Twitter is a wonderful thing – I asked why a dragon had suddenly appeared in Presteigne during the summer
St Michaels Church at Discoed had the answer – the sculpture was designed to commemorate the Welsh men who fought in WW1 by artist Peter Smith. You can find out all about the design on his website , but here is his moving explanation of why he designed a dragon sculpture to commemorate Welsh sacrifice. (and very appropriate – because locally there is a legend that the last Welsh dragon sleeps in the Radnor hills, guarded by the ring of churches dedicated to St Michael) Find out all about it on our welsh cycle tours
Sleeping Dragon, Artist Statement
When I was growing up in the early 1950s, the First World War was still very much a living memory to many. Today it is history, with no survivors left to tell the living tale. This transition point in time, from live memory to history, is upon us. This is the point where we must now translate, somehow, what took place, in such a way that it is clear to all that this war must be remembered and learned from.
We have chosen a sleeping dragon for the memorial instead of the heraldic Welsh dragon that we all know and love. The reasoning for this is that the traditional Welsh dragon has a very “up front” attitude with an aggressive stance and unflattering sharp lines, most suitable in war.
The Welsh dragon flying on its standard would have raised the morale of any Welshman fighting for what he believed in. Sadly, many a good Welshman died doing just that, sometimes in lands far off, sometimes for reasons too complex to reason with. Where ever and for whatever, Welshman have always been distinguished in battle. However, there is another side to all of this and that is the Welshman who sang and who is now silent, the Welshman who loved his valleys and hills but will never again walk there, the Welshman who told his children bedtime myths and tales of dragons in Wales. His legacy being the continuation of the culture of Wales. All so proud to be Welsh and all died so. This is the soft underside of our loss. This is the real loss. It is this loss that the sleeping dragon reflects, the soft inner being of all those sleeping Welshman who rest so far from the country they loved, in the fields of World War One.
The Cromlech links us back many thousands of years in Welsh history to the Stone Age. Cromlechs usually have solar alignments attached to them and this Cromlech is set to align with the rising sun on the Equinox. The Cromlech itself is low enough for an adult and for a child raised up by an adult, to see and touch the dragon, giving the connectivity to reinforce the point of the memorial. A child raised up to touch the dragon thus, may not yet understand, but will remember and perhaps in time, understand. As time passes the dragon will hopefully develop a hand worn nose from the many hands that will gently stroke it. That human hand polished area, will shine in the sun as a testament to all those who have visited and touched the dragon and remembered. This physical connection by touching is to be much encouraged.
The dragon sleeping peacefully on its ancient stone is only a temporary installation for the four years duration of World War One. During those four years it is hoped by all involved with the dragon’s creation that many people will come and see, touch and connect with the sleeping Welsh dragon and return home, somehow inexplicably enhanced by the experience. Perhaps there is some truth in the stories of dragons, our sleeping Welshman left his children!
Pete Smith, August 1st 2014