The Wharf Theatre’s production of the Suffragette drama Her Naked Skin has stirred some family ghosts for Nina Pullen.
Mrs Pullen, 75, of Pinetum Close, Devizes, is the great niece of Herbert Jones, the jockey of the King’s horse, Anmer, in the 1913 Epsom Derby when suffragette Emily Davison stepped out in front of him during the race.
Mr Jones was unable to avoid colliding with Miss Davison and she died of her injuries two days later. Anmer finished the race unmounted but Mr Jones, who was concussed, said he was haunted by Miss Davison’s face for many years to come.
Although Mr Jones was not blamed for the incident, Mrs Pullen said the subject was taboo in her family.
“Nobody talked about it” she said. “In fact, in the 1960s a piece appeared in the William Hickey column in the Daily Express and the family was very angry about the relative who had broken ranks and spoken out.”
“But recently I saw an episode of the Find My Past programme on TV and they were talking about the Emily Davison incident. A boy I had never heard of said he was a relative of Herbert Jones so I suppose the family ban on talking about it is no longer in place.”
Mr Jones won the Derby twice and the 2,000 Guineas four times.
Mrs Pullen’s relationship with the incident only came out when she spoke to the assistant manager of the Shaw Trust charity shop in High Street, Devizes.
Lesley Scholes, who is a member of the cast in Her Naked Skin, was overwhelmed by the coincidence.
She said: “I can’t believe that we came across this story the week before we are due to open the play. It bodes very well for it.”
Mrs Pullen is unable to be in the audience as recent back surgery means she is unable to sit for long periods.
The play, written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz and directed by Merrily Powell, follows the fortunes of suffragettes Lady Celia Cain and seamstress Eve Douglas as they cope with the government reaction against campaigners for women’s votes.
Director Merrily Powell said: “How amazing it is that in Devizes we have a descendant of the jockey who rode the King’s horse on that fateful day. Suddenly it’s no longer dusty history but real people who led real lives at either end of the social spectrum but whose worlds collided on June 13 100 years ago with fatal results.”