On my mind
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.