Skip to topic | Skip to bottom

The Carmarthenshire Historian


Start of topic | Skip to actions

A Poet Unearthed


Thomas Jenkins, whose poetry is not now remembered, was born in Llandeilo, in 1774, the fifth of nine children of the second marriage of the Revd. William Jenkins. The surname of his mother, Lettice or Letitia, is not known, nor is anything known about his father's first marriage, or whether Thomas had any step-brothers or sisters. At this time the father was Curate of Llandeilo-fawr and Vicar of Meidrim and Brechfa, where he probably did not serve but himself employed a curate.

Thomas Jenkins spent his boyhood in Llandeilo:
'Scenes of delight! Where pass'd my happiest hours,
On Towy's banks—in sweet Dynevor's bowers ..'

but as a young man (why and when is not known) he moved to Carmarthen, where he formed a number of lifelong friendships and where he first saw his future wife:

'E'er yet the lovely bloom of sixteen years
Adorned thy modest check....'

She was Mary Lott, daughter of Thomas Lott (1742-1842), described on his tombstone in Abergwili churchyard as 'Gent. of Carmarthen'. They must have married about 1803, and seem to have moved about in the next few years — a daughter was born in 1809 in Llangyfelach, Glamorgan, and a son Thomas, in the parish of Llanedy, Carmarthenshire in 1813.

In the 1820s the family was living in a small-holding — Brynymaen — in the parish of Llanddewi-brefi. Here again the reason for the move is not known, but there is a family tradition linking his forebears with the district. His occupation is said to have been that of Land Surveyor, and certainly, as his son's diary tells us, he was spending time away from home in 1832-3 surveying distant parishes under the Tithes Computation Act.

By the end of 1833 the father (already a widower) and his two children were moving to Carmarthen, where they lived at Penrhose, and the output of poetry was mounting. A slim volume had been prepared for the Press in 1829. Most papers — particularly the 'Cambrian' — had a poetry column, and 'T. Jenkins, Penrhose Cottage, Carmarthen' appeared under many of the entries. Apart from this there were numerous leaflets — with poems composed for the occasion — marking the passing of friends: 'Lines on the Death of Mrs. Mary Williams, Wife of Mr. John Williams, Cabinet-maker, Carmarthen', 'On the death of a Friend — Hugh Evans Esq., who died at Llandeilo', and many others.

Thomas Jenkins always associated himself with the under-dog. In 1831 he had written his 'Addresses to Poland from the Mountains of Wales' in support of her fight for freedom. One of these, we are told by a Carmarthen man1 in Warsaw, was translated into Polish and used as a rallying song. A poem 'The Orphan Girl's Tale' was the result of reading in a London paper of an orphan girl brought before the Magistrate for being found in a graveyard where her father was buried. He wrote condemning stag-hunting, the restriction of liberty, the treatment of paupers. Even 'The Picton Monument, A Poem: Written on seeing (3rd July 1833) the dilapidated state of that pile . . .'2 In 1836 another volume was ready for the Press comprising 'One Hundred Pieces on a Variety of Subjects. Including Translations from the Welsh of the well-known Bard Daniel Ddu and others, and also from the French of Sundry Authors'.3

Life, however, was not just thundering at injustices. Idealism is not usually associated with business efficiency, and on two occasions the bailiff had called at Penrhose Cottage to distrain the furniture for rent. His only daughter had died. All his poems betray a weariness with life, the loss occasioned by those who had gone before, and the sense that all was wrong with the world:
'From dreary wilds and scenes of human woes
Where all is fickle as the gale that blows—'
and, 'Not all the woes, of which I've had my share
On life's rough road . . .'

When he was sixty-two, the first of three children of his second marriage (to a Mrs. Kilner), a daughter, was born. Even this was not an occasion for total rejoicing:
'Helpless, harmless innocent
To this world of sorrow sent . .

Two more children were to follow. One daughter later married a Mr. Yeomans and went with him to the United States. The boy, James, went to Australia where he had five children, one named Kilner after his grandmother.

At the time of the Rebecca riots Thomas Jenkins's occupation was noted as 'Solicitor's clerk' and the solicitor whose clerking he did was the Chartist, Hugh Williams, believed by many to have been the organising figure behind the riots. Here again Thomas is on the side of the oppressed, and he accompanied Hugh Williams on some of his travels around the district, but before the uprisings were finished he had suffered a stroke and was on his deathbed. On the 3rd Sept. 1843 the funeral party wended its way down the river Towy by boat to St Ishmael's where — at his own request — he was buried next to Lieutenant Wm. Williams of the Brazilian Navy, elder brother to Hugh Williams, who himself was to rest in this spot later.

[NOTE : The author, Mr D. C. Jenkins, of St Austell, Cornwall, is the poet's great-grandson. — Ed.]
to top

You are here: Historian > HistorianVol11 > APoetUnearthed

to top