Saturday, 4 October 2014

Dic Penderyn

When I was in Cardiff earlier this week, I went into the Indoor Market, and noticed a blue plaque by the door:

(Click to make bigger)

The Merthyr Rising was more than just a riot - the coal miners who were protesting about low wages, high unemployment and the price of bread took over the town for about eight days, setting up road blocks and forming their own paramilitary organisation. They even managed to ambush the baggage train of the 93rd and beat off a hundred cavalry, while the coal mine owners and other members of the ruling elite were trapped in Penydarren House, guarded by members of the 93rd Highland Regiment, who had been forced to retreat there, leaving the rest of the town to the rioters. The authorities must have been having nightmares about the French Revolution starting again in Wales.

It seems that poor Dic was a scapegoat - the authorities wanted to hang someone after the riots in Merthyr Tydfil, and it didn't matter who. 11,000 people signed a petition pleading for his release, and there were appeals for clemency from members of the Welsh establishment, all of which was ignored by Lord Melbourne, the Home Secretary. He was hanged outside the gaol on St Mary's Street in Cardiff, not far from the plaque. He was only 23. Thousands turned out for his funeral, and he was widely regarded as a martyr.

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