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April 2021 Magazine


The Vicar Writes

 

Dear friends,

 

In many tourist shops around Wales you can buy mugs and souvenir gifts with this well known saying printed on them, ‘Anyone can hug but only the Welsh can cwtch.’

‘Cwtch’ is one of the loveliest words we have in Wales. It’s firmly rooted in our everyday speech, whether we speak Welsh, English or Wenglish! It can mean a special place or having a rest, but almost always it refers to an embrace between friends, family members or lovers. We sometimes use the word to describe how God holds us in his loving arms.

Going without a cwtch has been one of the hardest things to endure during the last year of lockdown. Speaking over the phone; socially distanced walks or coffee with friends; greeting each other with a friendly wave or the Indian ‘namasté’ have all helped to keep our spirits up, but we all long for the day when we can give each other a ‘cwtch’ again. Hopefully, with the success of the vaccine rollout, that day isn’t too far away.

This month we will be celebrating anew the mystery and joy of Easter. The story of the resurrection is at the heart of our faith. It helps us not only to reflect on God’s sacrificial and saving love for the world but to make sense of our own lives and experiences.

We will hear again St John’s account of the Easter story. He tells us that St Mary of Magdala was blessed as the first witness of the resurrection. One intriguing aspect of the account we don’t often pick up on is to do with physical touch.

Early on Easter Sunday morning, when Mary discovered the empty tomb she immediately ran to fetch Peter and the Beloved Disciple. Peter and John ran to the tomb and also saw that it was empty. After they had returned to the others Mary stayed behind. It was where she had a vision of angels and met the risen Jesus. At first she thought he was a gardener and pleaded with him to tell her where they had taken her Master’s body. It was only when he spoke her name that she recognised him. Her every instinct was to embrace him, but he said, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.’ As the first witness of the resurrection Mary went to the disciples with the bewildering news: “I have seen the Lord!” 

Jesus’ words, ‘Do not touch me!’ have a special poignancy this Easter, as they did last year. The comfort of physical touch is something we have all really missed these last twelve months.

It’s clear, from the Gospels, that what Mary and the apostles encountered that first Easter was much more than resuscitation. That’s what they witnessed at the raising of Lazarus, who was brought back to life only to die again. The resurrection was different. At times they didn’t recognise the risen Lord; he appeared to them through locked doors; he walked and ate with them. The life Jesus was raised to was different to anything they had encountered before. It was what he had spoken of, resurrection!

Jesus’ words to Mary, ‘Don’t touch me’, also helped to prepare her and the others for the time, after his ascension, when he would no longer be with them physically. It also prepared them for what would be a much more intimate relationship with their risen Lord, who said as he ascended into heaven, ‘I am with you always to the close of the age.’

Perhaps the enforced experience of a ‘cwtchless’ year will make us think about the people who really matter in our lives; our loved ones and friends and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even as the restrictions relax many of us will continue for some time to echo the words of the risen Jesus to Mary Magdalene, ‘Do not touch me yet.’

As we continue to come to terms with this present reality we need to reaffirm that friendship, love and intimacy are not really diminished by the lack of physical touch. As the disciples experienced, after the ascension, it actually led to an even closer relationship with their Lord. The same can be true for us, even as we long for the day when our masks are thrown away and we can give each other a cwtch once again.

 

With every blessing - keep safe,


 

PARISH NEWS

 

Happy Birthday

Two more members of our Church family have celebrated milestone birthdays recently.

John Sutton celebrated his 90th birthday at his home on the 2nd April with his wife, Moira.

David Perman celebrated his 80th on Easter Sunday with Liz and the family. He also marked the occasion by joining us in Church.

We send our love and many congratulations on their special days.

 

 

Zoom Meetings

Around twenty of us have joined the Lent Zoom meetings and the Good Friday online service held recently.

Though it’s strange to see each other on a computer screen, rather than in Church, it has enabled us to keep in touch and to share fellowship together.

We thank Sonia Jones [PCC Secretary & Licensed Worship Leader] for setting up the Zoom link for us.

Electoral Roll

We are in the process of updating the Parish Electoral Roll, which we need to do before the Easter Vestry [Annual General Meeting] later this month.

If you would like to check if you are on the roll please email the PCC Secretary, Sonia Jones, on sonningson@ntlworld.com – or phone her on '524409.

All the information is kept by the parish in compliance with current data protection law.

 

New Arrival

We congratulate Tom and Terri Hopkins on the birth of their first great grandchild, Wilber.

We send our good wishes to the new arrival and his proud family.

 

 

 

 

Magazine

The magazine will continue to be sent out online for the remainder of 2021.

Hard copies will also be distributed to those who do not have access to a computer and will also be available at the back of Church.

We thank James Williams and Tony Cottle for printing and distributing them around the parish.

 

 

New Cushions

We are so grateful to Stuart Batcup for arranging for the making and installation of new pew cushions for the choir stalls and clergy seats in the Chancel. They match the new curtains and will be a very welcome addition for our loyal team of choristers, who can now sit comfortably for the first time!

We also thank those who have contributed towards the cost of the cushions. We hope to dedicate them later this month and will record our list of memorial donations in the next edition of the magazine.

P.C.C. Meeting

The next meeting of the Parochial Church Council will be held at 11am on Thursday 22nd April – a week later than originally planned.

The earlier date clashed with the meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales.

Magazine Notes

Notes for the May edition need to be in by Sunday 25th April.

Lent Appeal

We thank those who have been sending in donations to our Lent Appeal. This year we are supporting three charities;

Christian Aid which is marking its 75th anniversary year in 2021,

Cafod’s Well Appeal to provide wells and drinking water in Africa.

Unicef’s VaccineAid & its ‘Give the world a shot’ campaign to rollout the Covid vaccine to people in the developing world.

Many thanks for your support

Well Wishes

We continue to send our love and well wishes to those who have been unwell recently;

Pam James, Maureen Donald, Sheila Rees, Liz Batcup, Maria Gomez, Phillip Williams, John Cooke, Margaret David, Denise King and Pam Thorpe.

 
 

Last Month

 

average attendances   Sunday: 64    Wednesday: 32

 

average collection: £1,678  Direct Giving: £345

total: £2,023

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.parishofoystermouth.com


In Memoriam

Betty Jenkins

 

Betty was laid to rest in her beloved Bishopston on Tuesday 9th March. The burial followed a Service of Thanksgiving at All Saints attended by her close family and friends.

Betty was born and raised in Bishopston, growing up just above historic St Teilo’s Church in Middle Croft Lane. She had a lifelong connection with the community and lived there for many years until moving into sheltered accommodation at Morgan’s Court, Swansea.

She will be remembered as a talented local floral artist, arranging flowers for many Gower and Mumbles weddings through the years. She was also a talented cook and taught cookery and flower arranging at night school over a number of years. Betty was one of the first to volunteer as a First Responder in the Bishopston area and taught subsequent volunteers how to use the defibrillators. She was also a Lifeboat Shop volunteer and fundraiser for many years.

