Splott Memories

Bob David has kindly allowed us to share these memories of his growing up in Splott.  I hope it evokes some childhood memories of yours too. The memories have been supplemented with some pictures supplied by Bob and some extra ones. Thank you for sharing Bob.  

I was born in Moorland Road Splott in 1946 and have so many memories.

Splott was a great place to grow up in, people didn’t have much money but there was a great community atmosphere.

When I was young Splott was separated from Roath and Adamsdown by the mainline Railway line, Constellation Street and Pearl Street were in Roath. It was said that in order to enter Splott you had to either cross over or go under one of 5 bridges, either over-Windsor Road Bridge, The Black Bridge, Splott Bridge, Beresford Road Bridge or under—South Park Road or north Park Road Bridges from Tremorfa.

I had Uncles and Aunts all over Splott in Moorland Road, Splott Road, Eyre Street and Bridgend Street.  My Great Grandfather Joseph Hill first moved to Splott in the 1890s. Kelly’s directory has him his wife and 8 children living in Habershon Street in 1896. By 1901 he was living in Walker Road and by 1916 he and his wife had moved to South Park Road.

Moorland Road in 1963

The 1901 Census shows my great grandfather was a yard foreman in the Tharsis Copper Works, about three quarters of a mile from where he lived at the bottom of Lewis Road, between Lewis Road and Portmanmoor Road, Splott.

My Grandmother’s house in Moorland Road backed out onto the lanes between Moorland Road and Courtney Road. The lane door and back kitchen door were never bolted except at night. To get in through the front door all you had to do was reach through the letter box and pull a chain. The lane was our playground During the 1950s. The favourite Street games for Boys was either Cowboys and Indians or British and Germans.  In Cowboys and Indians we all had Cowboy hats and Cowboy holsters with cap guns. We made bows and arrows out of bamboo canes bought in Rolfe’s on Splott Road the bows would be carefully bent and strung with string. We’d chose the straightest canes for arrows. Every mother would warn her children that if they weren’t careful when they fired their arrows they’d have someone’s eye out. We had Sheriff’s stars pinned on our jumpers sometimes with small photo of our faces in the middle. We’d pretend to be Lash Larue or Kit Carson. We’d read comics like Six Gun Heroes. Everyone wanted to be a goodie, no one wanted to be a baddie.

Lane behind Moorland Road

When we wanted a drink of water, we just went into our houses via the lane door. The Lane was our play park. We’d play football and cricket in the lane and run races around the garage in the middle. In the Summer people left their front doors and backdoors open to let the breeze blow through the house.

I remember in the 1950s most men rode their bikes to work. The biggest employers in Cardiff were the two steel works, Guest Keen Iron and Steel and Guest Keen Castle works.  Most of the men in Splott either worked on the docks or in one of the steelworks.  I remember all the workers cycling passed our house in Moorland Road before and after shift changes. I also remember the double decker buses driving past the house full of workers.

East Moors Steel Works (picture credit – John Stennett)

I remember all the steel workers bikes piled up against the wall of the Grosvenor pub when the 6-2 shift in the steelworks came out. None of them were locked. We used to get paid a 1d to mind them, though when the owners came out after a few pints we’d often get a 3d or if we were lucky a 6d.

Penny for the Guy outside the Grosvenor pub

I remember the red glow in the sky when they were tipping the slag ladles over the foreshore and the occasional thump when a ladle was tipped into the sea on a high tide and the slag inside had crusted over and burst in contact with the water.

Dumping of slag (photo not Cardiff in this instance)

I remember the sulphur smell from the coke ovens on Lewis Road if the wind was blowing from the west.

I remember the mournful blast from the fog horn on the Flat Holme on a foggy night and I used to imagine the ships out at sea finding their way through the fog.

You could get all your shopping done in Splott Road or Carlilse Street or in the dozens of small corner shops too many to mention. There were also quite a few house shops where someone had turned their front room into a small shop mostly just selling cigarettes, sweets or pop.

Carlisle Street

Some Shops I remember from the 1950s though I could go on and on

  • Setchfields later Probert’s, corner of Coveny St and Moorland Square
  • Barret and Puzey, Habershon Street
  • Dandos the Newsagents, Habershon Street
  • Orsolinis, Carlisle Street,
  • O’sheas Carlisle Street
  • The Ray Café, Carlilse Street
  • Audrey’s Café, Carlilse Street
  • The Three Swifts stores in Carlilse Street
  • Gazzi’s Chip shop, Carlilse Street
  • Janet’s Pantry in Carlilse Street (great pasties)
  • Davis the Chemist, Carlilse Street
  • Kent’s the Barbers, Carlilse Street
  • The Newsbox, Carlisle Street
  • Hunts the DIY shop, Carlisle Street, now Larcombe’s the undertakers
  • Taylors the Chemist, Splott Road
  • The Bon Marche Splott Road which at Christmas used to have a luck dip barrel outside
  • Jack Caravias’s Chip shop in Carlilse street
  • Manley’s the Newsagents on the corner of Janet Street and Walker Road
  • Browns show repairers opposite Setchfields on Coveny Street

There were two Co-ops on Splott Road, the Co-op Green grocers on the corner of Habershon Street and Splott Road and the Co-op Grocers on the corner of Railway Street and Splott Road. Tuckers Electrical on Splott bridge where in the 1950s I bought my Dinky toys.

