“Becca For Ever!” He Cried Out Before His Arrest

From the Cambrian:

Becca for Ever.

On , a party of workmen in returning from hay-making in a field above Mount Pleasant, amused themselves in pushing before them one of the party, a mason, named Williams, who covered his face with his apron, at the same time crying out “Becca for ever.” The Mayor, who was accidentally passing at the time, immediately seized him by the collar, and gave him in custody to two soldiers. Mr. Morris, joiner, meeting them, told the Mayor that he would answer for Williams’s appearance on . He was then liberated. On , he entered into recognizances to appear before the Magistrates on .

The Monmouthshire Merlin rushed to print on with early reports of the Cwmcillau (or “Cwm Cille” in this account) brawl:

Serious Collision with Rebeccaites.

On a gentleman whose family are at present stopping in Glamorganshire, conveyed to us the intelligence that serious outrages had been committed by the followers of the Amazonian Great Unknown in the neighbourhood of Swansea; that the police had been violently handled; and that Captain Napier, the chief constable of the county, had been dangerously wounded.

We deemed it well to proceed to Swansea, and on our arrival found the town a scene of great excitement, and on seeking information from sources likely to prove authentic, learned that a conflict had certainly taken place, but fortunately on a small scale; that several Rebeccaites had been captured, and were then prisoners in the town; and that Captain Napier had been injured, after manifesting the humanity and forbearance which become a brave soldier.

It appeared that the anti-toll-gate campaign having widened the circle of operations, and frightened some of the good and peaceable people of Swansea, the active and intelligent head of the constabulary force of the county was vigilantly on the look-out. On , a considerable force of the gate levellers marched to Bwlgoed toll house, near Pontardulais, about seven miles from Swansea, on the Carmarthen road, forced the keeper out without making his toilet, and placing an implement in his hand, compelled him, under certain threats of death, to aid in the work of demolition, and lest he should take the liberty of tracing any of the Guerrillas home, they locked him in an adjoining stable, where he was shivering, en chemise, “till daylight did appear.” Disorganization was increasing with impunity, and as toll-gate keepers looked upon each coming night with fear and trembling, as probably the last of their road-side reign, the authorities of Swansea were not wanting in efforts for prevention and detection. Heretofore the seal of secrecy has been upon the lips of all sympathisers with the Rebeccaites, and none were found to give a trace to the homes of the termagant, or any of her myrmidons. On , however, according to public report, a person named John Jones, or Lletty Fulbert, not having the love or fear of “Becca” before his eyes, but being moved and instigated by John Barleycorn, or the genius of cwrw dha, met a policeman at a beerhouse, and there showed symptoms that he would a tale unfold of the wicked lady’s visits to the glimpses of the moon.

Inspector William Rees, of Swansea, was duly acquainted with the circumstance, and deemed this a favourable opportunity of obtaining information touching the names and whereabouts of the persons who razed the toll house and bar of Bwlgoed. Pursuing this intent, Rees had the informer conveyed to a place of safety, where no person was allowed to interfere with his expressed intention of rendering the State some service, and where, the wicked Rebeccaites insinuated, his public spirit was kept effervescent. Be that as it may, whether such report arose from malevolence or otherwise, we know not. Inspector Rees applied to the county magistrates, who, having minutely scanned Jones’s story, issued warrants against persons charged with the commission of Rebeccaite outrage at the Bwlgoed gate. Four warrants were confided to Captain Napier for the apprehension of William Morgan and Henry Morgan, farmers, of the parish of Llandilo, Talybont, and Matthew Morgan and David Jones, of the parish of Llangerelock. At the gallant chief constable, accompanied by Inspector Rees, and William Jenkins and H. Lewis, policemen, proceeded well armed to execute the warrants.

Matthew Morgan was taken at home, about . — David Jones was a prisoner soon after, and both were brought to the lock-up house at Swansea. After the performance of this duty, they again set out to take Wm. Morgan and Henry Morgan. William was found in a field, captured, and left handcuffed in the custody of Jenkins, the policeman; and the remainder of the party proceeded to Cwm Cille, near Velindra, the house of Morgan Morgan, farmer, in order to take Henry Morgan.

Inspector Rees first entered the house, and told who was outside. He then sent for Captain Napier, who, on entering, was handed a seat by Esther Morgan, mother of Henry Morgan. The object of the visit was then told, the warrant produced, and the signatures of the magistrates — Dillwyn Llewellyn and T.E. Thomas, Esquires — were pointed out. Morgan Morgan, the father, said Henry was lame, and could not come then, but would do so at some more convenient time. Morgan, the father, said he would lose his life before his son should go out of his house. On this, Captain Napier ordered Rees to lay hold of Henry Morgan, and a scene of the utmost violence ensued, which will minutely appear in the evidence which we give below.

Old Morgan, his wife, his sons, Rees and John, the latter of whom was shot, and Morgan’s daughter Margaret, fell upon Captain Napier and Inspector Rees like tigers and tiget cats. An iron bar, a reaping hook, a hatchet, a crutch, a hammer, scalding water, and a saucepan, were actively used against Mr. Napier and the policemen; one would almost suppose that the gallant captain must have a charmed life to survive the affray. As it was, he escaped with a severe cut on the head, and other injuries; and no doubt he would have fallen a victim in the discharge of his duty, had he not, when the power of enduring forbearance could go no further, and when they had endeavoured to discharge a pistol, which he had, against him, he fired, by which one of his assailants, named John Morgan, was wounded in the abdomen. Rees was sadly pummelled, and Jenkins, who came to their assistance, rescued both from further violence, by some dexterous passes of his sword against some neighbours of the Morgans, whom the cry of “Lladderch Nwynt,” — kill them! — had brought to the scene of action. Henry Morgan and John Morgan, the wounded man, were then brought to Swansea, where the eminent Doctor Bird skilfully extracted the ball from John; and, be it observed, to the credit of Captain Napier, that though covered with blood, and suffering severely, he declined the medical relief of Dr. Bird, until that gentleman had first performed the offices of humanity for John Morgan, and assured him that Morgan’s life was not in danger.

