Swansea

DID DYLAN THOMAS KILL SWANSEA JACK?

There were Swansea deaths that registered for a hundred years –Edgar Evans with Scott at the pole – then there  was Harry Corbett’s soft  coronary in a Mumbles guest house while in panto at the Grand  and Les Harvey electrocuted at the Top Rank in the Kingsway. I was wanting heroes but looking in the wrong direction. They were wearing drip dry shirts with sleeve elastocators and worsted brown suits – the deathray men, the wolfpack men, the cloud seeders, men who would save the world, self effacing  in grey anonymity in my university. Eddie Bowen I salute you.

I was looking for Gary Sobers at St.Helens but I found Rocky Marciano slugging it out in the Adelphi in Wind Street and Ralph the books at the station with Leon Atkin.

I’d seen myself Alan Ginsberg with his harmonium in Wind Street, kicked Dr. Christian Barnard in the bollocks in Singleton Park, visited Michael X in Cox’s farm, hung out with the Angry Brigade at Three Cliffs, seen Tom Mann on trial for sedition at the Assizes alongside Cayo Evans and the Free Wales Army, nursed Rudi Dutshke’s bullet wound at Baglan Bay and sent the Springboks packing from St.Helens.

The town’s blackshirt  councillor Mainwaring Hughes established a 40 year Reich at the Guildhall but the  depression hit Swansea punters chose Jack the Dog rather than Jack the Boot. The dog of the century pulled 27 – albeit unwillingly- from  the murk of the North Dock – ‘He’s done it again’ exclaimed the huzzahing crowds. The city swelled with canine pride forsaking the blackshirt for the black dog. Jack made poverty history as an ace fundraiser bearding the detested Turks in their lair at the Llanelli carnival. Jack’s biographer wrote in wonder ‘ Even the Turks flocked to give Jack money’. That’s the equivalent of Cardiff’s Soul Crew chipping in for a Lee Trundle testimonial.

Erno Goldfinger was commissioned by the Corporation to redesign the bombed out town centre in the 1950s but they gave the gig instead to the Borough Architect ( no relation). I gazed in wonderment through the windows of the Kardomah Café – the Ffynonne  Fitzrovia – at Dylan Thomas stuffing his pudgy babyface while Swansea Jack ate ratpoison down the street. Any connection? Did Dylan poison the town’s hope? I’ll ask Vernon Watkins down at the TSB in St.Helens Road – a masterclass in self effacement. He wouldn’t spill the beans ‘ Ask Ralph about the tin’ he whispered sliding fivers across the counter to me.

Weavers Mill – the giant concrete artwork on Fabians Way – what a fucking  stunner. Straight up – the design module of the century. The target of the three day blitzkrieg. What would Goldfinger have done – the Hanging Gardens of St.Thomas – serenaded opening night by Adelina Patti from the magic theatre at Craig-y-nos.

I once needed to find out who owned Weavers Mill suspecting a corrupt Swansea Mafia job. I went to the Rates Dept in the Guildhall but they wouldn’t cough up the info. I went to the guildhall public phone box 20 yards away and pushed button B..’ ‘Allo zis is zee europeeeean review of concrete architecture ooo owns zee Weavers Mill?’……..’Swansea Mafia mate…..

I hurled my bouquet to Adelina at Craig-y-nos,  frolicked naked with my lover under the falls of Melincourt, ran through the forest of Resolven, and rode the rods with Rocky on the Mumbles railway. I knew Cwmrhydyceirw was the dear’s leap, how to speak Waunarlwydd and marvelled at theMorriston Tabernacl, went skiiny dipping with the Morriston Cross Boys straight outta Pompas café. I reckoned Swansea Jack and Eddie Bowen were greater heroes that Giorgio Chinaglia or Didi draper. For I had been young and foolish then but now I saw through a glass darkly the Kardomah Krew with stuttering spraycans on the side of the Bun House.

TWO MORE TALES FROM THE SWANSEA COUNTER-CULTURE

THE HAPPENING 1967

Kustard, Sweeney and Junkie Ginge were at my door. As always the first two cloak wearers remained mute. ‘There’s going to be a Happening at the top of Constitution Hill at 3 o’clock grinned Ginge.

