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South Wales Evening Post column, April 05, 2024

Robert Lloyd PR, Media and Marketing Consultancy News, Newspaper columns South Wales Evening Post column, April 05, 2024

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South Wales Evening Post column, April 05, 2024

Posted By RobertLloyd58

“TRY and steer clear of religion and politics,” was the advice of my editor when he recklessly gifted me this weekly column.

For the most part, I have tried to heed his wise words, but the influence of Easter can be blamed for straying into religious matters – and I am sure the editor will be in a forgiving mood.

Saturday morning found me having a cup of coffee with the Rt Rev Dorrien Davies, the 130th Bishop of St Davids, but that is a story for another day . . .

For, my focus today is on a famous name from Swansea’s past, the late Rev Leon Atkin, a man once described as the city’s ‘rebel priest’, who is still remembered with great affection.

I never met Leon, but I was pals with his son, Con Atkin (now, sadly departed), the much-respected, pinstripe-suited, cigar-smoking editor of the old Herald of Wales weekly newspaper.

Leon’s place in Swansea’s history is secure –

  • The October,1953, photo of Leon and his pal Dylan Thomas is the last picture of the poet taken in Swansea, before his final, fateful, trip to America.
  • And, in 1934, Leon famously led the protests at a rally staged by English Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley at the Plaza Cinema. Mosley and his Blackshirts were run out of town (Swansea wasn’t a city back then!).

The Rev Leon Atkin’s colourful life is worthy of a book (forgive me if there is one out there that I have failed to find).

The memories of his time in Swansea are so strong that there is something of a campaign brewing to honour him with a statue or blue plaque.

Kath Smith started the debate on the excellent Swansea Past and Present Facebook page (check it out; it’s excellent).

She wrote: ‘Who remembers the legend that was the Rev Leon Atkin? Another local person who helped make Swansea great. In many respects, he seemed like a Marxist Methodist, totally on the side of the homeless and dispossessed.

‘I never saw him without his beret as he went around the pubs collecting for charity. He opened St Paul’s Crypt as a night shelter. I feel he should have a memorial statue . . . either that, or Swansea people should have a Leon Day, donate to the homeless and proudly wear a beret!’

The Dictionary of Welsh Biography has an excellent essay by D Ben Rees on ‘Atkin, Leon (1902-1976), minister of the Social Gospel and a campaigner for the underclass in south Wales’.

Born in Lincolnshire on July 26, 1902, Leon was one of seven children. The family lived next door to the Methodist chapel. Though they were Anglicans, Leon attended activities next door and became a Methodist.

After serving an apprenticeship as an engineer, Leon was accepted as a student for the ministry and received his training at the Methodist College in Handsworth, Birmingham.

His subsequent career was colourful and unconventional, to say the least.

In 1932, he decided on a move to Swansea. St Paul’s only had 12 members and a debt of £2,000 at the time of his arrival.

He began his open-air ministry by holding meetings in a place called the Forum. His congregation grew at St Paul’s from 10 to 200 on Sunday nights in the winter and to 500 in the summer.

Atkin went on to be a councillor on Swansea Borough Council and developed his ministry among needy people.

His care for the disadvantaged and the ‘down and outs’ was featured widely in the Press, including the News of the World.

In the bitter winter of 1947, his chapel became a refuge for dozens of men who would otherwise have perished. Every Friday, Leon visited the public houses of Swansea to collect money to help poor children.

The essay by D Ben Rees concludes: ‘Atkin could not be content within any movement or organisation. He was a maverick, an extreme individualist who missed few opportunities to taunt the Nonconformists and the Labourites.’

A remarkable guy, no doubt. Anyone care to join a campaign for a blue plaque?


IT is a fact of modern life that recent years have seen an erosion of the importance of Easter as a religious holiday.

True, some supermarkets shut up shop on Easter Sunday, but most people – and sporting and cultural events – pay little respect to the significance of Easter.

At Lloyd HQ, Good Friday is generally a peaceful, family day . . . so, imagine my surprise, then, to have a charity canvasser ringing my bell and rattling my doorknocker at 11am.

The canvasser, from Make-A-Wish UK, seemed baffled when I pointed out that it was Good Friday and probably not to the best day to be disturbing people at home.

“Baffled’ is diplomatic description – as the young lad, dressed in full charity livery with ID card, laughed in my face and said he didn’t understand what Good Friday was about.

The conversation which followed was short and sweet, but I sent him on his way.

The visit did rattle my cage and I felt obliged to pen an email to Make-A-Wish UK.

To be fair, one of their ‘experience executives’ responded quickly –

‘It is never our intention to cause any distress, especially on a day of religious significance like Good Friday.

‘We will address it with our team to ensure that such incidents are avoided in the future. We understand and respect the importance of religious observances, and we apologise for any insensitivity displayed by our representative.

‘Once again, please accept our sincere apologies for any offense (sic) caused.’

I replied, ‘Apology accepted’. Enough said. Let’s move on.

Photos: Leon Atkin and Dylan Thomas is from the Evening Post, October 1953.

Other Leon Atkin photos are credited to the National Library of Wales.

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Written by RobertLloyd58

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