After the Service of Thanksgiving at All Saints’ members of the crew, the lifeboat community and friends from Church lined Mumbles Road to pay their respects, socially distanced. As Betty’s funeral cortege passed by they broke out into spontaneous applause for a much loved friend and a long serving volunteer for local good causes.

We offer our deepest sympathy to Jacky, Lissa and all the family.  

 

Bud Williams

 

A service of thanksgiving for Bud’s life was held at All Saints’ on Maundy Thursday, 1st April. Though the number of people able to attend was restricted friends and neighbours lined the Church driveway to pay their respects to a popular member of our Church family as the funeral cortege left the Church.

Bud had led a remarkable and full life. He had served as a Special Forces soldier during the Vietnam War, often behind enemy lines. He was a proud American, highly decorated veteran, diplomat, academic, Cold War warrior, widely travelled, historian, rugby referee, businessman and faithful Christian.

He was, at heart, a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather. He met his beloved Isobel while diving in the sea off Hong Kong. After their retirement they settled in Mumbles where they became active and popular members of our Church community.

At his funeral service the Vicar paid tribute to Bud as a faithful soldier of Christ. The last post and reveille was played by a bugler at the commendation. As the cortege left All Saints’ the carillon of bells played ‘America the Beautiful’ from the Church tower.

We assure Isobel, Katie and all the family of our love and prayers.

 


P.C.C. Pickings

The PCC met on Thursday 18th March via ‘Zoom’.

Finance It was reported that there would be a reduction in the Parish share for 2021 of £9,097. It would now be £67,367 [excluding a 25% for quarters 1 and 2]. The Vicar thanked those who were continuing to support the Church through their regular and planned giving.

Safeguarding Katrina Guntrip was thanked for overseeing the DBS applications for our officers and volunteers.

Music Ministry Team The subcommittee reported that it was still in discussion with possible members of the future music team.

Fabric It was agreed to accept the quote from Selwyn Jones Contractors for the repointing of the west wall at a cost of £6,120 [excluding VAT] and to apply for a faculty. The meeting also noted that the new entrance door had been installed in the Churchrooms.

Organ Organ builders would be approached to provide quotes for the repairs to the instrument, with the expectation that work would be carried out in January 2022.

Next meeting 11am, Thursday 22nd April by Zoom


Helping out at St Mary’s Brunch Club

 

A few of our regular worshippers have been helping out at the Wednesday morning Brunch Club each week at St Mary’s, Swansea. The club serves up to ninety needy people who are treated to a wholesome packed meal of bacon rolls and heart warming soup.

Until the lockdown the brunch was served inside the Church. Now the lunches have to be served through a specially designed hatch. The photograph [left] shows Canon Ian Rees, the Rector of Swansea, and some of the helpers.

We are very grateful to one of our choristers, Dorian Davies of the Village Inn, [right] who has been making soup each week, helped by Barbara Richards and a few others.

Earlier in the year Oystermouth PCC gave £500 to help with the cost of running the brunch for a month. The money was originally allocated for our night shelter – which couldn’t be held this or last year because of the pandemic. Some of the money also came in through the sale of Sonia Jones’ handmade face masks.


Christian Aid Week 10th - 16th May

 

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Christian Aid. The charity was founded soon after the 2nd World War to respond to the then refugee crisis. Mumbles was one of the first communities to be involved from the very beginning – with Churches hosting ‘Penny a Day’ concerts.

There won’t be a house to house collection this year – but we are encouraged to give online or in Church. Part of our Lent Appeal will be put towards this year’s Christian Aid Week. 

 

 

 


Church is ‘Bio-fogged’

 

All Saints’ is probably the first Church in Wales to have been treated with a new anti viral/bacterial system known as bio-fogging.

It treats all surfaces, coating them with microscopic barbs which puncture any bacteria or virus cells on contact and neutralises them. It is effective for two months.

We are extremely grateful to ‘Mistral Bio-fogging’ for treating the Church free of charge.

The new company has been busy treating several business venues in Mumbles.

We hope to continue with the treatment while Covid 19 remains a threat. It will give us added protection and peace of mind as many of come back to Church.

 


A Trek through old Mumbles Village and Thistleboon

 

Part 10 - Thistleboon Farm 1841 to 1971

 

As mentioned in Part 9 Thistleboon Farm as we all knew it was created in 1841 by the Beaufort Estate, with about one third of Thistleboon House used to create the farmhouse with an existing farmyard alongside and about 90 acres of farmland all included in the tenancy granted to Evan Williams. The survey for the 1844 Tithe Map was carried out in 1841 so the extent of the buildings and holding generally are accurately depicted there. As will be seen from the 1843 Map already shown the fields were pretty well spread out and interspersed with other holdings.

But farming had been taking place at Thistleboon from medieval times. It is not unreasonable to speculate that at the time of All Saints 1141 Charter bestowing the living and the tithes to Gloucester Abbey the field pattern of what is left today was created to accommodate the feudal system introduced by the Norman Knights.

By the time of Oliver Cromwell’s 1650 Survey there were only five ‘dwellings’ at Thistleboon: Colonel Philip Jones’ ‘Thistleboon House”; Walter Thomas’ ‘The Farm’ [now Craig y Mor]; George Robin and John William’s “messuages and lands there” and “quarter of a wear” and  “halfe a wear and a quarter of a wear” respectively; and Thomas Dowl’s “messuage and lands at Ffistleboon”. The rest of the entries related to just let land, variously described as meadow,’arrable’ and pasture land, and the rights of the tenants to “common for all maner of cattle sans number” in the waste grounds including “Mumbles Clifft, west Clifft, Summer Clifft, and Norton burroughes”. As a corollary there was an obligation on the tenants “to grind at the Lord’s mill all the corn that shall grow and be spent upon the customary lands”. The ‘Lord’s Mill’ was of course situated at Blackpill.

His Mill is mentioned again in Gabriel Powell’s ‘Survey of the Lordship of Gower’ 1764, as is an ‘Account of the Inhabitants of Thistleboon that grazed Thistleboon or Mumbles Hill in the year 1761’. This account revealed that no less than 18 separate individuals, with 14 horses and 79 sheep were paying a total of 15s 11d per annum to the Lordship for what I thought were free common rights. On the other hand it also states:

“The tenants have usually gathered and carried away sea weed called kelp, and also sand from the sea side for manuring their lands, without paying any acknowledgement to the Lord for so doing”

By this time there seem to have been about ten ‘Houses and Land’ at Thistleboon which represents a modest increase since 1650. The lack of mention of cattle suggests that they were not allowed to roam, and were confined to their owners fields.

The first Map I have seen showing some of the boundaries of these fields was found by Wendy Cope amongst the Badminton papers at the National Library of Wales, is reproduced here [left] and shows the fields that belonged to Jane Shewen in 1803. The ‘REFERENCE’ [page 9 top right] identifies the 25 fields which she held, their names and the Quality of that land, again whether Arable, Pasture or Meadow. This is where the field names come from on the extracts from the 1844 Tithe Map that I have been using for my Route map for this Trek.

