Book of the Month – Memoirs of Owen Glendower (Owain Glendower)

Posted by Tenby Museum on Dec 8, 2018 Blog No Comments


With a sketch of the History of the Ancient Britons

From the Conquest of Wales by Edward the First to the present time

Illustrated with various notes, genealogical and topographical

By the Rev. Thomas Thomas

Rector of Aberporth, Perpetual Curate of Llanddewi Aberarth, and the Author of the St. David’s Prize Essay for 1810, on the study of the Hebrew Language.

Printed by Joseph Potter, High Street, Haverfordwest – 1822


The Rev. Thomas Thomas was born in 1776 in Tre-wen, Blaenporth but his family moved to Henbant, Llandygwydd about 1785. Educated by his father and at the Carmarthen grammer school, Thomas was ordained and became rector of Aberporth after his father’s death. His wife was a native of Gloucester and his son, David Thomas Thomas, was vicar of Tre-lech a’r Betws.

The book shows the wear and tear of age, with an open-bound spine and faded blue hardboard cover opening to rough cut pages, most of which are still attached by a fold at the top and others damaged by previous owners’ use of Sellotape!

There are 240 pages (mostly uncut), with an introduction and 13 chapters, but the books starts (after the front title page) with a letter from the author to “the venerable and reverend Thomas Beynon, Arch-Deacon of Cardifan, Rector of Penboyr, &c &c” to thank him for his encouragement and friendship.

There are then 8 pages of Subscribers listed, ranging from Joseph Adams esq. in Holyland to Mrs Mildred Young of New Radnor, who “generously contributed to give publicity to a work, which the author was unable to do.”

Following this is the author’s Preface describing how the history of the Ancient Britons is divided into two periods – the time of the aborigines to Cadwalader and the time of the princes of Wales to the conquest of Edward I. Thomas states that there is “an evident deficiency in our annals; which it is the intention of this essay to supply in some measure.”

Thomas scoured historical documents and all the previous historical writings that he could find regarding Owain Glyndwr, whom he calls “the last champion for Cambrian independence” in order to make it accessible to the common reader. Thomas collected and placed the best he could, via a variety of materials, Glyndwr’s actions in chronological order. “Every insurrection, and material incident which occurred since Edward the first’s time has been concisely, yet faithfully narrated; every circumstance, affecting the Welsh collectively as a nation, impartially recorded. In recording, however, the oppression of an injured people, their unequal struggle for liberty and independence, should national warmth sometimes discover itself, an indulgent public will neither censure it as unnatural or indecorous.”

Thomas notes that due to the Napoleonic Wars, historical writers or as he calls them “antiquaries” had “confined their investigations … within the limits of their own island”, surmising that were it not for this long continental war in the early 1800s, the investigations and the wealth thereby expended on them, would have been focused on France, Italy, Switzerland or Greece.

Thomas admits that he is just a clergyman, writing from the comfort of home, using the studies of other historians and goes on to “acknowledge his authorities, and obligations to other historians who’s previous works on the subject he used to fill in blanks and cross-reference information. He felt his work was “inadequate to his wishes”, but that he had “an ardent wish to do justice to the memory of the last assertor of Cambro British rights and valiant vindicator of Welsh liberty.” Then Thomas spends the last two pages of his Preface to state that he doesn’t want any criticism regarding his literary efforts and rants about how “the censure of half critics, pretended antiquaries, and interested booksellers, shall be equally despised with the scoffs of the chartered wit.” He also explains the assistance of his subscribers in publishing the book he himself could not afford to purchase himself and hints at the possibility of a “literary friend” who deserted him in his time of need and finishes by saying, “these memoirs, can afford only the unorthodox and disloyal: who’s favour he [the author] dreads, as much as he abhors their pernicious principles.”