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Dear Reader #129

Dear Reader,

Nelmari has completed the translation of Sam’s Song, book one in my Sam Smith Mystery Series, into Afrikaans and I’m delighted to say that soon she will make a start on Love and Bullets, book two in the series.

After the tragic events of this week.

A scene familiar to my London ancestors, Victoria Station in 1912.

The World Chess Championship between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi started this week. I’m a big chess fan so I’m enjoying the coverage on chess.com. Two exciting draws so far. All to play for in the fourteen game series.

https://www.chess.com/news/view/2021-fide-world-chess-championship-game-1-nepomniachtchi-carlsen

The son of Edward Stradling and Joan Beaufort, Sir Henry (Harry) Stradling was born c1412 in St. Donats, Glamorgan. He married Elizabeth Herbert c1440 in St. Athan, Glamorgan, their marriage uniting the powerful Stradling and Herbert families. The marriage produced four children: Thomas, my direct ancestor, Charles, Elizabeth and Jane. 

In 1449, Henry, his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Elizabeth, encountered a Breton pirate, Colyn Dolphyn. A native of Brittany, Colyn Dolphyn was based on Lundy, an island in the Bristol Channel. Five kilometres long and a kilometre wide Lundy was granted by Henry II to the Knights Templars in 1160. Over following centuries privateers took control of the island.

Map of Lundy Island by Henry Mangles Denham (1832)

Because of the dangerous shingle banks and the fast flowing River Severn with its tidal range of 8.2 metres, the second largest in the world, ships were forced to navigate close to Lundy. This meant the island was ideally situated for pirates to prey on merchant ships and their rich cargos.

The chroniclers described Colyn Dolphyn as a tall, athletic, and mighty man, ‘like Saul in Israel’. He ‘towered head and shoulders’ above all men and was regarded as ‘a terror in South Wales’.

In 1449, Henry and his family spent a month visiting their estates in Somerset. Whenever possible, for passengers and trade, ships were the preferred mode of transport because the roads were often nothing more than dirt tracks. Therefore, Henry made the return journey by ship.

Aboard the St Barbe, Henry, his family and crew, set sail from Minehead for the Welsh coast. They encountered Colyn Dolphyn, who transferred them to his barque, the Sea Swallow. Dolphyn demanded a ransom of 1,000 marks for Henry, Elizabeth and daughter Elizabeth’s release. 

The ransom was not forthcoming so over a period of two years the price went up to 2,200 marks. At that point the Stradlings were forced to sell their manors of Bassaleg and Rogerstone in South Wales, two manors in Oxfordshire and the Lordship of Sutton in Monmouthshire. With the ransom paid, Dolphyn released Henry and his family.

Nash Point (Wikipedia)

While the coast of South Wales is beautiful it also contains some treacherous rocks, particularly the rocks off Nash Point, Glamorgan. Several years after kidnapping the Stradlings, Colyn Dolphyn was out pirating when a storm blew up. That storm drove his ship on to Nash Rocks near Colhugh Beach. 

The locals alerted Sir Henry Stradling who raised his men. They captured Colyn Dolphyn and his men, and dispensing swift justice hung them the following day.

In 1837, Taliesin Williams wrote a poem, The Doom of Colyn Dolphyn, which concluded with the following lines:

The beach they trod, destruction there,

Had stamped his footsteps ev’ry where.

Above, below, were strown along,

The fragments of a vessel strong.

Here helm and shatter’d masts were seen,

There lay the hull, the rocks between, 

With upward keel and crag-rent side. 

Thro’ which had pass’d the refluent tide.

And, all around, appear’d in view,

The bodies of a numerous crew. 

Whose course was run, confederates sent,

Well armed on Colyn’s rescue bent. 

But, ere they reach’d the rugged strand,

To ply the dirk, and light the brand. 

Justice ordain’d they should abide,

The tempest’s ordeal, and they died!

The story of the Stradling branch of my family and their encounter with a pirate Colyn Dolphyn as illustrated, animated and told by the children of Wick and Marcross Primary School, South Wales.

Like his father, Edward, Henry Stradling visited Jerusalem, in 1475, where he became a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. Also like his father, he died on his journey home, at Famagusta, Cyprus, in 1476.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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