Sleeping Dragon


The sleeping dragon is a response to a commission enquiry I had in about April 2013, for a monument to go to Flanders, to commemorate the Welsh dead of WW1. My works colleague, and fine friend, Chris Blythman and myself, spent some time mixing ideas and Chris thought ‘sleeping dragon’, and I thought ‘on a Cromlech’. Result – conception!

Between us we worked up the idea and created a model. Then a bit of photo shop by Chris and we had a working scale. I wrote a covering letter explaining all about it and sent it off. The design committee’s enthusiasm for the idea sadly did not match ours and the idea was shelved, until …


One day in the Shropshire Star there appeared a picture of the winning design. Neither of us liked it much given its aggressive stance and attitude, and whilst we would not dream of criticising the design or craftsmanship, we both thought it projected the wrong emotion given its destination, a Flanders war cemetery. By tea time the same day, I knew I was just going to have to make our dragon. I had no idea of the timescale or cost but I do now! Sheep Music, a music and arts ogranisation, known for running music festivals and other arts projects, including sponsorship of music and dance in local primary schools, offered to sponsor the materials costs, for which I am most grateful.

That was all at the start of May. With only days to spare before the August 3rd deadline the dragon was ready for delivery on site in time for August 4th.


I would like to thank Heather, long suffering wife, for all the times I dragged her out to the workshop for opinions of how it looked. Heather also helped with the painting, but best of all she showed me a photo of a dragon birthday cake she had made one of our boys years ago. This perfect complement to the clay model Chris had made earlier gave me the info I needed to begin construction.

The dragon took three months to build using seven hundred feet of steel, three and a half thousand cable ties, fifty metres of cheesecloth, three gallons of PVA and a fair amount of blood and sweat, but no tears! And there were no working drawings.


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

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