Acts of Impact

Swansea Jack and the North Dock Rescues

May 25, 2023 Nicholas Hill
Swansea Jack and the North Dock Rescues
Acts of Impact
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Acts of Impact
Swansea Jack and the North Dock Rescues
May 25, 2023
Nicholas Hill

On today's episode, we'll explore the incredible story of Swansea Jack, a Welsh rescuer credited with saving the lives of 27 people and 2 dogs from the North Docks of Swansea in the 1930s. 

For this episode, I had the privilege of interviewing Berni Hellier, author of 'The True Tail of Swansea Jack', and Gayle Simmonds, illustrator of the book and long-time friend of Berni's. We'll discuss Jack's 7-year career which included charity work, festivals, and more, the attempts to discredit his work as a hoax, and the legacy he leaves behind in Swansea. 

I hope you enjoy today's episode. 

To purchase 'The True Tail of Swansea Jack', visit:

To learn more about the show, view transcripts, and more visit:

Special thanks to Berni and Gayle for their time and insight. 
Music by Alex Grohls.

Show Notes Transcript

On today's episode, we'll explore the incredible story of Swansea Jack, a Welsh rescuer credited with saving the lives of 27 people and 2 dogs from the North Docks of Swansea in the 1930s. 

For this episode, I had the privilege of interviewing Berni Hellier, author of 'The True Tail of Swansea Jack', and Gayle Simmonds, illustrator of the book and long-time friend of Berni's. We'll discuss Jack's 7-year career which included charity work, festivals, and more, the attempts to discredit his work as a hoax, and the legacy he leaves behind in Swansea. 

I hope you enjoy today's episode. 

To purchase 'The True Tail of Swansea Jack', visit:

To learn more about the show, view transcripts, and more visit:

Special thanks to Berni and Gayle for their time and insight. 
Music by Alex Grohls.

Nicholas Hill  0:00  
Today on acts of impact, we head to the town of Swansea in Wales, where we find the true tale of Swansea Jack. A rescuer, who across a seven year career would save an incredible 27 People from drowning in the north docks, 

Media  0:17  
we saw a swimmer suddenly clutching his leg, clearly in pain and struggling to stay afloat. To my utter surprise, Jack immediately leapt into the water after me. I couldn't believe what was happening. He jumped into the water swimming towards the man and before I knew it, I was tumbling into the water. He must have heard the commotion because he dived into the water, grabbed ahold of me and started pulling me back to safety. It was actually April Fool's Day Jack saved him and Jack wasn't feeling well himself and the water was cold, a park Eagle almost shot in. It was like watching a scene from a movie, Jack jumped into the water and drugged me a 200 pound man safely Jack dodge past a few people dashed across the sand and leapt into the waves heading for the man. It was remarkable. 

Nicholas Hill  1:02  
Now you might be thinking, What an incredible man to have saved the lives of this many people. But what if I told you that Swansea Jack wasn't a man at all? 

Media  1:13  
Suddenly, there was this dog there. The dog grabbed my clothing and began paddling pulling me towards the side of the dogs felt myself seized by a dog. I couldn't believe my luck being a bird dog of all things. I just thought you know what a great job to put others lives before its own. But he was a rescue dog that became a rescuer. 

Nicholas Hill  1:31  
Swansea Jack was a black retriever who saved countless lives. A monument would be built in his honor. And the townspeople of Swansea would one day proudly refer to him as a hero. Today, we tell the story of a very, very good boy. You're listening to acts of impact. I'm your host, Nicholas Hill. Let's get started.

Now, given that Swansea Jack is so important to the city, I wanted to talk to a Swansea native, someone who really understood his story. So I reached out to Bernie Heliar, author of the children's book the true tale of Swansea, Jack, and Gail Simmons, illustrator of the book and longtime friend of Bernie's. Bernie is Swansea born and bred. And she felt compelled to write about Jack when she ran across this story during another project 

Berni Hellier  2:36  
at the tidy Ed. And I was looking into writing a book about the river tywi, which is the river that runs through swamps. So the river tally, and Jack just kept coming up all the time. Jack's rescues and Jack's name synonymous with the river tally, which runs into the sea. And I just got fascinated with Jack and the more I dug into it, the more I realized I was actually living within a stone's throw of where Jack was living in the cottage where he first lived. I can see if I look out of my window, I can see the cottage and the park is the park where I walk my dogs every day. So the more I looked into writing about the town here, and I was gonna write about the mysteries of the river tally, the more drawn I got to Jack and the more drawn I got to Jack, it just spiraled. I just mushroomed and I just needed to write it just needed to be written. 

Nicholas Hill  3:29  
So Jack starts his story in a cottage backed up against the beautiful park Llewelyn. But due to his antics, such as the constant escaping and unexpected visits to the nearby duck Park. He doesn't last very long there. 

