DIC PENDERYN: THE MAKING OF A WELSH WORKING CLASS MARTYR GWYN A. WILLIAMS University College, Cardiff To Die Penderyn, born 1808 at Aberavon Hanged 13 August 1831 at Cardiff Martyr of the Welsh working class So runs a bilingual memorial plaque on the wall of the Central Library, Merthyr Tydfil. The plaque was unveiled by Len Murray, General Secretary of the TUC, during a ceremony in 1977 graced by readings from Alexander Cordell, author of the novel The Fire People, whose efforts have led to the discovery of many of the missing records of Dic's trial. Hard by the Library stands a Town Hall, which looks as if it had been designed by an illustrator of Tolkien. The first in Wales to fall to Plaid Cymru. it displays, as in a shrine, the bust of James Keir Hardie, whom Merthyr elected as Wales' first Labour MP. Merthyr Tydfil, mother town of iron and steel in South Wales, and of much else beside, was, in terms of numbers at least, the first "town" in Welsh history and for three generations the strongest single concentration of Welsh people on earth. It had been the first and proved to be the most persistent stronghold of Jacobinism in Wales at the time of the French Revolution. It produced Wales's first working-class martyr and its first working-class press. It was the first Welsh town to fall to radical Dissent. It was the heartland of Chartism and the home of the Welsh Chartist press in both languages. In 1868 it became the first Welsh constituency to elect a Nonconformist radical MP on working-class votes and on a specifically working-class thrust of aspiration and grievance Henry Richard, the "apostle of peace". Even in 1900, in the days of its relative decline, it elected Keir Hardie, though as a second member and on a minority vote. I am no longer sure I know what a "tradition" is. but if such a phenomenon exists, Merthyr must surely exemplify it. It is as I write those words that I experience what Aneurin Bevan once called (in capital letters) the Invasion of Doubt My uneasiness, I think, is not simply personal, it is historical. It is the fear that, in our ceremony outside Merthyr Central Library, we were sanctifying an historical untruth. This is certainly not a question of historical inaccuracy. That Die Penderyn. Richard Lewis, was unjustly hanged in 1831, that he was a martyr of the Welsh working class is now, I think, proven. It is not even a question of the wealth of evidence which ordinary, professional, dry-as-dust history can marshal, year by year from Merthyr's experience, to set against the "tradition." From my own family, I could summon up a veritable roll-call of dissidents from the com- munal identity suggested by Die Penderyn's plaque and Keir Hardie's bust. This kind of argument misses the point: those historians who see day-by-day, empirical