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Cardiff's Lost Maritime History

 Whilst much about the re-development of Cardiff Bay is to be applauded including the saving of some fine old buildings, the council's record on preserving the port's maritime history is shameful. There are no photograph archives or research areas readily available and even internet searches bring little reward. And there have been some classic acts of corporate vandalism:

  • The Welsh Industrial & Maritime Museum- demolished!
  • The iconic waterfront public house 'The Red House' identified in council minutes as an important listed building that must be preserved – demolished!
  • The last steam driven tug in the Bristol Channel 'Sea Alarm'– scrapped!

Even some of the names with strong links to the past have been tossed into the ebbing tide. Though regrettable, perhaps using the name Cardiff Bay rather the more traditional Tiger Bay can be forgiven, but just how did anyone agree to the nauseously yuppie name of Mermaid Quay for the waterfront development?  It is an insult to the history and people of Cardiff.  It should even now be re-named The Packet Harbour which historically accurate name befits its setting perfectly.

 The Littoral Cry

 The cry of a raucous gull

splits the shining darkness,

pilot skiffs lying

alongside in muddy furrows,

laced like stranded whales.

Canvas creased aloft,

adrift, scattered wide.

A sigh of ships beneath the sea,

unheard voices,

the silent, shivering, heaving men

 

Always the restless tide

sluicing the rivers.

Lost anchors,

oozing in blackened mud,

the sky, the sea, the fear, the face.

No more lamplighters, or sail-makers,

or whores,

no North Star on Tiger Bay.

Reach out the ghost of your hand,

unfurl the spirit.

 

It is different now.

Cleaner, safer,

cheerful with children,

statues, opera, art and sushi bars,

the 'Ship and Pilot' serving chicken tikka.

Still there are ships, only smaller

And mostly glistening white.

No creaking wood or rattle of windlass

No smell of Stockholm Tar

No telltales of yesteryear