As I look out from my bedroom window over what is left of that ancient field pattern, I often wonder whether the murder of crows that scours the stubble left on the fields after the harvest, and swoops and swirls in the air currents coming in off the sea creating all sorts of fascinating patterns at both dawn and dusk, are descended from those ancient times. The same goes for the sweeping seagulls, the wood pigeons, the magpies, the blackbirds, the thrushes, the robins, the wrens, the tits, finches, sparrows and dunnocks which have survived man’s persecution. They probably have a greater claim to all this beauty than us mere mortal incomers.

I also wonder what it must have been like ‘up there’ between 1803 and 1841 when the only routes were up Western Lane and Plunch Lane, and along Higher Lane and Southward Lane to Newton. They were all narrow lanes just wide enough to accommodate carthorses with their narrow carts, ponies and traps and the occasional horse rider passing the many farm labourers using Shanks’s Pony! In Middlemarch George Eliot paints a picture of what the countryside was like in the Midlands at that time. It might be well applied here:

“The ride to Stone Court, which Fred and Rosamund took the next morning, lay through a pretty bit of midland landscape, almost all meadows and pastures, with hedgerows still allowed to grow in bushy beauty and to spread out coral fruit for the birds. Little details gave each field a particular physiognomy, dear to the eyes that have looked on them from childhood: the pool in the corner where the grasses were dank and trees leaned whisperingly; the great oak shadowing a bare place in mid-pasture; the high bank where the ash trees grew; the sudden slope of the old marl-pit making a red background for the burdock; the huddled roofs and ricks of the homestead without a traceable way of approach; the grey gate and fences against the depths of the bordering wood; and the stray hovel, its old, old thatch full of mossy hills and valleys with wondrous modulations of light and shadow such as we travel far to see in later life, and see larger, but not more beautiful. These are the things that make the gamut of joy in landscape to midland-bred souls – the things they toddled among, or perhaps learned by heart standing between their father’s knees while he drove leisurely”

In my imagination this drive could have been along Higher Lane heading towards Thistleboon, with Thistleboon House being the ‘homestead’ and Lewins Hill Cottage being the ‘thatched hovel’!

But I digress!

When I first saw the 1844 Tithe Map depiction of the layout of the Farm, I had in my mind’s eye the photo of the farmyard shown. It was taken in about 1946 and nothing had changed by the nineteen fifties.

  • Going down the entrance track to the Farm there was the whitewashed wall on the left, behind which was the kitchen garden coloured yellow on the 1844 Map. That was where all sorts of vegetables were grown for sale: cabbages, lettuce, broad beans, runner beans, carrots and parsnips.
  • Stepped back, to the left was a long, whitewashed building with first the threshing room and grain store on the left. In our day the thresher was driven by a belt connected to a fly wheel on the tractor. Alongside that the rest of that building was taken up by the cowshed and milking parlour with its three-legged stools and stainless-steel buckets. No machinery then: milking was all done by hand.
  • Beyond that building stretched the public footpath through the Farm taking us on to Bryn Terrace, and the joys of the ‘Hilly Field’ which can be clearly seen on the photo [left]. That footpath is still there and is the one that runs alongside our present Vicarage in Western Close, on the site of what were the pig sties. The Vicar must have some good soil!
  • To the left and right of that path were open steel barns with corrugated iron roofs and sides. These were used as haybarns.
  • In the middle distance can be seen a Stable with a half door and loft above, and in front a single storey range of stables. They weren’t there in 1841 but were probably added in about 1859 when the Classroom and Dormitory block was constructed next door.
  • The Hay Cart in the middle of the farmyard was always there!
  • Moving backward on the right towards the farm itself was a utensil and Farm machinery store in the corner, and then the Dairy which can be clearly seen in the photo marked ‘JAN 22 1976 [right]. The white gate was used to bring the buckets of milk in and out, and there was a ‘back door’ from the kitchen into the ‘pasteurising room’.
  • Behind the whitewashed wall to the front of the farmhouse was another garden devoted to growing soft fruit such as raspberries, strawberries gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and rhubarb. You can also make out the pine end of ‘St Ives’ in the background.
  • For completeness I should add that alongside the main access track there was a  wooden five barred gate into what we called ‘ The Meadow’ which contained another steel and corrugated iron haybarn, a sheep dip, and the chicken hutches. In this field you could also find the Well I have already mentioned, the ruins of the animal pound, and as you climbed up towards what is now Worcester Drive, there were three summer chalets or bungalows tucked into three separate corners.

It is clear from what I have already written that farming went on in Thistleboon long before the Farm was created. General Warde had no trouble letting the agricultural land after he bought the Estate in 1819. Before that it seems that during the time that Thistleboon House was occupied by aspiring gentry from 1650 the occupiers I have described farmed the land with help of bailiffs and labourers living near the Slaughter House or Abattoir in Thistleboon Lane.

Continuing my timeline theme I will deal with the tenancies of the Farm that have been recorded

 

1841 to 1846: Evan Williams

Evan Williams must have been a brave man to take on an agricultural tenancy in 1841. The Tithe Commissioners were busy surveying all the agricultural land in England and Wales in advance of changing tithing from a means of taking one tenth of his crop, to taking financial payments instead. This was clearly a tax payable not to the State but to the Church and the other Improprietors’. In the case of the Parish of Oystermouth the tithes were paid to one Thomas Perrot as we have seen in the Vestry Minute Book entry for 1834.

But a far more pernicious form of tariff at that time were the tariffs imposed by the Corn Laws. In 1815. Just as the Duke of Wellington was putting an end to the Napoleonic Wars with his victory at Waterloo, the Tory government of Lord Liverpool introduced the Corn Laws by an Act of Parliament passed on 23rd March 1815 entitled “ An Act to amend the Laws now in force for regulating the Importation of Corn”. The word ‘Corn’ denoted all cereal grains, including wheat, oats and barley, and the Corn Laws were tariffs and other trade restrictions on imported food enforced in the United Kingdom between 1815 and 1846. They were designed to keep grain prices high to favour domestic producers, and there was serious rioting in London when the laws were passed.

The Corn Laws enhanced the profits and political power associated with land ownership at that time. The laws raised food prices and the costs of living of the British public, and hampered the growth of other British economic sectors, such as manufacturing, by reducing the disposable income of the British public. The repeal of the Corn Laws became a huge political issue led by Richard Cobden’s Anti-Corn Law League founded in 1838 and opposed by the Duke of Richmond’s Central Agricultural Protection Society known as the ‘Anti League’ founded in 1844. In that year the agitation subsided as there were fruitful harvests

However, the situation changed in late 1845 with poor harvests and the Great Famine in Ireland; Britain experienced a disastrous fall in food supplies and Ireland starvation. In 1846 the Prime Minister Robert Peel called for repeal despite the opposition of most of his Conservative Party. Against all the odds Peel successfully steered his Bill of Repeal (Importation) Act through Parliament in May 1846 with support from the Duke of Wellington in the House of Lords on 25th June. On the same night Peel’s Irish Coercion Bill was defeated in the Commons and Peel was forced to resign.

