A COUPLE from Newport charting and celebrating the history of the men and women from all over the world who settled in the city to work in the docks have now published a book thanks to the support of local families.

Rebecca and Paul Eversley began The Historic Dock Project to highlight the role played in the history of Newport’s docks by migrants from other parts of the world, in particular Africa.

Ms Eversley says that it was thanks, in part, to an article in the South Wales Argus back in 2019 spreading the word of their work that more families came forward.

The book, African Connections: The Seamen Who Came To Wales, is the culmination of their efforts.

"I've written it in lockdown and I'm now completing a database which will be available online at historicdockproject.co.uk," she said.

"The book includes never before published information on the race riots and includes a database of individuals who settled in South Wales."

Giving us a teaser into some of the stories included in the book, Ms Eversley recounted the tale, prior to the First World War, of a migration of merchant seamen from West Africa.

Readers can follow their journey from West Africa to Wales as seamen and war heroes and witness their trepidation as they attempt to make Wales their home.

South Wales Argus: (Benjamin Johnson - taken from his shipping card)

Benjamin Johnson - taken from his shipping card

"Within these pages you will find many familiar names from Newport, who successfully made Newport their home," she said.


South Wales Argus: Emily Eversley-nee-Johnson, outside 17 Kingsway, Newport

Emily Eversley-nee-Johnson, outside 17 Kingsway, Newport

The Historic Dock Project was, Mr Eversley says, inspired by the story of a local family.

“My mother-in-law, the late Mrs Emily Eversley, nee Johnson, and William ‘Bill’ Eversley, of Ruskin Rise, The Gaer and formerly of 17, Kingsway," she said.

"Emily’s father, Benjamin Johnson, was born in Liberia in 1892.

“He was part of the Kru tribe and sailed the waters surrounding the UK with many other men (often from Freetown, Sierra Leone). Many settled in Newport and Cardiff."

Having settled in Welsh ports much of the history has been lost.

However, Mr Eversley said that many do remember a ‘Johnson curry’ which was cooked every Whitson after the walk.

"We still make it for the family today," he said.

When told what her memories would be used for, Emily said: “Go and tell the people. This is important.”

South Wales Argus: Bill Eversley and an unknown friend onboard a ship

Bill Eversley and an unknown friend on board a ship

The arduous process of recording Emily’s memories and digitising the family’s collection of photographs and documents was the first stage of the project.

Mr and Mrs Eversley began working with the Merchant Navy to record their memories and help families locate ancestors who served at any time during their working life.

For more information about the couple’s work, search Historic Dock Project on Facebook and Twitter.

African Connections: The Seamen Who Came To Wales is available now.