Monday, 23 April 2012

Coracle Adventures: Finding Geraint Pillock!



'Geraint Pillock' Aka Denzil Davies signing his Book  for me in his lounge


Behind the Coracle Museum is a Mill that harnesses the speed of the falls. The water crashes against the rocks and is mesmerising. It's hard to think that these waters were once navigated by sheep farmers in their little boats.




We decided to follow the advice of the Coracle Museum Owner (see last blog) and look for an elderly gentleman in the village whose brother is quite a local celebrity having been part of a Comedy Sketch Show called:
'Barry Welsh is Coming'
where Denzil Davies was Geraint Pillock!


Barry Welsh used  a clip of Denzil when he paddled his way across The British Channel in 1972. When filmed by the news he was asked why he had done it, and he said  'Mainly because it's a challenge.' He then went on to say 'It's a challenge for me, a challenge for the coracle and a personal challenge for me'
& this became a comedy catch phrase for different impossible scenarios every episode.

Here's a youtube clip of Geraint Pillock
on The Barry Welsh Show




'Just drive down there and look for a garden with lots of coracles in and you'll find the brother'

... said the Museum owners ..

and so that's what we did but could not see the house with the traditional welsh boats so I called into the local garage and asked the chap behind the counter if he knew of the person I was looking for. He said that the house was on an estate and sent us off on another expedition to find our man.






We pulled up on the estate beside a boat parked up ... called
What Orange Boat? and that quite tickled me!

Next to it was parked this ...




Well, Jeff had come with me for the day and he started doing that lad thing of getting excited about old orange cars with tiger print furry seat covers, while I went sniffing around the estate looking for a garden full of coracles.

I couldn't find one but I did find a house with lots of very long willow cut ready in the porch.

With that a chap came out of his house. I'm not surprised, we must have looked really dodgey! Jeff taking pictures of other people's vehicles, me peeping in people's gardens!
 I'm surpirsed we didn't arrested.


The man who had cottoned on to the suspicious looking hippy types invading the estate, was dressed in a formula one drivers jump suit, his white hair coloured only by the oil on his hands, marking his life time passion for old cars and boats.

I explained that I was doing research for an arts production and wanted to find out about coracles ... that I was looking for a chap on the estate in his 80's who has made coracles all his life ...

Sadly the gentleman had passed away the week before.

The racing driver- clad man showed me the house, and the back garden was as the old man had left it, with his half finished coracles, half filled cans of bitumen & lonely strips of willow.

I felt a genuine sadness for this man, even though I had never met him ... his little boats were wating for him to return
and finish them ...

I explained why I was so disapointed to Racing Driver Man and he must have taken pity on me, because he explained that the brother, who had gone in a coracle across the channel in 1972, lived in an old cottage and he proceeded to give us directions ...

'Just knock his door'

When we got there, I felt too embarrassed to knock the door. The poor man had lost his brother only last week; he didn't need 2 strange art-y types ringing the door bell.

But I got a sudden burst of bravery and thought,
'Well we've come this far so let's just do it!'

It  felt like the right thing to do ... till I got half way up the little pathway! Then I thought better of it ... but something in me wouldn't walk away and I gingerly knocked the old door.

A man opened it, he looked a bit put out at first ... but after I explained who I was and what I was doing, he invited us in. He was a great character! He had been poorly and was a bit shakey as a result, but completely on the ball. He took us into his workshop out the back where he makes coracles!








He showed us the actual coracle that he went across the channel in all those years ago.






Denzil has written a book about his Cenarth and his life experiences. It's a lovely read & only costs £4.




I asked him to sign it for me and he told me he is currently writing a new book about local boxers in history







Then he showed us his current project which is making little minature true to life coracles ...






AND THIS IS THE MOST EXCITING NEWS EVER!!!!!!
Denzil very kindly offered to take me out in his coracle for a little trip along the River Teifi! How AMAZING is that!

In 2 weeks time 'Geraint Pillock' is taking me out on the river and why am I doing it?

Obvious isn't it ... 'Mainly because it's a challenge.'


Seriously though, what an opportunity! The man is a living legend and part of coracle history, and little old me, a scrap of nothing from nowhere, has found this chap and is going in his hand made boat to experience exactly what it would have felt like to dunk dirty sheep all those years ago.



AND EVEN MORE EXCITING Denzil has offerd to lend me a coracle for the Production Tour as a piece of history to show people, up close, their heritage. How kind is that! 

I was going to have a graffiti coracle in the installation but I will change that because  I want to respect the coracle in it's historical context as  Denzil has requested.

Watch this space for an update of
my continuing coracle adventure !




Aside: Thank you so much Denzil
What a joy to meet such warm welcoming genuine people





7 comments:

  1. 'a scrap of nothing from nowhere'......hardly ;) The Universe put you where you started for a reason, but I bet it wasn't so you'd think of yourself as a scrap of nothing......maybe it was because it would give you the drive, the enthusiasm and the fascination to see life as art and share it with everyone from everywhere......mainly because it's a challenge.......:)

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  2. Bless ya Fiona xx that stirred a tear in my eye this morning xx :)

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  3. Very pleased to see that you have used my clip that I put on youtube. No wonder it's got so many views. One question, does Denzil still sound the same as he did all those years ago?

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  4. Hello there, Denzil was an absolute welsh gentleman, generous with his time and spirit. What an absolute surprise to find him! I haven't seen him for a long time now, and your message reminds me that I should take a drive over :)Thanks

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  5. How do we get to read his book, we have a facebook group dedicated to him
    http://www.facebook.com/FansOfGeraintPillockAndTheCoracle

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  6. I'm not sure if it is available from anywhere other than Denzil? ... have you tried the welsh book council? they might know. Their link is http://www.cllc.org.uk/

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  7. How about this for an update. Good old Denzil - er I mean Geraint.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGmePdcjoJY

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