Berni Hellier  3:45  
He was living in calm, ghastly cottages, and I've actually spoken I've spoken to Topher Davis, his granddaughter, who still lives in the cottage that Jack grew up in, but she described him as a nuisance. She said he was always escaping from the back garden, and Jack just kept going under the fence over the fence over the gate to the gate was left open Jack would escape. So he was a nuisance. He was killing some of the ducks in a row LM path from a duck pond. Guys get into trouble with the park keeper with the locals who's always been returned back to Tulsa Davis. Now, Topher Davis was a young man in his 20s at the time, and Jack was typical working dog. I've got two retrievers myself, so they're very clever dogs and they need a lot of stimulation. So Jack needed to be re homed because they reach crisis by treeby. This dog was causing havoc in the local neighborhoods, and he needs to be rehabbed or else so that's how he came to be in the hands of William Thomas. 

Nicholas Hill  4:51  
So Jack is re homed with a man named William Thomas, a short thickset man and native of Swansea But Mr. Thomas is also known by another name, the cock of the walk because of his pride and his loud dominating personality. Mr. Thomas is a known animal lover, and he and Jack become inseparable. 

Berni Hellier  5:14  
He is opinionated, quick fisted, and seemingly a hard, abrupt man. But he was a friendly and jovial disposition. It's a very stern man, and he's never really smiling in these photos. I think he's firm but fair. He's always immaculately dressed. It's nice. And I think he's a proud man. He's always got shiny shoes on. He's got a three piece suit on, he's got a shirt and tie. A very proud man. So I think he was, I think he was like an A, he was hard on the outside of soft in the center. 

Nicholas Hill  5:49  
Gail agrees with this depiction. 

Gayle Simmonds  5:52  
He always presented himself in a suit, or was that his pocket watch on? So he had a certain sort of presence about him that he wanted to be seen as dignified and important? Maybe. But yeah, he definitely had that softer side. 

Nicholas Hill  6:09  
Jack joins Mr. Thomas at his house. Actually, maybe I shouldn't call it a house, because Mr. Thomas lives in kind of a big stable, and he lives at the Swansea North docks. Now, the North docks were a very different environment than the one Jack had experienced at the park. 

Berni Hellier  6:29  
It wasn't in a nice part of Swansea. There were prostitutes. It was a really poor area of Swansea. And it was effectively it was his office, but it was basically a band. He was living there working from there. It was drafty. It was right by the docks. But it wasn't a nice place to live. So he wasn't amount of money. But yes, he was effectively living in a barn.

Nicholas Hill  6:53  
They live with two horses, a Dalmatian and an ill tempered monkey. Mr. Thomas takes Jack everywhere he goes. And he trains jack to be obedient and well behaved. A very different Jack than the one we met at the park earlier. Jack grows into his jet black wavy fur coat, with a long bushy tail and eyes that resemble dark sparkling gyms. Both Jack and his master are happy at the heart of Swansea's docks. But there's one big problem. Jack is afraid of the water. The duck Bond had been shallow, but this water is deep and dark. And Jack doesn't trust it. And it turns out, it's really difficult to live at the docks when you're afraid of the water. So Mr. Thomas and the children of the dogs set out to fix it. They tried treats, they tried slowly coaxing Jack towards the water, but he simply wouldn't budge. So there was only one thing left to do.

Mr. Thomas picks jack up and unceremoniously throws him in. And in this way, Jack learns that he has nothing to fear. From then on. He grows not only to accept the water, but to completely and utterly fall in love with it. I asked Bernie and Gail what they thought of this training technique? 

Gayle Simmonds  8:20  
Yeah, to me. Yeah, it sounds harsh. But I think even as a child myself, I was always a big swimmer. And I remember my dad, not so much throwing me into the water, but certainly making me dive headfirst into things. And I hated it. I absolutely hated it. But it actually, my dad knew what I was capable of before I did. Because yes, it did abolish any fear I had of diving of the water. It didn't hurt me. I trusted my dad that bond grew. And it was the absolute right thing to do. In my case. 

Berni Hellier  8:51  
We've read the book in a few primary schools, and quite a few children take objection to the way that William Thomas strim jack into the water. They asked why did he do that? And why was he so cruel? But I think William Thomas knew exactly what he was doing. He showed dogs and he trained dogs. He was experienced with handling dogs. I think the action was harsh, but I think he did it for the right reasons as well. He did it because he knew that once Jack was in that water, he would love it and he did. Couldn't get him out.

Nicholas Hill  9:27  
Mr. Thomas wants to take this water training one step further. He finds several small children that frequent the dogs and has them swim with Jack holding on to his collar, sometimes several at a time to build his swimming strength. He is trained to tow these children to the side of the docks, where someone can reach them to pull them up. Then Mr. Thomas has the children jump into the water and pretend they're drowning. Over time Jack is trained to go to the aid of any swimmer that appears to have trouble whether shouting for help, or quiet and still, but unable to keep above water. Now, before you try this at home, you should know that only certain breeds of dog are built for this type of water rescue. 

