afternoons weighed heavily on them,being cooped up in the hotel,no matter how their guardians tried to amuse them The place was unfamiliar and the language strange,so it was impossible for them to enjoy the time on their hands. They were glad when the last days came along,but as one batch of children left before the other,there were more tearful scenes. Three of the Pontardulais party were the first to leave,Simon Jones having to remain another week due to him having been bitten on the lip, which was considered to be more dangerous due to its proximity to the brain. Emlyn Benson was also held for another week for the same reason,his wound being on the forehead. A much more cheerful band of boys arrived home on Thursday,August 24th,escorted by the Rev.D.Lloyd Morgan,to be followed on Sunday by three more in the care of Miss Anne Bowen,the sister of little Priscilla Bowen,the only little girl among the victims. The last two returned a week later in the care of Mr.J.H.Blake,deputy clerk to the Llanelli Board of Guardians.
The incident at Pontardulais,and the visit of the little children to Paris had created a stir of excitement and concern in the national press. The "London Weekly" of Saturday August 26th gave a very interesting account of their visit and the 'Modus Operandi' of the treatment,while the "London Gazette" of Tuesday August 29th contained the following official notice issued by the Board of Agriculture ordering the muzzling of dogs in the following districts on and after September 8th next:-
(1) Breconshire: The Petty Sessional Division of Merthyr and Penkelly,Deuynock,Penderin,and Ystradgynlais,in the County of Brecon.
(2) Carmarthenshire: County of Carmarthen(except the Petty Sessional Divisions of Newcastle Emlyn,Llanboidy,and St.Clears), Borough of Carmarthen.
(3) Glamorganshire: County of Glamorgan,Borough of Cardiff,Borough of Neath,Borough of Swansea. .
As Shakespeare said, "Alls well that ends well," and there must be people living today who owe a vote of gratitude to the old Swansea and Llanelli Board of Guardians for the speed of their action in dispatching the children to Paris without delay, and to that Institute dedicated by its distinguished founder,Dr. Louis. Pasteur,to microbiological research in its extensive laboratories,and the free treatment of victims.of that dreaded disease --- Rabies,and may our Quarantine measures remain,to keep that horrific scourge out of our land.
Chartist and Alleged Leader of the Rebecca Riots of 1843 in South West Wales
Defender of the Pontardulais Rioters
By Ivor Griffiths
In an earlier Carnival Programme I wrote an article about the Rebecca Riots that took place in Pontardulais in 1843,and the trial of the leaders at a special session in Cardiff in October of that year. The defence was in the hands of Hugh Williams the Carmarthen lawyer who was known to defend all the Rebeccaites brought before the magistrates free of charge. He was also known to speak at the secret meetings of Rebecca followers,his speeches sometimes bordering on sedition. He also wrote on their behalf to the newspapers. In fact,the Prime minister at that time,Sir Robert Peel,and Sir James Graham his Home Secretary,were convinced that Hugh Williams was the brains behind the whole movement. The Home Secretary even issued warrants to intercept Hugh's mail and examine the contents.
Who was this man? A man of wealth and obviously one of the gentry,yet he was prepared to face the wrath of the authorities and the anger of his class by his constant support for the under-privileged;the rights of the working class. At the same time there were numerous rumours circulating regarding his dalliance with the ladies,which made him a living legend .... a sort of Robin Hood or Casanova figure,and his family history was quite as colourful as his character.
Hugh Williams was born in a mansion called Gelli-Goch which stood a few yards off the Aberystwyth Road about a mile outside Machynlleth on February 18th 1796,the third son of Hugh and Elinor Williams. The father was known as Captain Hugh although he had not done any military service. His interest in lead possibly accounted for this title. In the lead and tin mines of Cornwall,the miners were mainly ex-sailors or had some connection with the sea,and it was customary to refer to the owner or manager as "The Captain," and this custom had probably spread to the lead and copper mines of North Wales.
Captain Hugh was the youngest of four children of David and Catherine Williams of Gelli-Goch. David Williams was a wealthy timber merchant owning thousands of acres of woodland at Llanwrin,north of Machynlleth,and also a large house in Penylan,but as he had an interest in shipbuilding which was carried on at Derwenlas, a little village on the banks of the Dovey Estuary just below Gelli-Goch,he preferred to live at Gelli-Goch which he had leased.from the Wynnstay Estate of his kinsman,Sir Watkin Williams Wynn.
