Mermaid Gate

The history of the Rebecca Riots is one of the most dramatic chapters in Welsh history. Against a background of agricultural crisis and grinding rural poverty, associations known as Turnpike Trusts established a network of tollgates on country roads. Whether taking cattle to market or collecting lime to fertilise their fields, hard pressed farmers had to pay tolls at every turn.

Resentment built up over many years until 1839 when there was a sudden explosion of violence directed at a new tollgate at Efailwen in north-western Carmarthenshire. The attack, led by the stirring figure of ‘Rebecca’ was a man disguised with a blackened face, wig and women’s clothes, astride a white horse and waving a sword.

When the main Trust placed a new tollgate near the Mermaid Tavern in St Clears on 18 November 1842, it marked the start of a four month battle between ‘Rebecca’ and the authorities. Positioned to make it impossible for traffic to pass through the area without paying a toll, it was pulled down by ‘Rebecca’ and her followers within hours. The Mermaid Gate was smashed a second time on 12 December that year when seventy to a hundred men, dressed in women’s clothes and armed with scythes and guns, descended on the town at midnight. The rebuilt gate was torn down on 20 December and a fourth gate was destroyed in April 1843.

Every area seemed to have its own ‘Rebecca’ who became, and remains an almost supernatural figure - a Welsh Robin Hood. Police and troops were called in to help protect the gates but ‘Rebecca’ and her daughters were usually one step ahead of the law. The protests came to an end in 1844 when a government Commission of Inquiry led to a reform of the Turnpike Trusts and answered many of the grievances of the rural population.

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Clwyd y Mermaid

Hanes Terfysgoedd Beca yw un o'r penodau mwyaf dramatig yn hanes Cymru. Ar adeg o argyfwng amaethyddol a thlodi affwysol yng nghefn gwlad, sefydlodd cymdeithasau o'r enw'r Cwmnïau Tyrpeg, rwydwaith o dollbyrth ar ffyrdd gwledig. Wrth fynd â'u gwartheg i'r farchnad neu gasglu calch fel gwrtaith i'w caeau, roedd rhaid i ffermwyr tlawd dalu tollau'n gyson.

Gwelwyd drwgdeimlad yn cynyddu dros nifer o flynyddoedd tan 1839 pan welwyd ffrwydriad o drais mewn tollborth newydd yn Efailwen yng ngogledd orllewin Sir Gaerfyrddin. Arweinydd yr ymosodiad oedd 'Beca' sef dyn yn gwisgo wig a dillad merch, wedi duo'i wyneb, ar gefn ceffyl gwyn ac yn chwifio cleddyf.

Pan gododd y prif Gwmni dollborth newydd ger Tafarn y Mermaid yn San Clêr ar 18 Tachwedd 1842, cychwynnwyd brwydr pedwar mis rhwng 'Beca' a'r awdurdodau. Roedd y gât yn ei gwneud hi'n amhosibl i draffig deithio drwy'r ardal heb dalu toll, felly fe'i tynnwyd i lawr gan 'Beca' a'i dilynwyr cyn pen oriau. Dinistriwyd Gât Mermaid am yr ail waith ar 12 Rhagfyr y flwyddyn honno wrth i saith deg i gant o ddynion, wedi'u gwisgo mewn dillad merched ac yn cario pladuriau a drylliau, gyrraedd y dref oddeutu hanner nos. Chwalwyd y gât newydd ar 20 Rhagfyr a dinistriwyd pedwaredd gât ym mis Ebrill 1843.

Roedd gan bob ardal ei 'Beca' ei hun a ddaeth yn ffigwr chwedlonol bron, ac sy'n parhau felly hyd heddiw – rhyw fath o Robin Hood Cymreig. Galwyd ar yr heddlu a milwyr i helpu i warchod y gatiau ond fel arfer, roedd 'Beca' a'i dilynwyr un cam ar y blaen. Daeth y protestiadau i ben ym 1844 ar ôl i Gomisiwn Archwilio y Llywodraeth arwain at ddiwygio’r Cwmnïau Tyrpeg, gan ymateb i nifer o gwynion y boblogaeth wledig.

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