Sunday 31 May 2015

Strange tradition of the Christmas Sport

The Christmas Sport – 31 Dec 2015

People unfamiliar with British ways might find some of our activities and customs strange - Morris dancing, the Gorsedd of Bards, a boat race in the capital city between two provincial universities, the Last Night of the Proms, in South Wales old Christmas customs like the Mari Lwyd and Wassailing.  All these contribute to making Britain the fascinating and varied nation that it is - and ensure that we do not take ourselves too seriously!  But surpassing such customs must be the Christmas Sport (no connection with football), which was the usual Gower name for the traditional Mummers’ Play. 

We are used to carol singers going from door to door, and in the years before the First World War there were Wassailers or the Mari Lwyd doing similarly in the evenings.  Even more bizarre there might be a group of young men, wearing white trousers with ribbons in their caps and carrying wooden swords, going about to enact the Christmas Sport, though not in Welsh-speaking parts of Wales.  This may have originated in medieval times, with a background of the Crusades, and in Cornwall a similar custom was called ‘The Christmas Play of St George’.  Thomas Hardy draws on childhood experiences in his 1878 novel ‘The Return of the Native’ to depict a Mummers' Play. 

The group of players would include such integral characters as Father Christmas, St George, the Turkish knight and the Doctor, with perhaps a few minor parts if there were more players.  This Father Christmas was not the corpulent cheerful person dressed in red with a white beard that derives from the early nineteenth century, but an older, leaner individual with a long beard.  The play, if something so unpretentious could be called a play, would take place in the front room of a house, with the players assembling in the kitchen. 

In the 1879 volume of his ‘History of West Gower’, which deals with Llanmadoc and Cheriton of which he was vicar, Rev J.D. Davies gives an example where the players speak in verse.  On being admitted, the first player enters and announces their intention to show some Christmas Sport.  Other characters come in one at a time: Father Christmas hobbles in and expresses the hope that he will not be forgotten; he goes out.  The Turkish knight comes in, and throws out a challenge to fight St George.  St George enters and accepts the challenge - they fight and the Turkish knight falls.  St George enquires if there is a doctor to be found who is able to cure this knight of his deadly wound.  The Doctor – whom Rev. Davies describes as being ‘dressed in some fantastic way’ - enters and claims he has a little bottle which can cure the knight.  When it is applied to the Turkish knight’s nose he revives and goes out.  One of the players goes around with a hat asking for some money, before all retire.  In other versions of the play, extra characters could be Oliver Cromwell, or the Valiant Soldier or Hump-Backed Jack. 

The play was performed in Stouthall in the 1870s, and in Killay until the First World War.  It comes into the ‘Hero-Combat’ category, consisting of a Prologue - whereby the first character introduces himself and calls for room in which to present the play; the Combat - in which the antagonists enter, declare their identities, and fight until one is struck down; the Lament - in which the victor calls for a doctor to revive the fallen man; and the Cure - where the doctor, after a little boasting, administers his remedy. 

Though television provides us with far more sophisticated and professional productions, perhaps we have lost something with the disappearance of these unusual old customs?

Saturday 30 May 2015

Sounds of Christmas are rooted in history

Carols and Plygain – 30 Dec 2015

From the fourth century to the time of the Reformation, carols tended to be popular songs on Biblical themes with catchy tunes.  They would especially concentrate on the events of the twelve days of Christmas, and use repetition for ease of memory – as with ‘God rest ye merry, gentlemen’ and its chorus of ‘Tidings of comfort and joy’.  Only later were carols sung in churches, increasing in popularity after the Reformation, for Luther welcomed music and wrote some carols himself. 

As well as writing several thousand hymns, in 1739 Charles Wesley wrote the carol that we know as ‘Hark! the herald angels sing’.  It originally began ‘Hark! how all the welkin rings’ – ‘welkin’ being an old word for sky or the vault of heaven - until changed by Wesley’s fellow preacher George Whitefield in 1753 to the more familiar  words.

