The Randells of Kidwelly and Pembrey in Carmarthenshire were sea-farers and shipowners during much of the 19th Century, initially in the coasting trade, but later involved in voyages to the West Indies, South America and elsewhere. The family, in the person of Captain Francis Randell (1772-1839), came to Carmarthenshire from the picturesque Devonshire fishing village of Clovelly, it is believed in 1797. It is known that there were Randells in Clovelly and nearby from at least the mid-16th century, but Captain Francis Randell's ancestry can at this stage be traced back just to 1739, when his grandparents Francis Randell and Emlyn Mumford married in All Saints Church, Clovelly. Two years later his father Thomas Mumford Randell was born. He married Mary Whitefield, member of a Clovelly seafaring family, in 1767. They had at least two other children besides Francis, namely Thomas (b. 1770) and James (d. 1775).
As yet little is known of the Randells in Clovelly. Thomas Mumford Randell is believed to have been the owner of the vessel HAPPY COUPLE of Clovelly in 1767, and his son Francis the master of the FRIEND's DESIRE of Clovelly in 1793. There is a family tradition that a Randell ancestor served with Nelson at Trafalgar; there were indeed two Randells on the HMS Victory at Trafalgar, a William and a Thomas. However it would appear that they both came from elsewhere.
A letter, at one time in the possession of our family, concerning the French Invasion of Pembroke, was written by a Francis Randell to his wife dated 22 February 1797 from Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, where he was "at work in the dockyards". The letter states that "The Government's mailboat from Ireland was chased by a French Frigate on Sunday but reached port safely. Our two sons, along with Thomas Manning and Henry Duning joined the Earl of Cawdor's force to round the French soldiers who landed in Fishguard last night". (This letter was reprinted in the South Wales Evening Post, 24 February 1937.) It is not clear at this stage who the author of this letter was. In early documents the family name is spelled in many different ways, such as "Randall", "Rendle", "Reyndol", etc., as well as "Randell", but all the family signatures yet traced, right back to 1767, use the spelling "Randell" that is still current in the family. The presently known Randell descendants number approximately 330. Early members of the family include:
(R155) Capt. Francis Randell: (1772-1839) He was christened in Clovelly on 29th Nov 1772, as son of Thomas Rendle, and married Rebecca Thomas on 17 January 1797, at Kidwelly. His fellow bondsman was a Robert Ashton, Mariner, of Clovelly, Devon.
A lease agreement exists, dated 23 November 1802, between "John Vaughan of Golden Grove in the County of Carmarthen and Francis Randall of the Town of Kidwelly in the County of Carmarthen, Mariner" of a "dwelling house and garden in Cawsey St otherwise Bridge St in the said Town of Kidwelly ". During 1803-1808 Francis Randell was Master of MARY of Llanelly, a 53 tons brigantine, which was a Prize from the French. This ship was owned by Hazelwood, Hathaway and Perkins, proprietors of Kidwelly Tinplate Works. The vessel would have carried tinplate, pig iron, coal, bar iron, in the coastal trade. He is known to have been Master of the ELEANOR AND CATHERINE of Llanelly, a 33 ton Sloop, from 1818 to 1821; he became Master of the ACTIVE (a 47 ton sloop built at Chepstow in 1820), on 9 February 1821 in Bristol when the ship was bought by Philip Vaughan of Kidwelly from George Buckle and William Davis. (This vessel was later lost on the Cornish coast, bound for Kidwelly/London, carrying tinplate, the crew and part of the cargo being saved.)
