Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March Meeting

Prior to the beginning of the meeting a minute’s silence was held to mark the death of Mr Robert Norton. It was also resolved that a donation should be made in memory of Bob to the Gurkha Trust.

The People of the Parish of Llandyfaelog 

This month’s speaker was ex-Resolfen resident Mr Douglas Davies. He explained that he had been born in Cilfrew, lived in Abergarwed, worked in Cam Gears but had always kept in touch with his family roots in the parish of Llandyfaelog in Carmarthenshire. Some twenty years ago, Mr Davies had renovated his aunt’s home and was now well settled in his rural idyll. He explained that the area was totally agricultural, change was slow and the population of the large parish static at some seven hundred residents. However, he had an interest in the local graveyard near his home and had unearthed the history of some quite remarkable characters from the local area.

St Maelog's, LLandyfaelog

Mr Davies began by looking at some of the curiosities of the graveyard. These include the Eldreds, a family of spice merchants from London who had made and lost a fortune. Ten generations later one Frank Eldred had evaded the Vagrancy Laws and had escaped to Llandyfaelog where he died as a shopkeeper in 1952. Another poor soul had literally been given two funerals. The first happened when the amputated leg of a sailor at Carmarthen Docks (Pwllpibwr) was buried, only to be followed by the torso some decades later. The White family of Lletygari were known as the “good, bad and ugly”, with Isaac White easily fulfilling the role of the bad. Following a series of unlikely events Isaac converted to Mormonism and took part in an incident known as “the battle of Mountain Meadow”, when Mormons dressed up as Native Americans had massacred some federal troops. Despite being tried for bigamy, White returned to spend the rest of his days in Kidwelly. The Morgan brothers from Llandyfaelog emigrated to the second Welsh colony in Santa Fe, Argentina. They were very prolific breeders and their descendants now populate much of the cone of South America. Some more recent noted Llandyfaelog residents were the Anthony family of Cilfaethlu Farm. A family of twelve, three of the Anthony brothers were very successful jockeys winning the Grand National at Aintree three times and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Mr Davies pointed out the irony that these noted horsemen were not commemorated at the nearby Ffos Las racecourse.

Mr Davies now turned to the three characters which in his opinion were the most famous people with a connection with the Parish of Llandyfaelog. The first General Sir Thomas Picton is well known for his bravery at Waterloo; however his early career as Governor of Trinidad was far less illustrious. His cruelty to the natives was legendary, and he was quoted as saying “Let them hate us, so long as they fear us”.  He used the Parish of Llandyfaelog as his playground.
An apocryphal story states that Picton was hunting in Llandefaelog when he asked a young boy the way. Such was his surprise at the quality of the answer that he sponsored David Daniel Davies to attend the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School at Carmarthen( it appears that the dates do not quite tally and it is more likely that the actual sponsors were the powerful Mansel family though these were friends of Picton). Davies had a successful career as both a theologian and physician; however following the death of his child in 1806 he specialised in obstetrics and invented several versions of the delivery forceps. In 1819, David Daniel Davies was summoned to Kensington Palace to assist in the delivery of the future Queen Victoria.
Mr Davies then turned to the third notable Llandyfaelog resident, James Murray Pentland. Pentland had been born in Ireland and at the age of twelve had entered service in the Royal Navy serving on HMS Northumberland. In 1815, following the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte had been transferred from HMS Bellerophon ( which has a connection with Resolven) to the Northumberland and taken into exile on St Helena. Apparently, the  young Pentland was vociferous in stopping the soldiers insulting the French Emperor. Later, he served as midshipman on HMS Sir Francis Drake and took part in the second American war, harrying American shipping along the east coast. He later married in 1831 and is described as a lieutenant, on his grave he appears as a captain which must refer to his later career on merchant vessels. In 1833 he somehow arrived in Kidwelly, and lived the rest of his life in oblivion. He was buried in St Anne’s Church ( a chapel of ease of Llandyfaelog) in 1871.
Mr Davies concluded that for such a small area three empire builders had left their mark.
Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr Davies for a very enjoyable talk.