I remember Pengellys Toy shop on Splott Road, a really great toy shop. It was a toy shop and a barbers. The toy shop was run by the wife, a French woman called Cherie. Her husband ran the barbershop behind the toy shop. It was only a small toyshop but it was an Aladdin’s cave. I used to spend hours stood outside looking in the window especially at Christmas. I used to go there to buy toy soldiers. You could buy them singly at 6d (2½p) each.  On the run up to bonfire night there was a large glass cabinet on the counter full of fireworks. You could choose what fireworks you wanted: 1d bangers, 3d cannons, rockets, Catherine wheels, hopping jinni’s, Roman Candles, Mount Vesuvius’s, Rainbow Fountains.

Splott Road in the 1970s

A few days before Christmas each year I’d go up to Carlisle Street with my uncle. We’d go to Watkins the grocers and off license where he would buy the Christmas booze, Emva Cream Sherry, QC wine, some flagons of beer and some spirits, usually whisky and maybe rum and brandy, and a bottle of Advocaat. We’d then go to Ollins the greengrocers and buy some tangerines and nuts, before walking back to 168 Moorland Road.

Every Saturday morning I’d go to the kid’s matinee in Splott Cinema.  I’d cheer when the cowboys came on and boo when the Indians came on. All the good cowboys wore white hats and all the baddies wore black hats. The last film every week was always a serial and ended with to be continued-to tempt you back the following week.

Splott Cinema after it had been converted to a bingo hall.

In those days when you went to the cinema (we called them the pictures) you’d often go in half way through a film and then watch through the films until you got to the bit you came in and then out you’d go. There was always two films and Pathe news and I don’t remember any adverts in the 1950s.

Splott Cinema interior

My Grandmother used to love going to Splott Cinema on Saturday afternoons and often she would take me.  I remember walking up Splott Road on a sunny warm Saturday afternoon in the mid 1950s on the way to see a film in the Splott Cinema with my grandmother. The shops all had their sun blinds pulled out sheltering the stock in the windows from the hot sun.

I remember floating lollypop sticks and matchsticks down the gutter on rainy days. I remember playing marbles or ‘alleys’ as we called them in those same gutters. The gutters always seemed cleaner in those days, and they probably were because people came along with hand carts and swept them.h I remember my Father used to come home with ball bearings for me to play with. We called them bombers or bomberinos.

I remember when there were roadwork’s in Moorland Road in the mid 1950s. I remember there was a night watchman sat in a little hut with a bright brazier in front of it.  I remember seeing himsat there warming his hands when my Uncle Sam walked me home. He’d walk me up to Moorland Road Square then watch me run home from there.  I’d wave from the front gate of my house and then he’d walk back home.  I remember it made me feel extra secure when I went to bed thinking that there was a night watchman outside all night.

I remember when I was young in the early mid 1950s, the salt and vinegar man coming up Moorland Road pushing a hand cart upon which he had large blocks of salt and a barrel of malt vinegar.  He’d cut chunks off the salt using a hacksaw and would break the lumps up with a hammer. If you wanted vinegar, he’d fill a bottle you took out to him with malt vinegar from the barrel. My Grandmother kept the salt in an earthenware pot in the pantry. In those days we had salt not like today where you have table salt and cooking salt, we had just salt.

I also remember a one man band man in Moorland Road. He had a drum on his back, cymbals on the inside of his knees, a mouth organ on a frame in front of his mouth and was playing a banjo. As a child I thought he was amazing. All the kids would follow him as he paraded down the street. The kids would ask their parents etc for money which they put in a cup around his neck. I only saw him the once but the memory has stayed with me ever since.

I remember the huge bonfire that the kids used to build on November 5th on the bomb site on the corner of Bridgend Street and Swansea Street.

I also remember bonfires being built over Splott park.

I also remember when people would set fire to the rubbish in the railway arches on Swansea Street.

Bonfire night was always a busy night for the fire brigade.

As a child I spent 90% of my home time playing outdoors, either over Splott Park, the Tide Fields or Pengam Airport, playing in the aircraft that were used for fire practice including a Halifax bomber and a spitfire.

Actual photo of the Halifax in Pengam Airport

As my house in Moorland Road backed out onto the railway line I used to hop over the railings and cross the railway tracks to get to Splott Park which was pretty dangerous as in the 1950s the railway was really busy. We also used to put pennies on the track so they’d be squashed flat by a passing train.

Splott Park

I remember lying in bed at night listening to the trains as they rumbled passed. If they were shunting, I’d hear the railwaymen talking and see the glow from the engine’s firebox.

Although I was born and lived in Splott, I went to Metal Street/St Germans school but every Wednesday afternoon we went to Splott Park to either play baseball in the summer or football in the winter.

St German’s School, Adamsdown, Cardiff. Top left: Metal Street National School c.1890. Top Rt: lesson in baking c.1940. Bot Left: The old school being converted into housing. Bot Rt: St German’s Court.