He (or perhaps his son Francis) was the Mr Randall in the report "The gale of Sunday night last was very severe from about E.S.E. more especially from eight to midnight. Several vessels in Milford Harbour were damaged and on shore . . . the schooner FORTITUDE, of Bridgewater, Ware, master, parted from her anchor, which was broken, and drove on board the schooner PRINCE REGENT, of Pembrey, Randall, master, carried away her bowsprit, and stove in her bows - the FORTITUDE's bulwarks and stern were much damaged and boat stove." (The Cambrian, 11 December 1830)
At the time of his death, on 15 June 1839, he was described as a Victualler, of the Hope and Anchor, Kidwelly. He left his possessions to his daughters Margaret and Mary. His tombstone is in St Mary's Church Churchyard, Kidwelly. His obituary notice in The Cambrian (22 June 1839) reads: "On the 15th inst. at Kidwelly, after a few hours' illness, aged 67, Capt. Randell whose intrepid conduct and perserverance rescued the NEPTUNE from total destruction in Carmarthen Bay during the winter of 1828. The deceased had been a respected inhabitant of the above town upwards of forty years and his peaceful life and demeanor were worthy of example." (Attempts to trace details of the NEPTUNE and of this incident have as yet been unsuccessful.)
(R279) Francis Randell: Born Kidwelly, 28 May 1800, eldest son of Capt. Francis Randell (R155). He married Margaret Williams in Kidwelly on 27 October 1822.
From February 1821 he was master of the sloop ELEANOR AND CATHERINE. This vessel was under his command on 26 Mar 1823 when it was stranded near Kidwelly. "The crew and nearly the whole of the cargo saved, but the vessel was totally lost." As a licensed Pilot (No. 32), he was complained about by Jno. Biddulph of the "New Dock Co.", Llanelly, for putting the SYRIA aground at the harbour entrance on 10 May 1836. It is likely he was dismissed, since he does not appear in later lists.
He lived in Pembrey in the Commercial Arms and later the Ashburnham Arms and according to the book "Pembrey Parish Registers" Randell Square, Pembrey, is named after him. In 1851, he was described as a Pilot, aged 50, living w. wife Margaret (48), d. Margaret (21, victualer), d. Elizabeth (18, at home), d. Rebecca (17, at home), g-s. John (6, scholar). He died in Pembrey on 15 June 1867.
(R289) Francis Randell: Eldest son of Francis Randell (R279), christened Kidwelly, 6 November 1823. Master Mariner. Mate on 'RADIANT' when he married Ann Thomas in Llanelly in 1844. In 1845, at the age of 22, he was seaman on RINGDOVE of Llanelly, at £2.15s.0d per month. He was then briefly on ARIEL of 17 tons, a pilot smack of Llanelly before joining ALBION of Llanelly as Mate in Jan 1846 again at two pounds fifteen shillings per month. Between September 1848 and October 1853 he was Master of LEONORA of Llanelly, 69 tons. The vessel was wrecked off St Ann's Head 21 October 1853, and wreckage picked up off Milford marked "Francis Randell of Leonora, Llanelly", but he was not on board, having been replaced by one John Charles. In the 1860s he owned and at times captained HENRY & DORA, MARGARET JANE, and MARY B., and had shares in PHOENIX, and SILVERLIGHT. He was master of the little Llanelly steamship UDEA circa March 1876, (when he was described as aged 53, living at Glan Mor Villa, Burry Port), until 1878. In 1879 he was briefly master of SCOTSMAN, and then briefly was on GERTRUDE. In 1880 he was master of ATALANTA of Llanelly. On May 1880 Isaac Jones, master of MAGGIE of Llanelly jumped overboard 200 miles South of the Canary Islands and Francis Randell was appointed master at Tenerife in June 1880. He remained her master until 3 September 1883 when the vessel was wrecked West of Cape Race, Newfoundland when bound from New Richmond, Canada, for Llanelly, with a cargo of timber. The crew of seven were all saved. His last known vessel was ARBITRATOR of Llanelly, February - October 1884. He died on November 22nd 1893, aged 70 years, and his tombstone is in Pembrey Churchyard.
(R312) John Randell: Eldest son of Francis Randell (R289), christened 1 June1844. Married Ellen McKiernan, d. of William McKiernan, Burry Port Harbour Master, 13 August 1868. In 1871 he was living at 1 Gelly Place, in 1881 at 13 Station Rd, Pembrey. It is believed that he moved to Swansea in the 1880s.
