Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jones, Thomas (1530-1620?)

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JONES, alias Moetheu, THOMAS (1530–1620?), Welsh bard and genealogist, commonly known as Twn Shon Catti, was, according to a pedigree dated 30 Dec. 1588, and supplied by him to Lewys Dwnn, a natural son, not, as generally supposed, of Sir John Wynn of Gwydir, but of John, the son of David ap Madog ap Howel Moetheu, by Catherine, a natural daughter of Meredydd ap Ieuan. ‘Twm’ must have been born before or about 1530. It is probable that in his younger days he gained considerable notoriety by sportive escapades, and possibly by irregular freebooting habits, the memory of which, coupled with his superior wisdom and his knowledge of what then appeared as the occult science of heraldry, formed the basis of the popular and traditional representation of him as a bandit and magician. It is stated (Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ii. 12) that there exists a pardon granted to him under the great seal, and dated 15 Jan. 1559, forgiving him ‘omnia escapia et cautiones.’ The maturer years of his life were devoted to the study of Welsh history and literature. He is said, though on doubtful authority, to have been present as an ordained bard at an Eisteddfod held at Llandaff in 1564. The first really authentic account of him is that given by Dwnn (Heraldic Visitations of Wales, i. 7, 45, 46), who describes him, under the date of 1588, as a man of good family, his armorial bearings being those of Gwaethvoed, prince of Ceredigion. By rank he was probably a respectable yeoman. He lived till his death at Porth y Ffynon, or Fountain Gate, near Tregaron, Cardiganshire.

He appears to have been employed by the chief Welsh gentry in his own part of the country to draw up their pedigrees, and most of those for the upper part of Cardiganshire were probably copied by Dwnn from manu- scripts in Jones's possession. He is also spoken of by Dr. John David Rhys, his contemporary, as ‘the most celebrated, accomplished, and accurate’ herald-bard of the day (Rhys, Welsh Grammar, published in 1592, p. 303). In an undated petition (before 1612) to Robert Cecil, lord Salisbury, Jones stated that Lord Burghley ‘did recon me to be his kinsmane, for that he was descended from my greate-graunfather, Howell Moythey’ (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. 1611–18, p. 130). Portions of the Tonn MSS. (vide infra), dated 1620, are supposed to be in Jones's autograph. He was probably over ninety years of age when he died.

Besides the pedigrees supplied to Dwnn, there is among the Tonn MSS. at the Cardiff Free Library a small volume, of which at least 171 folios are in Jones's own handwriting. Another folio book, of three hundred pages, also written by him, is mentioned in the ‘Cambrian Quarterly Magazine,’ ii. 225. Two pedigrees in his autograph exist at Dynevor, Carmarthenshire, and another is preserved at Nanteos, Cardiganshire. The third series of the ‘Triads,’ printed in the ‘Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales,’ is said to be from a manuscript written by Jones in 1601. He was also a fair poet, and an ‘Ode to Grief’ (‘Cywydd i'r Gofid’), written by him, is included in Meyrick's ‘Cardiganshire,’ p. 249. Other poems composed by him are preserved at the British Museum (Add. MSS. 14907, 15008, 15056).

In local tradition ‘Twm’ has been unwarrantably regarded as the ‘Welsh Robin Hood.’ His headquarters are identified with a mountain recess, still known as ‘Twm Shon Catti's Cave,’ near Ystradffin in Carmarthenshire. He is also erroneously represented as having married, by means of a stratagem, Joan, daughter of Sir John Price of the Priory, Brecon, known as ‘the heiress of Ystradffin,’ and is said to have removed to live at Brecon, and to have become a magistrate for that county and high sheriff for Carmarthenshire (where, according to his petition to Cecil, he had ‘a hundred pounds a yeare;’ cf. Williams, Eminent Welshmen, p. 261; Nicholas, County Families of Wales, i. 272–3). Such traditions were collected by Meyrick, in his ‘History of Cardiganshire,’ 1810, pp. 247–51, and were developed, utterly regardless of chronology, by W. F. Deacon [q. v.], in a sketch called ‘Twm John Catty, the Welsh Robin Hood,’ included in ‘The Innkeeper's Album,’ London, 1823, 8vo, and in a play by the same author, entitled ‘The Welsh Rob Roy,’ and performed in 1823 at the Coburg Theatre. In 1828 T. J. Llewelyn Prichard published what he described as the first Welsh novel, under the name ‘The Adventures and Vagaries of Twm Shon Catti,’ Aberystwith, 12mo, 3rd edit. Llanidloes, 1873.

[The two chief contemporary authorities are Lewys Dwnn's Heraldic Visitations of Wales (ut supra), edited by Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick for the Welsh MSS. Society, Llandovery, 1846, 4to, and John David Rhys's Cambrobrytannicæ . . . Linguæ Institutiones et Rudimenta, p. 303, London, 1592, fol. For later accounts, see Cambro-Briton, ii. 212; Ystradffin, a Poem, with Notes by Mrs. Bowen, pp. 185–7; Egerton Phillimore, esq., on the Tonn MSS. in the Welshman, 18 July 1891; Brit. Mus. Cat.

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