In Victorian times there was a surge of interest in carols - Christmas-related lyrics were joined to the traditional English folk song ‘Greensleeves’, to make the carol ‘What Child is this?’, and some hymns became popular when sung as carols.  Such composers as Arthur Sullivan, W.S. Gilbert’s colleague who composed the Savoy operas, helped popularise them and introduced such favourites as ‘Good King Wenceslas’.  The tunes of carols like ‘Good King Wenceslas’ and ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ can be traced directly back to the Middle Ages, and are among the oldest musical compositions still regularly sung.

In rural parts of Wales Christmas Day marked the beginning of a three-week period of holidays - Y Gwyliau - when all but the most urgent farm work was suspended.  Symbolically the plough might be carried into the house and placed beneath the table where meals were eaten during this time.  On Christmas Day there might be a sumptuous meal of goose or beef for consumption.

In many parts of Wales people rose early on 25th December to attend the Plygain service at the parish church.  The Welsh word may derive from the Latin ‘pulli cantus’ meaning ‘cock crow’, and the service may have developed from the midnight mass of pre-Reformation times, for it could start anytime from 3am to 6am.  Young people often stayed up the night before making toffee on the hearth before setting off for the carol service. 

For illumination candles were carried to the church, which also symbolised that Christ Jesus is the light of the world.  Plygain was an abbreviated form of Morning Service, interspersed with carols sung by a soloist or a duet or a group of singers.  Sometimes a carol might be written especially for the occasion by a local poet.  At the end of the service, which might include a short sermon, if at all, the church bells would be rung.

In spite of the impact of nonconformity in South Wales, plygain could also take place in the chapels.  The remainder of the day was given over to family gatherings, neighbourly visits, traditionally a goose for lunch, and in the afternoon open-air sports for younger people.  It was Victorian times that saw Christmases change from a social occasion involving all the community to one of family celebration in private homes.  Along with Christmas cards, crackers and Christmas trees - to mention but three things - the Victorians have a lot to answer for!  Incidentally Father Christmas as we know him pre-dates the Victorians, emanating from the Dutch in New York in the early nineteenth century, especially via an 1823 poem ‘A Visit from St Nicholas’. 

Perhaps with the coming of television we in the northern hemisphere would have moved to family celebration in the homes sooner or later: of course those experiencing Christmas in warm climates can still enjoy community-based celebrations!               


Saturday 23 May 2015

Raising morale for second Christmas on Western Front

Christmas on the Western Front 1915 – 29 Dec 2015 (photo: in the trenches)

During the First World War on the western front in northern France, Christmas 1914 had seen some fraternising between British and German troops.  An unofficial truce operated along some parts of the front line, with even games of football between soldiers who had previously been shelling each other in the trench warfare. 

Many people in 1914 had expected the war to be over by Christmas, but of course this did not happen, and it was a different matter a year later.  110 Allied divisions faced 100 German divisions along the western front, and the war had taken a more sinister turn during the intervening twelve months when the Germans introduced gas at Ypres, and the British replied in like manner at Loos.  By December 1915, when Sir Douglas Haig took over as Commander of the British Expeditionary Force, the wet, wintry weather had turned much of the shelled area into a quagmire.  Men suffered from exposure through rain, snow and mud.  But from early December there was some cheer as Christmas parcels began to arrive from home.

London stores like Harrods and Selfridges introduced ‘war comfort’ departments, and produced catalogues of items suitable to send out to the troops - mentioning such delicacies as milk chocolates, coffee chocolates, West End toffee, butterscotch, cream caramels and chewing gum.  Soon the stores were offering for sale ready-packed standard boxes of food and ‘comforts’ – and they also produced boxes for prisoners of war.  Contents would include Christmas puddings, mince pies, packets of Woodbines and pairs of socks.

On each side of the conflict the authorities were determined to prevent any repeat of the unofficial truce of the previous year – the Germans went as far as saying any soldiers leaving the trenches to fraternise with the enemy would be shot as deserters. Both sides were concerned lest the men’s fighting spirit be diminished.  Yet fewer British men were inclined to fraternise by December 1915, since British towns had been bombed by Zeppelins, and especially after in May 1915 a U-boat had torpedoed the Cunard liner Lusitania off the south coast of Ireland - with 1,198 drowned.

So Christmas 1915 tended to be celebrated within each unit as best they could, in spite of enemy fire.  It was of course easier for those away from the front line to celebrate, especially if billeted in a village.  When civilians were about and able to join in, the village school might be used for a concert party, and there would be sports competitions.

During 1915 the war had expanded to other parts of the world, for it was the year of the disastrous Gallipoli or Dardanelles campaign.  This involved ANZAC troops (members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps).  Many wounded and sick troops were evacuated by hospital ships to Britain, so that Christmas 1915 did provide many Australians and New Zealanders with a most pleasant initial experience of the mother country.  From early December troops were being evacuated from the Gallipoli peninsula, though those remaining in the dugouts and trenches had to cope with gales and torrential rain, longing for Christmas festivities to provide some diversion.

On Christmas morning an early service was held on the beach, with pews consisting of wooden planks on biscuit boxes, and an altar composed of packing cases covered by a slip of cloth and lit by two candles.  The planning and performing of concerts and pantomimes played a crucial part in maintaining morale in those depressing conditions, as it did for those on the western front. 

Sadly after 1915 the troops had still two (and for some three) more Christmases away from home, before ‘the war to end all wars’ was concluded.

Saturday 16 May 2015

Christmas tradition inspired poet's work

The Mari Lwyd and Wassailing – 28 December 2015 (photos: Mari Lwyd, Vernon Watkins)

The Mari Lwyd - in English ‘The Grey Mare’ - was a custom whereby a group of men would walk from cottage to cottage after dark in December carrying the skull of a horse’s head.  In Gower this was known as ‘The Horse’s Head’ - in Welsh ‘Pen Ceffyl’.  The skull was covered in a white sheet, bedecked in coloured ribbons, and held on a pole, so that the man carrying it could move the Mari’s jaws.  A rhyming contest - perhaps in song if one of the group carried a fiddle - would take place between the group outside the cottage and the inhabitants within, until those inside gave up and admitted the revellers, who were usually better prepared with rhymes and riddles.  Once inside, the Mari Lwyd might playfully chase young women about, before all enjoyed drink and refreshment.  The custom of the Mari Lwyd flourished in the mid-nineteenth century, especially in Glamorgan and Gwent, but became less common after the First World War.  

Examples of a Mari Lwyd can be seen in the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagan’s, and the custom does continue in various forms - locally the National Trust had a Mari Lwyd lantern parade through Pennard on 15th December.

The custom inspired a major poem by Pennard poet Vernon Watkins.  On New Year’s Eve 1938 he had been working late at Lloyds Bank in St Helen’s Road.  When he reached home at ‘Heatherslade’ on Pennard cliffs a programme was on the radio from Taff’s Well, his father’s home village near Cardiff, about the Mari Lwyd.  Listening to this inspired Vernon to compose his long poem ‘The Ballad of the Mari Lwyd’, though what he initially wrote during the next four months was discarded, with just the stanza form retained.  It was completed the following winter and runs to 600 lines.  The poem has been read on the radio on the Welsh Home Service by Dylan Thomas, taking half an hour, though sadly no copy of that broadcast has survived. 

The poem was published in the autumn of 1941 in Vernon’s first volume of poetry, entitled ‘The Ballad of the Mari Lwyd and other Poems’.  The title was of concern for the poet T.S. Eliot, who was on the board of the publishers Faber and Faber, lest it evoke thoughts of Marie Lloyd, the famous music hall singer.  But the title was not changed, and the publication made a favourable impact in literary circles: more recently Dr Rowan Williams described it as ‘one of the outstanding poems of the century’.

Like the Mari Lwyd custom, wassailing had a rhyming contest before visitors were admitted to enjoy refreshment and dancing.  The wassail, hot liquor with which a group of revelers would drink a person’s health, was taken from house to house in a large bowl, earthenware pitcher or even a tin can, covered by a blanket to keep it warm, and would be replenished by each host.  The ingredients of the wassail were secret, but might be mulled wine or spiced ale.  ‘The Gower Wassail Song’, which was among the regular repertoire of Gower folk singer Phil Tanner, mentions good ale, nutmeg and ginger.  That song includes responsive verses that would be sung by the inhabitants of the house.  The callers might also receive monetary gifts for wishing fertile crops and increase of livestock during the coming year for the household, before they moved on. 

Besides Christmas and the New Year, the wassail cup could be taken round at Candlemas (2nd February), and in Llangennith it was traditionally taken round on Twelfth Night (6th January), the old Christmas Day.  An ornate wassail bowl from Ewenny Pottery can be seen at Swansea Museum.
By contrast to these unusual but lively customs from a bygone age, mere carol singing from house to house sounds rather tame …!           

Saturday 9 May 2015

Christmas murder is still a mystery

Swansea Pier Murder 1885 – 24 December 2015 (photos: old Guildhall, Sw. prison)

Though most of us get swept along with the season of goodwill at Christmastime, and hope that it will be a time of cheer, of course unpleasant and tragic things do occur then, just as at any time of year.  Three weeks before Christmas 1885 there was a particularly shocking murder in Swansea, where the victim was a little six-year-old girl: perhaps even more shocking was the identity of the person who killed her.

Notwithstanding the opening of Swansea’s third dock, the Prince of Wales Dock, the pier was still a popular place for a stroll in good weather, and it was Swansea pier that was the scene of this murder. 

A 38-year-old widower named John Nash had remarried and lived in Greyhound Street, near Dyfatty Street.  But strangely he had not told his new wife that he had two daughters - a 17-year-old named Sarah who was in service, and her 6-year-old sister Martha Ann.  These girls stayed in lodgings in Plasmarl, but Nash had got behind with payments to their landlady Mrs Eliza Goodwin.  Knowing that Nash worked for Swansea Corporation, whose workers were paid on Friday afternoons, Mrs Goodwin walked the younger girl Martha to what was then the Guildhall (now the Dylan Thomas Centre) on 4th December. 

Evidently unaware that Nash had remarried, Mrs Goodwin informed him that she would no longer look after Martha because of the arrears in rent, which came to one pound sixteen shillings and two pence.  Nash, taken by surprise to be confronted with Mrs Goodwin and his younger daughter, had no time to think through his options, and must have reacted without thought of the consequences.  He took Martha to the nearby pier, where passers-by were alarmed to see such a young girl in a blue pinafore dress out in the dark on a cold and windy December evening.  Two men who were pilots’ assistants saw Nash return alone and became suspicious: they challenged him, and the police were called.  An hour later Martha’s drowned body was recovered. 

John Nash was arrested, and subsequently tried for murder at Cardiff Assizes, where the jury took only 15 minutes to find him guilty: he was sentenced to hang.  With public outrage at the murder, the police feared a possible disturbance on the return journey to Swansea, so Nash was removed from the train at Landore and taken by carriage to Swansea gaol.

It must have been a dismal Christmas for Nash’s 17-year-old elder daughter Sarah, with her little sister murdered, and her father likely to hang for the crime.  One wonders if she and Nash’s second wife ever made contact.

In prison Nash received no visit from his wife, but having previously pleaded ‘not guilty’ he did confess to premeditated murder.  He admitted taking Martha onto the beach, saying that when he found the tide was too rough to get near deep water, he took the child along the pier and pushed her into the sea. 

There were appeals to have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment, but they were dismissed.

By 1885 executions had ceased to be public occasions, and took place inside the walls of Swansea gaol.  Nevertheless on a cold morning with snow on the ground, outside the prison were nearly four thousand people, who cheered when the black flag was unfurled at 8am to signify that the execution had been carried out.  It was one of two executions at Swansea carried out by James Berry, who left Nash’s body to hang for an hour to fulfil the legal requirement, before it was cut down and buried in unconsecrated ground.

We do not know why Nash had been unable to tell his new wife about his daughters, but that deception led to the terrible crime just before Christmas 1885.                 


Saturday 2 May 2015

Greetings from a Victorian Legacy

Christmas Cards and Nativity scenes - 23 Dec. 2015 (photos: Horsley, 1st card)

Several elements of our Christmas celebrations date from Victorian times, such as having crackers, sending Christmas cards, and having a Christmas tree - a German custom that became popular when Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert included it in the royal Christmas.  The origin of Christmas cards, once so prevalent in our December post before the option of sending email greetings, involved the artist John Callcott Horsley, brother-in-law of the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

It was in 1843, the year that Charles Dickens’s book ‘A Christmas Carol’ appeared, that Sir Henry Cole of the Victoria and Albert Museum asked Horsley to design the first commercial Christmas card.  The central picture depicted three generations of a family raising a toast to the card's recipient, with scenes of charity on either side - food and clothing being given to the poor.  The message beneath the picture was ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You’.  Some people with temperance leanings were not pleased at the depiction of the family drinking together - and young children apparently holding wine glasses!  Nevertheless it was a good commercial undertaking, with over 1,000 cards printed, selling at a shilling each, and it took advantage of the penny post that had been introduced three years earlier.  When postage was reduced to a halfpenny in the 1870s for postcards and unsealed envelopes, the sending of cards flourished.  During the mid-nineteenth century the sending of Valentine cards had been popular (as tragically in Thomas Hardy’s novel ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’), and many printers and publishers of Christmas cards had started by producing Valentine cards.

Christmas card distribution was aided by the growth of the railways, and it was estimated during Christmas week 1880 that Christmas cards accounted for most of the 11½ million extra letters posted.  Nowadays the sale of charity Christmas cards constitute a considerable and worthwhile part of this industry.

Illustrations on several cards may depict a snow-covered scene, a robin, stagecoach, or Santa driving his reindeer, with seasonal greetings and wishes for joy and peace, but the familiar Nativity scenes depicted on some cards may take some liberties with the truth.  Would shepherds really have been out with their flocks at night-time in late December in Israel (the birth probably occurred in September)?  We are all familiar with depictions of the scene in the stable, with shepherds and Wise Men, and various farm animals around: but the Biblical accounts make no mention of a stable or of farm animals – it is merely that the baby was ‘laid in a manger’ that leads people to such conclusions. 

Were the Wise Men even there so soon after the birth?  The Biblical account states that they arrived at a house not a stable, and encountered a child not a baby, which suggests that considerable time had elapsed on their journey from when they first saw the star.  This could be why Herod demanded the murder of not merely newly-born babies in Bethlehem, but of any infant up to two years old.  The actual number of Wise Men (or kings, or astrologers) is not given, though three types of gifts are mentioned.  The Wise Men may have been from the diaspora or dispersion of Jews beyond the land of Israel, from the 8th century BC onwards. 

Nevertheless parents and grandparents enjoy seeing children dressed as Wise Men and shepherds at school and church carol services, and we continue to send and receive Christmas cards, religious and otherwise - aware that tradition has somewhat embellished the Biblical account of when God became a human being and lived on earth.                                                                                   

Incidentally that 1843 card produced by John Callcott Horsley and commissioned by Sir Henry Cole was sold in 2001 at auction, for a record breaking £22,000.        


Friday 1 May 2015

New Year's Day Tragedy, 1916 - Gower vol 66 2015

New Year's Day Tragedy, 1916                          published in the Gower Journal vol 66, 2015

The white marble statue of lifeboat coxswain Billy Gibbs outside St Cattwg’s church is a memorial to the Port Eynon lifeboat disaster, whose centenary falls on New Year’s Day 2016.  Though the statue commemorates the three crew members who drowned, the pulpit inside the church was given in gratitude to God that the lives of ten crewmen were spared.   
Thirty-three years earlier, the need for a lifeboat station at Port Eynon became acute. On Saturday 27th January 1883 among tremendous storms the 737-ton Liverpool steamer Agnes Jack, bound from Cagliari, Sicily, to Llanelli with lead ore, was wrecked off Port Eynon Point.  Eye-witness Charles Bevan, Lloyd’s agent for the district, described the conditions: ‘The wind blew with terrific force, and the sea was frightful to look at.  Huge waves rolled in one after another, breaking on the rocks, the foam and spray rising in the air like clouds’.  The rocket apparatus summoned from Oxwich and from Rhossili was fired several times from the shore, but the doomed vessel was out of reach.  Eight seamen clinging to the rigging drowned as the mast came down.  A few days later another seven seamen perished when the Surprise was wrecked at Overton.
On the same day of the Agnes Jack disaster, four members of the Mumbles lifeboat Wolverhampton were drowned when seeking to aid the Prussian ship Admiral Prinz Adalbert.  One seaman was rescued by Miss Jessie Ace and Mrs Margaret Wright, daughters of Mumbles lighthouse keeper Abraham Ace, which inspired the popular though inaccurate poem The Women of Mumbles Head by Clement Scott.  A survivor of that disaster, David Morgan, was among the six crew members of the lifeboat James Stevens drowned in 1903 while seeking to aid the Waterford steamer Christina.  
In Port Eynon churchyard, the graves of four Agnes Jack seamen who drowned in 1883 have a stone inscribed:
Oh, had there been a lifeboat there, to breast the stormy main,
These souls would not have perished thus, imploring help in vain.
Following the 1883 disasters, the RNLI agreed to a lifeboat station being established at Port Eynon.  The legacy of Miss Maria Jones of Lancaster enabled the building of a boathouse and the provision of a lifeboat.  The donor chose the name A Daughter’s Offering for the 34ft ten-oared lifeboat which was launched on 10th May 1884.  A team of six horses would pull the lifeboat from the station (now the Youth Hostel) down the slipway to be launched into the sea, while many people would assemble on the beach to watch lifeboat practice.  Whenever the maroon distress signal was sounded, the horses would run down to the beach without further prompting, or if ploughing would strain at the harness until cut free. 
A Daughter’s Offering was used for 22 years, until replaced in 1906 with the Janet, a 35ft self-righting lifeboat, named by Lady Lyons of Kilvrough.  The boathouse was extended to accommodate the larger boat.
On 27th December 1915 the Wexford steamer Elizabeth Jane was wrecked off Mumbles, and five days later, on New Year’s Day 1916, the SS Dunvegan of Glasgow was in difficulties off Oxwich with engine failure.  Amid severe westerly gales the Janet was launched around midday.  Two local men home on leave from serving in the First World War, trooper William Grove of the Glamorgan Yeomanry and Jack Morris, volunteered to make up the crew numbers. 
When the Janet reached the Dunvegan amid extremely rough seas, they found that the steamer’s crew were being rescued by land with a breeches buoy.[i]  The lifeboat stood off the Point until certain that assistance was not needed, but the gale prevented any thought of returning direct to Port Eynon.  In making for Mumbles under sail, the Janet capsized with the loss of second coxswain William Eynon and lifeboatman George Harry, though once the mast broke the vessel righted herself.  Had the men been strapped in, as was customary, all thirteen would have drowned, for the lifeboat would have taken longer to right herself in rough seas with such weight hanging underneath.
Yet within an hour she capsized again, with the loss of coxswain Billy Gibbs - and the oars.  Fifty-five-year-old Capt. George Eynon, whose brother had already been washed overboard, took command, but in near darkness the survivors were at the mercy of the wind and tides, and drifted in the open boat.  Having anchored off Caswell for what must have been a desperately miserable night, they came ashore the following morning - after 22 hours at sea.  At the Mumbles Yacht CafĂ©, where men of the 4th Welsh Regiment were stationed, the ten crewmen received help and were equipped with dry khaki uniforms.  After a meal and being seen by a doctor they were driven back to a sombre Port Eynon by motor bus. 
On 5th January the body of George Harry, who left a wife and four children, was recovered at Jersey Marine, and buried in Port Eynon churchyard two days later.  On the 16th January that of William Eynon, who left a wife and two grown-up daughters, was recovered at Porthcawl, and he was also buried two days later.  The body of Billy Gibbs was not recovered: though a body was washed up on Oxwich beach on the 29th January, in an advanced state of decomposition it could not be identified. 
The Porteynon (sic) section of the Gower Church Magazine for February 1916 commented:
This noble act of self-sacrifice is quite as unselfish, and we might say as glorious, as it is for those who died fighting for us in the field of battle.
In October it reported:
The decision as to whether the lifeboat station will be continued at Port Eynon has been left until after the conclusion of the War.
In January 1917 the Gower Church Magazine stated:
A brass tablet has been placed near the chancel arch with the following inscription: The super altar[ii] was given to the glory of God, who brought the ten survivors of the lifeboat crew safely through the perils of the night. January 1st 1916.  It has been decided that the form of the memorial shall be that of the figure of a lifeboatman standing on rugged granite.  Messrs Brown & Sons, Sculptors, Swansea, have the work in hand.
The life-size statue outside St Cattwg’s church was modelled on coxswain Billy Gibbs, whom Wynford Vaughan-Thomas recalled as a genial, friendly bachelor who would play the concertina for the youngsters.[iii]  In October 1918 the Gower Church Magazine reported:
The unveiling ceremony which took place on Thursday 15th August was performed by Rev. P. Weston, Chaplain to the Seamen at Swansea.  Previous to the ceremony there was a very impressive service at the Parish Church, at which there was a crowded congregation.
Mumbles and Tenby lifeboat stations took over the area that Port Eynon had covered, and Port Eynon’s lifeboat station was formally closed in September 1919.  Within a few years motorised craft replaced the lifeboats at Mumbles and Tenby.
Speaking of the 1916 disaster, Courtney Grove, son and grandson of Port Eynon lifeboatmen, said ‘My grandfather was home on leave from the trenches, but he didn’t hesitate to man the lifeboat that day, exchanging one hell for another.  That storm in 1916 was the worst in living memory.  They were men of steel in those days.’[iv]
That stretch of South Gower coastline is now served by a D-class lifeboat from an inshore lifeboat station at Horton, which was opened in 1968. 
On the 99th anniversary of the Janet tragedy, about 60 people walked from Horton to Port Eynon Point in memory of the lifeboatmen: even more will aim to do so for the forthcoming centenary.                                                                                                       
George Edmunds – The Gower Coast, 1979, 1986
Olive Phillips - Gower, 1956
Carl Smith – The Men of the Mumbles Head, 1977
Carl Smith - Gower Coast Shipwrecks, 1979
Michael Roberts – The last voyage of the Janet in Gower XVII, 1966
Gower Church Magazine, 1916
South Wales Daily Post – January 1916 (Carl Smith website)

[i] A rope-based rescue device with a leg harness for single-person evacuations from wrecked vessels, usually deployed from shore to ship.
[ii] Shelf or ledge let into the east wall above and behind the altar
[iii] Wynford Vaughan-Thomas - A Portrait of Gower, 1976, p. 122
[iv] Trevor Fishlock – Fishlock’s Wild Tracks, 1998, p. 18