MERTHYR / HAS / AN / IRON / HEART
David Appleyard's brief was to research the history of Penderyn Square in relation to the Merthyr Rising and the Dic Penderyn story and to engage with local people to develop and test out ideas through temporary interventions. The commission had an extensive programme of consultation and engagement over a period of about 10 months. (https://www.celfwaith.co.uk/projects/merthyr-will-shine)
The design of the heart comes from Merthyr's famous iron bridge (now in storage) designed by Watkin George, Principle Engineer at Richard Crawshay's Cyfarthfa Ironworks. Designed in 1799, the parapet features two hearts in the middle of the bridge. The structure is part of the Dic Penderyn story, as eye witnesses claim they saw Dic Penderyn running from the back of the Castle Inn, through the streets, and over the iron bridge towards his home.
“The iron heart from the iron bridge provides the perfect metaphor for Merthyr Tydfil. It has a a direct link to the days of the iron masters, it was originally cast in Cyfarthfa Ironworks using iron made in Merthyr Tydfil, it has a personal connection to Dic Penderyn and it has weathered throughout the last 200 years of Merthyr’s history. It is still here. Above all, it should be viewed as a symbol of love and strength, two qualities which for me (a visitor), summarise the feelings I have developed towards this Welsh Valleys town. The angle of the heart is intended to suggest its defiance in being toppled. At various points in history Merthyr Tydfil’s heart could have been broken. This hasn't happened. I hope that the iron heart, leaning against a building in the civic heart of the town will act as a reminder to anyone doubting Merthyr Tydfil’s strength and its ability to re-imagine, re-develop and above all stand tall.”
To help interpret both the sculpture and the Dic Penderyn story, David commissioned the poet Gillian Clarke to write a bi-lingual poem. Set across two large sandstone slabs in front of the sculpture, the poem has been letter-cut by John Neilsen. The poem has three verses in English and concludes with a Welsh englyn:
Bearing their Welsh, their hunger, cold,
they trudged the roads from Ceredigion,
Carmarthenshire, the lonely upland farms,
to Merthyr and a dream of gold.
Ironstone miners, puddlers. Their hearts of iron
made their masters rich, Merthyr our biggest town,
twenty-thousand by eighteen thirty one,
that blazing day a working class was born.
They gathered beneath the peaks of Pen-y-Fan,
Corn Ddu, Cribyn, and soldiers shot them down.
Lament injustice, slaughter, the good man
hanged as a warning: Dic Penderyn.
Yn gweithio ym mwyngloddiau’r dwyrain,
ifanc, dewr, Dic Penderyn,
calon gref, calon haearn,
dieuog i’r crocbren.