Help with searching for ancestors and writing about the lives they lived... 

Ghosts secure five stars for derelict hotel

A fairy tale grand hotel that welcomed Royalty became haunted after the mysterious deaths of guests and the three brothers who owned it. The Berengaria Hotel in Cyprus has been padlocked and decaying for 40 years and now ghosts have secured five stars for the totally derelict hotel. Ghostbuster tourists, who provide the 5-star rankings […]

Fire reveals ancestors' secret of Peterboat inn

by Terry Walker

There were surprising revelations when a family history researcher discovered what her innkeeper ancestors had been up to for 300 years… Newly discovered ancestors were shown as respectable innkeepers, cocklers, waterman, farmer in early investigations. Then the diligent family history researcher discovered the dark side Ancestors can be honest and upright or dishonest and dishonourable, […]

Last outpost saves the mother tongue of Jesus

Donkey vendor has Coke at Biblical prices

One language of ancient Syria was Aramaic, as spoken at the time of Jesus of Nazareth and unchanged even today in remote mountains. It was the language of Jesus, his disciples and most of the people who attended their gigs. It has survived changing dynasties and remains the language of Christians and Muslims who live […]

No camels to visit desert home of Warrior Queen

So we trek 240 km by Yak

I was sitting in the waiting area outside the office of Minister Ahmed Iskander Ahmed, in the grim black and cream Ministry of Information building in central Damascus, Syria. Alongside me were a dozen other supplicants wanting favours that most likely would not mirror the one I was to here to pursue. This was the […]


“Oh my gawd. That’s my briefcase.”

An historic moment, for surely the mighty fortress Tower of London has never been abandoned to its fate? An act of chivalry, a unique moment in family history, brought repercussions that stopped short of a hanging… The booze laws in the United States were drawn up to stop alcohol from being transported across State Lines. […]

A super secret agent on the Isle of Spies

30 years later he discovered he had served British intelligence - and four terror groups

He was a super secret agent provocateur in an RAF sergeant’s uniform, armed with a 9mm Sten sub-machine gun and a pistol. Both carried at all times in the strife-torn British colony of Cyprus during the 1950s. But, his main armoury in the escalating battle for the hearts and minds of Greek Cypriots was his […]

Two feet on jobs ladder and the timing was good

A career in journalism requires basic skills, plus a nose for news and untold good luck

A family’s history can take many different turns down through time. My “turning” was already mapped out when, as a determined 16-year-old I arrived at the crossroads and changed direction without any hesitation. I was on the road to a career I had dreamed about for a long time… I had converted a summer office […]

Bar brawl in Bahia Blanca

Blow by blow - for the records

Most family history is unique and the bar brawl detailed in this sailor’s story came after a month of fierce Atlantic gales that battered Tyne-based cargo boats heading for America. The crews found they had drifted 100s of miles off course, flying the signal “Not under command” because “we could just not steer”… The first […]

Kidnap, torture and smuggler murders

Contraband tea sends heinous gang members to the gallows 

The kidnap, torture and murder of farm labourer Richard Hawkins in 1748 was the beginning of the end for the most notorious smugglers gang operating along England’s South Coast. Within a year the Hawkhurst Gang had added two more murders and large amounts of back-door goods to their tally. The King’s Men were closing in […]

Hitler spoils big day for the runaway bride  

First WW2 wedding in England as Germany's blitzskriek starts the war

It was a Friday like no other in the history of a family and in the history of the world. A peaceful village wedding and the biggest military bombardment in history, taking place simultaneously… The first wedding bells and the first shots of World War II ringing out as Hitler invades Poland and spoils a […]

Samaritan Sea Captain

Rescue, then false papers for fleeing ancestor

My grandfather, Soloman (Saul) Barnett was born in Britain in 1895, almost 24 years after his Jewish father, Jacob had arrived from Russia. Jacob, who was 22 at that time, brought with him his 12-year-old wife to be, Rachel and her daughter Leah, a baby in arms not yet a year old. They arrived in […]


Czar’s Cossack bounty hunters in hot pursuit

He could still hear the shouts of the pursuing Cossack troops as he waded out into the cold sea, his long woollen underwear clinging to his strong body. Soon the rocky beach slipped from under his feet and he began to swim out to sea. Away on his right, he could just make out the […]

A night out on the tiles with a Sicilian corker

When Italian business people go for an impromptu night out in a famed gastronomic city, you would feel confident the food would be good and the wine outstanding. However, what happens after the meal can sometimes provide “la ciliegina sulla torta”. In the 1970s, I had PR and marketing clients involved in the Italian ceramic […]

Snatched alive from 5,000 year-old tomb

Archaeologists shocked by desperate calls

Did you ever have a bad day? I mean, a really, really bad day? In western Cyprus, one particular September day turned out to be not only bad but could have been fatal…except for a bit of luck and happenstance. Here’s the true story of a lifesaving tomb rescue from a prehistoric necropolis. There are […]

Words and a cartoon that split the nation

1972: BOOM as millions flash their new plastic. 1974: BUST Inflation and bailed out by IMF. When your work worries government ministers and MPs and generates the highest amount of correspondence The Times business section had ever received, it pays to have some strong backing to justify the meticulous verbalism. Especially when an attack dog […]


Fairies and Vikings help a fading tourist island

One of the objectives of the media and marketing work Grafton PR was doing for the Isle of Man Government in the 1970s was to emphasise the “differences” between that place and the rest of the British Isles. Press releases to travel and general media and TV holiday programmes, like Wish You Were Here, always […]

Bombed out of Cyprus as Turks go to war

Tourism abandoned - top resorts sealed off 

The Troodos mountains in Cyprus had been the favourite hideaway of EOKA rebels fighting the British in the 1950s and the established battleground for regular rumbles involving ethnic and local political differences. When staying at the Pinewood Valley Hotel just below the summit of Mount Olympus, we had seen locals drive away looking all military. […]

Stargazer soars into his nation's rich list galaxy

Rise and fall and rise again to great wealth

The Pathos Beach Hotel was in the last stages of construction on land above a sandy beach that curved around the bay to the small harbour of Paphos, guarded by a 13th century Ottoman fort. A string of local bars and restaurants lined the harbourside. It was unspoilt; it was idyllic because Paphos was the […]

Our gun-toting chef's night manoeuvres

Unrest, then invasion divides paradise island

After the successful opening of the Paphos Beach Hotel in Cyprus, Grafton partner Geoff Walkden and I were contacted by Colonel Richard (Dick) Richards, at one time the youngest colonel in the British Army. He had put his savings and pension into a hotel, in the Troodos Mountains. Just below the peak of Mount Olympus […]

Death of JFK in Dallas, deadlines in Darlington

We couldn't find a photograph of American presidents in our library

I guess it was near 7 pm UK time when I heard the flash. President John F Kennedy had been shot at 12:30 pm Texas time. I was 20 miles from the offices in Darlington, where I’d just been entrusted with the editorship of the Northern Echo (circulation: 100,000) It was, and is, a regional morning daily […]

Hands-on with the Greek Goddess of love...

By Terry Walker

My very own Aphrodite was standing next to me in the glistening sea. We had just a few more minutes to prepare. Me, getting more pan stick onto her white bits with a sponge and then spreading it evenly to match the surrounding suntanned body. She, adjusting her brown wig to replicate Renaissance paintings of […]

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