Thursday, 6 July 2017

JAGO STONE - TRACKING JAGO DOWN IN THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF WALES - TUESDAY JUNE 27 2017

My Google searches for Jago Stone in January of this year had brought to the surface a new posting from ITV Wales that led me to their archivist, Owain Meredith, and the collection of materials housed in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth in Wales. I knew this new source was one I had to see. It was a 'historic production' by the Harlech Television Company which featured 'the work of the representational artist,  Jago Stone' and had been made by Kenneth Griffiths (sic). The record of the programme was in archival shorthand and from this I knew I could expect an interview between Jago and Kenneth Griffiths and a visit to the Notley Arms where they met the landlord, Mr Mellows (or Mellars) - who had formerly been in the Rhodesian prison service and served as its hangman - and Mr Davies, aged 92, a former soldier. And there were walking shots of Jago with his wife and baby.Tantalisingly, I couldn't figure how long the programme was. But the date was clear enough. February 5, 1969. Jago had been out of prison the best part of two years.

My further research established that the Notley Arms was a pub in the village of Monksilver in Somerset on the edge of Exmoor. Harlech TV's reach in 1969 extended that far into England.   

Aberystwyth - looking south-east 
The National Library of Wales and the new campus of the University of Aberystwyth lie up the hill to the east 

It took until June of this year for me to fit everything together but less than a fortnight ago, on Monday, June 26, I set out on my all-day train journey to Aberystwyth from St Ives in Cornwall. It was long and complex, changing at St Erth and then Bristol Temple Meads to head west for Newport in south Wales, and then changing again to head back into England and northwards to Shrewsbury. Some dodgy characters had nicked copper cabling used for signalling very early that morning between Cwmbran and Abergavenny so that last section of the journey took an extra two




hours to complete. Once at Shrewsbury, I changed on to the train that took me west, back into Wales and terminated at Aberystwyth at 7.28 in the evening. 

Aberystwyth - looking north-west. The old University is below the church



The joy of being in a library is a very special delight. Walking up the hill next day, Tuesday 27 June, away from the beach and the guest house towards the National Library of Wales - such an imposing building with its classical fa├žade, opened in 1937 - I was excited. The day did not disappoint. The library staff were all so welcoming and helpful and when there seemed to be a technical hitch Owain Meredith himself was summoned from another part of the building and the matter immediately resolved. Meeting Owain in person was an added bonus. Not only was he helpful and supportive, but it was also clear we shared the sense of how impressive Jago is on camera.  

The National Library of Wales - opened in 1937


So what did I discover?  I would say I found Jago at his most integrated and authentic. He is at peace with himself - as far as he could ever be. That was and remains my impression. Listen to Jago as he talks to Kenneth - they are now on first name terms - in the churchyard in the village of Monksilver:

Kenneth         What was the quality of that discovery that made you totally change?

Jago                It was the discovery that I became a complete person - an artist in my own right. And that I was in demand from society - that society wanted me as an artist - and that I was no longer a thief. That was a complete conversion, if you like - a transformation.
...... 

Kenneth    Jago - will you ever thieve again?

Jago          No. For several reasons actually. First, I'm a complete person now - there's no hostility between society and myself. Secondly, I have a monetary reward for my work - society accepts me as a painter. And I'm very close to my wife - I have a good love relationship with my wife and my child. And thirdly, if I so much as nick a bottle of milk they would take me in and throw away the key.

The Notley Arms in Monksilver - nearly fifty years after Jago and Kenneth and the television crew made a section of the programme there. 



There was still one more nugget of gold to be revealed and that wasn't unwrapped until I had arrived home and had begun the task of writing up my transcript of the footage - nearly 4,000 words. I googled Kenneth Griffiths to find out more about the interviewer and presenter. And so I discovered that the man was Kenneth Griffith, not Kenneth Griffiths. Kenneth Griffith was a renowned character actor who had starred in numerous films and had then been head-hunted by Huw Weldon and David Attenborough in 1965 to make films for BBC2. An illustrious - and controversial  - career as a documentary film-maker followed. The Jago Stone feature was part of that story.

I am indebted to Owain Meredith and all those I met so recently in Wales. Soon I will have purchased my own copy of the footage under licence. My biography of Jago has taken firmer shape still. As ever, if any memories are stirred in those who knew or knew about Jago, please make contact - by email or Facebook. Jago deserves as full a telling of his story as possible.