When we think of shipbuilding we usually think of Barrow or the Clyde or Belfast. But up to about a hundred years ago there was a thriving shipbuilding industry along.the coast of West Wales .... in Portmadoc, Derwenlas, Llangranog, Aberaeron,and Newquay,to name just a few. There was a report in the "Llanelly Guardian" dated May 12th 1865 about the launching of two brigs on the same day at Newquay. One called the "Isabella" built by D&T.Davies,and the other built by Mr D.Evans called the "Hetty Mary."
Of David Williams' four children,Arthur the eldest married a Mary Thomas and moved to Penygoes;the second son William died at three years of age. The only daughter Elizabeth married an Evan Lloyd and moved to Chester,and Captain Hugh married Elinor Evans,the daughter of Rowland and Susan Evans of Melin-Llyfnant,and remained at Gelli-Goch with David Williams who was by then a widower.
The Wynnstay family and the Williams of Gelli-Goch branched from the Rev. Hugh Williams,Rector of Llantrisant in Anglesey who was 14th in direct male descent from Cadrod ap Cynnedd,a famous 12th century Welsh tribal chieftain known as Cadrod Hardd(Cadrod the Handsome). So,the defender of the Pontardulais rioters had an impressive pedigree,and was apparently brought up in an environment of wealth and affluence.
Captain Hugh had 8 children and naturally they had a resident tutor. This tutor was Azariah Shadrach .... poet,author, evangelist and teacher,who,because of his frequent use of allegories was known throughout the country as "The John Bunyan of Wales." During his lifetime he wrote 28 books,several of which went into two and three editions. In fact,it is claimed that 65000 copies of his books were printed ... a colossal number for that period. He had been appointed the minister of a small chapel in Derwenlas at £3 a year,and he also kept a school in the village to supplement his income,and lived in Gelli-Goch filling the role of schoolmaster to the children of the household.
As the children grew up they went their various ways. David the eldest inherited the bulk of his grandfather's estate consisting of the thousands of acres of woodland at Llanwrin and the large house in Penylan. One of the conditions in the old man's Will was that on no account was David to marry a Anne Hughes of Machynlleth otherwise he would forfeit everything. What the grandfather had against this woman is not known,but it is a fact that Hugh's older brother David never married. He moved to the house in Penylan,and rumour has it that he employed a housekeeper named ... Ann Hughes
William the second son craved for a life at sea and joined the navy,eventually becoming a lieutenant in the Brazilian Naval Service. One may well ask what was a Welshman doing in the Brazilian Navy,but at that time,this country, following Nelson's famous victories was considered to be the greatest sea power in the world,and foreign governments with a view of improving their naval services were offering lucrative contract to British naval officers made redundant after the defeat of Napoleon.
Hugh,along with his younger brother John,decided on a legal career and they both went to London to study law,and it was here that Hugh began to mix with the radical thinkers of the day,such as James Watson and Henry Hetherington,two of the 12 signatories of the f amous"Charter" that gave birth to the Chartist movement. Hugh and Hetherington became firm friends,and as a printer and publisher,Hetherington encouraged Hugh's poetical gift,publishing many of his poems. Talks and discussions with these dedicated reformers must have rekindled the teachings that the old evangelist Azariah Shadrach had impressed in his young mind in his childhood,and Hugh became a staunch Chartist and Reformer.
In 1821,Hugh was admitted to the King's Bench and decided to settle in Carmarthen. His brother John remained in London,opening a practice in Grey's Inn Road. The reason for Hugh to choose Carmarthen was a planned partnership with William Jones,the town clerk and a distant relative. The partnership never came about,but Hugh opened an office in Quay Street in the town.
The arrival of this tall,goodlooking young man in the town caused quite a stir,especially among the ladies. The men of the gentry wanted him to become involved in the politics of the town,and the ladies wanted him to become involved in other things..... social activities and that sort of thing. But his radical views soon offended the men,but for some inexplicable reason made him more attractive to the ladies. Perhaps his poetical gift might have something to do with this. What could fail to thrill a woman's heart but a suggestive sonnet whispered gently in her ear. In no time at all,Hugh Williams had aquired what can only be termed,"A rather dubious reputation with regard to the ladies."