The news of the capture of Rebeccaites, and of the affray — magnified into a pitched battle, with reports of the killed and wounded — spread like wildfire over the town and neighbourhood — the streets became densely crowded — hundreds assembled at the station house, and the most feverish excitement prevailed; but we did not hear of any breach of the peace.

Doctor Bird and Surgeon Rogers paid close attention to the wounded man, and succeeded in extracting the ball, which had entered the abdomen, passed up, struck the edge of the ilium, and glanced up til it lodged backwards between the second and third ribs, the abdomenal cavity not having been entered in any part.

On a detachment of the Seventy-third Regiment, accompanied by several very well armed policemen, marched to the neighbourhood of Pontardulais, for the purpose of apprehending the parties who had offended against the law in the morning, and the Morgan family, and others, were conveyed to prison without resistance.

On two additional prisoners were brought in, and the rush of anxious crowds to catch a glimpse of the new-comers — for whom we heard repeated expressions of sympathy by the people — rendered the streets through which they came almost impassable.

Mr. Griffith Vaughan, a man of some property, and landlord of the Pontardulais Inn, and Mr. David Lewis, of, we believe, the same locality, are the two persons in question. [Actually Daniel Lewis, I think — ♇]

The current of the population flowed to the Town Hall, where a numerous bench of magistrates, Sir John Morris, chairman, assembled. The court was filled in every part, immediately after the doors were opened; and several members of the Press — London and provincial — were ready to take the proceedings; but after the lapse of a considerable period, the Rev. Samuel Davies entered the court, and addressed the meeting to the following effect:–

“I suppose you have assembled here for the purpose of hearing the examination of witnesses in the case which now occupies the attention of the magistrates. I have to inform you it will be a private hearing, and therefore you may all depart; but before the investigation is brought to a close, when the prisoners are brought up for their final hearing, the public will be admitted.”

This announcement was received with marks of disapprobation. Mr. Powell, of the Times, applied for permission to be present. The solicitors who had been engaged to defend the prisoners, made a similar application, and in reply received the following:–

Resolved unanimously — That all meetings with a view to the investigation of charges relating to the demolition of turnpike gates in this neighbourhood be strictly private, till the parties are brought up for final hearing.

John Morris, Chairman.

The people dispersed from the hall slowly and complainingly, but the rumours of fresh arrests, and the current of reports prejudicial to the character of Jones, the informer, gave food for gossip and speculation.

It was said that a rev. gentleman met Jones’s wife in Castle-street, when she assured him “That her husband could know nothing of the occurrences at Bwlgoed and Rhyd-y-pandy, having been at home every night for the last two months. She added that his conduct of late had been very singular, so as to induce her to believe him insane. About twelve months since his effects were seized by the officers of the law for debt, which circumstance, she added, had a most powerful effect upon his mind. Some time ago, he build a house upon the mountain, in the neighbourhood of his former residence, in a bleak and barren spot, where it was scarcely possible for a human being to reside, more especially in such a house as he erected. The country people have a notion that if they can erect a house in one night upon a common, that house becomes their freehold property. One of those houses Jones attempted to erect for himself, his wife, and five children; but Mr. Morgan, of Cwm Cille, and Mr. Jenkins, of Cynhordy, conceiving their rights to a sheep-walk invaded by this building, took steps for having it demolished. Jones’s wife fancies that this act of Mr. Morgan’s so irritated her husband’s mind, already weakened by previous misfortune, that it must have caused him to have sought his revenge, by stating that Morgan’s sons were engaged in the destruction of the Bwlgoed bar. However, this is mere conjecture on her part. One thing she seems certain of, that her husband has not been from home during any one night for the last two months.”

Consequently, if her statement be true, her husband’s story must be untrue, as we believe he states he was present at the demolition of the Bwlgoed bar, which occurred a considerable distance from his residence, and during the night. Jones was in town early on , and called at Mr. Davies’ house. Having sat there a considerable time, he beckoned to Mrs. D., and begged her to as Mr. Davies to lend him five shillings; but Mr. Davies having some knowledge of his character, refused to lend him any money. This circumstance plainly shows he was considered unworthy of being trusted with five shillings by persons who knew him.

It is well known that the magistrates have offered a reward of one hundred pounds to any one who will give such information as will lead to the conviction of any person engaged in the destruction of Bwlgoed bar and toll house.

The statement of Jones’s wife is given as being much relied upon by the friends of the Morgans, who are very numerous.

A couple of interesting details show up in this version: one, that among the weapons the Morgan family used was a “crutch.” No crutch is mentioned during the initial presentation of the prosecution’s case against the Morgan family (though some of the other weapons are brought out for display to the Magistrates), and this may perhaps be because it would bolster the idea that Henry Morgan was injured and that the father had offered to bring him to town to face charges once he’d healed up. Another detail is that neighbors of the Morgans came to their aid and joined in their vigorous defense of their household.