Thomas Rees (Twm Carnabwth)

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Depiction of the Rebecca Riots, Illustrated London News 1843

Thomas Rees (c.1806 - 17 November 1876), generally known as Twm Carnabwth, was a leader of the first "Rebecca Riots" in 1839.

Nobody knows who called the meeting in the barn of Glynsaithmaen farm in the Preseli hills, and nobody knows who attended. But the man selected to lead the attack on the new toll-gate at Efail-wen was the 33-year-old red-headed Thomas Rees [1]

The first attack took place on 13 May 1839 with Twm and some of his followers dressed as women. On 6 June 1839 there was a second attack, the gate was again destroyed and the tollhouse set on fire. Despite the frantic efforts of the authorities, the mobilisation of the Pembroke Yeomanry and the taking of the 80-year-old Efailwen blacksmith in chains to Haverfordwest gaol, Twm was not identified and no convictions were obtained.

Twm was a large man, religious and excitable. He was chief reciter of the "Pwnc", the catechism of the points of the Scriptures in his local chapel on Whitsun Sunday, and had done so the day before the first attack. And he was a keen participant in the traditional justice of the "Ceffyl Pren" (literally "wooden horse"), a form of public humiliation by which adulterers, harsh landlords and the fathers of bastard children were punished. The use of blackened faces and women's clothing was a well-established part of the Ceffyl Pren.

Twm's action terrorised the local magistrates and the owners of the toll-gate into submission, and these particular gates were not replaced.

It was three years before Thomas Bullin of the same hated Whitland Trust put up a new gate just outside St Clears. It was destroyed a few hours later by a re-enactment of Efailwen and a new Rebecca in woman's clothes.

Thomas Rees died aged 70 and his grave-stone stands in his beloved Bethel Chapel at Mynachlog-ddu.

"Er cof am THOMAS REES trial o'r plwyf hwn bu marw Med 17 1876 yn 70 oed Twm Carnabwth"

"Nid oes neb ond Duw yn gwybod/ Beth a ddigwydd mewn diwrnod. Wrth gyrchu bresych at fy nginio,/ Daeth angau i fy ngardd i'm taro"

"No one but God knows what may happen in one day. While fetching a cabbage for my dinner, death came into my garden and struck me"


  1. ^ "And they blessed Rebecca" by Pat Molloy, ISBN 0-86383-031-5. Published by Gomer Press, Llandysul, Dyfed

External links[edit]

  • [1] - "Brother Beca", district of Rebecca.