I broke my leg on the ocean wave/witches’ hat in Splott Park play area in 1955. The park keeper was an old chap called Gussy.  I was taken to the park keeper’s hut (which is still there) to wait for an ambulance to take me to the CRI.

The water in Splott pool was always freezing. I used to love the open-air paddling pool in the summer.

The embankment on the Splott Park side of the railway lines was an adventure playground. We used to hang rope swings from the trees and swing out over the railings. I remember one day when the rope broke and a boy was impaled through the thigh on the railings. He was ok after it had healed but had a wicked scar.

I remember doing penny for the guy on Splott Road in front of St Saviours church right next to the bus stop.

I was in the 78th cubs and scouts. The cubs met in St Saviours church hall and the scouts in St Francis church hall.

Although I didn’t go to Splott School in the day I did go to night school there in 1960/61.  I remember the smell from the public toilets situated just under the windows in the summer. We also used to go there for woodwork from St Germans school.

There used to be a scrap yard in Portmanmoor Road Lane call Cannes.  I remember once my mates and I found an old spring bed base near the vicarage on Courtenay Road. We dragged it down to Canne’s yard and got 6d for it. Cannes had a shop on Portmanmoor Road where I used to buy my air rifle pellets

The Miura Trawler Disaster of 1927

Miura trawler 1927 Bude Cornwall

We had an enquiry in recently asking if we knew anything about the crew members of the Cardiff steam trawler Miura which was shipwrecked off the coast of Cornwall in March 1927.  The short answer was no, but it raised so many interesting questions it prompted me to do some research.  So many things came as news to me.  I hadn’t realised that Cardiff even had a trawler fleet; I’d always associated the port with coal-exporting.  I also hadn’t realised that trawlers were at one stage steam-powered.  To use the modern vernacular – my bad.

What had prompted the enquirer to contact us was the fact that their grandfather had been involved in the rescue mission that saw five of the twelve crew survive.  Not only that but her grandfather had then named his recently born daughter Miura.  The enquirer was particularly asking about P Kennedy, the second-engineer, from Roath, a man the grandfather had helped up the cliff that stormy March night.

Miura survivors

More about P Kennedy later but first I wanted to discover more about the trawler and it’s ties with Cardiff.

The 274 ton trawler Miura belonged to the Neale and West company headquartered in Bute Docks, Cardiff.  Their fleet of twelve steam trawlers were based in Cardiff and Milford Haven.

The Owners

Let’s start by looking at the owners of the trawler company.  Neal and West was set up by two fish merchants in Cardiff in 1885.

Joshua Neale on the right (pic credit Cardiff Naturalists)

Joshua Neale on the right (pic credit Cardiff Naturalists)

Joshua Neale born in County Antrim, Ireland to English parents.  He sounds quite a remarkable character.  He was largely self-educated having left school at the age of twelve.   He taught himself languages and had a passion for natural history.  He also had a lot of physical strength and excelled at many sports including rugby and cycling.  His knowledge of natural history led him to become a member of Cardiff Naturalists and then their President on two occasions.  He wrote a number of papers on natural history, the early ones based on species landed by the firm’s trawlers. More about the life of Joshua Neale can be found in this post from Cardiff Naturalists.

Woodlands, Ty Gwyn Road, Penylan, Cardiff (pic Cardiff Libraries)

Woodlands, Ty Gwyn Road (pic Cardiff Libraries)

The other partner in Neale and West was Henry West.  He was born in Leek, Staffordshire in 1858 and grew up in Bristol before moving to Cardiff and living in Roath.  In 1891 he lived in Castle Road (now called City Road) and describing his occupation as a fish merchant.  By 1901 the family were living at 42 Ninian Road. He left the partnership in 1910 although the company continued to trade under the name of Neale and West.  In 1911 the West family had moved to Woodlands, Ty Gwyn Road.  He was by this stage manager of the Cardiff Ice Company, no doubt supplying ice to his former trawler company.  He was also a great sportsman an shared a passion for cycling with his former partner Joshua Neale. When he died in 1942 his address was Broadhurst, Ty Gwyn Road.  His will specified which of his grandchildren were to receive his sporting medals and cups.

The Fleet

It sounds like when Joshua Neale and Henry West set up their fish merchant business in Cardiff in 1885 they struggled with the supply of fish.  There were no trawlers operating out of Cardiff at the time but instead a few tugs would take trawling nets out into the Bristol Channel and catch what they could.   In 1888 the Neale and West company decided to buy their own trawler. The business grew and the company that operated out of the West Bute Docks eventually owned over a dozen steam trawlers.  The company became involved in training Japanese trawler men and as a result started naming their ships with Japanese names.  This would explain the origin of the name for the Miura.

Neale and West trawlers and fish boxes in Cardiff

Neale and West trawlers and fish boxes in Bute Dock, Cardiff

The Miura which sank off the coast of Cornwall in 1927 was in fact a replacement for another Neale and West trawler of the same name.  The original Miura was built in Middlesbrough in 1911 but only fished for three years before it was acquisitioned by the Royal Navy for use as a WWI patrol boat.  On 23 Aug 1915, the original Miura was sunk by the German submarine UB-2, off Great Yarmouth.  Eleven lives were lost. Read more at wrecksite.  It was one of seven Neale and West requisitioned trawlers to be sunk in WWI.

