THE frequency with which people’s names reflect their jobs or interests sometimes seems to go beyond coincidence.
So it was with the 18th Century Newcastle-based press gangs captain.
The notorious press gangs dragged men off, often using violence, to serve in the Navy’s warships. Many never saw home or family again.
And the regulating officer in Newcastle of the press gangs was none other than Captain John Bover.
Capt Bover is commemorated by a plaque in St Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle.
“He was appointed by the Crown, and as far as the Crown was concerned he did a very good job. He was an important Government functionary, but he would not have been liked by the local population,” says cathedral events manager, Pam Walker.
Capt Bover’s story is just one of many behind the plaques, monuments and statues in the cathedral.
They will now be told as part of the £250,000 Illuminating Stories project, which has seen the installation of a sophisticated new lighting and sound system in the cathedral.
A service of thanksgiving and dedication for the new system will be held on Saturday.
The project will highlight monuments which previously have been rather lost in the shadows. Around 70 volunteers have been engaged on tasks such as researching the stories, who paid for the memorials and why, and exploring their educational potential.
Pam says: “The project is illuminating in terms of the stories and lighting the cathedral itself. We have one of the best sets of monuments in a church outside London.”
Anne Maddison has the distinction of appearing on two of the grandest monuments.
She is part of a monument erected by her brother Sir Alexander Hall in memory of his parents who died in the early 1600s.
Alexander as a boy is shown kneeling along with his five sisters, one of whom is Anne.
Anne is also one of the figures on one of the cathedral’s grandest showpieces, the painted marble Maddison memorial.
Anne married Sir Lionel Maddison, who is one of three generations of the family depicted on the memorial.
In the centre is Sir Lionel’s father, Henry, who died in 1634 and his wife Elizabeth, and beneath them are figures of their 10 sons and six daughters.
Sir Lionel, a mayor of Newcastle like his father and grandfather before him, was made a knight by Charles I, but switched to the Parliamentary side during the Civil War and died during the fighting in 1646.
A number of monuments were lost during the building of extensions to the cathedral in the 18th Century.
But among the earliest survivors are the figure of a 13th Century knight, thought to be a crusader, and the 1441 Thornton Brass.
One of the largest such brasses in Britain it includes 92 figures, but the central characters it commemorates are Roger Thornton, who died in 1428 and his wife Agnes, who died in 1411 and their seven sons and seven daughters.
Roger Thornton was the Dick Whittington of Newcastle, arriving penniless from what is now Cumbria but who went on to be a successful merchant. He was also three times Mayor of Newcastle and an MP, and a great benefactor of St Nicholas Church.
Among more recent memorials is that paid to around 4,000 Danish seamen for whom Newcastle became home in 1940 after the fall of Denmark and Holland.
The Danes sailed from Newcastle during the war and 1,406 gave their lives. The 1982 memorial by cathedral architect Ronald Sims uses Westmorland slate to represent the Danish islands.