AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A SMUGGLER THE National Library recently purchased a remarkable manuscript auto- biography (NLW MS. 21834B) of William Owen the 'noted smuggler' who was hanged for murder at Carmarthen on 2 May 1747.1 Originally the autobiography was either written by Owen himself or dictated by him to the Rev. John Davies2 (who has attested that he attended on Owen during his confinement) whilst he awaited his execution at Carmarthen gaol. This ms. is a copy in the hand of Daniel G. Matthias whose name is inscribed inside the front cover along with the date, January 1811.3 The genre of criminal bio- graphy, whilst particularly well known in England, is rare to say the least in eighteenth-century Wales. 4 This rarity in itself makes the autobiography extremely valuable. What makes it even more valuable, perhaps without paral- lel, is the fact that it contains a transcript of Owen's trial for murder at the Carmarthenshire Spring Great Sessions held in April 1747.5 I know of no other transcripts of eighteenth-century Welsh criminal trials and this particular tran- script is precious evidence for court procedure in criminal trials in the Court of Great Sessions.6 The autobiography deserves publication in full. I am preparing an edition. For the present I do not propose to go at length into why the work was com- piled. Suffice it to say that the motivating forces were no doubt moral and financial considerations. 7 What follows then is a brief resume of Owen's autobiography. I have in the footnotes corroborated some particulars in his story and added some further evidence. Generally, the autobiography has some basis in fact, but Owen has doubtlessly exaggerated some parts in order to show himself in a more favour- able light. Further likely sources, such as the Customs records and Treasury Solicitor's papers, I have not yet had the opportunity to search. William Owen was born in the parish of Nevern, Pembrokeshire in January 1717, the son of Owen David Bowen8 (though Owen does not once name him in his autobiography) who was 'looked upon as the most substantial farmer in the said parish'.9 Owen received the best education the 'country' could afford10 but flatly declined his father's offer to send him to university in order to become a clergyman and similarly rejected an offer of an apprenticeship to an attorney. He loathed farming and insisted that he wanted to be a sailor. Thus in 1731 or 1732 he ran away from home to Haverfordwest and joined a small vessel trading with Bristol. He sailed with this ship for a year before returning