Gayle Simmonds  10:15  
He was a retriever he was at least part Newfoundland we think. So he would have been a water loving dog. He had a history already of hitting the water and chasing ducks and swimming. So I think it was just a case of right you're halfway there. This is what you're meant to do. We just need to give you a little push to make you see that this big body of water is no more scary than the pond in Killian Park. Do I think that Thomas ever thought Jack would be famous through it or that would lead to anything else? No, I think he did it because it was best for the dog. 

Nicholas Hill  10:49  
This is how Jack becomes the lifeguard of the docks, keeping alert for any sign of trouble. And on July 7 1930, Jack's training pays off, and he makes his very first rescue. 

Voiceover  11:02  
One day when I was 12 years old, I was tasked with throwing some damage fruit into the dock. As I approached the edge, a group of children suddenly showed up. They tried to steal my creative fruit, and startled I turned around quickly. In my haste I slept and lost my balance. Before I knew it, I was tumbling over the brink of the docks falling about 10 feet down into the water below. panic set in as I realized that I couldn't swim. My arms flailed and my legs kick desperately, but I was struggling to stay afloat. Suddenly, a rush of black wavy fur came from nowhere. It was Jack, leaping into the water to save me. He grabbed onto my clothing with his strong jaw and began to paddle towards the side of the dock. That's when I saw Mr. Thomas Jacksonian reaching out to help pull me up to safety. I was finally back on solid ground. Once I caught my breath, I wrapped my arms around Jack, hugging him tightly as a reward for his courageous act. 

Nicholas Hill  12:02  
Jack's first rescue becomes front page news in the south Wales Daily Post. headlines read dog helps a swimmer in trouble retriever to the rescue at Swansea. Just weeks later, Jack gets his chance again and makes his second rescue. 

Voiceover  12:19  
I was part of a large crowd that day gathered near the peers. When we heard the commotion in the water. We saw a swimmer suddenly clutching his leg, clearly in pain and struggling to stay afloat. It appeared that he was suffering from a severe cramp and it was evident that he needed help. Suddenly, there was this dog there, he jumped into the water swimming towards the man and when he reached him, the man grabbed onto Jack's collar and was guided back to safety. We all knew we just witnessed something extraordinary. 

Nicholas Hill  12:47  
In order to show their appreciation for now two incredible rescues. The town of Swansea, organizes a collection and presents Jack with an inscribed leather backed silver collar with a custom locking clasp, as if to prove himself worthy of this grand gesture. Jack makes a third rescue of a Liverpool man in August of 1931. At this point, I'm a little concerned about the safety of the docks, right? I asked Bernie and Gail like, couldn't there have been some safety regulations are like a guardrail added or something. Why are so many people drowning at these docks? 

Gayle Simmonds  13:26  
I think that's indicative of the times though, isn't it? We didn't mollycoddle people in those days. It was you walk along the docks at your own risk and health and safety was a was a thing of the future. And the undies were busy working docks as well. You weren't shipping there you are with trade going on all the time, access. So I think it was just different times. I think. 

Berni Hellier  13:48  
If you think back contextually, in the 1930s the kids swam, that was the past time they would swim in there for leisure. My father, my late father used to tell me that he used to jump into the bridge a lot. And he used to swim in those docks. That's what children did. Back then they didn't have televisions, they didn't have the internet. They played outdoors. So it was a very different time was met back in the 1930s. 

Nicholas Hill  14:18  
At this point for his now three rescues Jack is made a lifetime member of the renowned tailwaggers Club. Their goals are to promote the general welfare of dogs finance Guide Dogs for the Blind, and give financial assistance to the veterinary training college. They send a jack a silver medallion specially inscribed for bravery. This is when Jack starts his charity work. He and Mr. Thomas are attending carnivals, regattas rugby and soccer games, and Jack wanders around with a leather collecting harness on his back, which says jack of worldwide fame adds new honors to his name Today he seeks to aid the blind by asking you to show your kind and besides collecting for the blind Jack raises money for tons of causes. The Swansea hospital, the Layli and district hospital, the Nazareth house, the young man's Christian Association poppies for the British Legion did this dog ever play? All of this work clearly endears him to the people of Swansea, and in 1932 He's presented with a medal for his extreme gallantry at the Swansea carnival, he takes place in a huge parade. Jack even gets a nice upgrade from his stable at the docks. when the winter comes, the lack of insulation makes a stable on the docks pretty much the worst place you can live. Jack and his owner Mr. Thomas start visiting the bar at the nearby Victoria Hotel. One day the hotel landlady notices that they're always reluctant to go home. She learns about their situation and offers them a place in her home, and the Victoria hotel becomes their permanent residence. In exchange for room and board Mr. Thomas assists in the bar and becomes very popular. Everyone loves Jack as well. He is a much loved family pet, a great favorite with the customers and the pride of the barmaids, his collar and metals on full display. When Jack isn't collecting for charity, he is the acting lifeguard of the Swansea docks. He spends each day walking up and down the expansive area, keeping watch throughout the busy hustle of the merchants listening for any signs of trouble. And by August of 1934, Jack had jumped to the rescue of 14 people. Now, I know what you're thinking, 14 people in two years. That seems like a lot, right? And to make things even more suspicious, Mr. Thomas didn't have any proof of these rescues. See, Mr. Thomas was illiterate. And other than the rescues that appeared in newspaper articles, he hadn't recorded the names or details of anyone else. So as you can imagine, there were a few townspeople who didn't believe Jack had rescued anyone at all. So one day Jack and Mr. Thomas are walking the pier and they get confronted, 