Here was a Conservative who rose above class interest and at a moment of tragedy, of horror, of bitter suffering in Ireland, strove to do the right thing and cut the price of food. In the folk memory of that Party he has gone down as the man who made the unforgiveable error of splitting it and therefore casting it into the political wilderness for a generation.  {I wonder whether history might be about to repeat itself!)

Against the background of all this national turbulence I suspect that Evan Williams struggled to make the Farm viable, so it is not surprising that he surrendered the tenancy in 1846

 

1846 to 1861: William Beynon

With the repeal of the Corn Laws William Beynon seems to have chosen a better time to take on the tenancy. With his wife Sarah (nee Jinkin) he moved from Manselfield in Murton and they are recorded as being at Thistleboon Farm in the 1851 Census. This shows that William was 78, his wife Sarah was 69, their son John was 36 and his wife Ann was 30. There is no mention on that Census of their daughter Elizabeth who was born on 20th June 1840, but she does figure in the story later

By 1851 William Beynon was farming 74 acres and was prosperous enough to have a vote in Parliamentary Elections, as a tenant of land worth over £50.

There is a Family Bible of this Beynon family bought in 1842 but dated from William’s birth on 12th September 1773 listing some of that family’s connections [image right]. In particular, it records that William died on 29th September 1860 aged 87, and that his wife Sarah had died before him on 20th October 1857 aged 76.

Peculiarly whilst the entries all relate to Beynon’s, the only entry after 1860 is one recording the birth of Thomas Ernest Woollacott on 15th June 1905. This entry jumps a generation and relates to ‘Tom’ Woollacott about whom more is to follow.

 

1861 to 1904: John and Anne Beynon

Following the death of his father William, John and his wife Anne took over the running of the Farm, and they are both recorded as living there in the census Returns from 1861 to 1891. In 1861 John was farming 90 acres and paying £90 per annum for the holding to the Beaufort estate. The size of the holding had increased by 16 acres to 90 acres, and it is a matter for conjecture at this stage whether the extra acreage had been acquired and included by the landlord, or whether it was the two large meadows at Lewins Hill beyond ‘the Well Field’ shown in 1803 as belonging to Thomas Penrice of Kilvrough which had been bought by the Beynon’s.

It was this John Beynon who had employed as a labourer ‘Rowlands the Miser’ mentioned in Part 2 of this Trek.

J          ohn Beynon died and was buried on 2nd June 1897, and his widow Anne aged 80 is shown as living at the Farm in the 1901 Census with three servants named Williams. In the meantime, their daughter Elizabeth born in 1840 and mentioned above had married a Richard Woollacott of Newton on 13th May 1862, taking over the ‘Rock and Fountain’ there and producing six children.

This couple appear to have taken over the Farm after 1901 and passed the tenancy on to their second son Richard Ernest Woollacott (‘Dick’) born on 24th September 1873. I have assumed the change took place in 1904 as Dick had married Jane Williams born in 1875 in that year. As a teenager she had worked in Newton Post Office which belonged to her Williams Uncle and Aunt.

Their son Tom was probably born in the Farm which qualified his name to be entered in the Family Bible in 1905 after his parents moved in on their marriage in 1904.

 

1904 to 1946: Dick and Jane Woollacott

When I set out on this journey, I assumed that the Woollacott family had lived at Newton and Thistleboon for time immemorial. I can, perhaps be forgiven for that as Oliver Cromwell’s 1650 Survey of Gower recorded not only that an ‘Anne Woolcocke’ but also a ‘William Woolcocke’ each had separate messuages and lands at Newton. However, that assumption was dashed when I read Jaci Gruffudd’s fascinating Article in Gower 71 entitled ‘Come for a day -Stay forever’ published last Autumn. I am indebted to Jaci and her cousins Sue and Andy Thorndyke for not only putting me straight, but for providing me with a copy of the Woollacott Family Tree, and the Beynon Family Bible.

Before looking at Thistleboon, I have to record that the Family Tree does record the birth, on 8th February 1899 of Elizabeth Maud Woollacott, daughter of another John Beynon Woollacott. This good lady died a spinster on 10th April 1982 at age of 83 living in a cottage alongside the old Newton School where she had probably lived all her life. She was of course the ageless Miss Maud Woollacott Mistress of Class J 3A at Oystermouth Junior Mixed School, or the ‘Church School’ as it was still known when I was there between 1949 and 1958. She was a stern disciplinarian who terrified all her pupils. If any of us was guilty of saying “By here” or “By there” instead of “here” and “there” we were guaranteed to be rapped across the knuckles with her sharp ruler. Despite this we all seem to have learned a lot from her as she prepared us to move on to Mr Guest and J 4A for our 11+ year.

 I was reminiscing about her just a few days ago with Jean Buckland (nee Packe) suggesting that ‘Maud’ did not really like girls, but preferred boys, and cited as an example that Roger Tancock as Board Monitor, and myself as Milk Monitor were clearly favoured. Jean reminded me that her task was to go down to Kostromin’s Café on Mumbles Road each day to collect Maud’s lunch on a tray before joining the rest of us for lunch at the Victoria Hall. So too did Gerald Gabb a few years later. Not much child safeguarding in those days!

The highlight of Maud’s year was the annual school production of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” put on by the third forms in the Church Hall at Castle Avenue. I must have been in J1 when I first saw it and was mesmerised by Alan Clewett’s portrayal of ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’, and Babs Lewis ‘Mrs Fezziwig’. When my turn came I played ‘Old Joe’ the Rag and Bone man, a one line part which was trumped by my sister Sylvia playing ‘Tiny Tim’ the following year.

But back to the other Woollacott’s: here is Jaci’s story:

“At the beginning of the 1800s a young man called John Woollacott from High Bickington, Devon arrived on a boat which had come to Gower to collect lime for the farms in Devon. Whist waiting for the tide to come in, he visited a local pub where he sampled the home brew and took a fancy to the daughter of the landlord. It was probably the Rock and Fountain in Newton. Having had a few too many drinks he accidentally missed the boat home and decided to stay in Newton!

John went on to marry twice, firstly to Amelia with whom he had five children and secondly to Mary with whom he had six children, He lived until 1865 and was therefore in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses being described as a victualler (Rock and Fountain) and farmer of the 40 acres located behind the pub”

Amelia was a Webborn, and Mary may only have had one child making a total of six. His eldest son Richard was the only son to survive and is the Richard who married Elizabeth Beynon on 13th May 1862 as mentioned above: thus the link was set up for his son Richard Ernest (Dick), who was born on 24th September 1873, to take over Thistleboon Farm in 1904 when he was 31.