Brilliant I thought – inwardly delighted I’d been singled out to attend by three of Swansea’s finest representatives of the underground culture. I’d seen the Harry Fainlight London Happening in International Times and how I longed for the gossamer mini-dressed bubble blowers and poets of swinging London to come my way. I picked up the  few copies of Oz  I had to sell, brushed my flowing locks to get the knots out, pulled on my panelled flairs and hot footed it to Swansea’s highest peak.

Constitution Hill is a very steep hill in Swansea’s Haight Ashbury.  On arrival I found Kustard, Sweeney and Junkie Ginge  swigging Dimaryl cough medicine and swallowing  benzedrex nose inhalers. Kustard was sitting on a very large tractor tyre. ‘What’s the score’ I enquired after refusing the inviting cocktail of designer drugs. ‘We’re going to roll the tyre down the hill’ said Ginge…and see what happens’ Seeing my disappointment he nudged knowingly ‘ the happening’.

‘Well its pretty obvious what’ll happen’ I gasped ‘it’ll crash into the houses on Walters Road or a bus and kill  people’. Ginge replied with the air of a man who had already considered this possibility. ‘No…. we’ve worked it out.. it’ll bounce higher and higher on the way down and clear the houses in Walters Road’ Jesus now he was fucking Einstein working out degrees of bounceability with a precise mathematical formulae.’ But it’ll hit the row of houses behind’ I countered. ‘Yes but we’ll be gone by then’ – the clincher!

 He tried to cheer me up.

‘Maybe it’ll kill a policeman’ he countered hopefully. ‘Jesus’ I exasperated ‘ what are the fucking chances of a random tyre killing a copper rather than a fucking passing laver bread seller or someone we know staggering out of the Tenby hotel?’ You got a degree in fucking probability theory?

 Kustard had retained his usual air of disinterest in our conversation, got up and pushed the tyre off down the hill. It wobbled crazily for twenty yards before flopping on its fat belly. I blew my Woolworths bubbles. ‘Anyone want a copy of Oz’ I asked’ swap it for some mandies’ said Ginge.

 

COHN BENDIT COMES TO SWANSEA 1968

The Sit-in at the university was in danger of ending as ennui and torpor infected the occupants of the registry building………and the college authorities closed the students union bar in retaliation leading to hundreds of previously unseen engineering students menacing the cream of swansea’s radical milieu. The next General Meeting was sure to vote to end the sit-in unless we could devise a cunning strategem to forestall the reactionary engineers. Worse still – the BBC had imported to London the cream of Europe’s revolutionary milieu for a tv discussion show. The papers were full of it – Cohn Bendit, Alain Geismar, Alain Krivine swanning around with their situationist chums. ‘If only they would come to Swansea it might keep the sit-in going’ I surmised……………………

In my best ‘Allo Allo accent I phoned the President of the Swansea Students Union from a call box 20 yards down the corridor from his  office.

 ‘ Monsieur Cohn Bendit ‘as ‘erd of ze Swansea sit-in  and wishes to address the studentsat zer next meeting’ I croaked…….but ‘e cant make it till Monday’ Job done – the general meeting postponed over the weekend ensuring the continuance of the sit-in till Danny the Red’s arrival – or rather Junkie Ginge who I’d noticed was a dead ringer for Cohn Bendit as long as you could only see his red hair.

As he entered the general meeting we surrounded  Cohn Bendit with totally uneccesary ‘security’ ( death threat from ze engineers’) thus blocking most students view – apart from his carrot top. On stage he covered his face with that cloak. I explained this for reasons of not being shown on the television inciting students and also that he’d lost his voice so he would whisper his answers to me and I would relay them to the meeting – as well as translating them of course with my new found facility in languages ‘’Ow you say ‘recuperation’ in English?

To the first planted question ‘ Does Danny think the sit-in should continue’ asked one of our comrades. Cohn Bendit delivered a prolonged whisper into my ear involving frenetic head nodding. What he actually said was ‘Will it be ok to drink another bottle of dimaryl since they think I’ve got a cough’ which I sagely translated as  ‘Yes comrade Cohn Bendit says it is vital the sit-in continues. The eyes of the workers of Renault, of Clermont Ferrand, of Billancourt and the peasants of the central massif are on Swansea today………..interrupted by a howl of rage and a cry of ‘It’s Junkie Ginge’ as Cohn Bendit forgetfully removed his facial cloak to swig the Dimaryl.

