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Sailors' tales fuelled Edgar's ambitions

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: December 20, 2012

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FROM 1886, Edgar worked as a telegraph messenger boy in Swansea's head post office. He carried his bag around Swansea delivering telegrams. His hours were long and tiring, and a fellow pupil from the 1880s recalls working till 10.30 at night. After Edgar's death, his photograph, taken after his first Antarctic sortie, was displayed in the Swansea Head Post Office for many years. The photograph shows a good-looking young man. He was described as having blue eyes and a ''fresh'' complexion. He was clean-shaven with brown hair, a straight nose, a strong jaw and a generous mouth.

Behind the post office was the North Dock. Here ships from exotic destinations would tie up and the boys were sometimes allowed on board. They would badger the sailors with questions, their imaginations soaring along with stories of lands and adventures far, far beyond the confines of Swansea. Edgar had never been out of Gower. These visiting seamen and his father's stories nurtured his determination to see the world, to become a sailor. In his early teen years he decided he would join the Navy as soon as they would have him.

When he was 13, half-time work finished and Edgar left school for full-time employment in the Castle Hotel. Many of the captains of those copper ore barques berthed at North Dock actually frequented the hotel and their stories must have strengthened Edgar's resolve to join the Navy. He read the Boys' Own Paper (a relentless recruiting agent for the Navy), too. By now he was so keen to see the world that he actually tried to join up when he was 14. He was refused but returned to the Castle Hotel announcing, 'I am coming back to you for another years and then I am going to join the Navy'.

His parents were dismayed. Sarah Evans had known the hardship of bringing up (and probably already burying) her children with a husband away for months at a time. Charles Evans tried to dissuade his son; he had had to have a leg amputated after it was damaged in an accident on his ship.

But Edgar was determined. As soon as he could, at the age of 15, he applied to join the Navy.

The die was cast ...

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