OUR review of 2012 continues as ANDY RUTHERFORD looks back at May and June.


May 3: THE four-yearly council elections in Gwent brought good news for the Labour Party, which won control of three councils in the area from various opposition.

In Newport, there was a comprehensive victory after four years of Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, with Labour ending with a very healthy 37 out of the 50 seats available.

Labour won 50 out of 73 seats in Caerphilly county borough, to win back control from Plaid Cymru, while seven years in opposition in Blaenau Gwent were ended with the party winning 33 out of 42 seats as the independent administration was routed.

May 7: A WEEK after tasting defeat in the British and Irish Cup final, Cross Keys came from behind to win the Swalec Cup in scintillating fashion with a 32-19 victory over Pontypridd at the Millennium Stadium.

An excellent all-round team performance helped turn around a 13-6 half-time deficit, as Keys ran riot after the break in front of a 15,300 crowd.

Second row Dan Hodge capped a fine performance with one of three tries and Dean Gunter kicked 14 points, leaving a delighted head coach Greg Woods to proclaim of his players: "They were all outstanding."

May 8: THE family of a Newport soldier who died in Afghanistan in April launched an appeal in his memory to raise money for armed forces charity Help The Heroes.

Sapper Connor Ray's family requested that donations be made to the appeal in lieu of flowers at his funeral, which took place on May 11.

They said they were "greatly overwhelmed' by the support they had received since his death.

Prior to his funeral more than £1,750 had been raised out of a target of £5,000.

May 11: CHILDREN at the Serennu Centre, High Cross, Newport, were celebrating after the charity behind it - the Argus-backed Sparkle Appeal - won a near half-million pound grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

The £487,743 windfall was to be used to fund new staff over the next three years, including a much-needed counsellor to help parents and siblings of children with complex needs and disabilities deal with their situation.

There was also Big Lottery Fund joy for the University of Wales Newport, which received almost £500,000 to provide a free counselling service to vulnerable people across the city, and for a project to restore a derelict section of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal in Cwmbran.

May 12: NEWPORT County's Wembley day out ended in defeat - 2-0 to York City in the final of the FA Trophy - but almost 12,000 fans who made their way up and down the M4 for the occasion did the city and their club proud.

They outnumbered their York counterparts in the stands but on the pitch where it counted, it was the opposition who left with the silverware.

County, despite a couple of early chances, failed to get out of first gear, though one of the few positives on a disappointing afternoon was the performance of 17-year-old midfielder Lee Evans.

May 15: TWO men were found guilty of the "savage and brutal" murder of Newport man Ramunas Raulinaitis, 34, after a trial lasting several weeks.

Pawel Lysonik, 22, of Capel Crescent, and Kamil Semrau, 28, of Chepstow Road, both Newport, were found guilty by a jury at Cardiff Crown Court.

Mr Raulinaitis had been killed in March 2011, after being beaten and having his clothes set on fire at Semrau's flat.

May 22: UNUSUAL wildlife was spotted on a Gwent golf course in the form of a four feet tall rhea, which looks similar to an emu.

Golfers at the Bryn Meadows Club near Blackwood, had to play around the bird for three days, though it was tame enough to take sandwiches from some of them.

An attempt by RSPCA officers to capture the bird had failed, but it was picked up by owner Sean Hughes, who reared the bird and its mate at Ffynnon-y-Gwaed farm, near Blackwood.

It is thought to have escaped after someone left a gate open.

May 25: MORE than 100,000 people lined the streets of Gwent in the best weather of the year so far to witness a moment of history as the Olympic Torch relay wended its way through towns and villages.

Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and finally Newport, where 50,000 alone turned out, welcomed the torch as it continued a 78-day trek through Great Britain.

Gwent torchbearers made up the majority of those selected for the honour of carrying the torch through the area, among them Mark Williamson of Monmouth, Kelvin Perrett of Cwmbran, Hannah Palmer of Newport, James Edwards of Ebbw Vale, and Ellie Coster of Newport.

May 30: THE parents of a Newport teenager who died in 2007 of a mystery illness praised a "fantastic" fundraising effort for fulfilling their dream of helping families with terminally ill or disabled children.

Rose and Wayne Yendle, from Pill, set up the Ieuan The Lion Memorial Fund after losing son Ieuan. Its simple aim was to raise £45,000 to buy a static holiday caravan, to be sited in west Wales, to provide breaks for the aforementioned families, like they had enjoyed when Ieuan was ill.

Three years after the fund's launch, the caravan - at Kiln Park, near Tenby - was ready to take its first occupants.

Mr Yendle said he and his wife were "immensely grateful" to the countless people who had contributed.

"Every pound deserves a thank you," he said.

June 1: NEWPORT County sealed a deal to play at Rodney Parade for three seasons, in a ground-share with Newport Gwent Dragons and Newport RFC.

A lease was agreed after lengthy negotiations and a failed bid to end the 2011/12 season playing at the home of the city's rugby clubs.

An agreement with Newport council enabled County to dissolve its lease on Spytty Park, its home since 1994, though there is scope for a return there.