Gayle Simmonds  17:22  
that was a real doubter of Jack's abilities, and he was a sailor, and he was quite vocal about how there's no way a dog of that size could drag a full grown man out of the water and he just doesn't believe I was one of those townspeople who didn't believe the stories about Jack rescuing people from drowning. 

Voiceover  17:40  
It will seem too good to be true. You know, I couldn't wrap my head around how a dog could actually save a person from the water. One day I was strolling along the pier, I spotted Mr. Thomas and Jack, I decided it was time to put an end to the nonsense. Excuse me, I said, but I don't believe for a second that your dog can rescue people from drowning. How could a dog possibly carry a grown man back to the side of the docks? Mr. Thomas was not pleased. Without a word. He shoved me over the side of the docks and into the water. To my utter surprise, Jack immediately leapt into the water after me. The dog grabbed my clothing and began paddling pulling me towards the side of the docks. I couldn't believe what was happening. Jack was actually rescuing me proving me wrong in the best way possible. Once I was back on dry land, I was in awe. I turned to Mr. Thomas and said, I'm sorry. He truly is a remarkable dog. Mr. Thomas accepted my apology. And we agreed to head to the pub for a drink to continue our conversation in a more civilized manner. 

Gayle Simmonds  18:36  
How brilliantly this guy ends up falling in the water and being rescued by Jack and then he becomes Jack's biggest ally, things like that. I love that turn around in Fortune. 

Nicholas Hill  18:47  
The rescues continued to stack up and each one earned a jack more notoriety. 

Voiceover  18:52  
So he was It was summertime and I'd had a bit too much to drink the night before. You know it is when the sun shine in and the ale is flowing. My head was pounding like a drum, and I could barely keep my eyes open. But duty called an hour to get back to my ship. As I stumbled along the docks, I must have misjudged a step or two, and suddenly I found myself teetering at the edge. Before I knew it. I was tumbling into the water. The water was so cold, I swear it's sobered me up in an instant. But that wasn't the only thing that shocked me. There was this dog See, he must have heard the commotion because he dived into the water, grabbed ahold of me and started pulling me back to safety. I couldn't believe my luck, been saved by a dog of all things. 

Nicholas Hill  19:37  
On June 9, Jack rescued a young boy who was wandering aimlessly without his parents when he slipped on the key wall, shrieking loudly as he fell into the north dock. On July 8, he saved a Liverpool sailor by the name of Don O'Brien, who slipped into the water while washing his hands. On August 15, Jack was making his customary trouble when he heard a desperate cry. A Seaman named Daniel Kennedy had become tangled in the ropes by the duck and was struggling to stay above water. This was Jack's 21st Rescue. And it wasn't only humans that Jack saved, he made time for his fellow dogs as well. On one occasion, Jack jumps into the water grabs a floating burlap sack and pulls it to Mr. Thomas. At first Mr. Thomas is confused, but after opening the sack, he finds that it's filled with live puppies. Someone had thrown them in the water to drown them. But due to Jack's alertness they survived, and another story a cocker spaniel become stuck in the mud and is almost fully submerged. With only the top of his head, eyes and nose jutting out. Jack was able to get a hold of his collar and tow him to safety. 

Berni Hellier  20:53  
He was submerged in mud and he was sinking. And he was it's just his head and his floppy ears and his eyes busybox and Jack dragged him up by his collar, and I think that dog to dog rescue is just really special.

Nicholas Hill  21:10  
Now, I didn't hire a voiceover actor to reenact the cocker spaniel story, but if I had here's what they would have sounded like

Mr. Thomas receives a letter from the National canine Defense League. They award Jack their highest possible honor that of the canine Victoria Cross. This medal is a big deal. It's named after the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. And it's specifically given to honor exceptional acts of bravery or service by dogs. The metal is pinned on Jack by the mayor himself. Now at this point, I asked Bernie like how small was this town? Because this screams local news. The mayor is pinning a metal on a dog. It kind of has the same vibe as local farmers cow wins beauty contest or high school principal gets stuck in mascot costume. 

Berni Hellier  22:16  
When Jack was around, it was a town so it was a much, much smaller area. And probably most people knew each other or knew of somebody who knew of somebody who knew somebody else is the city now and obviously the population has grown a lot now. But yes, it was much smaller back in the 1930s.

