Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Haile Selassie Goes Camping in Swansea

I always thought that the zenith of the Welsh rastafarian experience occurred when Bob Marley played Cardiff in 1976 on his Rastaman Vibration Tour. I couldn't have been more wrong. Turns out the true promised land for Welsh natty dreads is actually Swansea. For in 1939 Haile Selassie, himself, went on a two week camping holiday at the Penllergare Estate, Penllergaer.

Why Swansea? Well, the exiled Ethiopian leader was visiting the newly founded Bible College of Wales as special guest of the Rev. Rees Howells. Also camping in the grounds of the college were 60 students, including 2 nephews of the Emperor. Although he lived amongst them the 'Lion of Judah' had his own separate tent. As you can see from the above picture it had a sign on it which declared, somewhat grandly: HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY THE EMPEROR OF ABYSSINIA.

Haile Selassie enjoyed his stay in Swansea. Penllergaer was certainly favourably compared to his previous camping expedition, which was back in his war-torn homeland. He told journalists: "We were in the war zone in Ethiopia, with the warplanes flying overhead and in immediate peril of the bombardment. At Penllergaer it is beautiful and quiet, and I hope to rest." His sojourn in Wales, though, wasn't quite as restful as he might have liked. During his Welsh camping holiday World War 2 broke out.

You can find out more about Haile Selassie's stay at the Bible College of Wales, here.

And you can still visit the grounds of the Estate today, though sadly, the College building itself was demolished in the 1960s.