During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), many men from Wales (and indeed the rest of Britain and the world) joined the International Brigades to go and fight against Franco’s fascists.
One such man was Tom Jones, from Rhosllanerchrugog, near Wrecsam.
Tom was a miner, who worked in various collieries in and around Wrecsam. His experiences working in the mines forged his political views, leading him to join the Labour Party, and also, for a period of time, the Communist Party.
In 1937, telling his parents that he was going to Colwyn Bay for the weekend, Tom made his way to Spain to join the International Brigades. There he joined the elite anti-tank battery.
At the final battle, on the river Ebro in July 1938, Tom was badly wounded and captured by fascist forces. He was taken to the infamous Burgos prison, where he shared a cell with Irish Republican Frank Ryan. Whilst at Burgos, Tom was sentenced to death. This sentence was eventually reduced to thirty years’ imprisonment, although Tom’s family believed he was dead.
However, in March 1940, Tom was released from Burgos as the result of a deal between the British and Spanish governments. The cost of Tom’s was release was £2 million, a huge sum for the time, which was paid in soap. It is believed that Tom carried a communication from Frank Ryan to the IRA council in Dublin after his release.
Upon his return to Wales, Tom became known by the nickname Twm Sbaen (Tom Spain), the name that he has been immortalised by. He became heavily involved in the trade union movement, specifically the Transport and General Workers’ Union, where his hard work and dedication would lead to him to become a full time officer and later the regional secretary.
Tom later went on to become one of the major motivating forces in creating the Wales Trade Unions Council in 1972 and it has been said that few have contributed as much as Tom did to the building and strengthening of trade unionism in Wales.
Tom died in June 1990, aged 81, yet his legacy lives on.
Last year marked the 80th anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War, and a small group of comrades from Wrecsam and across North Wales came together to put on an event to commemorate Tom’s life and the politics he stood for.
Thus Gŵyl Twm Sbaen Festival was born. A day of music, film, poetry, talks and workshops, generously funded by Unite the Union, marked the event and celebrated this local hero, sharing his story with new generations and reiterating that Tom’s fight continues today.
This year sees Gŵyl Twm Sbaen Festival return, this time as a two-day event, again generously funded by Unite the Union, in order to carry on telling the tale of this remarkable man who fought so proudly for his class, both at home and abroad.
For more information about Gŵyl Twm Sbaen Festival, you can get news and updates via social media at;
Facebook.com/twmsbaen Twitter.com/gwyltwm Instagram.com/gwyl_twm_sbaen