For over a week during 1831, the authorities lost control of Merthyr Tydfil in a full scale popular uprising following news that the hated iron master, William Crawshay, intended cutting this workers meager pay still further.
Soldiers on the Street
Soldiers of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were sent to put down the rising and twenty people were shot during a confrontation in front of the Castle Hotel.
Together with the Newport Uprising, eight years before hand, these are the largest scale popular risings by industrial workers have taken place in Britain. It is also the first time that the red flag was used to symbolise the workers’ power.
Making an example of someone
The London Government worried by the growth of trades unions in the industrial areas of Wales and were keen to make an example of someone in the hope of scaring away further trouble.
Dic Penderyn (23 year old Richard Lewis) was charged with attacking a soldier. The case against him was weak and the people of Merthyr were convinced that he was innocent, 11,000 signed a petition on his behalf. But the Home Secretary in London, Lord Melbourne, was did not show any clemency and Dic was hung in Cardiff. His last words were “O Arglwydd, dyma gamwedd” or “Oh Lord, here is iniquity.” Thousands escorted Dic’s coffin back to his home in Aberafan.
Following the Newport and Merthyr uprisings and the Rebecca Protests the English Establishment took decisive measures to suppress decent in Wales. The county’s industrial capacity, particularly coal and steel made the Welsh peoples’ compliance vital for profit margins. The Welsh language was singled out as an obstacle to London rule and the following decades saw the imposition ‘civilizing’ measures such as the ‘Welsh Not’
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