Twm o'r Nant

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Twm o'r Nant.

Twm o’r Nant was the pen name of the Welsh language dramatist and poet Thomas Edwards (January 1739 – 3 April 1810), also known as Tom of the Dingle. He was famous for his anterliwtau (interludes or short plays), which he performed mainly around his native Denbighshire.[1][2]

Edwards was born in Llannefydd, Denbighshire (now in Conwy County Borough). When a child his parents moved to Y Nant Isaf (Welsh for Lower Brook), near Nantglyn, from which he took his pen name. Edwards had little formal education: he attended one of Griffith Jones' circulating schools where he learned to read, and attended a school in Denbigh for two weeks to learn English.[1][3] However, he was eager to learn to write – he cadged writing paper and wrote with ink that he made from elderberries.[4]

In 1749 Edwards joined a local company of touring actors who typically performed on an improvised stage such as a cart. He wrote seven interludes before he was twenty years old, all of which have been lost.[2][3]

In 1763 Edwards married Elizabeth Hughes; the wedding was conducted by the poet-priest Evan Evans (Ieuan Fardd). The couple settled in Denbigh where Edwards worked hauling timber, performing in his interludes throughout North Wales, and selling printed copies of the interludes. After financial problems caused by the bankruptcy of his uncle for whom he stood surety, Edwards moved to South Wales where he again worked in timber haulage and for a time kept an inn in Llandeilo. He returned to North Wales in 1786 where he resumed his performances of interludes and became a stonemason. During 1808 he worked for William Madocks on the construction of the Porthmadog embankment.[1]

Edwards' interludes commentate on the social evils of his day, frequently referring to unpopular taxes, greedy landowners, swindling lawyers and immoral clergymen.[3] They form a link between the medieval and modern traditions of Welsh drama.[5] Edwards also wrote and published ballads, of which about 200 remain (some as fragments).[3] He wrote a short autobiography which was published in the periodical Y Greal in 1805.[3]

Edwards participated in the annual eisteddfodau of the Gwyneddigion Society (the precursors of the National Eisteddfod). His failure to win the main prize at the Corwen eisteddfod in 1789 may be due to a dispute over an impromptu composition competition with Walter Davies (Gwallter Mechain), in which Edwards was supported by David Samwell (Captain Cook's surgeon). Samwell named Edwards The Cambrian Shakespeare and gave him a silver pen as a consolation prize for having been unfairly beaten. The silver pen is in the collection of National Museum Wales.[3][6]

Edwards died on 3 April 1810 and was buried at St Marcella's church, Denbigh, where there is a memorial.[1]


Edwards' interludes were republished after his death, and a collection of six interludes were published in 1874.[7]

George Borrow devotes two chapters to Edwards in his 1862 travel book Wild Wales: Its People, Language and Scenery, including a translation of part of Edwards' interlude Riches and Poverty.[4][8]

In 1974 the Welsh playwright Dedwydd Jones published Bard : a play on the life and times of Twm O'r Nant, which was commissioned as the opening play of the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.[9][10]


  1. ^ a b c d Parry, Sir Thomas. "EDWARDS, THOMAS (Twm o'r Nant; 1739–1810)". Dictionary of Welsh Biography. National Library of Wales. 
  2. ^ a b "Twm o'r Nant's former home, Denbigh". HistoryPoints. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Lake, A. Cynfael. "Edwards, Thomas [called Twm o'r Nant] (1738–1810), poet". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/62647.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ a b Borrow, George. "Chapter 59: History of Twm O'r Nant [...]". Wild Wales: Its People, Language and Scenery. University of Adelaide. 
  5. ^ Barnes, David (2005). The Companion Guide to Wales. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Companion Guides. p. 339. ISBN 9781900639439. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  6. ^ "1789 and the Gwyneddigion Eisteddfodau". National Museum Wales. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Edwards, Thomas (Twm o'r Nant) (1874). "Gwaith Thomas Edwards (Twm o'r Nant)" [The Works of Thomas Edwards (Twm o'r Nant)] (in Welsh). Liverpool: Isaac Foulkes. 
  8. ^ Borrow, George. "Chapter 60: Mystery Plays [...]". Wild Wales: Its People, Language and Scenery. University of Adelaide. 
  9. ^ Jones, Dedwydd (1974). Bard : a play on the life and times of Twm O'r Nant. Cambridge: Land of Cokaygne Ltd. 
  10. ^ Jones, Dedwydd. "Bard" (PDF). Dedwydd Jones. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 

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