New petition launched to clear the name of Dic Penderyn
A new petition has been launched over the coronation weekend, calling for a royal pardon for the man believed to have been wrongly hanged for his part in the Merthyr revolt in 1831.
Richard Lewis, better known as Dic Penderyn was accused of injuring a soldier during what became known as the Merthyr Rising.
Lewis was one of two men who were sentenced to death following the riots while other detainees were variously sentenced to imprisonment or deportation to Australia.
When the sentence of his co-condemned, Lewis Lewis, was commuted to imprisonment and transportation, the British Government was determined to hang at least one man for the riots, as an example and a deterrent.
Despite claims of no evidence that he stabbed a soldier with a bayonet, Dic Penderyn was subsequently hanged on August 13th, 1831, in Cardiff.
It is reported that his final words were “O Arglwydd, dyma gamwedd” (Oh Lord, this is injustice).
Miscarriage of justice
The petition set up by Barry Green Party, calls for King Charles to formally pardon Richard Lewis, so correcting what they call ‘a terrible miscarriage of justice’ and offering a ‘wonderful gesture to the people of Cymru’.
The petition says “His trial was mired in controversy. The trial reports indicate that there was no reliable evidence proving Richard Lewis had caused any wounding and witnesses contradicted themselves.
“Nonetheless, he was found guilty due to the political climate of protest and revolt. We believe he was made a scapegoat so others did not follow in his example.
“In 1874, a man named Ianto Parker confessed on his death bed, in the USA to the Reverend Evan Evans that he stabbed the soldier and then fled to America fearing capture by the authorities.
“Another man named James Abbot, who testified against Penderyn at the trial, also admitted to lying under oath.”
It goes on to say that “191 years on, the original injustice is perpetuated by the lack of a pardon…time to put that right.”
Previous attempts to gain a pardon for Richard Lewis include one from former MP and MEP for the Cynon Valley constituency Ann Clwyd, who declined an invitation to the coronation event this weekend.
In 2015 she presented a petition to the House of Commons saying there was a “strong feeling” in Wales that he was wrongly executed and should have his named cleared.
At the time the decision lay with the Justice Secretary Michael Gove.
24 rebels were killed during the uprising which was the climax to mounting unrest among the working classes of south Wales.
The areas surrounding Merthyr were the heartlands of mining and pig iron production, and the location of nearly half of south Wales’ ironworks. Conditions were dangerous and deadly, and all attempts by the workers to establish trade unions were being violently thwarted.
According to a detailed article in the Socialist Appeal the community of Welsh miners rose up “against the ironmasters and defied the might of the British state, seizing control of their town for a full week, and flying the red flag for the first time on British soil.”
It notes that in 1831, Harriet Arbuthnot, Tory political diarist and mistress to the Duke of Wellington mentioned a “great riot” in Wales that had just been brought to a bloody conclusion.
“The soldiers have killed 24 people,” she wrote. “When two or three were killed at Manchester, it was called the Peterloo massacre, and the newspapers for weeks wrote it up as the most outrageous and wicked proceeding ever heard of… this Welsh riot is scarcely mentioned.”
Describing the uprising as ‘one of the most sophisticated and audacious struggles in the early history of the British working class’ the article goes on to detail the parts Lewis Lewis and Richard Lewis played in the revolutionary events.
After the rising new trade union lodges cropped up all over South Wales, which soon became a major front of the British class struggle.
As historian Gwyn A. Williams put it, “In Merthyr Tydfil in 1831, the prehistory of the Welsh working class comes to an end. Its history begins.”
The petition can be found by following this link.
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