Owen, John Gwynne Herbert – 1863

April 18th 1863

Awfully Sudden Death of JGH Owen Esq., Solicitor

An awful instance of the uncertainty of human life occurred in this town (Pontypool) on Tuesday last.
On that day Mr Owen proceeded to Cardiff to attend our County Court. He alighted from the train at the Clarence Railway Station and went to the Clarence Hotel where he partook of some refreshments and afterwards proceeded towards the Court.
Alas! Who would have thought before he reached the Court of Justice, which he had business to transact, “the strong arm of death” would arrest him and that the next Court before which he would plead would be that presided over by the Judge of All? But such was the case.
Upon ascending the steps in front of the town hall Mr Owen fell and expired almost instantaneously. He was removed into the reading room of the Literary Institution and medical advice instantly summoned.
After the lapse of a few minutes Mr Lawrence and Mr Essex were upon the spot but their services were of no avail, life being quite extinct.
The friends and relatives of the deceased were communicated with by telegraph and in the course of a few hours his brother, Mr David Owen, surgeon of Newport, arrived upon the scene, at which he seemed deeply affected.
About eight o’clock in the evening deceased was laid in the shell of his coffin and on the following day, about two o’clock was removed to his residence at Goytrey, where an inquest was fixed to be held this day (Friday.)
It is the opinion of the medical men that the deceased died from either disease of the heart or apoplexy, we understand for some time past he had complained of pains in his chest and that he had a presentment that he would die suddenly from disease of the heart.
Indeed, some days before his decease he sustained a fall from his horse in consequence from an attack of the disease which is supposed to have caused his death.
Mr Owen, who claimed decent from the royal blood of old Cambria, (the celebrated Owen Glendower, the last prince of Wales being amongst his ancestors) was, we believe, born near Abergavenny from which place he was removed in infancy to Monmouth, where he was articled to the legal profession and where he practised for some time as a solicitor.
He first brought himself into notice during a serious and protracted strike among the colliers on the hills, by his Ernest advocacy of their cause and by continuing this course of conduct he eventually succeeded in obtaining their confidence so entirely that he was appointed their “Attorney-General” and their united contributions furnished a very considerable emolument for his services.
Having once established his reputation as a friend of the poor man he had no lack of clients among the humbler classes, who’s cases he was always ready to undertake and his experience, tact and confidence enabled him to gain their cause when it seemed almost hopeless.
His increased practise led to his removing from Monmouth and for many years he has resided at Goytrey, having also a residence in Cardiff and offices at Newport, Pontypool and other places and an extensive practise throughout the mining districts.
We are glad to hear that his family are not unprovided for, Mr Owen having, in addition to other means, insured his life for £1,000.
Mr Owen’s appearance is too familiar to need a description but we may state that he was apparently in the prime of life, though in his 60th year, he was 6ft 3in in height; and proportionally bulky, he had a pleasant look and a bold, commanding presence and no man inherited a greater right from nature judging from his phrenological developments, to plead in palliation of any particular foibles to which he may have been liable, the deprecatory language of Robert Burns.

“Thou know’t that thou has formed me
With passions wild and strong
And listening to their watching voices
Has often led me wrong”

(John Gwynne Herbert Owen lived at Oak Cottage Goytrey with Mrs Kingston, the daughter of Rev John Evans, rector of Llanover, by whom he had two sons, David and Johny)

In 1840 John Owen became quite famous when he defended the chartist leaders, Frost, Williams and Jones at the special commission in Monmouth when he detected a flaw in the indictment that had escaped the notice of his Majesty solicitor and Attorney General then sitting in judgement on the prisoners.

He began a petition addressed personally to her majesty which was signed by clergy, magistrates, and all denominations of christians to the secretary of state for the communication (?commutation) of their sentences but without avail.

Inquest – April 25th at Goytrey Cottage
ED Batt Esq., Coroner and the following gentlemen:
Thomas James, foreman
Thos. James jnr
J Walters
Wm Walters
Wm Price
John Daniel
George Coles
John Williams
Wm Lewis
J Marshall
John Jenkins
Walter Davies
Mr James We are deposed: I was standing outside the Town Hall, Pontypool about 11 o’clock in the morning of Tuesday the 14th inst., talking to Mr Conway and other gentlemen when Mr Owen came up and shook hands with several persons present.
Shortly afterwards I saw him seize hold of the iron gate at the entrance and perceiving that he was sinking I caught him in my arms and prevented him falling. He spoke a few words in a very faint voice relative to someone going for a doctor, adding “but its too late now.”
He was carried to a room at the Town Hall and died about a quarter of an hour after he was first attacked. I remained with him until he died.
Supt M’Intosh informed the coroner that Mr Weare was the only witness thought necessary to produce and added that he himself was present when deceased was attacked, he could if required give corroborate evidence.
The coroner said he did not think any additional evidence was necessary and as the deceased had been well known to the jury, expressed themselves perfectly satisfied with the evidence produced and returned a verdict that the deceased died from natural causes.
On Monday the remains of the lamented gentleman were interred at Llantilio Pertholey near Abergavenny to which place they were followed by a numerous body of friends and relatives.


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