Exit. Stage Left. Pursued by crowd

ALARM COVERS

83% THE FREE WALES ARMY

img049-2.jpg picture by sidstreet

 

   
     
       
   
 
     
 
 

This amazing photo shows a Free Wales Army soldier against the background slogan ‘FREEDOM NOT A JERRY PRINCE’ referring to attempts to invest Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in the late 60’s. CAYO EVANS had called prince Charles a ‘GERMAN OAF’ provoking much hilarity and the strange use of the very English sounding ‘Jerry’ in a Welsh nationalist campaign is bizarre.

I raise this now because I wrote about the FWA in ‘Bash the Rich’ and as a result I’m happy to report that GETHIN AP GRUFFYDDD  has been back in touch with me. Gethin is the only survivor of the three FWA members who were gaoled in swansea in 1969 and currently runs the Red Remembrancer blogspot…see side panel…having a pop at the welsh ’CRACHACH’ as well as campaigning around radical welsh labour history. In particular for a worthwhile commemoration for the 1831 MERTHYR RISING. It’s wonderful to hear from a comrade I hadn’t heard from since the 1970s and Welsh comrades may be interested in Gethin’s plans to take on the Welsh establishment……Yet again

YMLAEN Y WERIN

FE GODWN NI ETO

196 WHERE WAS I?

People have been asking:

Ian Bone with radical student chic look is threatened with arrest for giving away free money in Swansea!Ian Bone with radical student chic look is threatened with arrest for giving away free money in Swansea!

Ian Bone was an anarchist in Swansea in 1968 – a town where you still got beaten up in the street for having long hair – and that was just the women.

Nevertheless we burned a giant mushroom in the centre and got arrested for giving away free money. Swansea anarchists burn giant mushroom in town centre (don't ask)Swansea anarchists burn giant mushroom in town centre (don’t ask)

We occupied the university … but no one noticed and Croydon and Hornsey got all the glory. We blocked roads and smoke bombed the police station – but do we get a mention in the histories of ‘68 – do we fuck.

Then news of the Paris events and factory occupations came through. We wanted to contact the workers – but we didn’t know any – and they’d be sarky about our long hair – ‘are you a boy or a girl’. Then things changed – Danny Cohn-Bendit was coming to Swansea.

Forty years on the truth of that secret visit can at last be told…….

 

26 responses to “Swansea

  1. Rose Davies

    haha brings back fond memories. Missed you when you came to sign your book at Waterstones but my partner bought one and we’ve been giggling our way through it – priceless.

    Rose :D

  2. ianbone

    just a note to say thanks for your Swansea blog, I thought it was well-informed and passionate.

    I’m an exiled Jack – I’ve been away longer than I lived there, in Mount Pleasant, the other end of Constitution Hill. I miss and love the place. Still a season ticket holder with the Swans, 400 mile round journey to home games, pah!

    I agree totally with your remarks about the Weavers Mill – what a great, evocative building, the first of its kind, a true landmark. My gran said there was nothing quite like going into town from St Thomas and seeing the Mill in the dark, lights on, cantilevered bridge welcoming you in. I interviewed former workers from there back in the early 80s as part of a college project – one had started work there in 1909!

    There was a one of those smart ironic graffiti put up against the billboards outside when the council were getting ready to demoish it: “Weaver’s Hotel – Rooms Available, Many Vacancies – Apply Now!” They could have done worse.
    N

  3. Paul Durden

    Hi, Ho, and on the dole we go. Last week I was told that a good friend of mine had gone on a “retreat” it’s not the type of thing to be honest that we should even entertain. Dim Retreat, Fuck Peace, Viva La Victory..Cuba Am Byth….

  4. Jim Peploe

    Long live Leonard from Pennard, the last of the great whistlers.

    • Anonymous

      He was a lovely ol man. He used to come in Rowlands shop whare i workedon st helens rd. To. Buy or exchange his radio hr picked up a conFrom the rd. And shouted. Come in number. 9. Your time. Is. Up

  5. Bradley

    Brilliant, brought back a lot of fond memories, one query, where can I get hold of a scanned image of the Alarm issues that named and shamed the Swansea mafia?

    All help gratefully appreciated.

    • gerald murphy

      Bradley, If Ian cant furnish you with scans of old Alarms, try Swansea Punk. I know he’s got a dozen or so….if he can be arsed ;)

  6. Richy and Mike

    Sorry missed you at waterstones, great book best wishes Richy and Mike.

