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The Conjuror of Ruabon - 1716 - 1806
The person of whom the following page is the subject, was named John Roberts, alias Mochyn-y-Nant, or The Pig of the Brook; and resided for many years in the Parish of Ruabon, in Denbighshire, where he died in 1806, at an advanced age.
He professed great great knowledge in the Occult Sciences, and at length acquired such a degree of reputation in what is called the Black Art, that he was looked upon as an Oracle; and was consulted by the Welsh Peasantry, on every occurrence which had the appearance of being connected with Supernatural Agency; and in whose judgement they placed the most implicit confidence.
For a number of years Mochyn-y-Nant was resorted to, by such as had the misfortune to lose any Cattle, Money, Cloaths, &c., and derived his subsistence principally for the sums he received for the communications he imparted. Not that his power was confined to the recovery of stolen goods, strayed cattle, or hidden treasure, no, he was intimately acquainted with past transactions, and predicted future events.
He conducted this part of his business with so much address and cunning, that those who consulted him were frequently impressed with a strong conviction of the truth....
Numbers pressed to him to be told that which had already befallen them: and from the accuracy in that respect, to judge of the probability of his Prophecies.. Nay, so profound was his knowledge, that he often proposed to unveil the secret thoughts of any person present: and though incredulity sometimes sat on stretched features of part of his hearers, yet those who ventured to make the trial, confessed in their turn, that he had really read their hearts, and discovered their hidden imaginations.
In cases of petty robbery, where he could not infallibly mark out the offender, he still was able to afflict him with any infirmity or disease the injured party should choose...
In fortune telling he no less excelled: no Swain or Maiden ever applied in vain, he could not only create love in the human breast, but chill it with aversion and disdain.
For these purposes he gave (or rather sold) charms, couched in dark and hieroglyphic characters, which were always in great request; particularly previous to any rustic enterprise... a hat race, or a cock fight.
Haunted houses, of which report aserts there is one, at least, in every Parish, were soon by his Magic freed from their nocturnal visitors. No Ghost possessed sufficient temerity to withstand his solemn Incantations. In vain the perturbed Spirit pleaded for the privilege of longer wandering thro' her favorite Rooms, or "visiting the glimpses of the Moon," the Conjuror was inexorable, and the disappointed Ghost was reluctantly by his command consigned to the bottom of the Red Sea.
The following laughable story is related of him; and the success which attended the enterprise, gained him not only a heavy purse, but a most brilliant reputation as a Cunning Man.... Some years ago, a lady in Wales lost a valuable diamond ring, and offered great rewards for the recovery thereof. It was however all in vain, for three of the lady's footmen had purloined the gem. The loss reached the Conjuror's ears, and he resolved to undertake the recovery of the ring. Accordingly he waited upon the lady, and stipulated for three splendid meals, previous to his restoring the lost gem, having a great desire for once to regale on luxurious fare...
Good heavens! how he ate. An attentive footman, one of the secret thieves filled him with drink; our Conjuror, gorged, exclaimed, "Tis well! I have the first!" The servant trembled at the ambiguous words, and ran to his companies. "He has found us out, dear friends," he cried; "he is a Cunning Man;" he said he had the first, what could he mean but me?" "I'll wait on him tonight: as yet you may have mistaken his meaning, should he speak in the same strain, we must decamp." At night, a supper fit for a court of aldermen was set before the greedy Roberts, who filled his paunch till he could eat no more.
The second footman watched him all the while. When satisfied he rose, exclaiming, "The second's in my sack, and cannot escape me." Away flew the affrighted robber... "We are lost!" he cried; "our heels alone can save us" " Not so," answered the third; "if we fly and are caught, we swing; I'll tend him tomorrow's meal, and should he then speak as before, I'll own the theft to him, and offer some great reward to screen us from punishment, and that he may deliver the jewel to the lady without betraying us." They all agreed...
On the morrow, the Conjuror's appetite was still the same; at last, quite full, he said, "My task is done! the third, thank God, is here!" ... "Yes," said the trembling culprit, "here's the Ring; but hide our shame, and you shall never want good fare again."..."Be silent!" exclaimed the astonished Magician, who little thought that what he had spoken of his meals, could have made the plunders betray themselves; "Be silent! I have it all."....
Some geese were feeding before the windows; he went out, and seizing the largest, forced the ring down his gullet; then declared that the large goose had swallowed the jewel. The goose was killed, the diamond found, the lady highly rejoiced and the well fed Roberts returned to his native village, liberally rewarded by her ladyship, and his fame spread through the Principality by the domestics of the family.
Such was the Pig of the Brook, and though the learned may laugh at the recital of his exploits, yet it is certain, the credulous and superstitious will lament his loss till it is supplied by some "Brother of the Trade," whose talents for imposition are equal to those he has so often to advantage displayed.
There is one thing, however, may be said as an apology for the character of a Conjuror, that he frequently caused those to deal honestly, who, but for the reported power of such people, would act in open defiance of all Laws, both human and divine; and plunder their neighbour with impunity.
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