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
83% THE FREE WALES ARMY
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 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.
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…….