Icons of Wales: Who's the missing icon?

Updated Monday, 1st October 2012
Which Welsh icon is missing from the Icons of Wales booklet? See suggestions from our panel and vote for your missing icon

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A century ago, it was decided that the new Cardiff City Hall would house the Welsh Historical Sculpture, a hall of fame celebrating eleven prominent figures in the nation’s history.

The Open University booklet Icons of Wales, which complements the major BBC TV series The Story of Wales, examines the history of the people of Wales through the eleven City Hall icons and why they were chosen.

Firstly, request your copy of Icons of Wales. The original 11 historic icons were:

  • Boudica
  • Saint David
  • Hywel Dda
  • Gerald of Wales
  • Llywelyn ap Gruffudd
  • Dafydd ap Gwilym
  • Owain Glyndŵr
  • Henry VII
  • Bishop William Morgan
  • William Williams 'Pantycelyn'
  • Sir Thomas Picton

Which modern icon would you add to the list?

Now, in 2012, it’s your chance to tell us who should be the 12th ‘icon’. Who’s missing from the City Hall icons? Which figures from the last 100 years or so would deserve a place in a virtual ‘hall of fame’? Who represents a more modern Wales, to sit alongside the early and medieval figures already present?

We asked people who worked on the Story of Wales series, some of The Open University's honorary graduates, and some members of the public what they thought. You can read their nominations below.

From this shortlist, who do you think should be declared the 12th icon of Wales? Use the link at the bottom of the page to cast your vote. You can discuss your choice in the comments section.

Naturally, your choice may not have been chosen by our panel... so feel free to tell us who you think should have made the shortlist!

Julia Gillard

Julia Gillard Nominated by Rhodri Morgan. Rhodri was First Minister of Wales from 2000 to 2009.

"I am nominating Julia Gillard because she is the first Welsh-born Prime Minister. It is all too typical of the oddities of Welsh history that Wales should have been a part of Britain for over half a millennium, and there have been a hundred or so Prime Ministers since the office came into being in the time of the Pitts, but the first actual Welsh-born Prime Minister is PM of Australia.

"The other aspects of the Julia Gillard story that fascinate me are how the family was pretty well obliged to emigrate to a country with a hot dry climate, due to the severity of her bout of pneumonia at the age of three. I also had pneumonia at the age of three and nearly died, so I naturally feel a strong fellow-feeling with her.

"Her admiration of the great Welsh politician Aneurin Bevan, who set up the National Health Service, is important. Hardly surprising for her (nor for me either) in the light of her health history, it also keeps her political connection with her homeland roots strong."

Robert Owen

Robert Owens Nominated by Chris Williams. Professor Williams is Director of the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities at Swansea University. He is the author of the Icons of Wales booklet.

"Robert Owen (born Newtown, Montgomeryshire 1771, died Newtown 1858) deserves to be a Welsh 'icon' because his life, thought and writings have inspired people around the world.

"His far-sighted approach to education, his humanitarian concern for people of all social classes, his enlightened attitude to women's rights, his interest in workers' co-operatives and trade unions and his internationalism and advocacy of peace and arbitration remain highly relevant to the global challenges that all societies face more than a century and a half after his death.

"Refreshingly, he did not think Wales to be the world but worked to break down barriers between nations and peoples of all kinds."

Cerys Matthews

Cerys Matthews at Glastonbury 2009 Nominated by Peter Florence. With his father, Peter founded the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, which takes place in Hay-on-Wye, Powys each year.

"For the brilliance of trading rock stardom for folk stardom; for being a survivor and not dying at 27 all messed up; for her relentless generosity and support for her fellow musicians; for never doing Diva shit; for singing in Welsh and treasuring long-lost song traditions; for rolling Rs like no-one before her, and for never abusing her fame.

"One classy dame. We should be so lucky."

The people of Tower Colliery

John Woods of Tower Colliery Nominated by Tyrone O'Sullivan. Tyrone is a former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Branch Secretary, and current chairman of Goitre Tower Anthracite.

