Evans, Thomas (1766-1833) (DNB00)

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EVANS, THOMAS (Tomos Glyn Cothi) (1766–1833), Welsh poet, son of Evan and Hannah Evans, was born at Capel St. Lilin, Carmarthenshire, 20 June 1766. His early education was of the scantiest description, but he was ambitious and perserving. He was fortunate in meeting friends in unexpected quarters, and in getting plenty of books when wanted. The prevailing theology in the neighbourhood was of the most pronounced Calvinistic type, and Evans, while yet very young, became known as a heretic, and was nicknamed ‘Little Priestley.’ In order to worship with friends of like sentiments with himself he used to walk to Alltyplaca, a distance of twelve miles. When he grew up he began to preach in his father's house, a part of which he got licensed for the purpose. In course of time a chapel was built. He was personally much respected, but his liberalism made him suspected by government. He spoke warmly and wrote largely. In 1797 he was at a social meeting, and sang ‘by request’ a Welsh song ‘On Liberty.’ On the information of a spy belonging to his own congregation he was apprehended, tried, and sentenced by Judge Lloyd to be imprisoned for two years and to stand in the pillory. Only one other person suffered in the pillory in this part of the country during the whole of the eighteenth century. He was charged with singing an English song, the fourth stanza of which ran thus—

And when upon the British shore
The thundering guns of France shall roar,
Vile George shall trembling stand,
Or flee his native land
With terror and appal,
Dance Carmagnol, dance Carmagnol.

He always denied having sung this song. During his imprisonment he met with great sympathy. In 1811 he became minister of the Old Meeting House, Aberdare, where he continued beloved and respected till his death, 29 Jan. 1833.

His first publication was probably a translation of Priestley's ‘Triumph of Truth, being an Account of the Trial of Elwall for publishing a book in Defence of the Unity of God,’ 1793. Altogether he published more than twenty works, most of them theological. In 1795 he issued No. 1 of a quarterly magazine, ‘The Miscellaneous Repository,’ which had to be discontinued with No. 3 for want of sufficient support. In 1809 he published an English-Welsh dictionary (460 pp.), compiled while in prison; in 1811 a hymn-book of a hundred hymns (104 pp.), all original. A second edition appeared in 1822.

[Memoir in Gardd Aberdâr, being the Eisteddfod Transactions of 1853; Foulkes's Geirlyfr Bywgraffiadol.]

R. J. J.