This only heightened the shock to everyone when,on June 6th 1832,at Llanelli Parish Church,he married one of his clients, a Miss Anne Jones of Kidwelly. This marriage was more of a shock when it turned out that the bride was 61 years of age ... Hugh was only 36. Of course,the fact that she was a wealthy spinster with property in Kidwelly,Ferryside,and an estate in St.Clears did cause a few knowing winks and nods,but it was claimed at the time(probably by some of the disappointed ladies) that it was Anne Jones who had enticed him with her wealth and hints of an early inheritance because of her age. If this was true,then Anne cheated him,because she lived for 30 years after the wedding. But if she had expected companionship among other things from the marriage,Hugh did a bit of cheating himself with his long and frequent absences on political activities and his amorous affairs.
Hugh now opened an office in Kidwelly leaving his clerk Thomas Jenkins to take care of things in Carmarthen. Thomas Jenkins was born in Llanedi,the son of the Rev.William Jenkins, one time curate of Llandeilo and vicar of Meidrim and Brechfa. Thomas Jenkins always associated himself with the underdog and was a gifted poet with his work often appearing in the "Cambrian" and "Carmarthen Journal." In 1831,he had written a poem entitled "An address to Poland from the Mountains of Wales" in support of that country's fight for freedom. It was said that some of the verses had been translated into Polish and used as a rallying song by the freedom fighters. This information had been brought back from Poland by a Samuel Marks who had married a Polish lady and had witnessed the fall of Warsaw to the Russians before fleeing the country---and returning to Wales. So,with his radical views and poetic gift, the relationship between Hugh and Thomas Jenkins was more than just employer and employee.Jenkins was Hugh's companion in all his political activities and a close friend in their mutual love of poetry. Shortly before his marriage,Hugh had lost his brother Lieutenant Williams of the Brazilian navy who had died in Carmarthen in February 1832 at the age of 37 years. To carry out his dying wish to be buried near the sea,his funeral travelled in two boats down the river Towy to Ferryside where he was laid to rest in the graveyard of St. Ishmael parish church overlooking Carmarthen bay. Standing beside Hugh at the graveside and looking over the bay,Thomas Jenkins was inspired to write a poem entitled "The Sailor's Grave."
Hugh always championed the cause of the labouring classes and when Hetherington formed the London Workingmen's Association, Hugh formed a branch in Carmarthen with an inaugural torchlight procession in which it was claimed that 4000 people took part. It was inevitable that he would become involved in the Rebecca movement,giving his services free to all protesters brought before the courts. He took a keen interest in the tollgate question especially after the attack on the gate at Efail Wen in 1839 led by Tom Rees(Twm Carnabwth). The attackers carried out the old Welsh custom of blacking their faces and wearing women's gowns,and there had been a difficulty in finding a suitable gown for Tom's huge frame,but eventually a large spinster named Rebecca provided one and during the raid,Tom's followers laughingly kept addressing him as Rebecca. Some claim that this is how the later riots were called the Rebecca riots,but the biblical quotation from Genesis chapter 24,verse 60 which was thundered from every pulpit,especially at Capel Als,was on everyone's lips:
"And they blessed Rebecca,saying unto her Thou art our sister.Be thou the mother of thousands of millions,and let thy seed possess the gate of those that hate them."
The rioters,in smashing the tollgates were convinced that they were doing the Lord's work.
Hugh was well versed in the turnpike laws and defended men brought before the court for refusing to pay tolls at illegal gates set up by Tom Bullin,a notorious tollfarmer who leased tollgates from the Turnpike Trusts. Hugh invariably had the cases dismissed and even had the illegal gates removed which made him unpopular with the magistrates and the gentry,but the farmers and labouring classes regarded him as their champion and would willingly do anything for him and the wives and daughters were also very willing.
The opening incident which led to the flood of riots in 1843 occured at the end of 1842 when Tom Bullin set up a new gate near the Mermaid tavern east of St.Clears crossroads. This 'trap' was the final straw and the gate disappeared that night along with the Pwll and Taff Bridge gates for good measure. Rebecca had once again expressed her anger. One significant thing about this "opening of hostilities" as it could be called was the fact that it happened in St.Clears only a short distance from Hugh Williams' home.He had recently moved from Kidwelly to his wife's Gardde estate in St.Clears.Was he the brains behind the whole thing? We shall never really know. But he was the main speaker at their meetings,and their defender in court. He was the hero and champion of the farming community,and a comfort to the wives and daughters, already having gained the nickname "Hugh Cant o Blant" (Hugh of the Hundred Children).