Nicholas Hill  22:34  
Jack gets back to his charity work. He's now an even greater demand, and his next event is his biggest ever. Despite the gusts and the rain. 1000s of people lined up for over a mile to place coins into Jack's collection box. Jack never turned down an invitation to collect for the hospital. And commonly he would be accompanied by a young child who would be paired to walk with Him. These children love to Jack and later when one of the children went off to war, Jack would often go to his house to look for him. And the man would frequently write home asking about Jack's well being. In 1935 Jack receives his biggest award yet. The Daily Mirror newspaper awards him the Daily Mirror color for bravery, making him an official brave dog. This award was only given to dogs that had risked their lives for a human and only 40 dogs had received the award to date. Mr. Thomas beamed with pride. If he was known as the cock of the walk before there'll be no living with him after this. As an official brave dog Jack was invited to attend the Golden Jubilee show at Crufts. Now, if you don't know what Crufts is, it is to this day the largest and most prestigious Dog Show on Earth. It was patronized by the Royal Family Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandria, King George and on and on. Dogs compete in multiple categories. And they're judged on appearance, temperament, and physical characteristics. According to kennel club standards. Now the founder of the club is like 90 years old. He doesn't even own a dog. He's a cat guy running a dog show, but it doesn't matter. Because Jack is one of the few dogs there who doesn't have to impress him. See, it doesn't matter who Jack's grandparents are or whether he measures the right number of inches. Jack is there as an honored guest and an official brave dog. He has already proven himself by saving a human life. 

Gayle Simmonds  24:39  
My perception of crafts is they're very specific breeds and it's a lot of it is about aesthetics of the dogs and Jack wouldn't have measured up to any of them. He wasn't a pure breed, but he still won the Jubilee award for bravery and was awarded the bravest dog at crafts. Did all the other dogs So what's been printed and manufactured, if you like into gaining these medals and these awards and fluffed up and Jack was just there as himself, and thankfully Yeah, it was acknowledged for the amazing things that he did that all these other dogs were just there to be put on a podium and look at that. That to me is lovely. It's a lovely thoughts.

Nicholas Hill  25:22  
Jack's attendance at crafts made the people of Swansea proud, and when he returned, he got right back to rescuing on April Fool's Day of 1936, a 16 year old named Idris Lewis was walking on the key when part of the docks crumbled, and he fell in. 

Berni Hellier  25:40  
He was a 16 year old. His name is Chris Lewis. It was actually a Fool's day Jack saved him and Jack wasn't feeling well himself and the water was cold. It was only April. To do that when he just feeling under the weather himself. It just touched me I just thought, you know what a great job to put others lives before its own because he wasn't feeling too bad and he still clenched into that cold water.

Nicholas Hill  26:06  
After the rescue the Daily Mirror posted an article that said spare a pat for Swansea Jack, who yesterday pulled off his 22nd Rescue to bring Idris Lewis to safety. Now, not all of Jack's heroic deeds went so smoothly. In fact, one of his deeds almost became his last. 

Gayle Simmonds  26:27  
The park keeper almost shot in because he saw Jack laying or a heap of whites something or other on the edge of the other parks and he thought he killed a swan and when he approached the object, it was a child.

Nicholas Hill  26:43  
Jack never failed to bring his victim safely to shore. Regardless of whether or water conditions he would time after time, dive in and get his mark. Throughout his life, Jack would father many puppies, and one such Puppy was named Bob. Mr. Thomas began to train Bob as a water rescue dog as well. Jack would die from the top of the docks, guiding his son through the motions of the rescue, and eventually back to the dock steps. Mr. Thomas hoped that Bob would follow in Jack's footsteps, and soon Bob would get the chance to prove himself. One summer morning, Jack and Bob are patrolling the docks together, when a blurry eyed man named John Lewis drops into the dock. This time both dogs swiftly went for the terrified man, Jack held him by the shoulder and brought him to the dark side. But Jackson Bob in his eagerness to assist accidentally bit the man on the hand. Now, the man was not angry whatsoever at Bob's over enthusiasm. He was mostly just relieved that he had been rescued. But it was quickly determined that Bob's tendency in these situations was to grab the struggling victims far too tightly, which kind of just made things worse, so Bob was discouraged from attempting any further rescues. Jack decided to supplement his lifeguard duties with crossing guard duties, he would habitually walk children to safety across the streets of Swansea, Jack always made fast friends with the children of the town. On one occasion, an illustrated photo of jack with a child's arms wound lovingly around his neck appeared in the Daily Mirror. Unfortunately, the caption they chose for this adorable photo was not the best. It was captioned a little girl making love to Swansea Jack. A few weeks later, Jack makes his 26 Thrilling rescue of a man named John James. 

Voiceover  28:44  
There was fishing on the pier when suddenly my line became one fastened and dropped into the water. In a foolish attempt to retrieve it. I tried to climb down the pier side but slipped and fell halfway. I struggle against the force of the dogs for what felt like an eternity. Luckily, a crowd saw me and started calling for help. Jack was drawn to the scene. His master Mr. Thomas was away at the fish market, but Jack didn't need to come on to save lives. It was like watching a scene from a movie, Jack jumped into the water and drugged me a 200 pound man safely back to the deck. I can still remember the sense of relief that washed over me as soon as I saw Jack jumped in after me. I knew I was going to be saved. 

