The Bont murder – pages 1, 2 and 3
The Carmarthen Journal’s initial account of the actual murder is short, but revealing :
The circumstances attending this murder are truly horrid; they having first beaten him with bludgeons, and afterwards returned and brutally ham strung the unfortunate man, who was, at the same time, begging for mercy; not satisfied with this, John Evans, who wore sharp pointed shoes, plated with iron, kicked him in the forehead, by which he fractured the skull; and, with the assistance of Price, threw him over a hedge.
The day after the murder, all three accused were taken to Cardigan jail where they remained until the trial on the 5th of April. On that day, Evan Evans was found not guilty, Thomas Price guilty, and John Evans guilty of aiding and abetting Thomas Price. Both were sentenced to death by hanging.
Under the Murder Act, 1752 a person convicted of murder was to be hanged within 48 hours, unless that was a Sunday, in which case the execution had to be carried out on the following Monday (Easter Monday in this instance). Thomas Price and John Evans were executed on 8th April in front of the prison at Cardigan, and this event was described in some detail by the Carmarthen Journal :
The gallows being very narrow, it was deemed impractical to execute them at the same time. Price was in consequence brought out first; he appeared perfectly resigned to his fate, and walked with a firm steady step; he ascended the ladder with seeming alacrity, and was anxious for the moment to arrive which would put a period to his sufferings in this world, scarcely allowing the executioner sufficient time to fasten the rope, before he stepped off the ladder; thus launching himself into eternity. After hanging the usual time, he was cut down, and carried back into the Goal. After some minutes had elapsed, Evans was brought out; he was less firm than Price, and appeared in an agony of despair; and with trembling step ascended the fatal ladder; his groans until he was turned off, were truly distressing. He was a fine young man, and had just attained his 18 year, with a very prepossessing countenance. Price was a strong athletic man, about 6 feet high, and was but 30 years of age.
Two other accounts, in the Cambrian and Seren Gomer, were very much the same except, of course, the Seren Gomer’s report was in Welsh.
Executions attracted large crowds. The whole spectacle of hanging and dissecting bodies was public ; the Murder Act of 1752, dictated that “for better preventing the horrid crime of murder“, those found guilty and hanged should then be delivered to the surgeons to be “dissected and anatomized” or hung in chains. It was argued that by increasing the terror and the shame of the death penalty, this would increase the deterrent power of capital punishment. The Anatomy Act, ending the dissection of murders, did not come into force until 1832.
There were probably thousands of people at Cardigan on that Easter Monday, and the place must have had a carnival atmosphere with street performers and traders everywhere. Beer sellers would have had a ‘good day’. In 1858, a crowd of 25,000 gathered early morning on the sands in Swansea to watch two Greek sailors being hung , so an estimate of a few thousand spectators at Cardigan is quite conservative. A public hanging was a not-
According to Sir Ben Bowen Thomas , printed ‘hanging-
Sir Ben Bowen Thomas (1899 -1977) was born in Ystrad Rhondda, and was educated at Rhondda Grammar School, the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth and Jesus College, Oxford. He was a Welsh civil servant and President of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth from 1964 to 1975.
Details taken from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Bowen_Thomas)
A couple of ballads were written about the ‘Bont Murder’. Stephen Jones from Aberystwyth  wrote one, called Cân Alarus, and the other was by John James of Llandysul . Both followed a well established style – a short introduction in prose, followed by a string of verses. The first two or three verses were essentially a call, or a plea for people to stop and to listen to what they, the balladeers had to say. Obviously, the main part of the ballad was about the murder, the execution and the dissection, but a few final verses were reserved for another plea – to all fellow citizens to learn from the experience of others, and to follow the acknowledged ‘paths of righteousness’. The newspaper industry in Wales was in its infancy in 1822 while the practice of ballad-
According to Stephen Jones, Thomas Price and John Evans were really ‘up for it’ when they set out to meet Twm y Gof, on that fateful night in December, 1821. Thomas Evans, he claims, was on his way home after picking up medicine for his sick child :
Hwy aethant ar ryw noswaith mewn llidiaeth eithaf llym,
A’r gydwybod wedi ei serio yn ffaelu deffro dim,
I gyfarfod Thomas Evans a ‘i fwrddro yn y fan,
Wrth ‘mofyn meddyginiaeth i’w anwyl blentyn gwan
Stephen Jones insists that Thomas Price had said many times that he would kill Twm y Gof. This was contrary to Price’s confession in court ; he placed all the blame on his father-
Thomas Price ddywedai mewn geiriau lawer gwaith
Gwnae fwrddro Thomas Evans cyn diwedd pen ei daith;
Appeliai ei gym’dogion, “O plyga, gweddia ar dy Dduw,
Na foed it’ feddwl hyny, o fachgen clafaidd, clyw.”