The photo of the Farm shown in the Gower 71 Article is in fact Nottage Farm at Newton which was farmed by another branch of the Woollacott family mentioned by Jaci in her Article. This was another another ‘Uncle Dick’ who was a tenant of the Grove Hills Estate, and is remembered by Gerald as a ‘stout and dark’ man who regularly drove his cattle up St Peter’s Road and Summerland Lane to their pastures.

Dick and Jane Woollacott continued to run the Farm through two World Wars and had four sons: Tom born in 1905; Richard Reginald ‘Reg’ born in 1906; John Beynon ‘Jack’ born in 1910, and Robert Glyn ‘Glyn’ born in 1919. There was only one daughter who died in infancy.

Of the four boys Reg was the only one to move away from Thistleboon, all the way to Newton!  When Reg and his wife Phyllis married in 1941 they went on to live in Nottage Road Newton, next door to his second-cousin Maud. He was encouraged by his father to set up business as a butcher at a shop in Newton Road on the same side as the Newton Inn. No prizes for guessing where most of his stock was coming from: remember that alongside Thistleboon Farm was Thistleboon Slaughterhouse!

 He had three daughters and a son Roger who was born in 1946, and the family went to live over the shop in 1952. Reg died in January 1986 and his family is still well represented in Newton. The business was taken over by Roger who also started farming at ‘Espalone’ on the Murton side of Newton and later moved the shop to its present location in Nottage Road. The business is now run by Roger’s  son Robin who also farms from ‘Espalone’. The business is still a family business thriving under the name ‘Woollacott & Son Butchers and Grocers” Its bye-line is “We sell beef that is reared on our own farm”, which suggests that Robin is on first name terms with his steaks! Its’ good to see that family tradition continuing in these times of change.

Tom, Jack and Glyn all continued to work on the Farm with their parents and there are some interesting photos on the OHA Archive from those times;

  1. This is captioned ‘Mr Tom Woollacott at the Gower Show Circa 1921’and shows Tom [right] with a magnificent Shire horse. In 1921 Tom was only 16, so I suspect that it was taken later. I can only remember once seeing Tom without his cap!
  2. I’m not sure who is in this photo which is captioned ‘In the big meadow at Thistleboon looking down to Woollacott’s farm and the orphanage c1925’. This was taken from what is now Worcester Drive and is interesting not only for showing the farmhouse from a distance, but also the hayrick in the meadow behind the ‘Homberg Hat’, but also the Slaughterhouse ‘ New Villas’ under construction, and above the head of the man with the moustache, the ruins of the Animal Pound.

  3. ‘Thistleboon Farm c1926’ [below left] gives an idea about the number of Free-range chickens there were in the meadow. The long low Cowshed and Threshing room building is clear, and Hilary MacKenzie’s house ‘Westward Ho’, but there is no sign of the hayrick in the meadow. The children’s clothes give nothing away, so I suspect this might have been taken later than 1926.
  4. ‘Dick Woollacott’ in the meadow above the farm [below right] in the 1920s, and in the farmyard [below left] with the same old haycart behind. This seems to have been taken in 1946 when Dick died aged 73.
  5. So too the photo of one of the carthorses being watered outside the stable in the corner, with the same haycart in front! The Utensil Store can be seen in the background [below right]

I am also able to reproduce a Hand drawn Map of ‘Dick Woollacott’s Farm, Thistleboon Pre-1940’ drawn up by D M Webborn in 1950. I am grateful to Dr John Harkness of Beaufort Avenue for this very interesting depiction of what the area was like before any significant building took place. It’s a pity that Dick’s fields aren’t coloured, but the detail is quite fascinating. In particular:

  • Although Thistleboon House doesn’t get a mention, the farmyard shown is very much as I have described it.
  • The three chalets in the Meadow that I have mentioned are clearly shown as bungalows, as is the steepness of the Meadow and the ‘Hilly Field’.
  • Most of the fields shown were being farmed by Dick, but there were other smallholdings tended by others such as ‘John Webborn’s Garden’ on Higher Lane, ‘Percy McKay’s Market Garden’ at the end of Sheepy Lane, ‘John Arras Ground’, Craig y Mor’s gardens opposite the house, with allotments behind and at the ‘Milking Bank.
  • The Slaughter House behind is also clearly shown, and was still in use at this time.
  • Travelling west along Higher Lane after passing ‘White Lady Cottage’ with the pair of Semis at the end of that plot, the most significant houses were ’Evans the Blossom’ and ‘Channel View’.
  • The footpath to Lambs Well and Rotherslade is also clearly shown in the same position as it is now. It was and is possible to avoid the bog at the bottom of the ‘Well Field’ by walking down Tap Lane to Bob Todd, and Bater’s fields as well as the ‘Bungalow Field’ which is still there.
  • ‘Lambs Well’, ‘Doctor’s Mine’, Ginnys Gut’ and ‘Tom Nicholl’s Hole’ are all nicely depicted, but not the amazing viewpoint at ‘Ram’s Tor’ which is only shown as a ‘Bluff’.
  • Further to the west the pre-War ribbon development is shown, as is the edge of the Garden of ‘Brackenhurst’ the splendid Edwardian House built as a Vicarage for Rev Harold Williams, now re-named ‘The Old Vicarage’ and available to buy as a ’snip’ at £2.3 million!
  • I should also mention ‘Morfryn’, another splendid house set in its own grounds and once occupied by a client of mine. This is the site of the recent multi-million pound housing development which has made St Anne’s Close the most expensive road in Wales.

 

1946 to 1971: Tom, Dick and Glyn Woollacott

Following the death of Dick in 1946 the Farm continued to be run by his widow Jane, and though later Tom, as the eldest became the tenant of the Beaufort Estate, we local children realised that as long as she was alive Jane was ‘the boss’! In her ‘Thistleboon Childhood’ (on the History of Mumbles Website), Hilary MacKenzie recalls these days:

“We had no fridge - did anyone? – and so a pleasant little job in the summer was to go over to the farm with a jug and get fresh milk at tea-time. It was frothy and warm from the cow – no worries about pasteurization in those far off days, and it never did us any harm”

When I first read this it immediately resonated with me, for that is a little job I had a few years later when I was 7 or 8. I clearly recall walking down the track to the entrance porch entrusted  with an enamel jug and a few pence to buy a pint of milk. I too remember kind old Mrs Woollacott answering the door and asking me to wait while she went to the dairy to fetch the milk. It was only later when Tom’s wife ‘Auntie Marjorie’ was on duty that I was allowed into the dairy to watch the milk being drawn with a stainless-steel ladle from a huge milk churn; I also remember being fascinated by the pasteurising equipment.