Nicholas Hill  29:30  
This was Jack's territory. Everyone was familiar with the friendly courageous retriever. He was loved as a part of the dockworkers unofficial family and could commonly be found walking the streets and raising money for the poor. Letters of acknowledgement and thanks for miles around poured in, thanking Jack and Mr. Thomas for their endless charity work. One day Jack makes his 27th and final rescue when a visitor to the town named John Reeves finds himself in trouble, and I witnessed recounts the event, 

Voiceover  30:06  
I was enjoying a leisurely day by the pier. When suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jack pick up his years and sprint towards the sandy shore. He stopped for a second, listening intently and scanning the water. Then I saw what it caught his attention. A man was flailing his arms desperately trying to attract attention. It looked like he'd been bathing off the edge of the pier and got into trouble. Well, Jack didn't waste any time. He dodged past a few people dashed across the sand and leapt into the waves heading for the man. I watched as Jack beached him and began guiding him back to safety. As they came back to shore, me and a group of spectators would be watching rushed forward to assist them. It was remarkable.

Nicholas Hill  30:55  
The article red Swan sea Jack who wants hated the water has saved 27 lives. Mr. Thomas tells the journalist I've had many offers for Jack, but I wouldn't sell him for any amount of money in the world. Money could not buy my dog any more than it could buy my son. At this point, Mr. Thomas retires and takes jack to the countryside to live with his daughter, son in law and grandson. Jack is in a new rural environment with trees and fields as far as the eye could see. Now you would think a dog would love this type of environment. But Jack misses the city. See Jackson urban dog. He loved people. He wanted the busy noisy atmosphere of pub life and dark life and the bustling city streets, and he would often run away from home, making a three mile dash back to town. Mr. Thomas would always know exactly where to find him, and would head back to the Victoria hotel to find Jack stretched out in front of a big open fire, surrounded by excited patrons. In 1935, the Star national newspaper introduced a dogs of duty tournament, and on the 28th of September, Jack's owner receives a letter 

Voiceover  32:12  
you will no doubt be very pleased to know that your dog gets the onesie Jack has after very careful consideration of 1000s of entrances received been considered by the judges to be the stars and bravest dog of the year.

Nicholas Hill  32:26  
On October 22, the award for bravest dog of the Year is awarded to Swansea Jack. Jack is now allowed to take the rail station for half off fares. He gets free drinks at every station, and the friendly guards start to give him special leeway. For example, failing to notice when Jack occasionally occupies the corner seat at the painting coronation in Queens Park. The brave dogs are presented on the stage of the pavilion. And when Jack makes his entrance the crowd gives him a standing ovation. He walks proudly across the platform, relishing the attention. This wonderful ceremony unwittingly is to be Jack's last public appearance in early September of 1937. Mr. Thomas becomes aware that Jack is not well. Jack is searching for an eating coarse grass in an attempt to make himself vomit. He becomes quiet and lethargic. His eyes become dull. His appetite disappears, and he can't settle in one place for more than a second. He becomes restless and whimpering and eventually, he begins to vomit blood. Mr. Thomas calls a veterinarian at once and the vet makes a shocking diagnosis. The garlic odor on Jack's breath, his vomit glowing in the dark. His jaundice and nervousness clearly indicate to the vet that Jack has been poisoned. All is quiet and solemn, as the surgeon says I'm terribly sorry. Nothing could be done for Jack. The poison had already taken its toll. Jack falls into a deep coma and draws his last breath at just seven years of age. The illness is eventually diagnosed by the vet as rat poisoning. As it turns out, someone at the dock had been using illegal poison to keep out the rats and Jack had accidentally gotten into it. Although this meant that Jack wasn't poisoned deliberately. Mr. Thomas is still freaking furious. He's lost his best friend and he wants justice. He offers a $100 reward. Now remember, this is 1930 money for information on anyone illegally using this poison to kill vermin. But no one has ever reported. Jack's body is wrapped in a blanket and he's put to rest in the back garden of his Rogers At home, with a small wooden cross bearing his name and date, but Jack had only been buried for a week when a local school master suggests that his body should be exhumed, and a more proper burial place should be found for him. This notion is brought to the attention of the Swansea City Council. It is proposed before the committee that a small space be allocated for Jack's remains to be memorialized and Victoria Park. The council initially tables the discussion, which puts the entire town into a frenzy. Letters began pouring into the council, some clearly in favor of giving Jack a proper Memorial. 

Voiceover  35:42  
Let us honor to the best of our ability an animal that saved so many lives. I am sure that all animal lovers would be pleased to subscribe to a fund in order to erect a tablet over the grave of this wonderful dog. 