Master of the "ELLEN" - a sailing ship, one hundred and seventeen foot long, built at Egremont Bay in Prince Edward Island and completed on 25 June 1864, and owned or part-owned by his father. It is known that with a crew of eight including his brother Francis William aged 16, he sailed to Argentina in 1865. The Official Log Book of a voyage of the ELLEN starting 29 September 1866 and ending in London 16 July 1867, lists John Randell as master, and bitterly records several incidents of the ship going aground, under the control of a "Pilot procured by the Charterers", between leaving Buenos Aires 3 January 1867 and reaching Rosario where a cargo of 120 tons of coal was unloaded on 16 January 1867.
He was Master of FANNY ALICE of Llanelly January 1872 until her loss in the West Indies in Jul 1872, of WILLIAM AND ANNIE of Llanelly August 1872 - May 1873, of TANTIVY July 1873 - October 1875, and of WILLIAM BOWEN of Llanelly January 1876 - August 1880. He was awarded a gold chronometer for saving the crew of American HUDSON in 1878.
John Randell owned a number of vessels and in later life moved to Swansea where he became a Ship's Broker, Marine Surveyor and Nautical Assessor. His company "Randell & Co" is listed as being Coal Exporters & Commission Agents. They were shipping agents for The Somerset Dorset Rly. Co.'s Steamers, Great Mountain Collieries and proprietors of the Mynachdy Colliery in Ynysbwl near Pontypridd. The company retained a branch office in Burry Port.
(R292) Francis William Randell: Son of Francis Randell (R289) born Pembrey, 1853.
When aged 16 years he signed on ELLEN as an ordinary seaman, at £1.10s.0d per month. (His previous vessel had been HENRY AND DORA.) He served on ATLANTIC of Swansea, then as mate on FLIRT of Llanelly, September - December 1873 aged 20. In June 1874 while mate of IDA of Llanelly (December 1873 - 1874) he is recorded as having tried to rescue a man lost overboard from the jib boom, but without success. He was mate on WILLIAM BOWEN January 1876 - May 1876 at five pounds ten shillings per month, master of VINDEX of Llanelly, January - March 1877, and master of TOWY of Llanelly, April - July 1877. Finally, he was master of BURRY of Llanelly, July 1877 - 1879. He was drowned at the age of 26, along with his brother William Thomas aged 13, when the BURRY was lost with all hands off the North Foreland, August 5 1879. (His tombstone is in Pembrey Churchyard.)
(R281) John Randell: Second son of Francis Randell (R279), born 25 December 1827, Pembrey, married Mary Jones, 3 February 1850, Llanelly. He became a grocer and provision merchant , and was a part-owner of several sailing ships, including CLADA MANNING, PHOENIX and ELLEN.
John Randell's first shop was "in Market Street, abutting on Falcon Bridge. From thence he removed to premises in Water Street, and finally to large premises in the present Vaughan Street. . . A Member of the Local Board and a Harbour Commissioner for 20 years . . . A true friend of education, Mr Randell cooperated in this district with Sir Hugh Owen in advocating the claims of Aberystwyth College. He was besides one of the governors of the college at Cardiff, and also at one time was a manager and treasurer of Market Street School. Mr Randell was one of the founders of the Llanelly Village Hospital." (South Wales Press, 28 April 1897)
(R284) David Randell: Second son of John Randell (R281), born 1854. A solicitor with offices in Llanelly and in New Inn, The Strand, London, who was Member of Parliament for Gower 1888-1900. Died 5 June 1912.
He introduced into Parliament the Bill providing for the preferential payment of wages in cases of bankruptcy, and often spoke on labour and Welsh affairs. (In 1892 he was reported as saying, in a debate on County Court Judges in Wales, "if it was to be held indispensable in India that a judge should understand the language of the people in his district, a similar qualification should surely be held to be indispensable in Wales".) He was a great friend of the famous Welsh leader William Abraham, known as "Mabon", who had been elected Member of Parliament for the Rhondda in 1895.
