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.