Monday, 27 July 2015

The True Story of the Mail Coach Monument

Since I repeated the legend rather than the facts when I wrote about a recent trip into Carmarthenshire, I thought I'd better look up the facts.
It seems that the Mail Coach Pillar is a warning against drunken driving. It was erected in 1841 by the Royal Mail as a warning to its drivers of the dangers of driving whilst intoxicated, according to the South Wales Guardian, which carried a story about the repair of the monument in 2011 (the repairs don't seem to have been carried out, though, as the railings around the monument look as if they have been bent out of shape for some time).
Edward Jenkins was the drunk driver in question, at the reins of the mail coach between Gloucester and Carmarthen shortly before Christmas 1833. The coach was being driven at a furious pace, on the wrong side of the (narrow, winding) road, when it met a cart coming in the opposite direction, and plunged over the side of the road and into the river below. Amazingly, there were no fatalities (though no-one seems to mention what happened to the horses).

Here's the inscription on the front of the monument:

"This pillar is called Mail Coach Pillar and erected as a caution to mail coach drivers to keep from intoxication and in memory of the Gloucester & Carmarthen mail coach which was driven by Edward Jenkins on the 19 day of December in the year 1833 who was intoxicated at the time & drove the mail on the wrong side of the road and going at a full speed or gallop met a cart & permitted the leader to turn short round to the right hand & went down over the precipice 12 feet where at the bottom near the river it came against an ash tree when the coach was dashed into several pieces. Colonel Gwynn of Glanbrian Park, Daniel Jones Esq. of Penybont and a person of the name of Edwards were outside & David Lloyd Harries Esq of Llandovery solicitor and a lad of the name of Kernick were inside passengers by the mail at the time and John Compton guard."

And on the side of the monument:

"I have heard say where there is a will there is a way, one person cannot assist many, but many can assist a few, as this pillar will shew which was suggested, designed and erected by J. Bull Inspector of mail coaches, with the aid of thirteen pounds sixteen shillings and sixpence received by him from forty-one subscribers in the year 1841"
and below:
"The work of this pillar was executed by John Jones marble and stone mason Llanddarog near Carmarthen. Repainted and restored by postal officials 1930"

So there we have it - a cautionary tale from history.

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