1843 was a busy year for him. At the massive meeting on Mynydd Sylen he was asked to draw up a petition to the Queen. In July he was in Swansea representing Daniel Lewis,of the Goppa, Griff Vaughan of the Red Lion,and their companions, accused of destroying the Bolgoed and Rhydypandy tollgates. In August he received a severe blow with the loss of his clerk,companion and friend Thomas Jenkins who died suddenly at his home in Pensarn. Once again the boats glided down the Towy because Jenkins had long expressed a wish to be buried near Lt.Williams in the graveyard of St.Ishmael parish church.
In September Hugh was once again in Swansea to represent the three men from Llannon captured during the battle between the rioters and the police at Pontardulais bridge.
He was in Pontardulais when the jury at the inquest on Sarah Williams,the tollkeeper killed on Hendy Square during a raid on that gate gave the ridiculous verdict "Effusion of blood into the lungs FROM AN UNKNOWN CAUSE,"when it was clear that the woman had been shot. The outcome of this verdict was the authorities decision to transfer the trials of the Pontardulais rioters to a special session in Cardiff
In Cardiff,the case against Daniel Lewis,Griff Vaughan and their companions was dismissed due to the prosecution's chief witness failing to appear.John Jones had fled the country. Following Hugh's advice,the Morgan family of Cwmcille Fach Farm in Velindre who had knocked the chief constable of Glamorgan almost senseless when he had arrived at the farm with his Inspector to arrest one of the sons, were dealt with most leniently. The parents were released on their promise of good behaviour and the children received short prison sentences to be served without hard labour. Of the three men from Llannon,Jack Hughes Tyisha stubbornly refused to listen to Hugh Williams' advice and insisted on pleading 'not guilty' in spite of the overwhelming evidence against him. He was sentenced to 20 years transportation. His two companions who pleaded guilty on Hugh's advice received seven years each.
Hugh was now approaching 50 years of age and any political ambitions that he had entertained cooled off around this time,but not his amorous inclinations. In 1849,an entry in the St.Clears Parish register stated that an illegitimate child,the daughter of Mary Jenkins was baptized on July lst 1849,the father being entered as"Hugh Williams, Solicitor, Gardde. "
He was made Portreeve of St Clears in 1851,and in 1853 he was appointed Recorder of the Borough,a post he held until his death,in spite of complaints about his long and frequent absences.
In 1858,Hugh embarked on what was to be his last amorous exploit. The lady's name was Elizabeth Anthony , the 23 year old daughter of Peter and Margaret Anthony who kept the "Joiner's Arms" tavern in Lower Oxford Street,Swansea. Hugh was now 62 years of age,and his wife Anne slumbered on in St.Clears.
Well,the inevitable happened .... Elizabeth Anthony became pregnant. Nothing new to Hugh Cant o Blant! But this time there was a difference. Hugh had already decided that Elizabeth was to be the next Mrs Hugh Williams,
"As soon as Anne had the goodness to die. She was nearly ninety for God's sake! What was she hanging on for? Who would have thought that the old devil would live so long."
These were Hugh's words to a friend. Hugh wished to marry Elizabeth but there was to be no stain of bastardy on her reputation. So she was whisked away to stay with her sister Mary Ann John,the wife of James John who worked in the Ironworks in Ystalyfera. The plan was for Elizabeth to have her baby and have it registered as a child of the Johns.
At this time,Hugh had to make a trip to America with his brother-in-law,the famous 19th century statesman Richard Cobden. Cobden had married Hugh's younger sister Catherine in 1840,and their daughters always referred to Hugh as "our wicked uncle Hugh,"more with glee than disapproval. Richard Cobden was one of the leaders of the Reform Party in Parliament and the founder of the Anti Corn Law League. In pursuing his political aims he had neglected his calico business in Manchester and at one time was on the verge of bancrupcy. But such was his popularity in the country a public subscription raised £ 80000 for him with which he cleared his debts,bought a small property in Suffolk where he had been born,and invested the remainder in the Illinois Central Railroad in America. He was going to America to check on his investment taking Hugh along as his legal representative.
