Imagine, a French invasion force, armed with swords, guns and cannons, mistaking a few hundred Welsh women dressed in their traditional scarlet shawls and tall black bonnets for British army redcoats.
It happened in the late seventeen hundreds. We had been at war with France for a few years and an attack on one of our big ports, like Bristol or Liverpool was expected. So the folk of Fishguard in West Wales were very surprised to discover one morning that the French had landed on the small beach of the village of Llandnda, just a few miles away.
After the soldiers had disembarked, anticipating little resistance in that remote part of Britain, the fleet returned to France and reported a successful landing. However the enemy had not taken into account Jemima Nicholas.
The people, on learning of the landing were very frightened, some hid behind locked doors, others fled to the hills. But not Jemima Nicholas, the local pipe smoking cobbler, known in Jemima Fawr (big Jemima) in her local pub, “The Royal Oak”, where it was said she could out drink and out wrestle most of the men. Wearing her scarlet shawl and tall black bonnet, brandishing a pitch fork, sought out the invaders, capturing twelve French soldiers and jailing them in the local church. Then marshalling the women of the town, all dressed in their traditional scarlet shawls and black bonnets, armed with pitch forks, she marched on the French. They were by now full of wine from their looting and on seeing this vast array of red and black, thinking they were out numbered by the British army, fearing for their lives, they laid down their arms and surrendered. When the militia arrived after more than a days march, the last invasion of our shores was over and the subdued only wanted to negotiate a truce.
Jemima was a heroine and in gratitude for her brave actions was awarded an annual pension of £50 which she never failed to collect until she died aged 82 years.
When you next go to beautiful West Wales, visit Fishguard and enjoy the 100 ft tapestry created by local women, said to rival the famous Bayeaux Tapestry. A section of which portrays Jemima’s single handed capture of 12 French soldiers