17 Mar 2014

Good wife and mother, and puller of a decent pint too, it seems: one of the women who made me

The same year my great, great grandmother, Margaret Davies, was married in the parish church of Merthyr, Carmarthenshire the Wine and Beerhouse Act 1869 legislated that the sale of beers, wines or spirits would now require a premises licence from the local magistrates. Licences were only granted, transferred or renewed at special Licensing Sessions courts, and were limited to respectable individuals. So I think I'm safe in assuming that her new husband, John Isaac, a blacksmith, was a reliable and trustworthy type otherwise they wouldn't have been installed at the Stag & Pheasant Inn, near Llanllawddog, in 1871. 


Stag and Pheasant Inn, Pontarsais near Llanllawddog. Currently up for sale.
'Publican and Smithy' is recorded next to his name. 'Wife' next to hers. Although 18 years later she'd be cited as the landlord in the 'scandalous' 'FALSE PRETENCES AT LLANLLAWDDOG' case reported in the Carmarthen Weekly Reporter on 7th July 1899 at the end of which Joseph Turner was convicted of fraudulently obtaining 1s. 6d worth of board and lodging and sentenced to six weeks imprisonment with hard labour.

Don't mess with my grannies! 

And it goes without saying (good food genes obviously run in the family!) that the Stag & Pheasant could put on a great spread. In fact a 'capital spread' according to the reporter for the Carmarthen Journal and South Wales Weekly Advertiser for the hundreds of people who turned up for a Trotting Match at Llanllawddog on 20th February 1890. At the 'standing event of the year', There was a capital spread (which may be called the sixth race, open to all comers), provided at the Stag and Pheasant, which gave entire satisfaction to the large numbers that thronged round the tables. 

Which is a great deal more than can be said for a pub in West Peckham in Kent a couple of weeks ago. My supposedly seared scallops arrived at the table the colour of milk and so glassy, when I cut one open, I swear it was still breathing. So sorry about that, the waitress said. It'll be another seven or eight minutes. Fine, I said.

No, not fine. When someone sends back three scallops you don't put them back into a warm pan and heat them through again. They returned the colour of weak coffee and easily identifiable by the middle scallop missing his left shoulder. 

I blame the ubiquitous gastro-pub title: some people who have no idea about food or cooking think they can get away with murder (or at least food poisoning) by using big plates, rocket and artful splashes of sauce. 

Hungry writing prompt
Write about deception, about fraud, about tricking someone.

The Cafe at Number Four
I can't be exactly sure what Granny Margaret served the crowds at the Trotting Match event in 1890 although the newspaper article does mention beef as one of the dishes. And I bet it was grass fed and I bet it was good.

As good as the melt in your mouth, and melt your heart at the same time, Welsh Black Beef Bourguignon I had at The Cafe at Number 4 in Queen Street, Carmarthen at the end of a long and enjoyable day spent visiting the Stag and Pheasant and discovering John and Margaret's graves at the Parish Church of Llanllawddog.

Margaret died in 1924. John died five years later. They are buried alongside three of their 13 children, two who died at the ages of 9 months and 4 years and 2 months, and a grown up daughter, Anna, a dressmaker, who died in 1904 aged 35.


Llanllawddog Parish Church
Da fam a phriod a fu - She was a good wife and mother. 

Margaret is one of the seven women 'who made me'. From Anne born c.1745, my 5 x great maternal grandmother, her daughter Elizabeth, then Anna, Margaret, Keturah, Alice through to my mother Joyce born in 1932, married in 1952. 200 years of women's lives that I am researching for my ongoing 'Motherline' project: they farmed, invested in Turnpike roads, were widowed and remarried, kept inns, buried their children, died in childbirth, lived to old age. Their stories are waiting to be told.