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Prior to the French Invasion, Jemima Nicholas was but an ordinary cobbler, but thanks to her spirited role in the defence of the town, her name has been kept alive not just in retellings of the events of 1797, but especially through local women taking on the role on special occasions.

The story goes that during the French Invasion of Fishguard in 1797, Jemima Nicholas, a most formidable woman and cobbler, single-handedly rounded up 12 French soldiers, marched them through town and locked them up in St Mary’s church. Through repeated retellings over the past two centuries, her myth has grown and townfolk have taken her to their hearts so much so that during the bicentenary celebrations in 1997, local Yvonne Fox took on the role of playing Jemima during the lavish re-enactment of the event. So popular was her interpretation of the character that henceforth, she returned to the role on hundreds of occassions and became the town’s official Jemima. Fishguard mourned Fox’s sudden and unexpected death in 2010 and for a while there was no one to step into the role until recently.

Jana Davidson sat down with Ports, Past and Present to talk about Yvonne Fox’s legacy and how more recently local women have taken over Jemima’s scarlet mantle.

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