Welsh/Latin grammar, 1621
Roger Cadwallader was the son of a Welsh farmer, born at Stretton in Herefordshire in 1566 or 67. He was brought up as a traditional Catholic. When he was 23 he travelled to Rheims and Valladolid to study for the priesthood, and was ordained on March 26th 1590. In keeping with the policy of the time, he was sent back to his native country, where his accent and local knowledge would help him to blend in. He served the numerous Catholic population of West Herefordshire and the Welsh borders.
Henry VIII’s Acts of Union from 1536- 43 were intended to subdue rebellious Welsh independence and focused particularly on the Welsh language stating that the people of the same dominion have and do daily use a speche nothing like the naturall mother tonge used within this Realme. The Acts laid down that English should be the only language of the courts in Wales, and that speaking Welsh would debar individuals from administrative office.
By the time of Elizabeth I, the Welsh language was an important way in which Catholics could keep the practice of their religion secret from English-speaking civil and ecclesiastical authorities. All Catholic priests working in Wales were required to be fluent Welsh speakers, as many of their flock spoke English only as a second language, if at all.
This Welsh/Latin grammar was printed in 1621 and was used by 17th century Jesuits in Wales as an aid to translating Latin texts and liturgies into Welsh. Roger Cadwallader, as a native speaker, had no need of assistance with his Welsh, and as a renowned Greek and Latin scholar, would have presumably had no trouble with translation, but not every priest was as adept as he was.
For seventeen years Roger Cadwallader worked among the Welsh Catholics in his district, until Easter Sunday 1610 when he was arrested just outside Hereford and taken to the house of the Anglican bishop, Robert Bennet. The examination was searing, as Cadwallader was determined to argue his case. He refused to self-incriminate by identifying as a priest, as that would also endanger those who had sheltered him, and threw the bishop’s priesthood back in his face as invalid. The bishop retorted that Cadwallader was no real priest as Christ was the only one true priest. In which case, replied Cadwallader, he could not be a traitor if he wasn’t a priest. The bishop, silenced, took to complaining that Cadwallader had not shaved properly.
On refusing to swear to the oath of allegiance, which denied the authority of the Pope, Cadwallader was shackled and sent for trial for his life.
The trial took place in Leominster, and Cadwallader was forced to walk the thirteen miles in shackles and chains. His ringing rejection of the oath of allegiance sealed his fate and he was sentenced to death. For a month after the verdict he was kept in prison, shackled to a post and denied food.
Shin bone relic of Roger Cadwallader
Roger Cadwallader’s execution on August 27th 1610 was a shocking and brutal business, even more so than usual. It had not been possible to find a qualified executioner to undertake the task, and the grim process was carried out by two local men willing to receive the payment offered. A Jesuit, Robert Jones, attended the execution in disguise and wrote an eye-witness account in which he described how the crowd called shame on the executioners for their bungling, which added greatly to the suffering of the victim….
’when cut down from the hangman’s rope and disembowelled he had the perfect use of his senses, and they performed these operations so slowly and clumsily as to cause the most intense agony to the servant of God who during the whole time retained his presence of mind.’
This small shard of shin bone rescued from the butchery may be the only surviving relic of Roger Cadwallader. The label dates from the early 17th century and the bone was quickly smuggled out to the English Jesuits on the Continent, quite possibly to the sodality of the College at St Omers. But Cadwallader’s fame and memory were kept alive.
'The Mouse Trap' by John Formby, 1729
In 1729 a young Lancashire pupil at St Omers, John Formby, wrote a composition in both Latin and English called The Mouse Trap. The poem may well have been inspired by the relic of Cadwallader in the sodality chapel. Written to be performed in public the poem is a vibrant and humorous account of Taffy, a Welsh mouse, who infuriates the authorities by burrowing into Welsh cheese, and is hunted by a vengeful cat. The name of Cadwallader occurs in the poem as a ringing call for Catholics to rally in defence of their faith.
Alas, Taffy ended up being disembowelled by the claws of the cat.