A replacement vessel was constructed  in Middlesbrough by Smiths Dock Co Ltd in 1916.  As WWI was still underway it was immediately requisitioned again by the navy initially as a minesweeper and then as a hydrophone vessel (fitted with underwater listening equipment that could detect submarines).  Fitted with deck guns, Miura continued in war service until 1919 when the ship moved to its original intended use fishing out of Cardiff.

The Shipwreck

The Miura set out from Cardiff on 18 Mar 1927 with twelve crew on board for a fishing expedition to the south coast of Ireland.  It was due back in Cardiff on 30 Mar.  It never returned.

It was skippered by William Joyce, his first trip out as skipper of the Miura though he had previously acted as skipper’s relief frequently.

On its way back to Cardiff, no doubt laden with fish, the Miura ran into dense fog and then high winds off Cornwall.  The Miura struck rocks at Stanbury Monk, eight miles north of Bude, at 11.45 at night on 29 March.  For 45 minutes the wireless operator sent out SOS calls but then the Miura heeled over to port and the wireless ceased to function.  With the engine and wireless out of action their situation seemed helpless.  Five men lashed themselves to the mast and others were lost overboard.  Two of the five decided to try and swim for the shore.  After spending and hour and a half in the water the wireless operator managed to swim ashore in heavy seas, clamour up the cliffs and make it to a farmhouse.  The Bude Rocket Brigade was summoned and the rescue operation initiated.

Mr Kennedy (2nd engineer) reported: “We climbed the rigging to the masthead light, and I clung there. We shouted to the others to join Wilkinson, Bridge, Melhuish and myself, but they could not get along. The last person, I think, to go over was the third hand, Thompson. He said ‘I’m finished’, and disappeared. After daybreak we saw a couple of fellows waving to us. Wilkinson dropped over and made for the rocks, and I followed. A big sea came along, and I swam blindly for the shore. I was weak and cold and rolled over and over, striking small rocks all the time. Someone pulled me out.”

Five of the twelve crew survived the shipwreck but seven perished.  One of the anchors from the Miura was recovered in 1979 and is on display in Bude.  This March saw an exceptionally low tide when it was possible to see what is believed to be the boiler from the Miura still in the sea.

Details of the Miura and the night it ran around have recently been researched by Julie Satchell and published on the budeandbeyond website.

Miura trawler boiler seen at low tide in 2021

Miura trawler boiler seen at low tide in 2021 (Pic Bude and Beyond)

The Crew

The Miura hit rocks at 11.30 at night on Tuesday 29 March. The rescue of the survivors took place on them morning of 30 March.  By Thursday 31 March the Western Mail was carrying an article about the shipwreck, listing the crew and had reporters visiting the addresses of the widows. By Saturday April 2nd the paper was already reporting the findings of the inquest.  We tend to forget how quickly things happened back then.


R Bridge, Second-mate, Bristol

A Melhuish, Deck-hand, 52, Carlisle Street, Splott

T Wilkinson, Deck-hand, Blackpool and lodging at Holmesdale Street, Grangetown

P Kennedy, Second Engineer, 119 Arran Street, Roath

W Page, Wireless Operator, 2 King’s Road, Alyesbury


William Martin Joyce, Skipper, 101 Arran Street

B Collins, Boatwain, – Tweedsmuir Road, Splott

C G Thompson, Deck hand, Cardiff, formerly of Cheltenham

W Metcalf, Cook, a native of Carlisle, 12 Merches Gardens, Grangetown

J Shaw, Chief Engineer, 54 Merches Gardens, Grangetown

C Welsh, Fireman, Grangetown

E Goode, Fireman, South William Street

I have researched the four that were from the Roath/Splott/Tremorfa areas:

Phil Kennedy, Second Engineer

P J Kennedy - saved from te Miura wreckThe first bit of luck I had was finding a newspaper report about the wreck that mentioned Mr Kennedy and some key facts about him.  He was Mr P J Kennedy and came from Great Yarmouth, used to be  boxer when young and served in WWI in Mesopotamia and he was married and lived in 119 Arram Street (presumably a mis-spelling of Arran Street).  Using that information I was able do some research and piece together some of his life story.

Philip James Kennedy was born in Norwich on 22 Apr 1895 the eldest child of James Robinson Kennedy, a tailor, originally from Edenderry, Ireland and Gertrude Vincent Kennedy, née Fiske, originally from East Dereham, Norfolk.  In 1901 the Kennedy family were living in East Dereham.

By 1907 the family had moved to Great Yarmouth where Philip attended Northgate Boys School. The 1911 census shows Philip, then aged 15, working as a grocers errand boy. Phil evidently took up boxing as there are a few reports in the Yarmouth newspapers of his boxing matches.

I haven’t found any documents as yet relating to Phil fighting in Mesopotamia in WWI.  His younger brother, James Vincent Kennedy, was however killed in Mesopotamia on 21 Apr 1916 whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion, Norfolk Regiment.

