Tiger Bay is an area of the Port of Cardiff; it takes its name from the strong currents of the River Severn. Like not a few seaports, it became famous - or notorious - for its migrant communities, hard drinking sailors on shore leave and everything that comes with it, in particular ladies of easy virtue as portrayed by Jacques Brel in his song about the Port of Amsterdam.
Although less glamorous than Amsterdam, Tiger Bay has, unsurprisingly, enriched (and at times polluted!) our literary heritage. Girl From Tiger Bay is the title of a 1950 pulp fiction book, while the 1959 crime thriller Tiger Bay incorporated some of the district's legendary elements, and featured the screen debut of a twelve year old Hayley Mills alongside her father John (later Sir John) Mills. It is not though Hayley Mills who is the girl from Tiger Bay but a slightly older entertainer. Shirley Bassey is unarguably Tiger Bay's most famous export, although by the time this song was written the girl in question was in her seventies and living in semi-retirement overlooking the Bay of Monte Carlo.
"The Girl From Tiger Bay" was written by James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire of Welsh rock bank Manic Street Preachers who appeared with Dame Shirley in a November 2009 documentary screened by BBC television about a concept album written by invited songwriters about and for the diva.
Bradfield said that more than anything, Tiger Bay had a bit of a looming presence in their minds. They had tried to include the name in a song title many times before but it had always sounded crass; this time though they'd got it right.
The diva was impressed with the Bradfield/Wire collaboration, which is based on her early life, adding Tiger Bay was now gone as the area had been redeveloped, but it would live on in that song. Although Shirley Veronica Bassey has always been proud to associate her name with her place of birth, she spent most of her formative years in the nearby district which bears the unprepossessing Welsh name of Y Sblot, and which renders even worse in English, but "The Girl From Splott" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
Suggestion credit: Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2