The time the 19th Century; the place Merthyr Tydfil.
It was a period of poverty and prosperity. The workers, poor, living in narrow streets of low badly maintained cottages. The Ironmasters and Coal Barons in their lavish luxury towers.The lives of the workers lived in the darkest depths of the mines to the satanic skyline of the fiery furnaces,providing bare subsistence. , when survival was screened as success.
The people of Merthyr Tydfil became incensed by these harsh conditions, redundancies, cuts in wages and the last straw, the bailiffs moving in to repossess the goods of the unemployed.
In 1831,riots broke out in the streets.There being no police at that time, soldiers were called in to regain control.Mayhem ensued when the rioters charged the soldiers in front of the Castle Hotel. The soldiers fired on this rushing mob, killing sixteen rioters. Whilst no soldiers received bullet wounds one soldier was injured with a stabbing in the leg. He did not die and failed to identify his assailant .
Nevertheless, Richard Lewis, colloquially known as Dic PENDERYN and his relative Lewis Lewis with whom he was lodging at the time in PENDERYN were arrested for the assault.
Richard Lewis was not even one of the rioters but was well known as a working class leader, enjoying a reputation as a fighter for workers rights, losing his job on more than one occasion for his cause.
Lewis Lewis on the other hand was one of the riot leaders and to the fore front of all the unrest. A regular troublemaker.
They were both tried in the Cardiff Courts, found guilty and sentenced to death. However, Lewis Lewis had his sentence commuted to Transportation for Life(as a favour for protecting a special constable from the rioting mob)
Much was done, including a petition of 11000signatures for the reprieve of Richard Lewis. And despite an intervention of a local Ironmaster, the sentence was upheld by the Home Secretary, Lord Melbourne. It was a strange decision, as there was little evidence or proof that Dic was even involved in the deed, but the authorities thought otherwise, believing that the sentence would serve as a warning to others. Contrary to this, after his hanging, Dic became a working class martyr, a Folk Hero.
This apparent injustice and inhumane treatment of the young miner served not as an example to subdue unrest but actually encouraged the cause of The Chartists and Trade Union Movement.
After his death, thousands followed his coffin to his grave in St. Mary’s graveyard, Aberavon. He has remained a working class hero, and a memorial to him was unveiled at Merthyr Tydfil Public Library in 1977.
Finally, to end this story, it is recorded that in 1847, a man called Ieuan Parker, confessed to a priest in N. America that he and not Dic PENDERYN had stabbed the soldier. He had fled to America to avoid justice. Another man ,James Abbott, also confessed to having lied on the Witness stand at the trial.
None of this did any good for Dic Penderyn has he had long been dead.


  1. Stephen delwyn says:

    The Bad Old Days !

Comments are closed.