Additional information on Henry Tremble

Henry Tremble – 20 April 2009

I was always concerned that when the book  finally went on to the shelves I would find out that I had written something  wildly inaccurate, That I was guilty of perpetrating a significant inaccuracy. I  have constructed all the stories carefully to maintain interest and extract the  drama. But what if I was wrong? What if I was committing an injustice or  perpetrating inadvertently a lie.
So you can imagine my concern when I  received an email from Christopher Challener.  Now, Mr. Challener is a highly respected chef  and food writer. He has his own website and I can certainly recommend it to  you. There are some excellent recipes there.

Click here to go to Chris Challener’s  website.

Most importantly for my purposes he is also  the great grandson of Henry Tremble.
Henry was the butler who shot his employer  John Johnes in Caio in 1876 and you can find my version of the story on page 120.
Mr. Challener pointed out one glaring error  which I feel very guilty about. The caption to the picture on page 122 is  completely wrong. What is identified as The  Sexton’s Arms, the pub that the Trembles ran is in fact The Brunnant Arms. Indeed, you can see the name in the photo. It  is a bad mistake that I should have identified in the proof reading stage. He  also told me that Charles Cookman, John Johnes’ son in law died in Wales, not  in Ireland as I suggest.
It was a notorious crime. The sort of story  that provoked a thrill of unease amongst a Victorian readership, always aware  that the unrest and political turbulence that swept Europe was only a gunshot  away. Tremble was demonised as the ungrateful and unbalanced servant who ran  amok, killing his indulgent and caring employer.However Mr Challener has  provided new information which is really interesting and I am very grateful for  this. I only wish I had an opportunity to amend the book.
Mr. Challener points out how small The Sexton’s Arms was – nothing more  that someone’s front room. There are still places like this across Wales – The Eagle Inn in Llanfihangel ar Arth  where they held the inquest for poor Sarah Jacob ( see page 108) is exactly  like this. The work in the pub was carries out largely by Henry’s wife Martha,  since he was obviously very busy as a butler. Now there are a couple of  conclusions you can draw from this. Firstly, it would have been a big step to move  from this kind of enterprise to running a proper inn like The Dolaucothi Arms. You can understand that John Johnes might have  had second thoughts about granting him the tenancy. Certainly he offered it to him  and then changed his mind. This may have fuelled a sense of simmering  resentment.
Furthermore, the details about the pub help  in other ways too. First of all, Martha drank rather more than she should,  which may not have filled Johnes with confidence. And of course her job as a  barmaid, serving drinks to men, might explain where Henry got the idea that she  might be unfaithful. It is all part of the heady mix that pushed him over the  edge.
The key factor was Henry Tremble’s real  sense of betrayal. He had served the family loyally and yet when he wanted  something, perhaps to pull his life back into order, they turned him down. He’d  done so much for them. Mr. Challener tells me that when they were in Ireland he  would carry a drunken Charlotte up to bed when she couldn’t manage it herself.  He was so much a part of the family. He knew their secrets and yet they were ready  to cast him aside.
There is no doubt that he intended to kill  Charlotte and John Johnes and then kill himself. These things are clear. And he  has been rightly condemned. But we have to try to understand the experiences  that shaped him and which pushes a loyal and respected servant to act as he  did. He hadn’t spent his entire life waiting for the moment to kill them.  He lost his hold on things, and to paraphrase  W. B. Yeats, released anarchy into the world.
I remain extremely grateful to Mr. Challener  for what he has told me. I think he has helped me achieve a better  understanding of the horrible events. I am glad too that someone was ready to  redress the balance and to offer some mitigation. The events of that awful day  are filtered through the words of Charlotte Cookman. No one tried to understand  Henry Tremble.
Perhaps we all should try harder.


  1. Thankyou for your previous response, I now have a copy of the book, which I am enjoying very much. Chris Challeners website does not appear to be working now. I have tried contacting him for further details of his family in Ireland on facebook and linked in, since they may link into mine, but without results. Do you have any other contact details please?

    1. Thank you for your message Malcolm. I hope you are well in these strange days. I am afraid I have no additional contact details I am afraid.
      Stay well and look after those around you
      Best wishes

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