The Extraordinary Child

Let us consider the great Monsieur Chouville. A showman without a doubt, determined to bring thrills to the eager public of Swansea, starved as they had been of top-quality and spectacular entertainment.

This was June 1858. There was no need for a large and grainy TV screen displaying inaccurate weather forecasts to the discerning crowds in Castle Square, not with Monsieur in town. He was perfectly in tune with the needs of his audience.

He took a shop where he exhibited what he described as an extraordinary child. Strangely the reporter for the local newspaper, the Cambrian, was less impressed and, frankly, rather dismissive. He said it was merely a youth with a little unnatural hair on one side of his face. To be honest, it does seem a bit unkind. Surely it was more than that. This was  a youth ahead of his time. Go down Wind Street on a Saturday night and you will see that The Extraordinary Child could in fact have been a stranded time traveller.

The respected people of Castle Square objected to the public nuisance caused by Madame Chouville bellowing all day long, inviting those starved of entertainment to come inside and see the child.

The police prosecuted. Madame had become a major irritant. She apologised on behalf of her husband who could not speak English and promised that the exhibition would close on Monday, after which they would presumably give the poor youth a proper shave.

In such circumstances the case was dismissed on payment of 6s costs.

And thus, sadly, an early chapter in the thrilling history of public entertainment in Swansea came to a close.



I came across this story whilst researching the story of a policeman who stole a table napkin for my book Murder and Crime in Swansea which will be published in 2013.

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