The story of our Swansea Jack.

Swansea Jack

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Swansea memorials as a resource for history ] [ Swansea Jack (continued) ] [ A memorial for Swansea Jack ] [Jack's World]

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Swansea Jack is a classic story, a mixture of fact, half truth, and legend. Born in 1930, the black retriever lived in the Swansea docklands close to the River Tawe.

Jack rescued people from drowning; in his brief life he may have saved as many as 27 people from the waters of the docks and the River Tawe.

Within living memory, Jack has given residents of Swansea their nickname and the priceless heritage of a heart-warming story of a brave life and a tragic ending, just like that other classic Welsh shaggy dog story, the tale of Gelert. Although Dylan Thomas is seen by many as the most famous Swansea resident, it is Jack that is the essence of Swansea, in the river, the docks and the people. Jack is a story of love, warmth, trust, and tragedy, devoid of the dubious undercurrents of alcoholism, violence, and failure that mar the Dylan Thomas memories in local minds.

Although the story is fading, we are left with a substantial memorial on the sea front and the notion that at least once in their lifetime every local born Swansea citizen will be called a ‘Jack’ .

The Jack story is interesting on many levels. It took place in a rather down at heel Swansea suffering the worst of the Depression with dereliction and unemployment dominating the town. It was clearly the end of an era for the Victorian port. The story is centred on the North Dock and Strand which by the 1930s was largely derelict as most commerce had passed to the east side of the river. The Strand, which had seen nearly eighty years of development as a Victorian port underworld was by the late 1920s a sorry collection of derelict wharves, rough pubs and dubious guest houses and hotels. The town itself was on the verge of the Second World War which was to have a major impact on the future of so many people, and would change the face of the town for ever.

Swansea Jack (continued) Swansea History Web subscription details are here...

SHW Microhistory: 6. The royal visit, 1941.

Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Swansea on 19 March 1941. The visit was intended as a morale booster for the town which had suffered heavily in German air raids in February of that year.

In the darkest days of the Second World War, (between June 1940 and December 1941), Britain stood alone against the might of Nazi Germany and wasn't expected to last much longer. In the face of murderous German air raids at home and military reverses abroad, the King and Queen became a pillar of strength in maintaining the morale of the nation.

King George VI had been literally thrown in at the deep end when he acceded to the throne in December 1936. However, with the unfailing support of Elizabeth he quickly built up a close bond with the British people which seemed to grow stronger with each year of his reign. Although the government wanted to evacuate the Princesses to Canada in June 1940, it was Elizabeth who decided the matter...' The Princesses cannot go without me. I cannot go without the King. The King will never go.' Throughout the terrible winter of 1940-41, the royal couple toured the country visiting blitzed towns and exhausted factory workers. The impact of these visits was inestimable. The fact that Buckingham Palace was bombed nine times, once with the couple in the building cemented the bond between King and people even further.

In another timeless quote, the Queen said 'I'm almost comforted that the Palace has been hit. I feel I can look the East End in the face.' The Queen was often the star of the visits. Years later, Lord Harlech recalled that the Queen would often jump out of the car and straight into the nearest crowd. 'She had that quality of making everybody feel that they and they alone were being spoken to...she has very large eyes which she opens very wide and turns straight upon one'.

The royal visit did much to undo the considerable local upset that had been caused by a tactless and arrogant broadcast by the BBC intent on creating propaganda out of the Swansea raids. The couple talked to the local emergency services, and visited victims of the bombing. The Queen was taken up onto North Hill to see the extent of the bombing. In the photo above, Alderman Tom James is seen pointing out the damage. Although there have been many other royal visits over the years, they have never been so significant as this one. The site of the visit is largely unchanged today, even the phone box is still there!

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