In America they had long discussions with the railroad company's legal representative,a clever lawyer and rising politician named Abraham Lincoln who made a deep and lasting impression on both men.
They arrived back in Liverpool on June Ist 1859,where Cobden was told that in his absence he had been returned to Parliament at Stockport and the West Riding of Yorkshire. He decided to take the seat for the West Riding. Meanwhile,Hugh had come back to a problem. Elizabeth had given birth to a baby girl four weeks earlier and his plan had been carried out,the baby being registered as Mary Elizabeth,the daughter of Mary Ann and James John of Ystalyfera. But Hugh had failed to make allowances for Elizabeth's maternal instincts. She refused to be seperated from her baby. Well,she could hardly return to the "Joiner's Arms"with a baby and no husband .... but Hugh found a solution. He had years of experience in such matters. Through his wife Anne he had property in Ferryside,so he set Elizabeth up in No.12,Lower Pale in Ferryside,providing her with a maidservant to assist in looking after her "niece''And to make everything cosy, Hugh took up residence next door in No.13. So,while Anne slumbered on in St.Clears,Hugh established a 'love nest' in Ferryside. There is a record of this arrangement in the 1861 census which has the following two entries:-No.12 Lower Pale. Elizabeth Anthony.Head. Unmarried.Age 27. Lodginghouse Keeper: Ann Walters. Servant. Age 16. Domestic Servant. Elizabeth E.John. Niece. Age 23 months: And at No.13, Hugh Williams.Head. Married.Age 65.Solicitor. Now, Hugh had no qualms about giving this information to the census enumerator as he knew that the details would not be made public for one hundred years.
On August 4th of that year of 1861,Anne's slumber became permanent ...........at long last she died,and two months later,Hugh and Elizabeth were married at Buckingham Baptist church in Clifton,Bristol. Hugh brought his bride back to Ferryside and they set up their home in Retina Cottage on The Cliffs. Hugh was now 65 years of age and desperate to have children ..... legitimate ones! He dreamt of a Williams dynasty with his descendants achieving the fame enjoyed by his brother-in-law Richard Cobden who was honoured with great banquets and civic receptions in every capitol city that he travelled through during his continental tour, Paris;Rome;Berlin,even Moscow.
When Hugh Peter Marcus was born in June 1862,a friend wrote a congratulary poem to Hugh,the wording of which revealed that Hugh had expressed his hope for children to honour the Williams name to his friends.Unfortunately,the little boy died six weeks later. In May 1863,Hugh Peter Dafydd was born,but lived for only four weeks. When Elizabeth was again pregnant in 1864,Hugh must have prayed hard that this child would survive. He had been closely following the progress of the American Civil War,and one evening,after reading a transcrip of his friend Abraham Lincoln's speech after one of the bloodiest battles of the war at Gettysberg .... the famous Gettysberg address,Hugh vowed that the child Elizabeth was carrying would be named Lincoln in honour of that great leader,taking it for granted that it would be another boy. On December 20th 1864, Elizabeth gave birth to a baby girl. Still,Hugh stuck to his vow, and the little girl was named Eleanor Elizabeth Lincoln Williams.
In 1865,Hugh was saddened by the death of his brother-in-law Richard Cobden,and Retina Cottage was renamed Cobden Villa in memory of that famous British statesman.
On May 28th 1869,Hugh's dream of a famous Williams dynasty looked more hopeful with the birth of Hugh Dafydd Anthony,and even more secure with the birth of William Arthur Glanmor in September 1873. Hugh was now 77 years of age and happily contented with his family. The following year on October 19th 1874,he died peacefully at Cobden Villa and was laid to rest with his two infant sons and his brother Lt.Williams in the graveyard of St.Ishmael parish church.
Did Hugh's descendants achieve the fame that he had hoped for? Well,many of them did,but not in the political field that he had envisaged. His two sons went to Clifton College in Bristol for their education,Hugh Dafydd Anthony planning to become a Vet. But William Arthur Glanmor could think of nothing except the army. The story of the gallant stand of a small detachment of South Wales Borderers against thousands of Zulus at Rorke's Drift was always on his mind,and he was impatient to get into the army. From Clifton College he went straight to Sandhurst and commissioned in the 2nd Battalion the South Wales Borderers,serving with distinction in campaigns in West Africa, and returning to this country to be awarded the DSO,the Distinguished Service Order.
