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Ex-head gives lesson in dark history of city

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: October 15, 2012

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EDUCATION has played a big part in his life, both in and out of the classroom.

As head of English at Dillwyn Llewelyn Comprehensive School and deputy head teacher at Cefn Hengoed Community School in Swansea, it obviously went with the territory for Geoff Brookes.

And he took his specialist subject further by writing seven books about education.

But four years ago he switched his literary attention to history — the dark side of it.

So he came up with Stories in Welsh Stone — The Secrets Within 15 Welsh Graves.

And it was while he was researching that project that his passion for stories about death, shipwreck and murder began.

Specifically, it was a particular type of gravestone, known as 'murder stones', that fascinated him and led him to delve deeper into their murky past.

"There are five murder stones in South Wales," said Geoff of the so-called gravestones that were used to mark the bodies of those who died violent deaths.

And in his latest book he recounts the tale of one in particular.

"Its front is faded now, but it was laid for a girl that was thrown down a well. We know she was pregnant, as there's also a small stone there that marks the death of an unborn.

"The local community suspected the son of the farmer was the murderer, and they painted the road red when he later got married."

The tale takes its place in Bloody Welsh History — Swansea. The lurid history of the old town is revealed, focusing on the most gruesome and grisly events.

There was the busy industrial port, once known for its enormous trade of wine, cloth, hides and coal, but Geoff has scanned beyond all that to look at the bloody and often bizarre bits of the city's history.

Romans to the Red Lady, Viking raids to English attacks, deadly diseases, factory riots, slums, cholera and Nazi bombs are all in there.

Geoff, who now works for the council's education team, said: "It is aimed at those interested in the dramatic, bloody and thrilling events from Swansea's past.

"As a Swansea boy, I hope it will spark increased interest in the city by looking at its more dramatic past.

"In many ways it will show just how far we have come."

Bloody Welsh History Swansea is published by The History Press, price £9.99.

Geoff Brookes talks about Swansea's Hidden History at Swansea Central Library, in the Civic Centre, on Saturday at 2pm.

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