The waiting usually took place in the kitchen alongside the staircase to the upper floor, and which was like something out of ‘Poldark’; stone flagstones and quite dark and gloomy. The whole room was surrounded by wooden wainscotting, and directly ahead there was an archway with a heavy curtain leading to the rest of the house. Alongside this was a large Grandfather Clock and a huge Welsh Dresser loaded with Willow Pattern China and Lustre China Jugs, in front of which was a large scrubbed table; there was a large sash window at the end of the room looking out over the soft fruit garden, and to my right was an armchair, a fire and cooking range, and an uncomfortable oak Settle backing onto the entrance way. I was delighted to find among the HA Archives the two photos shown, both taken by Jaci’s father Bryn Fox:

 

  • The one with Marjorie in front of the Grandfather Clock [above left] and Welsh Dresser which Jaci also used in Gower 71  brought that kitchen back so vividly and re- kindled my fond memories of Marjorie.
  • The one of the Arch and Curtain [above right] reminded me of how mysterious that corner was. Jaci tells me that behind that curtain was a small sitting room with a television, and a ‘Wainscotted Parlour’ as George Eliot would have said. This also looked out over the front garden and was only used on special occasions

 

I remember being in that kitchen waiting one day when through the gloom I realised that someone who I did not recognise was sitting on the armchair. When Marjorie came back with the milk a few words were exchanged and I realised that it was Tom - without his cap on. With his ruddy red complexion and white bald head he looked completely different!

Not surprisingly the three brothers were a taciturn bunch. They were men of few words, and legend had it that they did not speak to each other. They each had their jobs to do and got on with them. By 1948 Tom and Marjorie (nee Fox) who had married in 1945 were living in the Farm with Jack the bachelor and Glyn who had married Phyllis (Richards) in 1941. Glyn’s sons Ronald Michael (‘Mike’) had come along in 1941and Richard Glyn (‘Dick’) in 1946. In 1947 David had joined Mike and Dick, and Newton had been born to Tom and Marjorie in 1947 too. It was getting a bit crowded, so changes took place.

The Beaufort Estate through the medium of its property company Picton Developments Ltd had started to complete its pre War development opposite, and Glyn and Phyllis and their boys took up residence as tenants of a new semi-detached house at Thistleboon Gardens in 1948, thus freeing up space in the Farmhouse. Newton’s brother Ian was born in the Farm  in 1950; and in 1953 Robert John(‘Johnnie’) and 1955 Colin Jeffrey (‘Jeff’} were born in Thistleboon Gardens. Thistleboon was awash with Woollacotts!

The status of the Farm in 1948 is beautifully summarised in an Essay written for School by Alan Prosser in 1948 after Glyn and his family had moved, which I have reproduced in full at the end of this chapter. With 100 acres, 41 sheep and a ram, 32 dairy cows and a bull, 3 carthorses, a few pigs, 100 chickens, 8 geese and a few ducks it had become a substantial undertaking providing a reasonable, but hard living for the extended family which was getting bigger in the Post War baby boom. The future looked rosy for them all.

1948 also brought into force the first Town and Country Planning Act 1947, designed to help meet the huge Post War demand for new Housing, and the Agricultural Holdings Act 1947 which was designed to regulate agricultural tenancies, and to make it easier for landowners to retrieve agricultural land for development. These heralded the death knell of the Farm with its fields on either side of Higher Lane offering ‘attractive development opportunities’.

The Gower Society had been formed in 1947 and existed to enhance and protect the natural beauty of the area of the old Lordship of Gower about which we have learned so much. The officers of the Society were active in the negotiations that took place with the County of Glamorgan and the County Borough of Swansea to fix the boundary of the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that was to be declared in 1956. I am told that there was quite a battle to fix that boundary in Mumbles, and to define the areas that would be available for building houses in the local Development Plan approved in 1963.

In essence the boundary of the Gower AONB here allowed for the development of Beaufort Avenue, and the land to the South of Higher Lane from Langland Corner to Thistleboon Farm as they were outside the boundary. Nearly all of that land belonged to the Somerset Trust which had legal ownership of the Duke of Beaufort’s ‘Lordship of Gower’. It is not surprising therefore to recall that the main roads on the present estates are known as Somerset Road, Beaufort Avenue, Worcester Drive and Cambridge Road to reflect the titles of Henry Somerset, 10th Duke of Beaufort and Marquess of Worcester (1900 – 1924 – 1984) and of one of the Trustees George Francis Hugh Cambridge, 2nd Marquess of Cambridge (1891 – 1981).

House building went on apace during the 1950s and 1960s, including my own house on the part of Lewins Hill (called Lowans Hill on the 1950 Map), where I used to go with my father early in the morning in my Wellington Boots to collect the most wonderful field mushrooms that popped up in the night. Three or four mushrooms were all that were needed with some Bacon and Eggs from the Farm to make a veritable feast.

As more land went for development the Farm became less and less viable so that by 1971 the Woollacott’s left had to surrender their tenancy. Tom and Marjorie, and Jack retired to cottages which they both owned in Newton, and Glyn got himself a job with Swansea Council’s Parks Dept as a gardener and ended up as main guardian of Oystermouth Castle. Phyllis had predeceased him and Glyn at Thistleboon Gardens in 1990. The older boys had long since flown the nest, but Jeffrey, his youngest son stayed on there for a few years before moving to West Cross. Thus, Jeff was the last of the Woollacott’s to live in Thistleboon.

I am grateful to Frank Rott a dear friend in childhood of No 8 ( now 144) Higher Lane for the photos I have shown of the bulldozer moving into the Meadow in 1972 to clear the site for what is now Heatherslade Road. When compared with the 1926 photo of the chickens on that meadow, the coming demise of the Chicken Shed has something of ‘The Chicken Run’ about it!

But the connection was not finally severed until a few years later. The remaining fields to the south of Higher Lane were let to Peter Griffin who also farmed at Scurlage. Peter had strong connections with Mumbles as his family had been Corn Merchants for many years operating out of their shop in Newton Road. Although the business had closed (the shop being let to ‘Bryn Lewis – Gents Outfitters’ and is now the ‘Wales Air Ambulance’ Charity Shop) he and his wife continued to live in the maisonette above. During Peter’s time working those fields Tom Woollacott would be seen most days until his death in 2003 walking the Cliff path up to the Ram’s Tor to ensure that the two large meadows he owned behind the ‘Well Field’ had not disappeared in the night!

Newton and Ian both moved to work abroad, and Ian is still in Australia. Newton saved enough money to enable him to purchase a farm in Penmaen. When me and my wife returned from exile in deepest Surrey in 2012, Newton was not only farming in Gower but also on the fields that were left at Thistleboon, partly on Tom’s fields and partly on Beaufort land. These have become known recently as the ‘Higher Lane Fields’. Newton  had fenced a lot of the land to make it stockproof and used it to breed sheep. The sheep brought life to the land and were used to supply his cousin Roger with his delicious ‘Limeslade Lamb’. Sadly, that arrangement came to an end in about 2017 when Tom’s fields had to be sold, and Newton surrendered the tenancy of the remaining fields. There are no sheep there now, and all the fields are devoted to growing cereal. The aerial photo [above right] is mine and was taken in 2014: it shows the Higher Lane Fields, and Newton’s sheep!

So there are no longer any Woollacotts connected with Thistleboon, and, ironically Tom’s fields were bought by the 10th Duke of Beaufort to consolidate his remaining holdings there.

