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Swansea Jack (continued)

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jacklogo.jpg (10382 bytes) Jack was a black retriever, born locally in 1930. After a change of ownership, the one year old Jack was living in Padley’s Yard at the heart of Swansea’s crumbling docklands. His owner was William Thomas, who worked in various jobs throughout a tough working life, but by then in his fifties, was living in quite poor circumstances in a converted stable in Padley’s Yard.

By the 1930s, the North Dock which had in the previous century been the centre of the town’s fortunes, was largely derelict. The dark dangerous waters more of a liability than an asset at the heart of the town. In the summer months, the green waters of the dock were used for swimming by the many children that lived in the large numbers of rough terraced houses that still survived at the top of the Strand and north of High Street Station. The playful young retriever quickly made friends with the children who played around the warehouses and swam in the dock. Nowadays, allowing children to play in such a dangerous area sounds incredible but children have always swum in the most dangerous and dirty parts of the river and dock system. Even today, the local newspaper will run a practically annual feature on youngsters somewhere jumping off a bridge into the river or the South Dock (Marina). Whatever the later facts, it is certain that Jack was a popular playmate and accustomed to swimming in the dock with people.

Jack was credited with his first rescue in May or June 1931, when he jumped in to help a young boy to the side of the dock. This rescue would probably have gone unremarked were it not for the fact that in July of that year he rescued a swimmer in difficulties in front of a number of witnesses. The incident merited newspaper coverage and Jack’s career was under way. Jack’s story henceforth is detailed in a charming book by Marie Stickler Davies who had access to the surviving family papers relating to Jack’s story.

By 1935, Jack’s rescues were into double figures and his profile in the local press was very well developed. Although some people hotly disputed Jack’s role in any rescues, he was easily Swansea’s favourite media star. A move for both master and dog to the comfort of the Victoria Hotel in College Street entailed a greater visibility for visitors and locals alike. By the mid 1930s, Jack had become ‘Swansea Jack.’

Jack's tragic end

Above: Swansea Jack with his master William Thomas at Swansea's North Dock c.1936.


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