D‘ai’r Cantwr’ was one of the most notorious ring leaders during the civil disturbances known as Rebecca Riots. In 1843 he had led or had been involved in a number of attacks on targets in the town and district of Llanelli. David Davies or Dai’r Cantwr as he was called is said to have been born in Llancarfan, Glamorganshire in about 1813 [a]. Davies has been described by number of authors as being employed as a farm labourer, a quarry worker, a contractor and industrial worker. He also appears to have taken up a religious cause at some time, as he is reported to have been a Wesleyan Preacher.

Davies is best known by the alias of Dai’r Cantwr. A name he is supposed to have been given because he had been a ballad singer or a poet, but perhaps another explanation could be that he had been a choirmaster because he had described himself as a person who taught them to sing at church[b].

It has been reported that Dai’r Cantwr had taken part in attacks on the Llanelli Harbourmaster’s house, the Spudder’s Bridge Tollgate, the burning of the hayricks of William Chambers’ farm at Gelligylwnog. He was also involved in the attack on the manager of the Pontyberem Ironworks.

On 24th Sept 1843, the Justice of the Peace of Llanelli, Richard Janion Nevill and the Magistrate’s Clerk Fredrick Lewis Brown, issued two warrants for the arrest of both David Davies alias Dai’r Cantwr and John Jones alias Shoni Sgubor Fawr. William Francis with the assistance of the London Metropolitan Police searched the village of Five Roads and the district of Cynheidre for both outlaws. The first to be found was Dai’r Cantwr. He was seen at their usual haunt at the Stag & Pheasant Inn, but by the time the authorities had caught up with him he had moved on to the nearby Plough & Harrow Inn where he was arrested.

According to William Francis...

Two or three officers were placed at the back door and the deponent (Francis) seized Dai who was sitting near the corner by the fire, handcuffed him, and handed him to the officer. They procured a horse and cart from the man of the house and took Dai along the Llanelly road as far as the road leading from Trimsaran to the top of Pembrey Mountain. There they left him under the care of 3 or 4 officers and searched for Shoni. Not finding him they returned and took Dai to the Llanelli Union Workhouse (Bryntirion). The next day he was taken to Carmarthen gaol.
The Llanelly Workhouse at this time housed the troops that had been deployed in the area as a result of the disturbances.

A Blue Plaque has been installed on the house that was formally the Plough & Harrow, commemorating its connection with the Rebecca Riots. It has been sponsored by the Llanelli Rural Council and will form part of Llanelli Community Heritage’s Blue Plaque Trail.

Notes and Citations

[a] The Rebecca Riots David Williams (1955) p247
[b] Williams p248