Every self-respecting nation has a notorious rogue. Ours is Twm Sion Cati, the Welsh Robin Hood. He was born on the border between Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire in a rural town called Tragaron around 1530. Twm was the illegitimate son of Sion ap Dafydd ap Madog ap Hywel Moetheu and Catrin, the illegitimate daughter of Maredudd ab Ieuan ab Robert of the Gwydir Estate in Caernarfonshire. Children out of wedlock were not stigmatised by Welsh Society during this period, and it would seem that his father acknowledged Twm, and indeed made him his heir. His Welsh name Twm Sion Cati takes the 'Cati' from his mother's name - Catrin; however, later in life he was to use the English styling of his name Thomas John or Jones.
Just as Twm has two names - one Welsh, relating to his maternal lineage, the other a more formal anglicised version of it, so too was his life split into two distinct halves. During his youth we know him as Twm Sion Cati, the witty rogue, outlaw, trickster and highwayman who took from the rich to benefit the poor. A legal pardon for all his misdemeanours obtained from Queen Elizabeth I in 1559 forms a watershed in his life. From that point on, he becomes the gentleman herald, antiquary, poet, mayor and local nobleman more suited perhaps to his formal English name of Thomas Jones - which he seems to have used more and more during the latter part of his life.
Stories of his escapades range from tall tales of Twm outwitting merchants and wealthy landowners through stealth and comical intrigues, to more amorous adventures with the wives of local landowners and noblemen. We know that he married twice. His first wife Ann was the daughter of Hugh ap Lewis ap David, a descendent of the line of Tewdwr, the last king of Deheubarth (south-west Wales). Together they had two sons John and Rees, and a daughter Marged or Margaret. He also had an illegitimate son known as John Moy or Moetheu. Furthermore, in his seventies Twm wooed - by rather dubious means - and wed Johan, the widow of Thomas Rhys Williams of Ystradffin.
Twm Sion Catti is one of the most colourful, ingenious, witty, clever, roguish and eccentric characters ever to have been celebrated in Welsh folklore, and well deserves the genuine warmth and indulgence with which he is regarded by the people of Carmarthenshire and indeed, the whole of Wales.
Many of the stories about Twm are known to us today thanks to TJ Llewely Pritchard who gathered the tales and set them as a novel. 'The Adventures and Vagaries of Twm Shôn Catti' was first published in 1828. It was a great success and a Welsh language translation followed shortly afterwards.