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Damsel in Distress

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

In 1927 Alfred Sheppard and Thomas Evans, both steelworkers were crossing on the Transporter Bridge on their way to work.


The river was in full flow and the night was dark. The gondola was nearly halfway across when Alfred heard a splash and a scream. A young lady who had been standing next to him had thrown herself into the river. Stopping only to remove his coat Alfred dived into the Usk. Above him the gondola had stopped and a life belt was thrown to him.


In the darkness at first he couldn’t see the young woman but he saw her floating almost unconscious, some yards from him. He held on to her and called for help. Tom Evans, removing his boots, leaped in to join Alfred. Another life belt was thrown and the two men dragged her to shore on the East Bank.


Alfred said afterwards that had it not been for Tom, he would have had to let go and save himself. from The Newport Kalidescope – by Alan Roderick – ISBN 0-9515213-4-9


Graham Shepphard, the great grandson of Alfred writes:


Alfred Shepphard who saved the damsel in distress in 1927 was my Great Grandfather as well as being a Steel worker he spent some time working on the Transporter Bridge as a painter, my Grandfather Joe Shepphard Alfred’s Son worked on the bridge for 40 + yrs His Daughters Doreen, Molly and Sheila still are living in Newport and his Son Bert Shepphard Lives in Cardiff sadly my Father Berts Brother also named Joe after my Grandfather has passed away.


My Grandfathers wish was that his ashes was to be thrown off the top of the bridge when he died this was done shortly after he passed away, the date I have not to hand at the moment but I will dig it out and let you know.


Speaking with my Auntie Molly she seems to have some old photo’s of the bridge and my Grandfather which I will scan and pass on to you when I get them.


Auntie Molly has numerous tales of my Grandfather years working on the bridge of the people he has saved from trying to commit suicide by throwing themselves off the bridge and how he didn’t have to do National service because he was working on the bridge.


My Grandfather spent all his years maintaining the bridge and was approached years after his retirement by the engineers who wanted to reopen the bridge, as his knowledge of what work was needed to be done for the bridge to operate safely was required.


There was talk of the bridge being sold when I was a child and one of the reasons it fell through was that my Grandfather would not go to America with it to continue to maintain it he said it was to late in life to emigrate.


My Grandfather lived in Fredrick Street in Newport which wasn’t that far from the bridge he cycled everyday from home to work and back and there was times when the gondola was stuck in the middle he carried his push bike over the top of the bridge to the other side to get to his work shop so he could then do his repairs and bring the gondola back to the bank.


When they condemned Fredrick Street My Grandfather and Nan went to live in a flat on Gaer Estate Newport one of the reason that he agreed to the flat was that when he looked out of the living room window was looking directly at the Transporter Bridge in the distance.


I am a Network Engineer and support the Network in Orb Works Newport which is at the East end of the bridge I always use the Transporter to get to Orb and reminisce of the days as a child visiting my Grandfather when he was at work and he would take us over the top of the bridge.


I was speaking to one the personnel working on the bridge a couple of months ago and was telling him of my Grandfather, to them he is known fondly as Joe’s ghost.

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