Thomas Jones, otherwise known as Twm Sion Catti, was born around about 1530, was the illegitimate son of one Catherine Jones of Tregaron. His father was supposed to be the local squire. It is thought that Twm enjoyed some formal education and progressed from a common thief to a clever conman.
He was Protestant by faith when Mary 1.,a catholic monarch ruled and he had to make an income as best he could and as he chose robbery as hi religion it had him marked out as a rebel already. He thus fled to Geneva to avoid the law. Returning after the ascension of a Protestant Queen, Elizabeth 1. who pardoned him for his earlier thieving. He became known for outwitting law abiding people and criminals alike. Eventually after a colourful career as an outlaw he married the Lady of Ystrad-Ffin, enjoyed her love, wealth and position, becoming a magistrate and Mayor of Brecon
In later years, his life was devoted to Welsh history and literature. Copies of his poetic works are to be found in the British Library. he was ordained a Bard of the Welsh Eisteddfod and was described by his contemporaries as “the most celebrated Herald-Bard of his day”
However, he is best known, mostly enjoyed for his escapades in his younger days which are widely recounted in oral tales,strip cartoons, plays and biographies. These adventures are joyfully told throughout Wales. One such story was when a poor friend asked him to steal a pot for him. Twm went to the local merchant, who showed him several pots, claiming there were none better. Twm declared there was a hole in one of them, when the ironmonger held it up to the light to examine it, Twm flipped it over his head, joking that ” if there’s not a hole in it, how have I such a big stupid head in it?” During the distraction the poor man made off with a pot of his choice.
On another occasion, Twm met an old man on his way to market to sell his best black cow because he had no money. He promised to help the old man get the £10 he wanted for the beast. A prosperous but mean local farmer waited until the end of the day before offering only £5 ,with little prospect of getting anymore the old man reluctantly agreed. Don’t worry said Twm, you will get the rest of the £10 tomorrow. During the hours of darkness he visited the rich farmer’s fields reclaimed the black cow, taking it the next morning back to the market for the old man to sell again. But this time with the help of a tin of paint the black cow had a white end to its tail. The mean farmer returned to the market for the second day looking for another cheap bargain, saw the old man and once again waited until the end of the day and offered £5 against the asking price £10. The old man readily accepted and with Twm walked away from the market with big smiles on their faces
Stories, the like of these, have spawned the legend of Twm Sion Catti as the Welsh Robin Hood. Where as many other stories show his thefts only to be of self benefit, like when Twm a master of disguise, dressed as a beggar when a pursuing farmer called at his mother’s house, enquiring about a bull that Twm had stolen. The so called beggar offered to hold the farmer ‘s horse whilst he entered the house.. Twm discards the beggar’s cloths, jumps on the horse, gallops off to tell the farmer’s wife that her husband is n trouble, needs money urgently and has sent Twm to fetch it with the horse to prove that the message really came from the farmer. The wife pays up. Twm now in possession of the farmer’ s horse and money hastily departs for London, later selling the horse.
Another tale recounts when Twm was staying at an inn overnight,learns that other people are planning to rob him of a large sum of money that he is carrying. So he rumours untruthfully that the money is in the pack saddle of his horse. Later when stopped by the highwayman Twm throws his saddle into the middle of a pool. The highwayman wades in to retrieve the empty saddle, Twm takes the opportunity to make off with the highwayman’s horse and his loot.
There are many more tales of this famous bandit who became much loved by the people of Wales. These stories describe him as an outlaw, conman, a Robin Hood, bard, genealogist,magistrate and mayor. From a poor illegitimate son to a pillar of society, he can certainly be described as a success.

One comment on “TWM SION CATTI

  1. moleitau says:

    really enjoyed this! I never knew he went to geneva – that must have been quite a trek in those days, and switzerland would have been a challenge to get to back then with only horseback or walking to get there. I wonder why he chose that destination to lie low?

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