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Welsh village to stage re-enactment of historic tollgate attack that sparked Rebecca Riots

14 Jul 2023 3 minute read
Efailwen tollgate – ‘The Welsh Rioters’, Illustrated London News, 11 February 1843

A re-enactment of an historic attack on a tollgate by men dressed as women will be staged in a west Wales village by Welsh actor, Rhodri Ifan.

The performance will depict the moment in Welsh history when armed men with blackened faces and disguised in women’s clothing descended on the village of Efailwen to destroy the new tollgate.

The gate sat on the border between Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire and was erected in 1839.

It was used by those carrying lime back from the coast and protesters viewed it as a symbol of economic oppression.

The attack on the gate was the first of many that continued on throughout west Wales until 1844 and became known as the Rebecca Riots.

Although it is not known why the Rebecca rioters were named so – one story states that a local woman named Rebecca lived near the original group at Efailwen and had clothes that were large enough to fit the burly men.

On Monday evening at 7pm [July 17] outside Caffi Beca on the main Cardigan to Narberth highway, Rhodri Ifan will play the part of ‘Twm Carnabwth’ (Thomas Rees), the leader of the local insurgents.

The actor played the lead part in the recent S4C film ‘Swn’ based on Gwynfor Evans’ campaign to establish the Welsh language television channel.

He will be aided by ‘rioters’ dressed in women’s clothes with blackened faces as they were at the time when the gate was destroyed.

The re-enactment will herald the start of a campaign to erect a bronze statue of Thomas Rees outside the cafe.

The event will be held on the same date as the third and final attack on the tollgate in 1839 before the authorities finally gave in to the farmers’ grievances.

Organisers say that S4C’s Heno will be broadcasting live from the event.

Challenge

A choir of local schoolchildren will take part as well as renowned tenors Trystan Llyr and Teifryn Rees who will sing Twm’s favourite hymn ‘Iesu difyrrwch f’enaid drud’.

Campaign secretary, Hefin Wyn said the sculpture will be a challenge to any sculptor as there are no photographs of Twm Carnabwth available to work from as is usual with such commissions.

“Much imagination will be required to depict Twm as a resolute and fiery character who was determined to correct social injustice,” he said.

He added the campaign was very much community led as Twm Carnabwth is very much a local hero whose exploits led to radical changes in the late 19th century.


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Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
8 months ago

No doubt some politically correct egregious individual will object to the historically accurate face blackening. Perhaps as a token gesture they could use blue or green to avoid being picketed by such people…

wayne
wayne
8 months ago

The name Rebecca means tied in Hebrew. The mother of Jacob She broke the chains and her daughters would claim back the land. So a religious wales adopted Rebecca (Chains that broke) and dressed up as her daughters reclaiming the land. Will Rebecca Return in September. Time for Chang. Time for Gwlad.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
8 months ago

There are two versions as to the origin of “Rebecca” First of all, many stories omit the fact that the “Rebecca” attack was actually the third on this gate. Twm Carnabwth was a very big man and no dress could be found for him. Nearby lived a large lady, who’s name was Rebecca and she lent Twm a dress. It is believed that fellow rioters called Twm Rebecca out of fun, he being dressed in Rebecca’s dress. Interestingly, in the first of the later riots at Sancler, the rioters called their leader “mother.” The second theory (which has gained much… Read more »

Hefin Wyn
Hefin Wyn
8 months ago

Rebecca was Rebecca Phillips who lived at a small homestead called Mynyddbach about a mile to the west of Carnabwth as the crow flies. This has been confirmed by one of Twm’s cousins, Stephen Rees, in an article printed in the Tivyside Advertiser, a Cardigan publication, in February 1911. The initial naming had nothing to do with the Biblical verse. It was later that the connection was made with the Book of Genesis when the The Times correspondent, Thomas Campbell Foster, was sent to report on the insurrection when it took hold in the Gwendraeth Valley. And yes, Rev David… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by Mark Mansfield
Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
8 months ago
Reply to  Hefin Wyn

Good to hear that there will be a re-enactment. Perhaps it will encourage folk to think about fighting back against current injustices imposed on Cymru by the Westminster Tories.

Last edited 8 months ago by Peter Cuthbert
Hefin Wyn
Hefin Wyn
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

Perhaps indeed. Perhaps we need another Parch David Rees (not Daniel as I mistakenly said above) . . .

Christina
Christina
8 months ago

When does the reenactment start and end please?

Sarah
Admin
8 months ago
Reply to  Christina

Hi Christina, it starts at 7pm and Heno will be broadcasting live.

Christina
Christina
8 months ago
Reply to  Sarah

Diolch!

Jan Schultz
Jan Schultz
5 months ago

Read the latest book about the Rebecca Riots, No Ordinary Convict: a Welshman called Rebecca by Janine Marshall Wood (great-great-granddaughter of John Hughes). Available as an Amazon e-book or through the Australian publisher, Forty South Publishing, Hobart. We need a Welsh publication!

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