On 7 Jan 1920 Philip James Kennedy marries Winifred Maskery at Great Yarmouth Parish Church. Philip at the time describes his profession as a labourer.  In June 1920 Phil joins the Merchant Navy where he is to have a long career.  He and Winnie move to Roath, Cardiff and are living at 119 Arran Street when Phil was survives the shipwreck of the steam trawler Miura in Cornwall in 1927.

Tragedy was however to strike Phil six years later as his wife Winnie died in Sept 1933 aged just 33.  They appear not to have had any children together.  A newspaper report of her funeral says they were living in 89 Donald Street, Roath Park at the time and Philip was working for the Neale and West fleet.  His brother Pat Kennedy attended the funeral.

In Sept 1939, at the outbreak of WWII, Philip, listed as widowed, is living in Fulham, London and working as a Plant Attendant for Fulham Power.  At the same address is Ethel Kennedy (single), a music hall artist.  I am thinking Ethel may be a cousin or some relation of Phil’s.

Phil Kennedy stayed in merchant navy till 1956.

Phil Kennedy stayed in merchant navy till 1956.

Phil Kennedy goes back to working in the Merchant Navy for there are identity cards from 1955 with his picture on.

He dies on 26 Jan 1978 aged 82 at the Royal Alfred Seafarer’s Home, Belvedere, Kent.

His will leaves his estate to John Kennedy, of Wokingham, Berkshire,  his nephew, who I think was a son of Phil’s brother Patrick


Alfred Melhuish, Deck-hand

A Melhuish - saved from th Miura trawler shipwreckAlfred Melhuish was born in Crediton, Devon on 24 Jun 1895 to William Melhuish, an agricultural labourer,  and Ellen Melhuish née Burridge, both originally from Cheriton Fitzpaine, Devon.

Headstone of Alfred Melhuish in Cathays Cemetery, CardiffAlfred moved to Cardiff and marries Matilda Blanche Randall from Splott, Cardiff in 1923. They go on to have five children together, two born prior to the Miura disaster and three afterwards.  The 1939 Register records that Alfred Melhuish still working as a deck hand fisherman and living in Carlisle Street.  He died in 1954 and is buried in Cathays Cemetery.  His wife Matilda passes away in 1976.  Her address in the 1901 census was Carlisle Street, Splott as it was when she died in 1976.

William Martin Joyce – Skipper

Born in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire on 3 Jul 1894 to Joseph (Joe) Martin Joyce, a trawler skipper, originally from Hull and Emma Carlotta Joyce née Jones originally from Milford.  He attended Bow High Street School in Milford.

Captain Joyce Miura trawler missingIn 1911 he was living in the family home and working as a fish-dock labourer.

He enrolled in the Royal Navy in Oct 1916 and became part of the Auxiliary Patrol operating as part HMS Idaho (the depot ship/parent ship for trawlers and drifters of the  Auxiliary Patrol based at Milford Haven).  The Auxiliary Patrol would have been on anti-submarine duties and alike guarding key ports such as Milford Haven.  The commissioned trawlers would have been fitted with armaments.  He was discharged in Feb 1919.

He married Susannah Elizabeth Osborne in 1924 in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.  She was a daughter of a fisherman and had been born in Great Yarmouth.  They moved to Cardiff shortly after getting married.  Their son William James Joyce was born in Cardiff in 1925 but sadly died the following year. In 1927 at the time of the Miura tragedy William and Suannah Joyce were living at 101 Arran Street.

His wife Susannah returned to live in Milford Haven shortly after the tragic loss of life of her husband.  She never remarried.  W M Joyce is remembered on the headstone of his wife in Milford Haven cemetery.

William Joyce on headstone in Milford Haven Cemetery (pic Stewtamrowley)


Albert John Collins – Boatwain

Bert Collins was born in 1894 in Blackwood, Monmouthshire to Alfred Collins, a School Attendance Officer originally from Milford Haven and Martha Emma Collins née Saunders originally from Haverfordwest.  In 1901 the Collins family had moved back to Milford Haven and the 1911 census shows Albert Collins, aged 16, working as a fisherman. He married Margaret James in Haverfordwest in 1916.

He died aged 32 when the Miura was shipwrecked.  His probate record shows that at the time he and Margaret were living at ‘Cleddau’, Tweedsmuir Road, Tremorfa Garden Suburb.  The house name Cleddau was a reference to Pembrokeshire.  The houses of Tremorfa were newly built and it is interesting to see it referred to as Tremorfa Garden Suburb.

The death of Bert Collins was also felt by the Melhuish family.  Bert’s sister Edith was married to James Melhuish, brother of Alfred Melhuish, a deckhand and survivor on Miura. In fact it seems James Melhuish was probably the former skipper of the Miura.

Post Script

In World War II the whole Neale and West trawler fleet was again requisitioned by the Royal Navy leaving Cardiff with no operating trawlers.  Some of the vessels were lost as a result of war action.  After the war the fleet was rebuilt by purchasing second hand Hull and Grimsby trawlers.  By 1956 however fishing out of Cardiff had ceased as fish stocks in the area depleted, but the company still operated out of Milford Haven for some years afterwards.

