A stone pillar by the side of the A40, invites the curious to stop and read. It was erected in 1841, at the instigation of the Inspector of Mail Coaches, John Bull, ‘as a caution to mail coach drivers to keep from intoxication.’
It stands at the scene of an accident in December 1835 when the Gloucester to Carmarthen mail coach, with a drunken driver in charge, was dashed into several pieces after falling 120 feet into the river below. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured and all the mail was safely delivered in Carmarthen that same night.
The passengers were Colonel Sackville Gwynne, Glanbrân, Cynghordy; David Lloyd Harries, a Llandovery solicitor; Daniel Jones of Pen-y-bont, near Llandovery; and the young son of John Kernick, manager of the Rhandir-mwyn lead mines, who was returning home for Christmas from a boarding school in Bristol.
Colonel Gwynne had quarrelled with Harries, and insisted on travelling outside the coach rather than be seated inside with the solicitor. Two miles from Llandovery, as the coach approached Melin Guto, it was travelling at breakneck speed in the middle of the road.
Suddenly, out of the darkness, a horse-drawn cart emerged, travelling on the wrong side. Although the cart promptly crossed to the proper side of the road, the coach failed to slow down and made no attempt to change its path. The horses veered to the right, jumped over the hedge and shot down a steep bank into the river Gwydderig below.
Colonel Gwynne managed to jump off as the coach went over the bank. His legs got caught momentarily in the wheel traces, but he managed to free himself. Although he was incensed, he suppressed his rage when he confronted the coach driver. “Jenkins, you are to blame for this,” were his only words.
The driver’s answer was extremely impertinent. The Colonel, in turn, exploded and expressed his sentiments by kicking the driver up the backside. Colonel Gwynne’s main concern was for a tin case full of deeds. The case also contained a draft for £850 pertaining to a suit which was pending in the Court of Chancery. The draft was found, trodden into the mud, the following day.
Within nine months, the Colonel was dead. He passed away peacefully whilst writing a letter, before setting out for Llandovery, and was buried in September 1836 at Llanfair-ar-y-bryn.
The mail coach driver, Edward Jenkins, was brought before a Llandovery magistrate, David Jones, who found him guilty of negligence, misconduct and being intoxicated, and fined him £5 with costs.
A postcard by Jeremy and Judith Hoad, who moved to live in Wernfeudw, a cottage near Farmers, in the 1960s. They produced a series of cards, including the above depicting the Mail Coach Pillar, and Soar-y-mynydd.