Rebecca and the Harbour MasterIn 1843 the whole of West Wales was affected by civil disturbances known as 'The Rebecca Riots'. Instigated by the unfair cost that the tollgates placed on society, the populace rose up under the cloak of anonymity. Disguised as women with blackened faces and armed with guns axes and saws the rioters were led by 'Rebecca'. They would ride out at night and destroy the tollgates as a protest. But tollgates were not the only target. In September 1843, during the height of the riots a gang of more than twenty men dressed in the clothes of ‘Rebecca’ rode down from the village of Five roads via Penyfai and Furnace to attack the Seaside home of Llanelli Harbour Master, Captain John Pasley Luckraft R.N.

Luckraft had settled in Llanelli from Crediton circa 1841and secured his position as Harbour Master of Llanelli with the help of Richard Janion Nevill, owner of the Copperworks. Although Luckraft had served in the Royal Navy he was reported to have been a teetotaller. Probably as a result of his anti-drink stance he had persuaded the Harbour Commissioners to ban their pilots from keeping public houses and beer shops. This and other regulations caused hardship and resentment amongst the pilots, they wanted Luckraft removed! They sought the help of the Five Roads ‘Rebecca’ gang who included the notorious ‘Rebeccas’ David Davies and John Jones, alias ‘Dai’r Cantw’r and ‘Shoni Sgubor Fawr’. After meeting in the ‘Farmers Arms’ they left Five Roads along with about twenty to thirty others and arrived at the harbour master’s Seaside home on Wednesday 6th September 1843. It was about 1:30, in the early hours of the morning when they roused Luckraft from his sleep and threatened him to come to his door or they would burn his house down. All the gang wore disguises ranging from petticoats to turbans and handkerchiefs. After threatening him with an axe and guns they ordered Luckraft to leave the town and fired a number of shots at the windows of his home, shattering some of the panes. The gang then made for the nearby Copperworks where they repeatedly fired off a number of rounds into the works. Encountering a workman who had been working on the paddle steamer ‘Hercules’, they asked him in whose employ he had been. On being told, ‘in Mr Waddle’s’, they replied ‘Aha, he’s a good master’. This was thirsty work for ‘Rebecca’, so they all headed back to Five Roads via Felinfoel where they threatened a local publican into giving them ‘drinks all round’ and according to the historian John Innes, they ‘had a big drink’!

By daybreak they were back in the parlour of the Farmers Arms, where the landlord William Jenkins, gave them half a crown each as payment from the Llanelli Harbour Pilots for their night’s work. Later that day, Luckraft received the following letter …

“Mr Luckraff (sic),

This is to give you further notice that if you don’t quit these premises in a fortnight’s time we must come and remove you & I am sure it is better you went yourself than be removed by force . Signed Rebecca”

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