When the Boer War broke out he volunteered for active duty and arrived in South Africa in February 1900 where he was attached to the 8th Mounted Infantry as staff officer to Colonel Ross who was in command of this newly formed force. Mounted Infantry seems to be a contradiction in terms,but they were not cavalry charging with branished sabres or lance at the ready The Boers had brought something new to warfare ... no longer the pitched conflicton a battlefield like Waterloo,but speed and mobility. The Boers were born horsemen,and the British commanders were not slow in adopting this new method of warfare. Once the mounted infantry arrived at their target,they would dismount and attack on foot.
It was with this method that a force including the 8th M.I. surprised a large Boer encampment outside Bothaville on November 6th 1900. One of the few occasions in which the Boers were caught unawares,and they lost all their field artillery with 150 dead,and their commander De Wet and President Steyn of the Orange Free State barely escaping with their lives.
During the battle,the commander of the force with Colonel Ross and Lt.Williams,set up an observation post in an old stone building,but came under heavy sniper fire,and colonel Ross,in passing an open space was shot and badly wounded. Lt.WillIams promptly dashed out under heavy fire and dragged his commander to safety,but was hit several times. He died shortly afterwards. In one of the official reports on the engagement it stated that had Lt.Williams survived,he would have been recommended for the Victoria Cross. William Arthur Glanmor's grave is in the Garden of Rememberance at Bothaville. The inscription on the gravestone reads:-"In Memory of Lieut.William Arthur Glanmor Williams DSO., 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers.Who fell in Action near this spot,November 6th 1900.Aged 27 years." I think that old Hugh Cant o Blant would have been proud of his youngest son.
Meanwhile,Hugh Dafydd Anthony had married Hilda,the daughter of Dr.Thomas Lewis.J.P.,of Carmarthen,but his plan to become a Vet never materialized. His health was poor and Hilda decided to move to London to be near the best medical men in the country. They also had a place in Bexhill-on-Sea,and it was here that their son Hugh Anthony Glanmor was born in March 1904,and it was a year later that the father died in London. Hugh Dafydd Anthony was 36years of age.
So,old Hugh's two sons had died young and his dream of a Williams dynasty now rested on his grandson Hugh Anthony Glanmor. Hilda decided to stay in London. She loved the theatre and in 1913 she married Alexander M.Shairpe,the playwright,so it was inevitable that her son would enter the theatre,where,with his exceptional good looks(possibly inherited from Cadrod Hardd) he was an immediate success. Over the years,as Hugh Williams,he appeared and starred in numerous films and stage plays,and with his second wife Margaret Vyner,they together wrote and appeared in success after success. At one time,three of their plays were running in London's West End at the same time. I think that their playwriting and stage appearances would have pleased old Hugh. Hugh Anthony Glanmor died in a London Clinic in 1969.He was 65 years of age. But he left old Hugh 5 great-grandchildren. Penelope and Prudence work in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon;Hugo is internationally famous as a poet and writer,being eminent enough to warrant a paragraph in "Who's Who;" Simon has gained fame as an actor on television and stage. He is also an accomplished novelist and Pollyanna followed in her mother Margaret Vyner's footsteps becoming a well known fashion model.
And what of the great-great-grandchildren of which there are eleven of them. Prudence's daughter Kate Dunn has appeared in"Casualty" for the BBC and "The Bill" for ITV,and is also following her uncle Simon in being an acclaimed novelist,while Simon's son Tamlyn is already climbing the steps to acting stardom with his appearance in Lynda La Plante's latest four part television drama "Killer Net."
I am sure that Hugh Cant o Blant would be pleased at the way his descendants have turned out. In fact I can picture him probably strutting around somewhere up there with a proud smirk on his face assuming that the old reprobate is up there. Well,if he did manage to pass through the Pearly Gates,we can be sure that St.Peter would issue instructions, "Keep that smooth talking Welshman away from the women."
[Gareth Hicks : 14 Nov 2001]