  7. got ur book comeing its cost me £7 want money back haha

  8. Aussie Boy

    The only good thing that anybody can say about Swansea is that it’s not as bad as Middlesbrough. God, how I hate Swansea…..

  9. Mike

    Vernon Watkins worked at Lloyds Bank, St. Helen’s Road,
    Kustard, I suppose you mean Custard Phillips, whatever happened to him, Pam Demery I know died years ago.
    But you forget the hippie side of these people.
    The Macabre Cafe. Remember?
    It was Eddy Buckley who mistakenly picked on a US Sergeant at the Adelphi in 1944, he happened to be Sergeant Rocky Marciano.
    The Swansea Yank, The Tiger, Nelly O’Brien, Togo Bevan, Tudor Goronwy Owen.
    Characters all, gone but not forgotten

  10. Hi Ian,

    Enjoyed the blog, Weavers was once owned by my ex father-in-law, Ron Rumble [father of Bill, Ron and Bob Rumble]. he’s dead now but made a fortune selling up Swansea’s heritage to become a tax exile in Malta then Northern Cypress.

    Also, I think I typed that Alarm when you lived in Windsor Street and I lived in Hawthorne Ave, I was still at school then!

    PS Why have you ‘unfriended’ me on Facebook? Nasty man!

    Anni

  11. Ruth

    Alarm……ah the joys of cut and paste…old style.
    hahaha I’ve lots of mad memories.
    Leonard from Pennard. I’d forgotten him til just then

  12. Anonymous

    Remember you Ian from 82/83 in Swansea, that gig in Wind St
    Great days

    Dai H

  13. Phil Arnold

    I don’t know how I met you but next thing I knew I was selling “Alarm” for a penny a copy in Castle Gardens and College Street.
    I was a part of the sit in at the college, and I was only 15 years old Do you think they noticed? I slept on the floor of an office and even invited a girl friend to sleep with me!!! She didn’t. She was fourteen and needed to get home (and to be honest, so did I) but I stayed, and left late that night.
    I remember being rousted by the police in the Cardiff Arms. There were five or six of us. Fortunately I wan’t drinking but I remember the police looking at me with severe pity.
    In 1975 I emigrated to Canada with my new wife and baby girl. You may remember my mother, Hilda. She worked behind the bar in the SU. She was about 4’10″ and 80 lbs soaking wet. She used to pretend she didn’t know me when she came across me selling Alarm on a Saturday in town but she proud of me (and you) when you helped to bring down a bunch of crooked councilors (over road works contracts?). I remember her letter telling me that the working man had struck a blow for people.
    I suspect Kropotkin would have been proud. Occasionally, I still people the reason I sit with my back to the wall is in case a Trotsky-ite enters the room.
    I’m a lifelong labour supporter and have worked as a union organizer. Now, I’m a puppeteer and although I don’t do any shows with an overt political theme, I believe that my art-form is a form of the people. Mind you, I don’t dwell on it too much.
    You may remember me, you may not but those months being an Anarchist in Swansea helped form the future me.

  14. peter griffiths

    anyone got a copy/video of the panorama revalation re weavers etc…..?..love to see it..

  15. Anonymous

    lets get the alarm back and running

  16. crinklecut

    But did you know Haile Selassie was kept in Penllergaer House during WW2? A friend was working on a local history of the Parc Llewelyn nr Morriston and a lady he interviewed told him her dad- a worker at Penllergaer- had brought HS home with him for dinner one time. They called him Hally Sally.

  17. Anonymous

    Remember Pete Miller?

  18. Andrew

    A Swansea student from 1968 to 1971. I was pictured in the Western Mail leaving the Registry with a brief case in my hand! Also remember the Rugby Ruck and watching the police, in their hundreds if not thousands, being bussed in during the morning to protect those frail little rugby players! Now 65 and seriously arthritic. Amazed you have kept the faith all these years.

  19. you’ve gotta have faith or you fall

  20. keith spooner

    move on weavers was a dump best place for it was in the dock

  21. mike aldron

    i,ve got a few ALARMS, if anyone wants them…print quality usual… poor, but what do you expect for 2 P….heady times, but very interesting….who else would have highlighted the corruption in local government…not any better today , bunch of gravy trainers , claiming their expenses

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