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A Drunken Drowning

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Our first post-Covid outing took place in June 2023, our destination, Strata Florida. There we had a fascinating visit to the abbey itself, the Mynachlog Fawr exhibition of Ceredigion rural life and the archaeological dig on the site at the time.

Lunch followed in Tregaron; at the cosy and atmospheric old coaching inn, Y Talbot. This has long been a favourite of mine. When researching my family tree some years ago I was surprised to discover a closer connection with the inn through my great-great-great grandfather, Thomas. While waiting to be served, this is the story I shared with members:

Thomas Jenkins (1819-1850)

Thomas, a local customs officer, died on 19th January 1850 and, I quote The Welshman, in ‘mysterious circumstances’ following a night in that very hostelry. Foul play was suspected - customs officers were probably not exactly popular in those times - and his drinking companion for the evening, a German clock-maker, Herr Christian Moser, was arrested. They had left together but Thomas never made it home. His body was found several days later, 2 miles down the river from Tregaron after the river had been dragged all the way to Lampeter and back.

The Welshman gave a detailed report recording the subsequent inquest, held in The Talbot, on 24th January. Its title: ‘Inquest on a drunken dead tax-man.’

Through witness statements, it tells how Thomas had gone to the Talbot at about 10pm. He had drunk one glass of brandy and water then went home to fetch his fiddle. He then remained in the pub drinking amiably with Herr Moser until about 2am drinking brandy and gin, by which time he was ‘far gone in liquor’.

As he was having trouble walking, Moser accompanied him towards home & shortly returned to the pub where he was staying. He asked for a torch as Thomas had dropped his hat and asked Moser to look for it. A small search party set off from The Talbot: the hat was found, as was a portion of Thomas’ coat sleeve. Of Thomas there was no sign and it was assumed he had got home. The next morning his maid came to the Talbot looking for him and the alert was sounded.

Evidence from Avarina Evans, a servant girl at the Talbot, shed light on Thomas’ behaviour when intoxicated - and I get the sense from the various statements that this was a fairly regular occurrence. He had the habit of pouring water over his face and washing his hands. On several occasions he had asked Avarina to pour a jug of water over his head. Others reported how he had also been seen a number of times going to wash himself in the river when in such a state. The surgeon found no evidence of an attack on his body, just a few abrasions on the body consistent with a fall in the river. It would therefore appear he had simply slipped into the Teifi in his drunken stupor and died.

The eventual verdict was therefore ‘accidental death from drowning’ and Herr Moser was released without charge. And that was the sorry end of my great-great-great grandfather!


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