A Little Bit of Humour Goes A Long Way - the Swansea Blues Brothers

by Viv Head from an account by John Fenton

What happens when you match a hard working Detective Constable with a mischievous sense of humour with a Detective Sergeant with the same outlook?  The answer might be well have been found in Swansea in the early 1980s. John Fenton and Malcolm Clegg hit it off from the start when John transferred from Hull and Malcolm returned to South Wales from a stint working in London. They embodied the motto – work hard and play hard with a few laughs along the way, and believe me – they did!

What added to the fun factor in their work was the day they found an end-of-line sale of rather fetching blue and black checked jackets – they bought one each! And thus attired, along with matching black trousers, shoes and socks, black shirts and white ties and of course some cool shades, they went to work. It earned them the name “the Blues Brothers” but probably because they were turning in the work, no-one said anything about their dress, and one or two of the bosses were even seen to smile for the first time in a long time, unless of course they had a bad case of wind!!

The lads became known all over town – solicitors, barristers, publicans, rail staff, South Wales Police officers and even the public, so well did they play their part. In fact it sometimes even brought a smile to the prisoners’ faces and made interviews that much easier.

One day, the two went into a charity shop and asked the assistant if she had two empty violin cases; she took one look at them and burst out laughing and they were obliged to leave since they couldn’t get any sense out of her!!   They had wanted the violin cases for carrying their files to court in, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately!), they were out of luck.

On another occasion, they were detailed for a Royal Visit at Llandridnod Wells (that’s in Wales by the way) and the D.I. issued the standard instruction – ‘lounge suits and ties will be worn’. Well the Blues Brothers, realising that the blue and black check jackets wouldn’t go down too well, left them at home but turned up in brightly coloured bow ties instead. The words ‘inspector, steam and ears’ came to mind but the boys were able to save the day by producing their ordinary ties from their pockets.

Where would the job have been without such characters? Where it is now is probably the answer to that – sanitised and accountable.