Cymru Historic: Dic Penderyn and the Merthyr Rising

Saturday sees the anniversary of the Merthyr Rising of 3rd June 1831 Allen Moore of Mannin branch has written this brief article on the events.
‘The people of Myrthyr Tydfil had taken to the streets to protest about unemployment and the lowering of their wages. The protests spread to neighbouring towns and villages, and the whole area rose in rebellion. As an aside, it is believed that this was the first time that the red flag was used as a symbol of workers’ revolt.
Local employers and magistrates met with the High Sheriff of Glamorgan at the Castle Inn in Merthyr. The leader of the protest, Lewis Lewis, led a group of supporters to the Castle Inn to demand a reduction in the price of bread and an increase in their wages. These demands were rejected and the protesters were advised to return home. Instead, they laid siege on the Castle Inn. The army was brought in and, after some of them were disarmed by protesters, the soldiers opened fire. Many of the protesters were killed or injured.
During the struggle one of the soldiers, Private Black, was stabbed in the leg with a seized bayonet. He survived. Lewis Lewis and his cousin, Richard Lewis (Dic Penderyn), were arrested for the stabbing. Private Black did not recognise either of the men as being involved in the stabbing, but they were sentenced to death by hanging. Lewis Lewis’s sentence was reduced to transportation to Australia, largely because of the testimony of a Special Constable, whom Lewis Lewis had shielded from the other protesters. The people of the town were convinced that Dic Penderyn had not stabbed Private Black and more than 11,000 of them signed a petition for his release. Joseph Tregelles Price, a Quaker and employer who visited the two condemned men in prison, was convinced of their innocence and gathered evidence to prove that Dic Penderyn had not been involved in the stabbing. However, the British Home Secretary, Lord Melbourne, wanted at least one of the rebels to die as an example, and despite all the evidence in his favour Dic Penderyn was hanged in Cardiff on 13th August 1831. His last words were: “O Arglwydd, dyma gamwedd” (in English translation: “O Lord, here is iniquity”).
More than 40 years later a man named Parker confessed on his death bed to a Welsh Methodist Minister in the USA that he himself had stabbed Private Black and had fled to the USA to evade capture. Another man, named Abbott, admitted to lying under oath when he testified in court against Dic Penderyn.
Over the years, a number of songs, plays and books have been written about Dic Penderyn and the Merthyr Rising. A festival is now held in the town to commemorate the rising. My own interest arose on hearing the song “Dic Penderyn” by Meic Stevens. The first version that I heard was in the rock genre, but the compilation CD “Dim Ond Cysgodion Meic Stevens – Y Baledi” includes an acoustic version.’
BERNARD MOFFATT
Public Relations Officer Mannin Branch
Issued by: The Mannin branch of the Celtic League.
31/05/17

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