Cardiff as a growing seaport had all the trappings of wealth, but there was an underclass, an underprivileged mass who inhabited the back streets. With large families, decaying accommodation and little money the end result was drunkenness and crime.
Violence was a staple diet with sailors looking out for women, alcohol and fights! Wales’ wildest landlord, Mad Jack Matthews, was arrested hundreds of time for violence, his pub eventually being pulled down, the only means the authorities could think of to end his infamous reign.
Amongst this were gentle daughters who took on jobs as domestics only to be abused by their superiors. Young women were taken to getting rid of unwanted babies by leaving them in lanes or actually killing them! It was their job, their life or an unwanted baby by a father in denial. Abandoned the girl and baby would be heading for the workhouse.
There was also cunning and conniving men who planned murder to get rid of an unwanted wife, as in the Llanrumney Hall murder of the 1890s.
In 1975 the most unusual and cowardly of crimes took place in a Cardiff Food College. The background story is more worthy of a ‘best seller’ in a top fiction writer’s imagination.
‘Cardiff. Those Cruel and Savage Streets’ also attempts to illustrate many a sad life in an era where injustice was rife.