I see that at the Swansea Park committee on Thursday. The question of providing a small memorial to the memory of Swansea Jack was referred to by the Chairman and Mr. Bliss. I take this opportunity of reminding them that their efforts in this direction will be closely followed by not only Swansea dog lovers but by other canine admirers all over the country. You will not to be congratulated on your efforts to keep a memorial to this dog out of Victoria Park. And I can only hope that an even more suitable place may be found in spite of the opposition. I feel the Chairman and Mr. Bliss are bound to come up against 

surely a small place six feet by three feet could be spared without interfering with anything else in the park. There is ample room between the flowerbeds and the main walk where this brave old dog whom everyone loved could lie. He was almost human and realized he was only doing his bit whether saving a life or collecting for charities. other towns have honored their brave dogs. Why not Swansea? I shall always remember seeing him at crafts pinned among the brave dogs as the bravest. I felt proud to belong to the same town as Swansea Jack. 

Nicholas Hill  37:09  
But these letters of support weren't the only letters that came in. Others were far more skeptical. 

Voiceover  37:17  
Were all the people he rescued? Have they got nothing to say? 

I've worked at the duck for 37 years. I have never seen more than one man in the dark. So where is his dog Gamal from? A lot of us would like to have the names of these lucky persons and never Memorial is to be set up, I say should be set up by them 

in order to clear the air of doubt. Is there anyone now in Swansea, who has been saved by this dock? Is there anybody who has actually seen Swansea Jack save a person from drowning? A dock worker myself I have traveled the docks a few times daily for a number of years. And in my experience, I have seen people saved from drowning and bodies picked out of the water but never by a dog. 

Nicholas Hill  38:09  
And our response to the skeptics letters start pouring in from people saying they had been rescued by Jack

Voiceover  38:16  
My name is Mrs. Osborne and Swansea Jack saved my son Freddy from drowning. He'd been swimming in the north dock and was overcome by cramp. But Jack jumped in and conveyed my boy to safety.

i Mr. John Griffiths and I'm one of the people that Swansea Jack pulled out of the docks. I was cycling to work along the dock when something caught my front wheel. I went in biking Oh, I couldn't swim, nor could I get out of the dock alone came Jack and pulled me to the steps where his owner dragged me out. The bike belonged to my sister and thanks to the Swansea Dog Police the bike was retrieved for me. You could also see Jack collecting for charity with a box on his back. I'm sure he used to collect more than anyone. 

Surely the time for debating all of these things was when they were published not now that the poor chap is dead. Many things may happen that people who are constantly at work around the dogs never see or hear. This does not prove he did not save lives.

Nicholas Hill  39:13  
This question of whether or not Jack was a hoax comes up several times. In fact, it would come up again 20 years after Jack's death. I asked Bernie and Gail about this because I have doubts as well. 27 people is a lot of people for one dog to rescue. Did they think it was a hoax? 

Berni Hellier  39:35  
The vice newspaper which was a local newspaper, published an article basically saying that the whole thing was set up that youngsters just jumped into the water pretended to be drown men set it all up for Jack to rescue them. And why couldn't we in Thomas name anybody that had been saved? And they actually went on to say that the monument itself was farcical. And the Vice newspaper sent one of the reporters out to the docks. And they interviewed people who've worked in the docks all their lives and some of the policemen, and they categorically said that the rescue is that the tap and now do I think every single rescue happened? No, probably not. Probably some of them were stage because Jack had all these kids who were his friends, and he practiced on them. To me, that's irrelevant, whether it be seven or 27. Persons who owes life to this dog. It's immaterial. It's a genuine lifesaver, when it doesn't matter, even if you've only saved one life that needs recognizing, yes, some of the stories were probably embellished a little bit. I absolutely. I don't think the whole thing was a hoax. Absolutely not.

Gayle Simmonds  40:54  
I think for me, it comes down to motivation. I think if we were talking about a person, somebody who had taken credit for doing 27, good deeds, and then there was some dispute over how many of those were staged or set up, we'd be having a different discussion. But Jack was a dog. And when he entered the water to bring someone out of the water, in his mind, his motivation was to rescue that person was to protect that person. If he did, as you say, if you did that seven times, 27 times his motivation was the same. If it was one rescue, if it was 1020 100 rescues, that. It's still an amazing dog. And I think, especially like you said, You've got to go back into those times where information was not what we have today. A scruffy dog jumping in water and saving people, you know, on a regular basis would have been something very extraordinary. There would have been doubt about that. This is something they've never seen before. And now obviously with the internet, we understand our amazing dogs. I got dogs who look after and save the lives of autistic children. You've got dogs who sniff out bombs and landmines and they perform all sorts of amazing things and just guard dogs in general. So we're not surprised by it these days. 

