Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A Popular Insurrection

Radnorshire Rebeccaites on the Edw, December 1932.

If the rapid retreat of Welsh in 19C Radnorshire is reminiscent of language shift in Ireland, then the London press were also quick to draw Irish comparisons when reporting the activities of the county's Rebeccaites. Throughout the Victorian period and beyond this body openly challenged the authorities with acts of public lawbreaking, armed marching gangs, intimidations and pranks. Not just in respect of the fisheries but also against profiteering shopkeepers and the like.

Much to the disgust of outsiders the Radnorshire magistrates were loath to hand out heavy fines or even convictions to the handful of rioters brought before the courts. After all the local landlords knew that the Rebeccaites had widespread public support. In most respect Radnorshire was one of the most law-abiding districts in the kingdom - during its 90 year plus existence the Radnorshire Constabulary only investigated four murders for example. But where there was perceived injustice the populace turned to Rebecca.

As far as I know the best account of these activities is "The Second Rebecca Riots: A Study of Poaching on the Upper Wye" by historian David Jones. It was published in the journal Llafur, volume 2 no. 1 - spring 1976. A more recent account can be found in the Keith Parker book Parties, Poll and Riots - Politics in 19C Radnorshire. There is plenty in the contemporary press of course - much of which can be accessed online via our National Library.

NOTE: It should be noted that far from being mere ruthless exploiters of salmon stocks the Victorian Rebeccaites were campaigning against the commercial night-netting activities of landowners such as the Duke of Beaufort, who were taking 6000 fish a season from the Wye between Ross and Hereford.

No comments: