Sunday 8 October 2017

124 Edgar Evans statue

124 Edgar Evans statue
A recent Evening Post article reported on plans to raise £90,000 for a 15-foot statue of Edgar Evans “to honour the Polar explorer”.  Evans was the Rhossili seaman who accompanied Captain Scott on two expeditions to Antarctica, during the second of which he was among the five men who reached the South Pole in January 1912, though the first of them to perish on the return journey.  I would suggest that Petty Officer Evans, an integral member of both Captain Scott’s Antarctic expeditions, is already suitably honoured in his home town, and further afield.
Swansea Museum contains a fine bust of Evans, based on the famous photograph of the five men at the South Pole, carved by Philip Chatfield, who carved the Merchant Navy memorial in SA1, as well as many other commissions.  Evans’s bust, which was commissioned by the Captain Scott Society of Cardiff, from where the 1910 “Terra Nova” expedition had sailed, was presented to the City of Swansea in 1995 by the Lord Lieutenant of West Glamorgan at a Civic event held at the Brangwyn Hall. 
In 2012, on the centenary of that expedition, Swansea Museum had an excellent display about Evans and the 1910 British Antarctic Expedition for many months, with the actual centenary of Evans’s death being marked by a Civic Service at St Mary’s Church in Swansea.  In Rhossili, at the church where Evans had married in 1904 his cousin Lois Beynon, who used to sing in the church choir, is a plaque commemorating him, as well as a stained-glass window in his memory, along with an information board.  On sale at West Glamorgan Archives is the first biography of Evans, my 1995 book “Swansea’s Antarctic Explorer”, while the more comprehensive biography by Dr Isobel Williams entitled “Captain Scott’s Invaluable Assistant: Edgar Evans” was published in 2012 and continues to have a wide readership.  That year Evans was the subject of a fine HTV television documentary, and in November 2014 a blue plaque was unveiled outside Middleton Cottage, his birthplace near Rhossili. 
Furthermore Swansea Museum has items relating to Evans – one of his boots is displayed in the Cabinet of Curiosities – and researchers can view two letters which he sent from Antarctica, and peruse information pertaining to him and Scott’s ill-fated 1910-13 British Antarctic Expedition.
Evans’s old school, St Helen’s in Vincent Street in the Sandfields, has a fine framed photograph of their famous former pupil, while the former Head Post Office in Wind Street (Evans worked as a telegraph messenger boy at their previous Castle Bailey Street premises) used to display H.A. Chapman’s large framed photograph of him taken at the time of his wedding.  That building at the junction of Green Dragon Lane is now Idols bar, so the photograph can be seen at the Royal Mail premises on the Enterprise Zone.  Evans’s Royal Naval roots were recognised by a residential block being named after him at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth, while in Antarctica two geographical features bear his name.
Although much focus is on what is called “Scott’s Last Expedition”, Evans was also a prominent member of Scott’s earlier Antarctic expedition from 1901 to 1904 in the “Discovery”.  Swansea Museum contains a two-volume first edition of Scott’s account of this.  The “Discovery” is open to the public at Dundee, where this wooden ship was built, though the “Terra Nova” sank off Greenland in 1943: her figurehead is in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.
Besides the soldier on the South African War memorial, Swansea has statues of industrialists John Henry Vivian and his son Henry Hussey Vivian, of William Thomas of Lan “the champion of open spaces”, of poet Dylan Thomas and of footballer Ivor Allchurch.  Though the intention is laudable, surely plans for a 15-foot high statue of Petty Officer Edgar Evans are superfluous?    

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