Swansea Jack was a black retriever with a longish coat similar in appearance to a modern Flat-Coated Retriever. However, at the time, he was instead identified as a Newfoundland dog, despite being considerably smaller and lighter in build than the typical modern Newfoundland dog. This was possibly due to the fact that 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.
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 near St. Helen’s Rugby Ground. Swansea Jack was named ‘Dog of the Century’ in 2000 by NewFound Friends of Bristol who train domestic dogs in aquatic rescue techniques.
In conclusion, a pub on Oystermouth road, close to Swansea jail, is named Swansea Jack, in honour of the dog.
The nickname for natives of Swansea is “Swansea Jacks”.The nickname for Swansea City AFC, the only premiership football club in Wales, is “The Swans”. However, their official 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. A noteworthy claim is that it derives from the nickname given to Swansea’s skilled and dependable sailors. 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.