Friday, 11 April 2014

Two Statues In Cardiff Of Men With Vision (One sadly forgotton).

 Years ago I always wondered who John Batchelor (The Friend of Freedom)  whose statue graces the Hays in the centre of Cardiff was 

So it was One of my favourite moments when a student at Coleg Harlech  was reading John Davies (Bwlchllan, ) epic (Cardiff and the Marquesses of Bute,  University of Wales Press, January 1980, ) and finding out about .

It also helped that my tutor Neil Evans is probably  the foremost expert on the industrial history of our capitol and he expanded on Bachelors story for me.

South Wales Echo  Columnist Dan O'Neil  has recently written about this and its worth looking at especially for those who have always wondered about the statue . And well worth a read here

He covers much of the issues which led to the people of Cardiff to raise a statue.

How  Batchelor became a prominent Cardiff figure, having moved there in his early twenties. He set up business as a timber merchant and, later, slate merchant and also played a key role in establishing the Mount Stuart Dry Dock.
He was an active Liberal politician and served as a Liberal Councillor and, later, Mayor of Cardiff, in addition to being Chairman of the Cardiff School Board. He also campaigned against slavery.

However, John Batchelor's political activity brought him into conflict with the Bute family (John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute), who had significant land-holdings in Cardiff, including Cardiff Castle, and had built much of the docks.
The Butes supported the Tory party and many believed that their conspiring led to the collapse of Batchelor's shipbuilding business.

As O'Neil l writes 


When Lord Derby’s government was toppled and a general election called, Batchelor persuaded Walter Coffin, chairman of the Taff Vale Railway, to stand as a Liberal. He was up against the man who had represented Cardiff for the past 20 years, a gent with the impressive initials JDCL to go with the surname Nicholl, regarded as a puppet of what was called “the Castle party”.
Coffin won by 494 to 464, an upset that infuriated the Marquis. At the end of the year Batchelor’s shipyard tenure ran out. Bute refused to renew it. Ships carrying timber for the brothers were barred entry to the Bute docks and the Batchelor business collapsed.
The vindictiveness went on after Batchelor’s death. When his statue was erected in 1883 opponents suggested alternatives to the legend Friend of Freedom. A local solicitor, T H Ensor, wrote to the Western Mail suggesting instead: “Traitor to the Crown... hater of the clergy... sincerely mourned by unpaid creditors... died a demagogue and pauper.”
When the legendary editor Lascelles Carr published the letter he was prosecuted for criminal libel. But in a case making headlines across the country, the judge declared “the dead have no rights and suffer no wrongs” and he ordered the jury to find for the defendants.
But Carr didn’t get away with it altogether. He was given a beating outside Cardiff station by Batchelor’s sons.

The one   story  O'Neil l does not touch on how Bachelor was presented  was presented with a painting of
Ifor scaling  the walls of Cardiff Castle using his bare hands, seizing  the Earl, his Countess Hawise, a daughter of the Earl of Leicester, and their young son Robert, and kidnapping  all of them to the woods of Senghenydd. Refusing to release them until he had recovered the land he had lost "and a lot more".  (Where is this painting now I wonder?)

But regular readers of O'Niel column will know  his disdain of the the Welsh language  and any  thing associated with it.

Bachelor's statue rivals the other friend of freedom statue of the founder of the NHS Nye Bevan in Queen Street


 The to were visionaries one largely forgotten but the other still relevant as  the NHS he was so prominent  in establishing is being slowly strangled by increasing privatisation by the Con/Lib Dems  in Westminster and by appalling mismanagement by Labour in Cardiff Bay.


One thing is clear unless there's a sudden  sense of vision in both Cardiff council and the Welsh assembly in  The Bay we wouldn't be seeing any future statues of  visionary politicians raised in Cardiff in the future.





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