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Swansea Jack

Updated on August 20, 2015

A hero dog - Swansea Jack

I'd heard people use the term 'Swansea Jack' many times but I've only just discovered where it originated.

Just as people from Scotland are often nicknamed Jock, people who hail from Swansea in Wales have a nickname too. They are often referred to as Swansea Jacks. Why?

It's all thanks to a hero dog, a black retriever, or so the story goes. But Jack was definitely a brave dog who saved several lives in the 1930s. He lived with his owner, William Thomas, near the dock area of the town and they say that he might have saved over twenty five lives due to his actions.

Today, there is even a pub named in his memory close to where he used to live.The dock and port areas were past their best in the nineteen thirties. Industry in Swansea was declining rapidly and the area had become home to many derelict businesses and somewhat rough pubs. This is where William, Jack's owner lived, in a converted stable.

Nevertheless, the murky waters of the dockland area were used for swimming by the local people who lived in near-poverty in rows of terraced houses. Swimming in the water, when the weather was good enough, was a free entertainment.

Jack the swimmer and Dylan Thomas

This then, is where Jack grew up. He was accustomed to people swimming in his 'playground' and would often leap into the water himself and play with the swimmers, particularly the children.

Swansea's most famous human son was the poet Dylan Thomas and both he and this famous Swansea canine were born in the town and started on the road to fame at much the same time.It was in 1931 that Jack performed his first rescue. A twelve year old swimmer was in difficulty and the brave little animal dived into the water and saved his life. Details are scanty about this rescue because it wasn't reported in the newspapers.

However, just a few weeks later he rescued another swimmer but this time, there were plenty of witnesses and the heroic deed was reported in the local newspapers. The town presented him with a silver collar to honor his bravery.


These weren't accidental rescues or a case of being in the right place at the right time. He continued to save lives and as the economic depression took hold and it seemed that a world war would soon be approaching, the public took the heroic dog to their hearts. Soon, the story of this remarkable animal spread nationwide and he became a national celebrity.


Swansea's most famous human, Dylan Thomas, slowly poisoned his body due to alcohol abuse. Eventually he died in November 1953. Swansea Jack was also a victim of poisoning. At the age of only seven, he died after eating something - no-one knows what - that was contaminated with rat poison. This was on 2 October, 1937. He was buried in a coffin, that had been especially made for him, in William Thomas' garden. The town demanded a proper memorial for their local hero. The townspeople raised the money and a permanent memorial was erected in Victoria Park.


The memorial


The pub


Further reading

There have been stories about various animals and the way that they have helped mankind throughout history. Animals have served in wars and there are many true-adventure tales about their exploits. Learn more or take a look at these books which make great gifts for animal lovers of all ages.

Thanks for reading - please say hi!

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    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @opatoday: You too!

    • opatoday profile image

      opatoday 4 years ago

      I'm having a great afternoon

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @RinchenChodron: Thank you for visiting!

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      RinchenChodron 5 years ago

      Very interesting. I learned some history. Thanks