Tuesday, 9 June 2020

People pass a Cardiff statue everyday in ignorance (but he was one of the good guys).

It is over 30 years since I caused a bit of  disturbance in the Library at Coleg Harlech by giving a huge whoop of excitement .

I had been preparing an essay by reading Dr John Davies' epic history "Cardiff and the Marquis of Bute" when i came across a reference to John Batchleor.

For years like many who not only visited Cardiff but lived there had passed by this statue in the Hays not knowing who he was

John Batchelor statue, The Hayes, Cardiff.JPG

Thanks to Dr Davies I now knew that Although born in Newport, Monmouthsire, 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.

Of course today when confronted with such a statue of a seemingly anonymous person , you can walk past his (it's nearly always a man) look it up om the internet there and then.

The name Edward Colston  however and his statue  has loomed large over Bristol, with streets and buildings named after the 17th Century merchant and slave trader.
On Sunday, protesters at an anti-racism demonstration in the city toppled a statue of Colston and dumped it in Bristol Harbour. 
A group of protesters surrounded the statue on Colston Avenue, erected in honour of a man whose ships sent about 80,000 men, women and children from Africa to the Americas between 1672 and 1689.
Colston's memory has divided the city for years, with some thinking history can't be changed and others campaigning successfully for his name to be erased from streets, schools and venues.
There was clear frustration in Sunday's crowd, partly because the statue still stood in 2020, but also because it had simply been covered for the protest.
The calls for his removal were refelected by it already had been covered in canvas 
and it which had already been targeted by egg-throwers, was torn off with some people saying they wanted to look the man in the eyes. Soon ropes had been tied round the bronze monument and the process of removing it began.
Once the covering was removed, three protestors climbed atop the statue to fasten two ropes around the head.
Thirty seconds later Colston was on the floor. Many jumped on the fallen statue, others holding a Black Lives Matter banner climbed the plinth where it had stood.
There was not so much joy when the statue hit the ground as anger, but the crowd had not finished with the monument.
It was dragged the short distance to Bristol Harbour and dumped over the quayside.

Whether you share any of the opinions reflected in this YouGov poll and whether those taking part where informed of Colston's past and that a A significant proportion of Colston's wealth came directly or indirectly from the slave trade, clearly it has opened a debate on whether we should remove commemoration by statues, buildings, street signs of people  who if we knew thir true history we wouldstrongly disprove off

It is time we addressed these issues if we can cheer the toppling of dictators like Stalin in the former Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein in Iraq , we cam remove such commemoration of Slave  Traders from our streets .
The statue of John Bachelor however should stand proudly in Cardiff . He was one of the Good Guys.


Arthur Owen,Caerdydd said...

Aren't the 40% a mealy mouthed load of so and sos.

glynbeddau said...


Leigh Richards said...

The statue that was pulled down in bristol has been a source of anger for local people for some time now. That said we have to be concerned that in the midst of a serious pandemic none of those gathered by the statue - or those that threw it in the river - were observing social distancing PS. im not a judge for literature wales before anyone tries to get me booted off their judging panel for saying this

Anonymous said...

First really noticed the statue and the inscription at the AUOB rally. It was the backdrop to the stage. Powerful speeches about independence and words 'The friend of freedom', seemed very apt.
Then tried to find out more about the statue,the man and what he had done. Very little on line so interesting to read more about him. With statues being in the news an item was recently published indicating that the Cardiff Tories tried to
get the statue removed a few years after he died as they did not like his politics.