A couple of weeks ago I went for a walk along the clifftops to Tresilian Bay. The last time I went down there the path was far too muddy to walk along, even in wellies, but has since baked thanks to all the lovely non-Welsh weather we’ve been having. 🙂 I parked up at Llantwit Major beach and climbed the steps to the clifftop path. It was hazy, but warm.
This is a story about a French pirate, a cave and a very pissed off Welshman.
Five hundred or so years ago, the South Wales coastline was terrorised by a Breton pirate called Colyn Dolphin. He sailed his ship called the Sea Swallow from Lundy Island off the Devon coast, was feared by sailors and soldiers alike, and – just like all good swashbucklers – towered over everyone he met and probably looked pretty fit standing atop of the bow of his ship (…what?). Anyway, as a way of making a little extra pocket money to spend on rum and new pirate boots, Dolphin started up a side-business kidnapping well-to-do sailors and then selling them for ransom.
When he and his crew boarded a ship called the St Barb and came across the then owner of St Donat’s Castle – Sir Harry Stradling – I’d imagine he was feeling pretty smug. He fenced the St Barb, sold its crew off to a few Barbary Pirate mates and well, as for poor Sir Harry, he was kept prisoner down in the greasy bilges of the Sea Swallow until his family came through with the hefty ransom.
Eventually, after selling off a few houses, the Stradlings came up with the cash and Sir Harry was set free alive… and monumentally pissed off. He plotted his revenge, keeping a weather eye on the coast for any sign of Dolphin’s ship. A year later, he got his chance. The Sea Swallow became caught in a storm and wrecked on the Nash rocks. Dolphin and his crew were captured by Sir Harry, and a hasty trial was set up in Tresilian Cave. The crew were hanged in the grounds of St Donat’s, but as for Dolphin, he was buried up to his neck in the sand of Tresilian Cave and left helpless to watch the tide slowly creep in and rise around his ears.