Cardiff Council’s leader Huw Thomas has backed calls from the Mayor to remove the statue of Sir Thomas Picton from Cardiff City Hall.
Meanwhile, it was revealed that the public didn’t vote for Picton’s inclusion in the pantheon and had favoured others including Griffith Jones, Llanddowror and Llywelyn the Great instead.
The 12 statues in City Hall were decided by a competition in the Western Mail and unveiled 1916. But Picton received fewer votes than at least three other historical figures that weren’t included.
However, it was decided that Sir Thomas Picton should stand alongside marble statues of Welsh heroes such as Llywelyn the Last, Owain Glyndŵr and others on the first floor of City Hall.
Cardiff Council Leader Huw Thomas said that he backed moving the statue but that the council would have to vote on the matter.
“While Picton is commemorated for his part in the Napoleonic wars, the growing awareness and understanding of the brutal nature of his Governorship in Trinidad and his involvement in slavery make it, in my view, very difficult to reconcile his presence in City Hall with values of tolerance, diversity and equality which we want the Cardiff of today to stand for,” he said.
“You will know that the individuals commemorated in the Marble Hall were chosen in 1916 by a Wales-wide public vote. Given this, I believe it is important and necessary to seek a democratic mandate for the removal of the Picton Statue, in the form of a Council Motion at Full Council, to be debated at the earliest opportunity.”
But the Head of the School of Welsh at Cardiff University, Dr. Dylan Foster Evans, pointed to evidence that the public did not in fact vote for Sir Thomas Picton to be included in the lineup.
An article in the Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion by Angela Gaffney in 1999 shows that at least three other contenders received more votes than Picton.
“It’s worth noting that the inclusion of Thomas Picton (and Henry Tudor) amongst the statues in Cardiff City Hall was contrary to the public vote held in 1913,” Dylan Foster Evans said.
“That favoured Griffith Jones, Llanddowror and Llywelyn Fawr.”
Picton and Henry VII received only 49 and 36 votes but were chosen instead of Griffith Jones, Llanddorwror, Llewelyn the Great and five others who received more.
Griffith Jones was a vicar who set up travelling schools throughout Wales. The 3,325 schools he set up made Wales one of the most literate nations on earth.
Llywelyn the Great was the ruler of Gwynedd, conquered much of mid-Wales, and retained control over most of the territory until his death in 1240. In 1212 he led a revolt against King John of England and in 1215 captured the English town of Shrewsbury.
Dan De’ath, the first Lord Mayor of black heritage of Cardiff, said in a letter yesterday that he was calling for the removal of Picton, the “sadistic 19th Century slave-owner” who was killed in 1815 fighting at the Battle of Waterloo.
“I feel that this is an appropriate time to reassess how fitting it is for Cardiff to honour a man such as Picton with a statue on public display,” Mayor Dan De’ath said in his letter.
He said that Picton “served as governor of Trinidad where he oversaw an authoritarian and highly brutal regime”.
“Picton was also accused of the execution of dozens of slaves and his considerable fortune was due in a large part to the slave trade.”