Caerleon Net

Caerleon boys in their thirty bob boat.

Photographed in the 1950s by Godfrey 'Toshy' Hill.

Some of the lads clubbed together to find the thirty bob (£1.50) to purchase the boat which had been laid up for some time in the mud by Newport's Transporter Bridge. They needed a name for her. The Italian for 'Unsinkable' was proposed, but no-one knew what that was, so they called her 'Afon Dari' because they thought that was the Greek for 'Sinkable'. The sail was Toshy's tent and the boys fitted her with a heavy metal rudder from a barge that floated conveniently downriver to them.

Crewing the craft in the picture we have, left to right: John Richards, Elwin Blease, Billy Thomas, Jim Blythe (behind), Clifford Blythe, Allan Hammett, ? (may be David Davies) and Basil Cooke.

Jim (Blythe) told us that the boat was kept on the river bank during the Summer months and pulled ashore at high tide to be worked on Winter months in what is now the Ship car park. "It's a miracle it stayed afloat," he said. "We didn't take her down river. Our ambition was to get up as far as the Newbridge. One night we almost made it, but we returned so late that the police were out looking for us. We used the tide and had to turn back when the tide turned."

Godfrey (Hill) added, "We were in our early teens… John was a bit older than the rest of us. We rowed it with oars from a lifeboat. They were really heavy and it was hard work, but we learned to row! "

Jim has not lost his enthusiasm for projects of this kind - far from it! He now travels in the Popemobile and his yearly pilgrimage takes him to Le Mans. He explained, "One of the boys saw an ex RAF Mobile Control Tower for sale, we had to have it. We've kitted it out, it now accommodates four. It boasts a kitchen, shower, satellite TV, balcony, double glazing, central heating, air conditioning - even a flagpole.

Two of us drive it down to Le Mans early and set the site up. We get a good plot right by the track. The rest make their own way down and join us for the 24 hour race."

Of course Jim needs to travel under cover when venturing out from the security of the fortress city of Isca. So as not to draw attention to himself, he goes under an assumed name: "The Pope". He takes on this persona very seriously - being responsible for the team's spiritual guidance. You can find out more about the Popemobile and follow their progress this year at the website:

The Popemobile