The History of Swansea Jack

Swansea Jack was a black retriever with a longish coat. He was similar in appearance to a modern Flat-Coated Retriever,but was instead identified at the time as a Newfoundland dog, despite being considerably smaller and lighter in build than the typical modern Newfoundland dog, possibly because he was reported to have been born in Newfoundland. He lived in the North Dock / River Tawe area of Swansea with his master, William Thomas. Jack would always respond to cries for help from the water, diving into the water and pulling whoever was in difficulty to safety at the dockside.

His first rescue, in June 1931, when he saved a 12-year-old boy, went unreported. A few weeks later, this time in front of a crowd, Jack rescued a swimmer from the docks. His photograph appeared in the local paper and the local council awarded him a silver collar. In 1936, he had the prestigious ‘Bravest Dog of the Year’ award bestowed upon him by the London Star newspaper.

Swansea Jack monument
He received a silver cup from the Lord Mayor of London and he is still the only dog to have been awarded two bronze medals (‘the canine V.C.’) by the National Canine Defence League (now known as Dogs Trust). Legend has it that in his lifetime he saved 27 people from the Docks / River Tawe. Swansea Jack died in October 1937 after eating rat poison.

His burial monument, paid for by public subscription, is located on the Promenade in Swansea near St. Helen’s Rugby Ground. In 2000, Swansea Jack was named ‘Dog of the Century’ by NewFound Friends of Bristol who train domestic dogs in aquatic rescue techniques.
Swansea Jack pub
A pub on Oystermouth road, close to the jail in Swansea is named Swansea Jack, in honour of the dog and the nickname for natives of Swansea is “Swansea Jack’s”.

Jack Arms - Swansea FC Supporters

The nickname for Swansea City AFC, the only premiership football club in Wales, is “The Swans” but their offical website is called the Jack Mag and their supporters are known as the Jack army.

It is believed that this name stems from the famous dog. Others claim that the derivation is from the nickname given to Swansea’s sailors, who had a reputation as skilled and dependable mariners. Another theory is that the coal miners of nearby coalfields called the miners from Swansea “Jacks” because their lunch-boxes were uniquely made of Swansea tin and called Jacks.

Weddings in Gower

Hill House self catering holiday cottage is ideally situated to accommodate guests attending weddings in Gower as it is close to some of the most popular venues such as Ocean View, Oldwalls Gower, Fairyhill and the King Arthur Hotel.

weddings in Gower - logo
It’s hard to believe just how many establishments there are on the Gower peninsula that are licensed to perform marriage ceremonies and provide wedding reception facilities.

The major players in the ‘Weddings in Gower’ business are shown on the map below but there are also a small number of other establishments that can provide similar facilities.

Some of these major players organise regular “wedding faires” throughout the year to demonstrate their wares.

 

 

Weddings in Gower Venus

Gower Folk Festival

Gower Walking Festival

 

 

Gower Golf Clubs

There are five golf clubs located on the Gower peninsula  Pennard, Langland Bay, Fairwood Park, Clyne and the Gower Golf and Country Club. All of these golf clubs are all within easy reach of Hill House and are all within 5 miles of each other. There are many more golf clubs just off the peninsula and they are all within easy reach of Hill House.

The Langland Bay golf club is especially suitable if you have non-playing members in your party. They can relax and sun themselves on the beach at Langland or Caswell bay while you complete a leisurely round.

There is also a driving range and 9 hole course at Gowerton.

The Ashley Road pitch and putt course, alongside the promenade, between the university and Blackpill has been converted into the UK’s first FootGolf course. It is a combination of football and golf and you must use your football skills to get the football into the 18 large holes. Nearby is the boating lake at Singleton, with its very own crazy golf course, and the Lido at Blackpill that provides relaxing entertainment for the non-playing members of your party.

 

 

 

Gower Surfing Schools

Gower Surf Schools

Surfing compares with similar sports like snowboarding/skiing in that the very basic skills can be learned in a day but more tuition time is needed to learn control and intermediate skills. The lessons provided by the following Gower Surfing schools give an accelerated introduction into a very difficult sport by the use of ‘beach teaching’ the skills required by qualified instructors able to assess individuals ability and surfing conditions. As a measure of the success of the local Surf Schools the majority of people achieve stand up surfing in their first day. Tuition is also available for surfers who want to improve or learn new skills.

The Welsh Surfing Federation Surf School

British Surf School

Lloyd Cole Surf Academy

Llangennith Gower Surfing School

Other Surf Schools

 

Gower Peninsula Castles

Gower Smugglers

The smuggling of contraband has been a way of life for many people living close to the sea and shipping routes. The height of smuggling on the Gower peninsular was at its peak during the 18th and 19th centuries. Taxes were high and there was a shortage of many common commodities especially during the Napoleonic wars. It was more lucrative for farm workers to become full time Gower Smugglers than work the land. This resulted in a shortage of farm labourers and lead to an increase in farm labourer’s wages.