Miura trawler anchor on display in Bude

Miura trawler anchor on display in Bude (pic Bude and Beyond)

Clive Sullivan – Britain’s first black sporting captain

Clive Sullivan became first black person to captain any British international sports team when he captained the Great Britain Rugby League team in 1972.

Clive Sullivan pic

We received an enquiry  at Roath Local History Society last month asking if we knew where Clive Sullivan had been born.  I must admit I didn’t and hadn’t even realised his unique achievement.  I’ve enjoyed researching his exploits and have the pleasure of awarding him one of our virtual red plaques, particularly poignant in these days of the Black Lives Matter campaign.

Clive was born in Splott, Cardiff on 9 Apr 1943.  According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography he was born at 49 Wimborne Street.

Wimborne Street map

Wimborne Street no longer exists, demolished in the 1970s, along with many neighbouring streets.  The street was originally named Fishguard Street, but later renamed Wimborne Street after Lord Wimborne, owner of the nearby steel works.  The southern edge of Moorland park in Splott follows the line of the former Wimborne Street.

Clive was the second of four children born to Dorothy Eileen Sullivan née Boston.  Doris herself was born to Joseph Donald Boston, a seaman, originally from Antigua and Lily Brain originally from Bristol.  The Brain and Boston families also lived in lower Splott, in Aberdovey and Pontypridd Streets respectively.  I haven’t however found any link between the Boston side of Clive Sullivan’s family and Billy Boston, another great rugby league player from Cardiff.

Wimborne Street 1970s

The caption with this 1972 photo states that it is ‘Mrs Alice Huntley who had lived at 51 Wimborne Street for 48 years’. She would therefore have been a next-door neighbour of the Sullivan family. (pic credit: alamy)

Clive’s father was Charles Henry Sullivan an electrical engineer then serving in the RAF. Charles Sullivan was Jamaican whose family had emigrated to Cardiff before the Second World War. He walked out on Doris when the children were young never to be seen again leaving her to bring up Brian, Clive, Yvonne and Elmyria.

When Clive Sullivan was young he suffered medical problems with his legs and knees necessitating several operations at the Royal Infirmary.  He defied the surgeon who told his mother that he may never walk properly to go on to be an exceptional sprinter and sportsman.

Doris and her young children moved across town to Ronald Place, Ely and the children attended Herbert Thompson Primary School.  By now Clive had recovered from his surgeries and he and his siblings became known in school as the ‘Four Flying Sullivans’ because of their monopoly in sprinting events.

At the same school was Jim Mills, who went onto play rugby league for Widnes.  In the playground Clive used to call Jim ‘lanky’ and make use of this phenomenal speed to get away.  Years later when Clive was playing for Hull he got tackled just before the try-line by Jim Mills who said to him ‘Now, who did you call lanky?’

Clive Sullivan serving in Cyprus

Clive serving in Cyprus (pic credit: R. Daniel)

After leaving school Sullivan worked briefly as a mechanic before he joined the army.  In Catterick he trained as a radio operator and then joined the Parachute Signals Squadron, stationed in Hampshire, and then saw active service in Cyprus with the UN Peacekeeping Force.  Whilst at Catterick he started playing rugby for the army.  His skills were spotted by a Hull FC scout and he was signed up though it was somewhat of a stuttering start to his sporting career, plagued with injuries, knee operations and a bad car crash in 1963.


In 1964 he left the army and was able to dedicate himself to his rugby career.  That same year he met his wife Rosalyn Byron in Hull who he married a couple of years later.

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Clive Sullivan on his wedding day (pic credit: R Daniel)

Clive Sullivan played on the wing and was a prolific try scorer. He had blistering pace, exploiting any gaps in the opposition defence.   In one match against Doncaster in 1968 he scored seven tries, still a Hull FC record.

He first played for Great Britain in 1967.  In 1972 he was selected as Captain of the Great Britain side that went on to win the Rugby League World Cup held in France where he scored a try in each of the four games. He also captained the Wales Rugby League team. In all, Sullivan represented Great Britain 17 times and appeared at three World Cups, 1968 and 1972 with Great Britain, and in 1975 for Wales.  His length of the field try in the 1972 World Cup final against Australia is regarded as one of the game’s finest.  Now here’s a good fact to store up for quizzes: he was the last person to lift the World Cup for Great Britain as since then the home nations have played individually.

Clive Sullivan or ‘Sully’ as he was known, played for Hull FC and later their rivals Hull Kingston Rovers, before returning to Hull FC to complete his career. He played a total of 352 games for Hull FC, scoring 250 tries He was the first player to score over 100 tries for both sides.

Clive Sulllivan at full speed

His achievements were recognised when he was awarded an MBE in 1972 and was the guest on ‘This Is Your Life’ in 1973.

Just six months after retiring from rugby he tragically died of cancer aged just forty two on 8 Oct 1985 in Hull.  Clive and Rosalyn had a son Anthony and a daughter Lisa. Anthony followed in his father’s footsteps playing rugby league for both Hull as well as St Helens  and Wales.  He also did something his father didn’t, he played rugby union for Cardiff and for Wales.