Ond Thomas ni wnai ‘styried am drag’wyddoldeb maith,
Ond temptio’i frawd-
yn- nghyfraith ryw noswiath at y gwaith;
Dywedai Thomas “Llidiwch, na fyddwch ddim mor llaith,
Nid oes un gŵr yn unlle a’n gweliff wrth y gwaith.”
Much of Stephen Jones’ ballad is concerned with the young John Evans and his anguish and tormented mind after being convicted and sentenced :
Dywedai’r ynad, EUOG, (a’r Rheithwyr gydag e’)
I gael eu dieenyddio a’u llarpio yn y lle;
Y bachgen oedd yn gweddio yn ddyfal iawn ar Dduw
Am faddeu ei holl feiau er mwyn y Ceidwad gwiw
Pob peth trwy’r byd foddlonai os cae e’ ddydd neu ddau
I weddio ar yr Arglwydd am faddeu iddo’i fai,
Er cymaint oedd e’n ddeisif ei golli gadd e’ yn hy,
Pwy wyr na fu i’r Iesu i wrando ar ei gri.
One verse refers to the predicament of Thomas Price’ wife, Mary Price – she had been married for just four months and was now left to bring up a young child on her own :
Mae’n drymder mawr ar wraig sy a’i phlentyn gwan, tylawd,
Un a oedd iddi’n ŵr, a’r llall iddi’n frawd,
Mae hono yn ei gwely yn glafaidd iawn, mi wn,
Yn gwaeddi am ei phriod, tro hynod iawn oedd hwn.
Apparently, her health suffered following the loss of her husband, but she did recover and the Parish Register  showed that a Mary Price of Bont Village lived to a ripe old age of 87
A ballad by John James of Llandysul was a little bit more explicit. In its description of the murder. John James said that Thomas Price and John Evans used sticks to beat their victim to death. The Great Sessions records said the weapons employed were iron bars, but both men insisted to the end that that was not so. While Price may have played the leading part in this incident, it was the adolescent, the teenager John Evans, who committed the most shocking acts. He used a knife to cut the dying man’s tendons and he was the one that kicked Thomas Evans in the head with metal plated boots, and literally fracturing and smashing his skull :
Copy ar gael
Y Llyfrgell Gymraeg
A ffyn y curwyd Thomas hyd nes i’w nerth wanhau,
Ac yno’n hanner marw ca’dd fod funidau rai,
Pryd hyn yr oedd e’n llefain yn daer wrth orsedd Duw,
Am iddo gael trugaredd trwy’r gweddaidd Iesu gwiw.
John Evans geisiodd gyllell gan Thomas Price heb ble,
Ac yno darfu dorri llinynau’i arrau fe,
Esgyd fain a phedol oedd am ei droed e’n siwr,
Â honno wnaeth e’ doedio nes briwio pen y gŵr.
While Stephen Jones refers to the dead bodies being shredded, John James of Llandysul, was a little less inhibited. In his version of the dissection process, he refers to doctors slitting the bodies – an act, he emphasized, designed to warn people of the consequence of committing a capital crime :
Doctoriaid a’i hagorodd hwy wedi’n y man
Fel gallau fod yn rhybudd i bawb oedd yn y dre
One verse, in particular, was quite graphic :
Eu gweled wrth y gorden oedd rybudd mawr i’n gwlad,
Eu gwe’d hwy yno’n ddarnau yn gorwedd yn eu gwa’d
‘Doedd hyn ddim mwy na chysgod at wel’d yr enaid noeth
Yn mynd i’r farn ro’i cyfrif o flaen y Barnwr noeth.
Both ballads conclude by exhorting the nation to take heed, and be warned of what would happen if they ‘violated the laws of God and man’ :
Dymunwn fod hyn yn rybudd i bawb sydd yma’n byw,
I weddio o’u calonnau a chadw deddfau Duw.
The Bont murder – pages 1, 2 and 3