Nicholas Hill  42:10  
On Wednesday, the 20th of October 1937. A memorial to Jack is approved by the council, and he has given a prominent position on the Swansea promenade. A local Undertaker builds a specialized coffin for the occasion. Flowers are brought by the local children as townspeople young and old come to pay their last respects. To see a dog in a coffin at a funeral is definitely out of the ordinary for them. The schoolmaster who originally had the idea for the memorial ended up footing the bill for the entire operation. Jack is buried in a small memorial enclosure in scribed. Swansea Jack died October 2 1937 life saving hero. Now as if this weren't enough, the very next day a Mr. J. Cecil Jones, a sculptor writes to the parks committee offering to create a full memorial stone for Jack at his own expense. He builds a memorial stone with a full bust of Jack's head that reads erected to the memory of Swansea Jack, the brave retriever who saved 27 Human and two canine lives from drowning, loved and mourned by all dog lovers, never had mankind more faithful friend, than thou who offed thy life did Slynt to save some human soul from death, the public started a fund and collected enough to reimburse Mr. Jones for this kind gesture. Jack's owner Mr. Thomas did not live long after the unveiling of the monument. Following the outbreak of World War Two. He survives a bomb blast during an air raid, but it's thrown into his back garden. He's confined to bed and parishes five months later, he is 65 and buried in the yawn somewhat churchyard. After the air raid rubble from the bombing was used to fill in the north docks once and for all. 

Berni Hellier  44:12  
The North Star has actually been filled in and sadly when the Victoria hotel was bombed in the Blitz in the Second World War, they used some of the rebel there to actually fill in the north dock. So the North dock as it was, where Jack frequent it is no longer there.

Nicholas Hill  44:31  
Swans, Swansea Jack had become a legend. He had contributed so much to Swansea with seven years of service beside the North docks. On average Jack saved one life every three months. I asked Bernie and Gail what they took away from Jack's story, and why it still fascinates them after all this time. 

Berni Hellier  44:53  
For me what was fascinating about his story is the just the multiple layers because he wasn't Still Life Saver. Yes, he saved these 27 human lives and to Canine lives. But his fundraising was phenomenal for so many different charities. He was himself a rescue dog really wasn't a because he didn't get along where he was initially live in. So he was a rescue dog that became a rescuer. So I think that element of the story is quite interesting as well. And he was a companion. He was William Thomas's companion, obviously. And he was also a nationwide traveler. It was far more to Jack than just this dog that that rescued people. There were so many layers to his story. And he deserves to be remembered. He's just part of swans, his heritage heritage, and we all went to him to pass this story on through the generations. 

Gayle Simmonds  45:54  
For me, it's about Yes, it's a historical story. But there's lots of lessons to be learned, even if it's just kids that build more of a connection with animals and appreciate amazing things that other people and animals are capable of. It's just inspirational and motivational. And if it just gets a couple of kids thinking, wow, I could do something like this. Or I could even I could train my dog to do something like this. So just gets people out of their comfort zones. If Jack helps other kids and other people achieve something that they otherwise thought they couldn't then wow, that's amazing. 

Nicholas Hill  46:31  
Bernie and Gail are doing the work of keeping Jackson memory alive, reading Jack's story to children in schools across the continent. And the children who hear his story. Love Jack. 

Berni Hellier  46:43  
I just happened to be visiting Jackson Memorial. It's right next door to an ice cream shop and a coffee shop. So I've gone for a coffee. And I said oh, let's just take a walk down this visit Jack's memoria. And I saw a piece of paper scrunched up on the floor about two meters away from the memorial. So I picked it up. And I read it and it was a booty from handwritten letter from one of the children that we read Jack's story too. And she said how much she loved Jack and she placed 12 rent rooms is only stone. And I thought how lovely that trade. Now we'll remember Jack's story and hopefully tell her children about Jack and the story was just score.

Nicholas Hill  47:25  
One last thing when the townspeople were debating whether or not Jack was a hoax, there was one letter that came in that stood out above the rest as evidence that yes, indeed, there was a man rescued by Jack. Now you might remember this man, a certain hungover sailor from earlier. As it turns out, he was inspired to write a poem for Jack In Memoriam. 

Voiceover  47:54  
I ain't Danny salt have a right for right now. You ain't gotta knock. I'm just a word ignorant, brighter, was grateful to old Swansea, Jack. One bleak, chilly day in November. To my ship. I was on my way back to the day I shall always remember. And the death day Oh, brave Swansea, Jack. My mind was bemused as opposed all night. I've been spending my cash. I stumbled and right in Nago, sir. I know when I thought he had the splash. I yelled as I came up for breath, sir. There wasn't a soul on the key. If drownings a nice easy death, sir. It ain't what it's cracked up to be. I hardly know much of the rest. My mind was a sort of a fog. I felt something poor in my chest, sir. Then felt myself seized by a dog. If in heaven, a place can't be found, sir, for a creature so no bill and fine. I'd willingly rot in the ground, sir. If I knew Swansea Jack could have mine.

Nicholas Hill  49:03  
I hope you enjoyed today's episode. Special thanks to Bernie and Gail for their time and unique insight into Swansea Jack's life. I truly enjoyed speaking with both of you. Today's show was directed and produced by me with music from Alex scroll. If you like today's episode, please follow us wherever you listen to podcasts, and consider leaving a review as it will help us to spread the word about the show. You can view more information about today's episode online at acts of Thank you for listening