In the early summer of 1831, many of the towns and villages of industrial Wales were marked by political and social unrest. Terrible working conditions in the mines and iron works were made even worse by wage cuts, and in some cases by the laying off men as demand for iron and coal fell away.In Merthyr Tydfil there were serious riots in the streets, and on this day 3 June 1831 a mob ransacked the building in the town where court records of debt were stored.
It was one of the first politicised workers rising in Britain and the first time in world history that the red flag was raised and used as a symbol of revolt.
Aberavon born Richard Lewis a young popular miner better known as Dic Penderyn was arrested for allegedly stabbing a soldier named Donald Black in the leg at the Merthyr Rising. These injuries were not fatal. He vehemently insisted on his innocence. The people of Merthyr, were so sure of his innocence that over 10,000 signed a petition calling for his release.
However it did not work and he was found guilty and sentenced to death and hanged at Cardiff Gaol on August 13th. He was only 23, his last words were "O Arglwyd dyma gamwedd" " Oh Lord this is an injustice" In 1874 a minister by the name of Evan Evans revealed that a man called Ianto Parker had given him a death bed confession and said that it was he who had stabbed the soldier and not Dic.
In his death Dic Penderyn in his martyrdom became a symbol of those who resist and fight oppression wherever it is found.
He became a working class hero , who has remained in the hearts and minds of all Welsh people. Thousands accompanied his body through the Vale of Glamorgan to his grave, and listened to a funeral sermon from his brother-in-law Morgan Howells. He is buried in St Mary's churchyard, Port Talbot near Aberavon, where a memorial was placed on his grave by local trade unionists in 1966.
The following video tells the story of the execution of Dic Penderyn with music by Martin Joseph :-