I shall finish this Section on a nostalgic note with a few verses from a poem written by Cyril Gwynne ‘The Bard of Gower’ over fifty years ago:

 

“When Mumbles was ‘The Mumbles’ ‘tis not so long ago,

Since I was but a nipper going to school,

When fishing craft and dredger would anchor in a row

And the boy who couldn’t swim was dubbed a fool.

 

Then Mumbles was The Mumbles, especially Southend,

Where the smallest kid could holler “Ship Ahoy!”

And knew the cut of every craft that sailed around the Head,

For the sea was a Mumbles fellow’s joy.

 

When ‘Jasper’ on the lighthouse all passing vessels warned

To shape their course away from Mixen Sands,

When Mr Clough held classes where Mumbles laddies learned

To fit themselves for posts in many lands,

 

Then Bracelet and Limeslade were backed by living green

Where wild things lived and never came to harm.

Corn grew in the dingles where dwellings now are seen

‘Twixt Limeslade and Langland lay a farm”

 

Stuart Batcup March 2021


My Life in Poetry

Poetry has been an essential part of me for most of my life. Lines of poetry forever pass through my mind and over the years I have shared this love with so many and they too have passed on their fondness and knowledge. From the beauty of Shakespeare's sonnets to the humour of Joyce Grenfell.

Perhaps to start at the beginning and a favourite with many A.A. Milne's Christopher Robin "They're changing guards at Buckingham Palace". How many have joined me in saying this before bedtime "Little boy kneels at the foot of the bed" I have read and shared both with old and young and they always bring back happy memories.

My enjoyment of poetry began many years ago in Swansea having lessons with a wonderful lady, Kate Kolinsky. I qualified and taught later myself.

For many years I was able to share this love with the residents of a St Albans care home. I particularly remember how one lady enjoyed Joyce Grenfell. How we laughed. Another had seen the musical "Cats". The fun we had reading that poetry by T.S. Eliot on which the musical is based.

A wonderful gentleman there introduced me to Robert Service's poetry on the Yukon. A popular well known poem of his  is "The shooting of Dan Mcgrew". Another very personal recollection, sad too, was when I recited "I remember I remember" by Thomas Hood. A lovely lady who had Alzheimer's started reciting with me the whole poem. Her daughter later told me she was amazed as her mother had not spoken coherently for months and what joy it gave her to share that moment. Sadly the lady passed away three weeks later.

One has to mention Swansea's well known poet Vernon Watkins, a close friend of Dylan Thomas. A musical poet, how he appreciated nature. I loved reading his poems of Gower - the  smell of the wind, the voice of the sea - enjoying these when we lived in land locked St Albans. A place again very dear to him where he and his wife Gwen spent their honeymoon. We had mutual friends there - a small world.

It's interesting that poetry has helped people with Dysphasia i.e. losing your speech which is often brought on by a stroke. The rhythm and rhyme help and also showing that the long term memory from childhood can still be there.

Finally I have to mention my favourite poem from "Endymion" by John Keats "A thing of beauty is a joy forever" The flood gates have now been opened. I could go on forever!

After living forty five years away I have returned to the land of sea and song. In the words of John Masefield "I must go down to the sea again"    

Christine Carpenter


Diamond Wedding Thanks

 

We would like to extend our grateful thanks to Revd. Keith and all our friends at Norton and All Saints' Church for the beautiful tributes you all paid to us in the form of gifts, cards and telephone calls.  We were truly overwhelmed by your generosity to us on our special day. We cannot thank you enough, especially as our family could not  be with us in person on the day, owing to the restriction on travelling. You made our day really memorable, and we cannot thank you all enough.

God bless you all.

Les and Brenda.

 

 


Beware of the Scam

           

Scammers have been targeting people in the area with letters, purporting to be from the Royal Mail, saying that there is payment due on a parcel that they could not deliver. The letter suggests that you should ring or go online to make the payment. Though the letter looks legitimate it is a SCAM and should be ignored.


SS PROTESILAUS: JANUARY 1940

 

A Bitterly Cold Winter

For a few days in January this year, 2021, it was seasonally wintry. The night skies were clear and in the morning cars in our cul-de-sac were covered with ice and the gardens decorated with hoar frost. The air outside was bitingly cold. The shore of Swansea Bay was fringed with ice and the sea was a hard, silvery grey.

In “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” [All Saints’ Parish Magazine, December 2020 and New Year, Vol. 121, Number 10] I wrote about the first winter of the Second World War – the coldest winter for 45 years. The frosts began just after Christmas 1939 and continued until mid-February 1940, with frequent heavy snowfalls and an ice-storm that brought Britain to a standstill.  In the third week of January it was so cold that The Mumbles Lifeboat could not be brought back up her slipway after rescuing 22 men from a ship mined in the Bristol Channel.

The coxswain of The Mumbles Lifeboat in January 1940 was William Edwin Davies, a man of immense maritime experience. He had taken over the command of the lifeboat from his father, William Davies snr. in 1919. When war was declared in September 1939 he knew the younger crewmen would be called up; after all he had served in the RNR in the First World War, as had the present Second Coxswain, William John Gammon. Both men knew the empty places would be filled promptly by older men – there was never a shortage of lifeboat volunteers.

 

Coxswain William Edwin Davies (3rd left, back row) and crew in the 1930s. [RNLI]

 

The Mumbles crew knew that whilst they were familiar with the peacetime perils of the sea, wartime would bring additional dangers. Night time launches would be during the blackout, with minimum navigation and shore lights to aid them; the huge increase in shipping coming in and out of Swansea Bay could well be hazardous to their small boat in the dark and they would negotiate minefields (German and British) risking attack from beneath the waves and in the skies above. The coxswain was issued with firearms and ammunition just in case they met the enemy at sea.

With the Admiralty controlling the coast, the lifeboat (like all other vessels) could not put to sea without permission from the commanding officer at Swansea Naval Base. He also instructed the coxswain what to do and what not to do when the lifeboat did launch. The crew knew they could be called upon to rescue men badly injured as a result of their ships being blown apart by mines or torpedoes. Above all, they knew they would be much busier than in peacetime. [photograph left - Edward, Prince of Wales arriving at Mumbles, May 1924, by M.A. Clare]

The Mumbles lifeboat Edward, Prince of Wales had been at the station since May 1924. She had undergone a refit in September 1936 but plans to replace her, announced in June 1938, were indefinitely postponed by the outbreak of war.

 

Coxswain and crew understood that if anything happened to Edward, Prince of Wales there would be no chance of a replacement now. All boat-building yards and engineering shops had been requisitioned for war use and building new lifeboats would be impossible. Even so, if the country was invaded, Coxswain Davies had orders to destroy the lifeboat’s engine. (This order was amended in March 1943. The coxswain was instead to take the lifeboat to Swansea Docks and place it, along with himself and crew, under the Port Naval Officer’s order. That officer would, if necessary, immobilise, not destroy, the lifeboat’s engine.) [photograph right: Edward, Prince of Wales undergoing a refit at Hill’s yard Bristol, September 1936. [RNLI]

At 09.15 hours on Sunday 21 January 1940 Coxswain Davies received an urgent message from the Coastguard. A ship (presumably mined) was sinking in the Bristol Channel, six miles WSW of Mumbles Head, off Rotherslade Bay.

