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NEWPORT – The Stories in the Stones

For the second consecutive month we had a talk about graves and cemeteries and again it proved to be most interesting and informative.

On May 25th, Geoff Brookes considered individual graves and developed a fascinating story for each.

Firstly we heard about ‘murder’ stones- tombstones of victims which pointed indirectly (or sometimes quite directly) at the suspected- but not convicted- murderer. We heard about the unfortunate victims- Margaret Williams of Cadoxton, Neath and Eleanor Williams of Felindre.

Then we heard about an Irish near hooligan John Bryne whose violent tendencies paid dividends to Britain during war and earned him a Victoria Cross. His grave is in St Woolos Cemetery.

John Renie of Monmouth has an almost unique tombstone, carved by himself and producing 285 individual letters which make in every single direction the words ‘Here Lies John Renie’

Finally we heard the fascinating story of Perce Blackborow, who stranded in Buenos Aires with three friends, tried to join the crew of the ‘Endurance’, the ship taking Ernest Shackleton to the Antarctic. His friends were successful but Perce was not. However he stowed away and, when found, could not be put ashore so joined the crew by default. Shackleton’s Expedition, however, turned out to be a disaster with the Endurance trapped in pack ice and being crushed and so had to be abandoned. Shackleton took his men in three lifeboats as far as Elephant Island and afterwards, with five men, he sailed in a lifeboat 800 miles to South Georgia for help. The other 23 stayed on Elephant Island in whatever shelter they could make from the other two lifeboats. Perce unfortunately suffered badly from frost bite and had to have all the toes on his left foot amputated.

All were eventually saved by the rescue ship Shackleton obtained. Blackborow after a long recuperation in hospital joined the Merchant Navy and finally became a boatman in Newport Docks.

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