Why Are Swansea Called The Jacks? (Solved)

Swansea Seascape

So you are wondering ‘why are Swansea called the Jacks?’

Well there are two theories put forward for this.

Both of them are plausible, but only one of them is correct.

So which is it?

Let’s take a look at both of them.

Why Are Swansea Called The Jacks?

Swansea are called the Jacks due to the city’s reputation for being home to some of Europe’s most talented sailors back in the early 20th century. At that time sailors were commonly referred to as ‘Jack Tars’ and their large presence in the city lead to the club picking up the nickname ‘The Jacks’.

Two men wearing retro football inspired t shirts with text in between them

Theory#1: It is a Reference to Swansea’s Maritime History

Back in the late 18th century, sailors began to be referred to as ‘Jack Tars’.

At that time sailors, and the common person in general, were already identified as ‘Jacks’.

The ‘Tar’ was added as a reference to the way sailors would add tar to their clothes to make them waterproof before leaving on voyages.

This was of course long before the invention of waterproof clothing.

Hence the term ‘Jack Tar’ was born.

The first known use of the term is recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary as being in 1781.

So where do Swansea City come into this?

By the time Swansea City FC was formed in 1912, the term was in everyday use.

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Also at that point, Swansea was a city full of sailors.

The Prince of Wales Dock had been completed in 1891 and expanded in 1898. In 1909, the adjacent Kings Dock was expanded.

By 1913 the docks were a hive of activity, that year a record level of 5.5million tonnes of goods passed through docks in Swansea.

The city’s sailors were hugely respected and played a vital role in the economy not just of the United Kingdom, but of Europe.

Their skills and willingness to endure tough voyages without complaining led to Swansea FC being known as the Jacks, and its fans known as the Jack Army.

Theory #2: It is a Reference to a Heroic Dog

The other theory centres around Swansea’s own version of Lassie, a famous black retriever called Swansea Jack.

Jack was a black retriever born in 1930, who lived in the North Dock area of Swansea, near the River Dawe with his owner William Thomas.

What makes Jack particularly notable is that he is said to have saved 27 people from drowning in his short life. 

It was a feat that lead to him picking up many awards and a belief that he is the reason Swansea are called the Jacks.

His first rescue came in 1931 when he pulled a 12-year-old boy from the docks. 

Nobody else was around to witness this, but just a few weeks later a crowd of people was present to see Jack rescue another flailing swimmer from the docks.

I am unsure what it was about the area that made so many people prone to falling in the water, or why in a pretty public place it took a dog to dive in to save them as opposed to a person, but by the time he died in 1937 Swansea Jack was a hero and a local legend.

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In 1936 he was awarded the ‘Bravest Dog of the Year’ by the London Star newspaper. The Lord Mayor of London presented him with a silver cup for his bravery, Swansea Council gave him a specially engraved silver collar and he remains the only dog ever to have been awarded two bronze medals by the National Canine Defence League.

Sadly Jack died in 1937 after eating rat poison.

He was buried near St Helen’s Rugby Ground, with his funeral attracting hundreds of mourners.

If you are thinking this all sounds a bit far-fetched and are wondering where is Swansea Jack buried, he has a burial monument on Swansea parade.

In 2000 Jack was awarded ‘Dog of the Century’ by NewFound Friends of Bristol, a charity that trains domestic dogs in aquatic rescue techniques.

Naturally this has given rise to the second theory, that Swansea takes its nickname from this heroic dog.

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Final Thoughts

As heartwarming as the story of Swansea Jack, the lifesaving black retriever, is, the reason why Swansea are called the Jacks is actually thanks to the extremely talented sailors that lived in the city in the early 20th century.

Swansea City FC was formed in 1912, and residents of the city were already nicknamed Swansea Jacks before Jack the dog began his heroic run of Baywatch-esque style rescues in 1931.

In fact it is likely the dog himself was named in honour of the city’s renowned sailors.

Nonetheless, the tale of Swansea Jack the dog is a lovely story and if you are ever in Swansea, his bronze and marble monument is well worth seeking out.

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