 

 

The plethora of secluded bays and sandy inlets along the sparsely populated southern coast of the Gower peninsula was the ideal area for unloading contraband away from prying eyes and the revenue men. At the height of the industrial revolution Swansea the third largest coal exporting port in Britain and it attracted shipping from all over the world. The crew of the coal ships returning from the Ireland, Europe and further afield could supplement their income by loading up with comestibles in foreign ports and off load the goods to the smugglers before docking in Swansea.

 

 

The boat of choice for the smugglers was the Bristol Channel pilot cutter. A specialist design of single-masted boat, developed for the needs of speeding maritime pilots to large ships entering and leaving the Bristol Channel. The design has been described as the best sailing boat design ever, for being both high speed, highly manoeuvrable and yet easy to handle by just two crew. It has a float bottom that makes it ideal for sailing close to the shore to unload the contraband loaded further off shore from the ships returning to Swansea.
The extent of the smuggling operations and the activities of the smugglers are well documented in the revenue collector’s archives. It appears that the government’s failure to adequately fund the local revenue service lead to an escalation of smuggling activities and the smugglers could operate with impunity. In the 1720s Swansea smugglers were so influential that they had the port’s customs officers summoned for jury service on a day when they landed a large cargo in the harbour.

The activities of smugglers in the Pwll Du area are well documented and it is claimed that more contraband was landed here than anywhere else in the Bristol Channel. The headland at the sheltered bay is 300 feet high and provides an ideal vantage point for guiding the smugglers in and observing the activities of the revenue men. The trail inland from the beach is through the wooded Bishopston valley that provided plenty of cover for the smuggling activities.

The house that now stands behind the shingle bank at Pwll Du was the Beaufort Inn and it, together with the farms at Highway were the used as staging posts by the smuggling gangs. Most of these gangs were controlled by William Arthur of Great Highway Farm, and John Griffiths of Little Highway.

Another infamous smuggling centre was Port Eynon where the Lucas family ran operations from the Salt House. The Lucas family have a long and distinguished history — Sir Charles Lucas fought for the King in the Civil War, and was executed on the orders of Oliver Cromwell. John, the black sheep of the family, who after a spell abroad, fortified the Salt House and started his smuggling dynasty. He had a reputation for violence but it is reported that he used the spoils of smuggling to support the Gower poor. Culver hole, a medievile pigon loft built into a cliff side cave at Port Eynon and Port Eynon church are both reputed to have been used to store contraband goods at the time of the battle of Trafalga.

It is said Rhossili Bay was ideal for smugglers due to its remote location; one well known smuggler was William Stote, Innkeeper of Middleton, who imprisoned a revenue officer in his stable. Contraband was hidden all over western Gower and it is reported that especially dug cellars were located on Rhossili Down and at Landimore. Some smugglers resorted to deliberately wrecking ships as the booty gained from shipwrecks was a great ‘prize’. The wreckers of Rhossili may have been responsible for some of the ship wrecked in and around the bay. False lanterns set along the coast lured ships to their fate. The infamous ‘Dollar Ship’ was wrecked in Rhossili bay in the 17th century. Spanish silver dollars depicting Phillip IV dated to 1625 and 1639 were recovered from the wreck over a hundred years later in 1807. It is reported that further finds were made throughout the years, the last being in 1833. Other known ship wrecks in the bay include; City of Bristol 1840, Tocopilla 1878, Mary Stenhouse 1879, Verani 1894, Ann of Bridgewater 1899, Notre Dame de Lourdes 1910, Pansy 161 1941 and the Cleveland 1957. Remains of Helvetia wrecked in 1887 and of Vennerne wrecked in 1894, can still be seen in Rhossili Bay. Some of these ships may have been the victims of the wreckers of Rhossili.

Customs investigations were common and on one occasion 101 casks of brandy, rum and wine were left on Rhossili beach. There are many accounts of clashes between smugglers and revenue men at Pwll Du, Oxwich Port Eynon and Rhossili. At the beginning of the 19th century the revenue men were gaining the upper hand over the smugglers but smaller scale smuggling operations continued.


Two notable appropriately named landmarks are testament to the smuggling heritage of the Gower coast. These are;

Brandy cove, a small secluded sand inlet between Caswell bay ad Pwll Du.

and

It is claimed that the Brandy house at Landimore was specifically built for smuggling purposes.