In his 1888 Election Address he stated; "I solicit your suffrages as a Welsh Nationalist, and am in favour of the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the English Church in Wales, the Appropriation of Tithes for National Purposes, Intermediate Education for Wales, and the Establishment of a Welsh University with Power to Grant Degrees, and the Appointment ot all Administrative and Judicial Posts in Wales of Men Conversant with the Language of the People. I am also in favour of a Welsh National Executive, with Power to deal with Exclusively Welsh Questions.. . . I strongly advocate, amongst other measures, Manhood Suffrage, Free Education, the Abolition of Perpetual Pensions, Leasehold Enfranchisement, the Control of the Liquor Traffic by the People, Land Reform, including Fixity of Tenure, Free Sale, and Fair Rents; the Abolition of Gate Tolls, the Compulsory Cultivation of Land, and the Restitution of Common Lands to the People.."
David Randell "had a good practice as solicitor in his native town, and for many years acted as solicitor to the South Wales Tinplate Workers' Union. When the representation of the Gower Division became vacant in 1888 by the death of Mr. Frank Ash Yeo, the Liberal Association adopted Sir Horace - afterwards Lord Davey - as its candidate. So strong, however, was the feeling in the constituency in favour of a local candidate that Sir Horace declined to pursue the contest and Mr. Randell, the nominee of the tinplate workmen, who formed a large proportion of the electorate, was returned with a majority of 600 over the Conservative candidate. Mr. Randell proved himself an excellent member. He succeeded in carrying through the House of Commons a Bill giving to wages a preferential claim on estates in liquidation, whilst his strenuous advocacy of all progressive measures both in and out of the House resulted in his being returned at the following General Election by a majority of 4,000. He resigned his Parliamentary seat in 1900".(South Wales Daily Post, 6 June 1912)
(R159) James Randell: Second son of Francis Randell (R155), he was a carpenter who lived at 9 Lady St., Kidwelly, married Jane Williams in 1831 and died in 1869. In 1851 he was listed as a joiner and glazier who employed three men and three boys living at 9 Lady St., Kidwelly; later he lived at 8 Causey St., Kidwelly. He was a member of Kidwelly Town Council, and was possibly the Mr. Randall of Kidwelly who built the RNLI boathouse in 1867.
(R28) Francis Randell: Eldest son of James Randell (R159); a master carpenter, who was born in 1832 in Kidwelly. On 22 March 1857 when living at Crockerbtown in the Parish of St John, Cardiff, Glamorgan, he married Eliza Chappell in the Parish Church, Kidwelly, 22 March 1857. In about 1860, he was elected to the Kidwelly Town Council. After the death of his first wife, Eliza, he married her widowed sister, Eleanor Evans at the Wesleyan Chapel, Llanelly, on 26 August 1877. He had at least 13 children, and lived until he was 89.
A lease exists dated 25 March 1869 between "Rt Hon George Rice, Baron Dynevor, and Francis Randell of Kidwelly in the county of Carmarthen, Carpenter and Builder . . . of land lying North-Eastward of the Quay and Canal Head of the Kidwelly Canal between the Old Canal and the channel of the river Gwendraeth . . . containing 6940 square yards . . . for 99 years at a rent of three pounds and ten shillings [payable in quarterly installments] . . . provided that . . . he [Francis Randell] builds a steam saw mill and necessary buildings and does not build anything else such as a shop warehouse or a tavern . . ."
(R15) Henry Francis Randell: My grandfather. Third son of Francis Randell (R28), born 31 March 1870. As Bachelor, Insurance Agent, aged 33, of 160 Arabella St Cardiff, married Caroline Steward on 2 September 1903 at Wesley Chapel, Charles St, Cardiff.. Died 4 November 1936 at 9 Diana St., Cardiff, aged 66.
Brian.Randell@newcastle.ac.uk 14 Oct. 1996