Clive Sullivan is remembered with great fondness and respect in his adopted city of Hull. There isn’t any tribute to this fine rugby league player in his native city of Cardiff but in Hull they renamed the A63 dual carriageway Clive Sullivan Way in his honour.

This is your life 2 - Copy

Clive presented with the red book on ‘This Is Your Life’ (pic credit: Hull Museums)

Perhaps next time however you feel like a walk I could encourage you to go to Moorland Park in Splott and trace the line of the former Wimborne Street and remember Clive ‘Sully’ Sullivan, one of our greatest sportsman from the area.



One of the most informative and interesting articles I found on Clive Sullivan was from the African Yorkshire Project


Remembering Frank Gaccon

The only public war memorial in our ‘area of interest’, the ancient parish of Roath, is the one outside St Saviour’s church in Splott.  That leaves a lot of the people who lost their lives in WWI, WWII and other conflicts not remembered.  One way to rectify that would be to have a ‘virtual’ memorial, in some ways following the good example of Grangetown Local History Society in their work.  I have started to assemble a Roath virtual war memorial but it is early days yet.

One way to derive a list of the war casualties is to visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.  There you can search for specific casualties or search by keyword.  We are lucky in that the suburbs we are interested in have fairly unique names; Splott, Adamsdown, Roath, Penylan, Cathays, Cyncoed etc. I looked at the first name on the Cyncoed list and found Francis Wilberforce Gaccon.  As I began to research the person behind the name more deeply I began to uncover his interesting life story.

Francis ‘Frank’ Wilberforce Gaccon was born on 6th April 1888.  His father was Watkin Gaccon, originally from Aberdare and a marine engine engineer.  His mother was Alice Charlotte Morgan originally from Overton, Gloucestershire on the banks of the River Severn. Frank grows up in 96 Habershon Street, Splott where he attended Splottlands School and Cardiff University College (1904-11).

Evening Express 25th Jan 1908

An early picture of Frank Gaccon

He followed his father into engineering receiving his training with Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds.   After holding various positions with this firm he joined the staff of Nash’s Autocars, Cardiff, and after two years started his own business as a garage and engineering works company.  During WWI he worked for Bute Docks Engineers and Shipping Company under the Admiralty fitting engines to lifeboats of hospital ships.

After WWI he worked for a year for the Royal insurance Company before again starting up his own successful company Frank Gaccon & Co Consulting Engineer and Damage Assessors serving all the leading insurance companies for South Wales. In 1926 he was elected as a full member of the Institute of Automobile Engineers  His head office offices were based in Charles Street, Cardiff.

Frank had a very successful sporting career.  He started his career playing football then converted to rugby playing initially for Penylan and in January 1908 is talked about as a promising forward playing for Cardiff Reserves.  By December that year he is already in the Cardiff first team playing against Australia.

Frank Gaccon rugby player

Frank Gaccon in Cardiff Rugby Club shirt (photo credit: Cardiff Fire & Rescue, Gaccon family)

He played 105 times for Cardiff Rugby Club including against Australia in 1908 (Cardiff won 24-8)  and against South Africa in 1912 (Cardiff lost 6-7).  One later newspaper report indicates he may have played for Wales but that appears erroneous.  Frank was elected captain of Cardiff for the first official post-war season 1919-20 but he had to resign after a few games owing to injury.  He was captain Cardiff Rugby (Wartime Charities) XV against the New Zealand Army team in 1919.  The game was played in front of a crowd of 10,000 in Cardiff and ended up scoreless.  He was also Honorary Secretary of the Cardiff Rugby (Wartime Charities) XV charity that raised almost £2000 during the season, £100,000 in today’s money.



Cardiff Rugby (war charity) Football Team 1919

Frank Gaccon (with rugby ball) captaining Cardiff Rugby (war charity) Football Team 1919 (Photo Credit: Cardiff Rugby Museum)

After finishing his rugby playing career he went onto enjoy yachting and became commodore of Barry Yacht Club.

He married three times.  In 1917 he married Gertrude Alice Hamlin but sadly their marriage was short lived as she passed away a year later. At that time he was living in 8 Agincourt Road, Roath.   In 1920 he marries Lily Rodwell in Leicester and they have a daughter together. Lily passes away in 1939 and in 1940 Frank marries Lilian Plowman.

Daughter of Frank Gaccon visiting Cardiff Fire Brigade HQ 2017

Daughter of Frank Gaccon visiting Cardiff Fire Brigade HQ 2017 (Photo credit: Cardiff Fire and Rescue)

When WWII was declared Frank sacrificed his business and joined Cardiff Auxiliary Fire Service (A.F.S.) and became Divisional Commander of the Cardiff A.F.S.  He was killed in Newport Road whilst on duty on 3rd March, 1941.   That was a heavy night of fire bombing in Cardiff.  It was the night Roath Road Wesleyan church on Newport Road, at the junction of City Road, was destroyed.  There was also damage on Newport Road to the nurse’s hostel and further east along Newport Road  at the junction of Albany Road.  I had assumed he was killed in one of these events so it came as a shock when I later discovered he was killed when the car he was driving whilst on duty was damaged by a bomb. It is reported that after fighting five fires he was motoring to get more hose when the high explosive bomb killed him. He was 53 years of age at the time and living at 153 Cyncoed Road.  He is buried at Cathays Cemetery, Plot: M 948a.

