In my job in a small local museum I have had many memorable encounters with visitors who told me astonishing things about our town – things that now are probably only recorded in my brain and in this blog post. People are generally a bit worried about putting their anecdotes into writing and get even more worried if I start writing it down, so there are many occasions when I have had a long rambling conversation with someone and frantically scribbled down all the really interesting bits once they have left the building.
For instance, there was the elderly lady who claimed to have been swinging on the garden gate, aged five, when a group of soldiers came past escorting a man in tweeds. She said "He smiled and said hello but my mam called me inside, then he patted my head and went on his way. My mam was so upset. She said "He's one of them Nazis, he is" and I was shocked because I thought, like," she giggled, "they all had horns and hooves like devils. But he was very ordinary."
How would a tiny Welsh girl playing at home meet a Nazi? She lived near Maindiff Court. The military hospital where Rudolf Hess was kept from 1942 to 1945. So on one level this is an amusing war time anecdote but on another it's a primary source piece of evidence supporting the notion that Hess wasn't kept in solitary, chained to a wall or whatever, but was allowed out, under guard.
Then there was the man who remembered catching a train in Gloucester and coming to Abergavenny to buy a car direct from the man who was making them – Walter Jones who also made bicycles and an aeroplane. Or the chap who remembered a German bomber dumping out leaflets urging surrender over the town. "Lovely stuff," he said. "I grabbed up as much as I could carry, stuffed it up my jumper and down my wellies then took it home. Mum and I spent the evening cutting it into squares and putting it on a string to hang in the ty bach!" We have one of the leaflets in the museum collection.
The thing is – how many stories are there that haven't been told? Or were told a couple of times down the pub but nobody ever wrote them down. There are thousands of little acts of courage or heroism, or that are just so damn funny, that fade away as those who remembered them depart. Writing them down, making a record, might not mean they are widely known but at least sometime someone might see them.
For instance – about 10 years ago we had a Hallowe'en event at the castle. A local organisation wanted to bring kids for a 'ghost walk'. We expected about 10 little ones but it turned out at the last minute that they were bringing 20. "You'll have to come and take half," the boss said. "Wear something scary." Sadly my half were the 13 to 17 year olds and nobody does bored and unimpressed like a 15 year old girl. The boys enjoyed the stories of murder and mayhem, but the girls – oh dear me. Eventually my nerve broke and I found myself saying "And during the great storm of 1938 a huge chunk of castle broke off and thundered down this slope into the back yard of the cottage below , crushing the chicken house." All of which was true. Then I added, "So if it's a dark and stormy night and you happen to be in Mill Street and you hear a ghostly b'ck b'ck b'ck b'gurk" I do a good hen, "you can say you've heard the Phantom Chickens of Mill Street." There was a beat of total silence then someone giggled and everyone fell about laughing and finally we were able to go inside out and get cocoa. And that's where the story should really end – it was a 'you had to be there' moment – except a good five years later two visitors in the museum started quizzing me about ghosts and one of them very seriously related my own spur of the moment fabrication back to me with the addition that she had heard them herself.
So I'm hoping – really hoping – that I may have started an urban legend. Write those stories down, people, because you never know where they'll end up.
Length: 80,000 words approx
Publisher: Manifold Press
Cover Design: Michelle Peart
Then Rob discovers something wonderful, and together they must combat greedy developers and a treasure hunter determined to get his hands on the find. Are desperate measures justified to save the bones of our fathers? Will Dirty Rob live up to his reputation? Do museum curators really do it meticulously?
Answers must be found for the sake of Mal’s future, his happiness and his heart.
Elin Gregory lives in South Wales and works in a museum in a castle built on the edge of a Roman Fort! She reckons that's a pretty cool job.
Elin usually writes on historical subjects, and enjoys weaving the weird and wonderful facts she comes across in her research into her plots. She likes her heroes hard as nails but capable of tenderness when circumstances allow. Often they are in danger, frequently they have to make hard choices, but happy endings are always assured.
Current works in progress include one set during the Great War, another in WW2, one set in the Dark Ages and a series of contemporary romances set in a small town on the Welsh border.
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