Tweet Follow @Planet_TWI

Remembering Nigel

From Planet 214

John Barnie recalls good times with Nigel Jenkins – poet, essayist, editor, musician and friend, who died in January.

— You mean, you’ve sold my hat — twice!

Nigel Jenkins, Twm Morys, Iwan Llwyd and I were in Bergan Brothers, gents’ outfitters, in Syracuse, NY. We were in Syracuse to perform as Y Bechgyn Drwg/The Bad Boys, our bilingual blues and poetry band, but that afternoon we discovered Bergans, a tailor’s unlike any in Wales catering mostly, I think, for the black community. There was rack on rack of suits in cerise, kingfisher blue, tangerine and lime green, with jackets available in three lengths, ‘lounge’, ‘matinée’ and ‘opera’, matinée being down to the knees, opera down to the ankles, all in shiny polyester.

As Twm weighed up a canary-yellow suit, matinée length, with matching homburg (he decided in the end that Gwynedd wasn’t ready), Nigel paid for a black, broad-brimmed hat, which he put down to browse further among the rainbow colours of the store. While he was doing this, one of the Bergan Brothers sold the hat a second time to the ‘Bishop of Manhattan’, as he informed Nigel with a slightly amused smile when the latter discovered it was missing — the Bishop being an oldish black man I had noticed in the shop earlier, pastor, I suspect, of a store-front church.

— Have you got another one?
— No.

With the help of Mr Bergan, however, Nigel rooted around and found a replacement to his satisfaction, matching it up with a matinée-length black suit, which from then on he wore when performing with Y Bechgyn, and later with Llaeth Mwnci Madoc/Madoc’s Moonshine, a trio he and I formed with Iwan. With his imposing physical presence and harmonicas slung round his waist in a specially designed belt, he might have stepped out of a 1940s Western. But Nigel was a fine harmonica player who achieved a rich, sonorous tone in the amplified style of Chicago bluesmen like Walter Horton and James Cotton.



Buy the issue here