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Songs A to Cl

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Bells of Santiago, The

In December 1863 a church in Santiago, Chile, burnt down during a night-time service. Over 2,000 worshippers, mostly women, were burnt to death. Graham Vivian, of the Swansea copper dynasty, was in Santiago at the time on business. He bought the old church bells, beautifully cast in pure Chilean copper, and sent them back to Swansea, where three were hung in All Saints church, Oystermouth and a fourth given to St Thomas's, Neath. The bells were finally donated back to the people of Santiago for the 150th anniversary of the tragedy in 2013.


All Washed Up Ashore

The typical Swansea voyage - south-west across the Atlantic and round Cape Horn.  The dangers were not just at sea - the Chilean drinking dens were pretty rough too.  One of the worst was Smoky Joe's in Valparaiso, or Valipo as the Swansea men called it.  Then there were hurricanes - one Swansea ship was swept from anchor half a mile inland and left in a cornfield.  The crew were unharmed, and enjoyed some unscheduled shore leave!

Big Lil

Big Lil (Lilian Bilocca) was the daughter, wife and mother of Hull trawlermen in the 1960s.  She campaigned for improved safety legislation, on one occasion trying to jump from the quayside onto a trawler to prevent it sailing with a broken radio.  She was eventually successful after getting the support of Harold Wilson's government. 

Black and White

Based on a story Andrew's father Leonard used to tell, of a childhood holiday in the 1920s. From the window of their B&B he could look down into the docks, where the sight of these two ships, one unloading coal and the other loading china clay, made a lasting impression on him.  Literally, everything on one side was black with coal dust, and on the other, white with china clay. A striking image.

Brandy from the Wood

The Swansea Canal boatmen brought coal down from the Upper Valley, via a flight of locks near Maliphant Street to the old North Dock, now filled in and converted to a shopping precinct.  In the dock they would meet ships from France which would take coal back with them.  They brought in pit-prop timbers for the mines, but also brought casks of brandy, which the boatmen would sell on to the big houses of the mine-owners at a nice profit for everyone, except the Revenue men.  No-one was ever caught at this trade.  The French Cochon Noir and Welsh Mochyn Du both, of course, mean Black Pig.

Bronze and Brass

Copper, the source of Swansea's prosperity, was important in its own right, but also as the main constituent of bronze and brass, the two major structural alloys of Victorian times.  Gold and silver were the aristocracy of metals, iron was used for grandiose civil and military projects, but bronze and brass were the metallurgical peasantry, used for all the everyday things of life.  They are Everywoman and Everyman, always called upon to fulfil others' dreams.


Swansea bay was famous for its oyster beds.  By 1880, the oyster fleet numbered 200 boats, whose bright-coloured sails earned them the nickname "Butterflies".  By 1920, over-fishing and pollution had weakened the stocks, and a mystery illness wiped out the beds.  Now, the bright-coloured sails in Swansea bay are all pleasure boats.

By Harry

Based on the story recounted by Philip E Jones of Newquay, Ceredigion, bo'sun aboard the Harry, a 500 ton fore-and-aft rigged schooner, on her voyage from Swansea in 1893. Pennbucky, as elsewhere, was the Swansea sailors' name for the Brazilian port of Pernambuco (modern Recife), a place-name now more associated with fiddle bows.

Captain Courtney's Mistake

Apparently, during the Napoleonic Wars, there was more contraband landed on the Gower coast than anywhere else either side of the Bristol channel.  The leader of the biggest gang was one William Arthur, nicknamed 'King' Arthur, who lived at Highways Farm, Pennard - near Fairwood Common and the suggestively named Brandy Cove.  There are many local stories of how 'King' Arthur outwitted the Revenue men, this is one of them.


Childe the Hunter

The legend of Childe the Hunter is supposed to explain a real but mysterious long-running dispute over land titles which existed between the Benedictine monastery at Tavistock and the Cistercian priory at Plympton.  The feud only ended when both establishments were dissolved in the reign of Henry VIII.

Churchman's Road

The Reverend James Buckley was a Methodist minister from Llanelli in Carmarthenshire. Unusually for a Methodist, he also ran a brewery, and was said to be rather fond of a drink or several. Carmarthenshire in those days was dry on Sundays, but just over the river lies the town of Loughor, in Glamorganshire, where the pubs were open all week. There is nowadays a pub in Loughor called the Reverend James in his honour, and a beer of the same name.

Closing Of The Day

As the blackbird sings his evening song, the owl is waking up. As the weary farm-worker makes his way home, less reputable types like smugglers, poachers and folk-singers are starting their working day. So it goes.

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