"Tower Colliery was the oldest working coal mine in the UK, and possibly the world. Tower dates back to 1808 when it was owned by the Crawshay family and was then called Goitre Colliery. The land played a role in the Merthyr Rising in 1831, and in 1993 the red flag was raised on Hirwaun Common as a symbol of unity between workers during a march to commemorate the Merthyr Rising in 1831, and highlight the plight of their own pit.

"Notable figures in Tower's history include NUM Secretary Gwilym Richards, who in 1915 was mentioned in Parliament as an anti-war Communist and never allowed to work in Wales again; and Tom Howell Jones, Chairman of Tower Colliery NUM who went to Spain to fight against fascism and was killed in the final week of the Spanish Civil War.

"In the 1990s, over 200 miners joined TEBO (Tower Employees Buy-Out) and successfully bought back Tower after its closure by British Coal, surviving, thriving and continuing to exploy hundreds of workers until its recent closure."

Sir William R Grove

William Robert Grove Nominated by Sir John Meurig Thomas. Sir John is a leading British chemist and educator, currently working at the University of Cambridge's Department for Materials Science and Metallurgy.

"Sir William R Grove is certainly my icon. He was the first scientist to enunciate what he termed the 'correlation of physical forces': what we now know as the First Law of Thermodynamics, or the Law of Conservation of Energy.

"Grove was also the man who invented the fuel cell and was the first scientist to devise 'sputtering', which is a technique used to deposit thin films of a material onto a surface, or etch away a target material. In addition to these discoveries, he also reformed the Royal Society; a society for science and scientists, and the oldest society of its kind still in existence."

David Davies Llandinam

David Davies Llandinam Nominated by Chris Matthews, a member of the public who attended one of the BBC/OU 'Story of Wales' launch events.

"Davd Davies was a Welsh industrialist and politician. Having been born in Barry, if it wasn’t for David Davies, my home town wouldn’t have existed, and the prosperity of South Wales in the late 19th/early 20th century would have been weaker. His statue in Barry stands as a proud reminder of why the town—and Wales—prospered."

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson Nominated by H.P. Jones, a member of the public who attended one of the BBC/OU 'Story of Wales' launch events.

"My chosen Icon is Paul Robeson. He did not emanate from this country in the physical sense but he represents something far more important. He combines the situation of the Afro-American with that of the Welsh people. The way both peoples have been mistreated in the past and the way they fight back culturally. He is an ideal statue of morality."

Harri Webb

Harri Webb Nominated by Martyn Richard, a member of the public who attended one of the BBC/OU 'Story of Wales' launch events.

"Harri Webb was a self-taught Socialist and Nationalist from the South Wales Valleys. Harri learned Welsh and among his compositions was the poem Colli Iaith ('Losing a Language').

"Webb's poem has been an inspiration to generations of Welsh people who have gone on to learn their own language and take pride in their heritage and country. Harri lived in a time of Welsh language decline and his stand and perspective were important for the future of the language in South East Wales."

Bryn Terfel

Bryn Terfel Nominated by Ian Hutchinson, a member of the public who attended one of the BBC/OU 'Story of Wales' launch events.

"Bryn Terfel—truly Welsh. His enormous talent as an opera and concert singer springs from his Welsh upbringing. He has promoted the best of Wales through his voice, his warmth and humour wherever he performs throughout the word."

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson

Tanni Grey-Thompson Nominated by D. Williams, a member of the public who attended one of the BBC/OU 'Story of Wales' launch events.

"My nomination is for Tanni Grey-Thompson. A superb sportswoman who has championed the disabled and conducts herself with dignity, integrity and compassion. An excellent advocate for everyone who happens to be Welsh!"

Cast your vote

Vote for the person most deserving of 'Icon of Wales' status below. Don't forget to let us know your reasons in the comments section. Although the 'official' vote is limited to these nominees, once you've made your choice, feel free to suggest in the comments section anyone you think our panel should have nominated!


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