In the Navy: Actor learns of a nautical past

Mark White
Mark White
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AMATEUR actor Mark White reckons he’s a nautical natural for his new role as the boatswain in an upcoming production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore.

His great grandfather, it seems, served under Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Mark, 54, of Dore, learned the sea was in his blood after family research revealed his ancestor John Keech was a seaman aboard HMS Ajax in the celebrated 1805 battle.

The ship played a pivotal role in forcing the surrender of the French 74-gun ship Intrepide, as well as rescuing stricken sailers during a following storm.

John, who was born in Dorset in 1767, was awarded the Naval General Service medal, although today the family has only a replica.

“I was startled to find our family had played such a key role in such a pivotal moment in world history,” says John, who works for Sheffield Health and Safety Executive. “The original medal had found its way into a private collection and was sold at auction last summer for £9,000.”

He takes up his seafaring role in the Dore Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s production next month. It runs April 12 - 16 at Sheffield University Drama Studio, on Glossop Road. Tickets on 01246 416364.