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We shall fight them on the beaches.. and they did.

Byline: Dan O'Neill Down Memory Lane

THEY are grandads now, more Y likely riding mobility scooter than motorbike. And the hair that once looked dipped in congealed chip fat to keep the sculpted locks in place has thinned.

But in May 1964, they were "vermin louts who needed taming," so the call went out 50 years ago, bring back National Service and even flogging. Few disagreed after they swept into Barry Island and Porthcawl, even such sedate spots as Dinas Powys and Tenby to terrorise trippers and leave a trail of wreckage.

No-one was singing "I do love to be besides the seaside" that summer. Except, of course, this new breed of barbarians called Mods and Rockers. And they terrified towns, it seemed, for no other reason than a dislike of each other's taste in clothes and music.

Rockers favoured leather gear and motorbikes. Mods put-putted around on scooters barnacled with bling, mirrors and mascots. Mods listened to The Who and Small Faces. Rockers sneered along to Gene Vincent and Elvis. And because of this, South Wales suffered.

They battled on Bank Holiday beaches all that summer of '64 and in May an ominous message in the Barry Island sand gave notice of what was ahead: "Rockers, Rockers, the Mods are coming." Answered by a slogan on a van crawling along the promenade: "We are Rockers, we hate Mods."

We'd seen what happened when they turned beaches along England's south coast into war zones, thousands rioting for two days in Brighton, pubs, shops and restaurants trashed, police attacked. Jail and fines didn't stop them and our locals weren't about to be left behind. So on the first weekend in May hundreds of teens invaded Barry Island, battling on the beach, in the fairground and all along the prom.

Extra police were rushed in but one top cop confessed it was touch and go, for this was "unlike anything that had ever happened in Barry before." The Marine Hotel closed its bars at seven o'clock as teen aggro increased and it took a posse of police with snarling dogs to get them out.

Barry Island had always been a haven for day-trippers, the police said, "and we are going to keep it that way. Anyone who thinks otherwise does so at his peril." So the self-proclaimed warriors turned inland, pubs in Dinas Powys barred and bolted when these "longhaired youths in leather jackets turned up." " Meanwhile, Mods and Rockers went at it along the front in Porthcawl while in Tenby magistrates fined out-of-town trouble-makers PS15 each, the maximum penalty permitted. Not enough, staid citizens howled, "Bring back the birch, it works on the Isle of Man." Patrick Cavanagh, Cardiff's assistant chief constable, called for "the discipline of detention centres" because they were "nothing but wanton, vicious and malicious louts,errorising nnocent people."

Without such tough treatment, thundered the Police Review, "this lack of respect for law and order could cause violence to surge and flame like a forest fire."

It certainly surged and flamed in Caerphilly where 300 youths, cheered on by screaming girls, used chains and pick axe handles on each other. Police brought in reinforcements and closed roads into the town before taking control. So the Caerphilly mob decided to descend on Cardiff instead, promising "a major battle, an away fixture."

The Cardiff contingent was ready. Some 200 of them waiting outside the station. But the police were ready, too, and swept the hopeful hardmen away. Before that, teenage rioters forced a train from West Wales to Cardiff to stop 14 times before police got them off. It arrived two hours late, a wreck of ripped-up seats and smashed toilets, kicked-in doors and broken windows.

Even the Pope was shocked. "One of E the bitterest impressions of contemporary life," he said, "comes from gazing at the sad, tired, boastful faces of teenagers like the British Teddy Boys, Mods and Rockers."

Few disagreed.


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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 6, 2014
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