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Colourful tale links local families to Lord Nelson

RON HEARFIELD has been telling people all his life he is a descendant of Lord Horatio Nelson, the hero of the Battle of Trafalgar and now he is delighted to have scholarly proof to back his belief.

Mr Hearfield, from Seelands, heard author Edwin Wilson was going to talk about his latest book, Lord Nelson, Uncle Oliver and I, at the Grafton Library on Wednesday and turned up with two sisters, Patricia Hewitt and Margaret Smith, to hear the story.

"Dad always told us we were descended from Lord Nelson and we always believed him," Mr Hearfield said.

Mr Wilson's book, the result of nearly 50 years of research, is an account of the colourful life Oliver Bainbridge, born Frank Nelson, in Upper Copmanhurst in 1877.

By the time he died in 1922, possibly shot by an IRA assassin in Sydney, Nelson had changed his name to Oliver Bainbridge and lived a life as an adventurer, writer, diplomat and spy.

The records show he had meetings with presidents, prime ministers and kings and served as an ambassador for the King of England to the court of King Ferdinand II of Bulgaria.

He travelled extensively in Europe, Asia, Africa, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Not bad for a man who spent a year in Grafton Jail and was disowned by his father for disgracing the Nelson name.

Mr Wilson said one of the main sources of information for his book was his great aunt, Grafton woman Nina Shore, who had looked after him as a young boy.

He said he had stayed at her house with a picture of Oliver Bainbridge overlooking his bed.

After talking on Wednesday Mr Wilson signed copies of the book and spoke to other people from the region who shared his story.

"It's remarkable how similar all these stories are," Mr Wilson said.

"I've never met many of these people, but they've all had the same story as the grew up that they are descended from Lord Nelson."

Mr Hearfield's sister Margaret Smith, from Yamba, said she had always been impressed with story of the young Nelson pressing his telescope to his blind eye so he could ignore his Admiral's orders to break off engaging the enemy at the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen.

"I've always wanted to be descended from someone who could do that," she said.

Mr Wilson said while he had concentrated on finding documented links to Lord Nelson, he had also tried DNA testing.

He said because of the length of time and the difficulty in finding suitable sample material, the chances of a successful match were only about 3%.

Topics:  book edwin wilson grafton library lord nelson oliver bainbridge


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