Firing maroons was forbidden during wartime, so the crew were alerted by messengers banging on front doors. (Messengers might be the police or boys eager to help). Thus summoned, men grabbed warm clothes, hurried out into the bitter cold, along the road to the pier and boathouse. [photograph left: Edward, Prince of Wales launching, by M.A. Clare, 1924

 

 

Just twenty minutes after the coastguard message had come through, at 09.35, the lifeboat Edward, Prince of Wales, launched down the slipway. On board were Coxswain William Edwin Davies, Mechanic Robert Williams, Second Coxswain William John Gammon and crew members William Thomas, Charlie Davies, Tom Davies, A. Gammon and William Noel. All were experienced crew, but uncertain as to what they would find when they reached the casualty – SS Protesilaus. [pphotograph right: SS Protesilaus, in happier times, before her sinking in 1940 [Photo Swansea Docks]

 

 

A moderate easterly breeze was blowing, but the sea was smooth with a cold mist drifting over it as the lifeboat rounded the lighthouse island and turned towards Rotherslade Bay. It took forty minutes to reach the stricken vessel, owned by Alfred Holt & Company’s Blue Funnel Line, one of Britain’s larger shipping companies.

 

The minefield Protesilaus had run into had been laid on 5 December 1939 by the German submarine, U-28 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Günter Kuknke. U-28 had been sent on patrol on 8 November 1939 with instructions to lay a minefield near the entrance of the important port of Swansea. U-28 returned to base on 12 December having torpedoed and sunk a Dutch tanker and a British freighter. Six weeks later ‘her’ minefield claimed the Protesilaus sailing in ballast from her home port of Liverpool to Barry. The explosive shock from the magnetic mine detonated a magazine. Whilst this caused considerable damage to the ship, fortunately none of the 75 on board was killed. [Photograph of Kapitänleutnant Günter Kuknke, above right - from uboat.net]

When Edward, Prince of Wales arrived at the scene they found a patrol vessel alongside the Protesilaus. HMS Paramount was a Royal Navy minesweeper - a converted drifter trawler from Milford commanded by C. Ernest Blowers, RNR. His crew had already rescued 53 men. In the freezing weather conditions Coxswain Davies and The Mumbles lifeboat crew rescued the remaining 22, eight of them injured. The lifeboat returned to Mumbles where the survivors were taken care of by the Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance and the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society.

The lifeboat crew were unable to rehouse the lifeboat due to heavy frost. Instead of being safe in her boathouse, Edward, Prince of Wales remained afloat for several days until the weather improved.

SS Protesilaus was towed into Swansea Bay and beached on the edge of deep water off West Cross until such time as she could be taken into dock.

The mine-damaged Protesilaus, her stern low in the water, is towed by tugs into Swansea Bay. [Photograph left - private collection]

What happened to her after that was described by Laurie Latchford in his diary:

 “Her decks were forced into waves, her stern lying in 20 feet of mud. The bows rose and fell with the tide. The badly shattered midships couldn’t stand the strain and she broke her back. Surprising how easily a ship will do this….. She will not be salved but sold as scrap. The bows will be floated further inshore, and the stern raised if the mud will let it go! The Protesilaus wasn’t even insured at Lloyds, but by a salvage company. By peace-time standards she cannot be much of a loss, but nowadays anything which will carry a cargo is valuable.” [Sunday 4 February 1940; The Swansea Wartime Diary of Laurie Latchford]

[SS Protesilaus broke her back! Photograph from Mumbles News, OHA Archive]

 

 

 

 

 

The broken Protesilaus was an interesting sight in Swansea Bay for 6 months. In July she was re-floated and both sections towed into Briton Ferry docks. Laurie Latchford was right – she was beyond economic repair. The bow section [seen in the small photograph, right, being towed to Briton Ferry] was sold to ship-breakers Thomas W. Ward for scrap and broken up in 1942 at the company’s yards at Briton Ferry.

The stern section was intended for further use. After temporary repairs it was towed by two tugs Empire Henchman and Abeille 21 to the Royal Naval Base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands to be scuttled as a block ship. The previous autumn, during the night of 13/14 October 1939, Scapa Flow’s defences had been breached by U-47 which had crept in undetected at high tide through gaps in the old World War I block ships. Under the command of Korvettenkapitän Günther Prien U-47 fired 7 torpedoes at the anchored battleship Royal Oak which sank in minutes with the loss of 834 lives.

First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill immediately ordered the construction of permanent barriers across Scapa Flow’s sounds. But the Protesilaus’s stern section never reached Scapa. It developed a serious leak and had to be sunk by gun fire 5 miles NW of Skerryvore – a remote island in the Inner Hebrides.

U-28’s end was undignified too. In November 1940 she had become a training vessel for new U-boat crews. On 17 March 1944 during a training exercise at the U-boat pier at Neustadt she passed too close beneath a dummy freighter used for target practice. Her conning tower was ripped off and she sank.

HMS Paramount, a drifter trawler built in 1911, requisitioned by the Admiralty in November 1939 and refitted as a minesweeper, was based at Swansea Naval Base. She was handed back to her owners the Drifter Trawler Company of Milford in January 1946. She was scrapped nine years later at Llanelli.

     

The skipper, Harry Gander, and crew of the trawler Paramount in March 1955.                         [Photograph- left - from West Wales Guardian]

 

The ‘Captains’:

SS Protesilaus’s Master, Alfred Henry Denistoun Shand, RNR, served throughout the war. He died in 1969.

HMS Paramount’s skipper Clair Ernest Blowers, RNR, commanded minesweepers throughout the war. He died in 1974.

U-28’s Kapitänleutnant Günther Kuknke (Knight’s Cross) survived the war as well. He joined the Bundesmarine in 1955 and was appointed Konteradmiral in 1966. He retired in 1972 and died in 1990.

Edward, Prince of Wales: Coxswain William Edwin Davies retired in June 1940 and died less than two years later. His successor was William John Gammon. 

 

January 1940

For Britain’s lifeboats and their veteran crews January 1940 was a tough month made worse by the arctic weather. Spray froze as it fell encasing lifeboats and crew in ice so that the men’s oilskins had to be broken off. In the bitter cold crews searched in rough seas and gale-force winds for vessels missing in the pitch darkness of wartime blackout, forbidden to signal or call out. Darkened shores, treacherous enough at the best of times, were rendered even more dangerous by coastal defences. Crews navigated minefields and climbed aboard blazing ships to rescue men, many of them horribly injured.  In January 1940 lifeboats launched 143 times and rescued over 400 lives. Twenty-two of those were men saved from a casualty of war, SS Protesilaus, by the men of The Mumbles Lifeboat.

Kate Jones, March 2020