On my mind

Llanelli Star - - LETTERS - With Graham Davies Fol­low Graham on Twit­[email protected]

THEY say that his­tory de­cides who are the vil­lains and who are the heroes in life. It’s a pity it takes so long. I am sit­ting on a bench late at night in a windy Span­ish port op­po­site the bust of a Welsh mer­chant sea cap­tain from Cardiff named Archibald Dick­son. It is Se­m­ana Santa in Ali­cante and re­li­gious pro­ces­sions re­lent­lessly dom­i­nate the city for the whole week with enor­mous sway­ing stat­ues pre­car­i­ously car­ried by the revered costaleros.

Thou­sands of peo­ple, the Span­ish in their coats and scarves and the in­domitable Brits shiver­ing in shorts and T-shirts, watch hun­dreds of marchers re­mind the town’s res­i­dents of the sac­ri­fice of one man for the sal­va­tion of mankind. In the port some peo­ple pause to gaze at Dick­son and read the words on the plaque writ­ten in Eng­lish and Span­ish. I won­der what they think of the hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tions of the Welsh sea cap­tain who took on his boat in 1939 al­most 3,000 refugees escaping from the venge­ful clutches of the dic­ta­tor Gen­eral Franco.

His cargo was boxes of to­bacco, or­anges and saf­fron, but his pre­ferred ship­ment was the di­verse group of Repub­li­cans doomed to the hor­rors of post-war Fran­coist re­pres­sion.

Re­jected by the Bri­tish and the French, whose ap­proach was the ap­pease­ment of fas­cism, those left cold, hun­gry and devastated on the port of Ali­cante af­ter the de­feat of a demo­crat­i­cally elected Repub­li­can gov­ern­ment were marched to var­i­ous pris­ons and con­cen­tra­tion camps.

Those who walked off the Stan­brook 80 years ago last week in Oran owed their lives to a Welsh hero. He was not a foot­baller, an en­ter­tainer, a celebrity, a politi­cian; most peo­ple in Wales have never heard of him. He was Archibald Dick­son, tor­pe­doed and killed later that year by the Nazis whose fas­cism he chal­lenged, a legend in Ali­cante. Con­temp­tu­ous of glory he is truly a proper Welsh hero.

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