Then County chairman Chris Blight said the move would "offer our fans a far better match day experience, with superb facilities right in the heart of the city."

Problems with the Spytty Park pitch was also a key factor behind the move, but Mr Blight told the Argus later in June that crowds of at least 2,000 would be necessary to make the move work.

June 4: A MAN described as a "true hero" and an "amazing husband and father" was killed in Afghanistan.

Corporal Michael John Thacker, 27, died after being hit by small arms fire while manning an observation post in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand province.

Wife Catherine and brother Lance Corporal Matthew Thacker, who also serves in the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh, paid tribute, saying he could "light up a dark room."

Cpl Thacker was born in Swindon, but attended Fairwater High School after his family moved to Cwmbran. He left a daughter, Millie, aged two years. His parents and brothers still live in Cwmbran.

June 5 and 6: CELEBRATIONS took place the length and breadth of Gwent as Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee.

While the Queen and her family shivered their way through a River Thames flotilla in unseasonally chilly weather, and other high profile events took place in London - including a pop concert outside Buckingham Palace - thousands of street parties and other celebrations were taking place throughout Great Britain.

The weather had for weeks been best described as poor, and the worst of the year was reserved for Jubilee week, with downpours, lower than usual temperatures, and high winds conspiring to try to dampen spirits.

Despite the efforts of the elements however, there were plenty of Union Jacks, trestle tables and jelly and ice cream to be found across Gwent.

Streets and community groups got into the Jubilee mood inside and outside.

Typical of those celebrating were the residents of Taff Court, Cwmbran, who won the Argus Jubilee street party competition, being provided as reward with basically all they needed to host a successful party.

Among the other parties covered by Argus photographers and reporters were those at: Fields Park Avenue, Newport; St David's RC primary school, Newport; Wentsland Road, Tranch, Pontypool; Garnsychan Partnership Lunch Club, Torfaen; College Crescent, Caerleon; the Waterloo Inn, Nash; Undy primary school; St Lawrence Park, Chepstow; Belle Vue Nursery, Cwmbran; Crawley Hall, Raglan; and Sherbourne Road, Sebastopol.

Young and old donned Royal fancy dress at some of the parties, which were held over two Bank Holidays, one held over from the previous week's traditional Whit holiday.

Gwent people also got into the celebratory spirit at a series of beacon lighting events to mark the Jubilee.

Beacons were lit at, among other sites, Ridgeway, Newport; Caldicot Castle; The Folly Tower, Pontypool; Bedwellty Church; Twmbarlwm; and The Domen, Ebbw Vale.

Thousands of people turned out to watch the beacons burning, with many defying the wet weather to bring picnics, deckchairs, Union flags and champagne along to boost the party atmosphere.

Ridgeway beacon organiser John Hallam said this was a once-in-a-generation occasion and more than 3,000 people turned out for this beacon lighting event alone.

Overall, 40 beacons were lit in Gwent, out of more than 4,000 worldwide.

June 12: TWINS from Newport were decribed as "absolute miracles" after spending their first 17 weeks in hospital fighting for their lives with the extremely rare twin-to-twin infusion syndrome.

Bessie and Hattie Smith's parents Kelvin and Natalie paid an emotional tribute to neo-natal care staff at the Royal Gwent Hospital as they brought their bundles of joy home to Station Road, Caerleon.

A complication of disproportionate blood supply, the syndrome can cause death or severe disability. But the skills of doctors and nurses at Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny, and the Royal Gwent helped the girls through.

"We will be forever grateful. They were all amazing," said Mrs Smith.

June 15: PONTYPOOL rugby club was told it had just a week to find £250,000 to cover a potential legal bill for the Welsh Rugby Union, or face relegation from the Premiership.

One of Wales' most famous clubs, Pontypool believed the WRU's criteria for excluding them from a revamped league set-up was flawed, and wanted to contest it in the High Court.

But a judge said that unless it could raise the money as a guarantee against the potential costs, the case would not be heard.

The club said it believed the WRU's costs estimate was excessive.

June 27: The prospect of a backlog of funerals was raised in Gwent, after the area's only crematorium began operating a reduced service set to continue until March 2013, while essential work was carried out.

Gwent Crematorium near Croesyceiliog, Cwmbran, began holding its final service at 1pm every day, to enable equipment ot be installed that will remove mercury from its cremation process to satisfy environmental rules.

The number of cremations was set to halve and manager Paul Dundon said it was recognised that this might cause delays, but "because of the legislation we have no choice."

June 30: NEWPORT council announced it was to go back to the drawing board over the controversial issue of gipsy and traveller sites.

A shortlist of five potential sites in the city had been effectively scrapped, with a committee set to review a longlist of site options following a request from the Labour-run administration. The public was to be consulted over the possible sites.

The council must identify permanent and transit sites for inclusion in the Newport Local Development Plan.

The issue had dogged the previous Conservative administration, with protests from various communities across the city where sites had been shortlisted. But going back to the drawing board was set to ignite passions once again.