Friday, July 27, 2007

Silver John

Silver John is dead and gone
So they came home a-singing.
Radnor boys pulled out his eyes
And set the bells a-ringing

According to W. H. Howse in his book Radnorshire this little ditty was sure to provoke trouble if recited in the presence of a New Radnor man, commemorating as it does the murder of the charmer and bone-setter Silver John by a gang from the village in the late eighteenth century.

According to this site Silver John was a member of the Lloyd family of bone-setters and the deed was done in 1830. Meic Stephens, a descendant of the Lloyds, in his Oxford Companion to Welsh Literature agrees that Silver John was John Lloyd and tentatively dates him as living between 1740-1814.

The records of the Court of Great Sessions have a different tale to tell. Here Silver John is named as John Jones of the parish of Llanfihangel Rhyd Ieithon. Now there is no reason at all, given the longevity of the Welsh patronymic system, why a John Lloyd should not also be known as John Jones. The murder however is dated to 12th December 1773, the body not being found until the following April.

Jones was described as an idle drunken person, who had been very troublesome on the night of the murder and had to be dragged out of the house of Edward Breese, a New Radnor carpenter. Others indicted with Breese were David Bedward, know as Edwards, also a carpenter; Margaret Herbert (alias Morgan); Jacob Holl, butcher; William Holl; John Meredith, labourer; and Alice Price (alias Phillips). The verdict "No True Bill" - no case to answer.

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