Tom and Tom sing TSOMP at Chester Festvial 2009
(photo Liz Thompson)

I found this harrowing story in a book called The Lovers Graves, by Bethan Phillps (Gomer) and then did some research of my own. The events took place in West Wales in 1864 - at a time before there was any real understanding of post natal depression.

The point that moved me most of all was that everyone, including Mary herself, referred to the baby only as 'it.' She was in fact a little girl, named Rhoda after Mary's younger sister - during whose birth their mother (also Mary) had passed away.*

* It's possible that Mary senior actually died three years later, possibly during at least a 10th pregnancy.

May 09 - (after the song had been recorded and released).

I'm most grateful to the wonderful Mavis Hewitt, who has not only tracked down the name of Mary's husband, but established that it's just possible - though perhaps not likely - that he could have been the baby's father.

Mary Prout was 19 when she conceived in 1863, in Saundersfoot - where the 43-year-old James Rees lived with his wife, also Mary, who was then in her late 60s.

He married Prout nineteen years later, 6 years after his first wife died, and 9 years after her release from prison.* (It seems I didn't read Bethan's book carefully enough. She served only 10 years of her 20 year sentence, which better explains how she was able to have at least two more children with James; John and Mary).

If we were looking for evidence of a relationship, we might note that on her release from prison Mary returned to West Wales to face notoriety and disgrace, when she could have moved far away. (She had one sister in Durham and one on Jersey). Did she come back to be near James?

Mavis has also discovered that Thomas Prout had remarried shortly before Mary conceived in 1863. He died in 1882, shortly before Mary and James were married. If James was indeed Rhoda's father, it's possible that Thomas might have been as much a barrier to their union as James' wife.

*Mary served in first Knaphill and then Wokikng prisons, in Surrey.

G . . D . . Em . . G . .

Who would care for Mary now,

C . . G . . D . . . . .

and who would offer shelter

Em . . Bm . . C . . Am . .

From the cold and lonely night

G . . D . . C . . G . .

holding her close, and safe, for ever


D . . ....

(Thomas Prout, Collier - Father)

G . . D . . G . . . . . C . . G . . D . . . . .

When I heard the word from Saundersfoot, that my Mary was with child

Em . . D . . G . . C . . G . . . . . D . . . . .

But refused to say who lay with her, I felt my name defiled

Em . . D . . C . . G . . C . . G . . D . . . . .

Thank God her Mother never lived, to suffer her daughter’s sin

Em . . D . . G . . C . . G . . D . . C . . . . .

No, the Holy Bible is my law, I could not take her in

G . . D . . G . . . . .

How could I ever take her in?


(Hester Thomas, Workhouse Inmate - Friend)

The Union House at Narbeth, Is harsh and cruel at best

And there Mary bore a sickly child, and I laid it to her breast

But when they heard she’d people near, they told her she must go

Oh, I never saw a soul so lost - or a spirit brought so low

A spirit brought so low


(Anna Prout, Widow - Grandmother)

She comes to my cottage at Amroth. No child in her arms there lies

I say ‘so where’s this baby then?’ And suddenly she cries

‘At Union House it’s died and gone!’ But soon that’s proved unture

When the men they search the fields and pits, the worst of news we knew

The very worst of news we knew


(Thomas Allen, Barrister - Counsel for the Defence)

The Judge addresses Mary, ‘On oath you do admit

You threw your infant down the mine - how may this court acquit?’

I begged that we could not be sure it lived before it fell

But the jury’s word was ‘guilty,’ Lord have mercy on her soul

Have mercy on her soul


(William Lewis, Proprietor, Haverfordwest Telegraph)

I stand against all hanging, ‘Tis barbrous, cruel and wrong

And soon our list of protest names was eleven hundred long

For Mary’s mind was far from sound; abandoned, lost and scared

Thank the Lord Sir George Grey did agree, and Mary’s life was spared

And Mary's life was spared


(Name unknown, Husband) (now revealed to be James Rees)

I well knew Mary’s story. I knew what she had done

But still I loved her for herself, and the woman she’d become

Long twenty years she’d served her time, full twenty years to mourn

Still, as evening falls her prayers are for the soul of her first born

The soul of her first born


So I will care for Mary now

And I will offer shelter

From the cold and lonely night

holding her close, and safe, for ever