Gravestone at Cathays Cemetery

Frank Gaccon Headstone (photo credit: Friends of Cathays Cemetery)

As a slight aside, he may also have been killed if he had still been living in Agincourt Road as it was on that night that residents of numbers 10 and 12 Agincourt Road were killed and the night that neighbouring Marborough Road School was damaged beyond repair.


Victorian Pillar Boxes of Roath, Splott and Adamsdown.

I find Victorian pillar boxes strangely fascinating.  I think it’s their rugged steadfast look, their apparent determined attitude that the world around them can change as much as it likes but they’re not going anywhere.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 1

Beresford Road / Spring Gardens Place – CF24 1RA (left) and Connaught Road CF24 3PT (right)

I’ve discovered fourteen Victorian pillar boxes in the Roath/Splott/Adamsdown areas and one Victorian post box.  May be there are a few more hidden away?

Roath Victorian Pillar Boxes map

Positions of Victorian Pillar boxes in Roath, Splott and Adamsdown Cardiff marked in red.

I think we should have a minutes silence for the one I think we lost last year when the Splott Road railway bridge was raised for the electrification scheme.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 12

I think this one on Splott Road / Pearl Street has gone (Photo: Google Streetview 2016)

A pillar box can be dated by the royal motif on the front.  The Victorian pillar boxes have a nice VR (Victoria Regina) ensignia.

The history of pillar boxes go back to the 1850s.  For the first twenty years they weren’t red but green.  There also were not cylindrical but hexagonal.  The oldest pillar box in Cardiff is probably the one at St Fagan’s Museum.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 2

Cyfarthfa Street / City Road – CF24 3DR (left) and Habershon Street / Convey Street – CF24 2JZ (right)

All our pillar boxes have the words POST and OFFICE either side of the opening.  This dates them to between 1883 and 1901, the year Queen Victoria died.  That makes sense as that’s when a lot of the streets in the area were constructed.  Look at the bottom of the pillar boxes and you will see who made them.  I think all ours were made at by A Handyside Foundry & Co of Derby & London.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 3

Hinton Street / Singleton Road – CF24 2EU (left & right) with the old Splott library behind.

Just think for a moment what’s been posted in those pillar boxes over the years.  The letters to relatives, those working away or at war, invitations, love letters, job applications and the Victorian postcards – yesterday’s equivalent to social media.   In the days before the telephone the letter was the main form of communication.  Letters dropped into these old pillar boxes over a hundred years ago were beginning a long journey sometimes over land and sea to faraway places.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 4

Howard Gardens / Moira Terrace CF24 0EF (left) and Orbit Street / Newport Road CF24 0YG (right)

One of our Victorian pillar boxes on Ninian Road hit the news earlier this year when it was taken out of commission, apparently for safety concerns as it is being engulfed by a tree.  My photograph from a five years earlier however also shows it out of commission but in the five intervening years the tree certainly appears to have made progress.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 8

Ninian Road / Morlais Street – CF23 5EP (2013 – left & 2018 – right)

1982 photo by PealandLucy on twitter

And this is what the Ninian Road Pillar Box looked like in 1982 before they started getting amorous. (photo by @PealandLucy on twitter)


Every time I pass the Victorian pillar box on Ty Gwyn Road I have a little smile to myself.  Close to there was an large house called Oldwell, built for John Biggs who owned the South Wales Brewery.  One of John’s six sons, Cecil, married a lady called Edith Box, and guess what they christened their daughter;  Pilar.  She was of course Pilar Biggs rather than Pilar Box but I’m sure the novelty of the Victorian pillar box being placed next to their Cecil’s house must have been an influence.  This is where John the brewer would also have posted letters off to his son Norman, the rugby international, when he was serving in the Boer War.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 5

Priest Road / Newport Road – CF24 1YQ (left) and Ty Gwyn Road / Pen-y-lan Road- CF23 5HT (right)

A tour of the area’s Victorian pillar boxes will also take you to some grand buildings.  One box overlooks the Mansion House and another the old Splott library.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 11

West Grove with the Mansion House behind – would make a nice photo if the tree wasn’t there!

But what of the future?  Another generation or two and the need for post boxes may have disappeared all together as we transfer to electronic communication.  If there is ever one going spare I wouldn’t mind one in my garden.  Then again the Post Office might have something to say about that.  The Ordnance Survey weren’t too happy when I tired to get a redundant trig point installed in the garden.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 9

Oakfield Street – CF24 3RF in 2013 (left) and after the pranksters visited in 2018 (right)

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 6

Ty’n-y-Coed Place / Inverness Place – CF24 4SP looking sorry for itself (left) and Walker Road / Splott Road- CF24 2DB (right)

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 7

Clifton Street Post Office – CF24 1LY

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 10

Not quite in our area but worth including or the backdrop:  Senghennydd Road / Llanbleddian Gardens – – CF24 4YE with the Sherman Theatre behind