Rest in Peace: Olivia Newton-John

Yesterday morning the first bit of news that caught my eye was the death of Olivia Newton-John. My first thought was “Hoax” but as the day started  it was finally confirmed by a number of sources. I was devastated, ONJ was probably my first early boyhood crush. She pretty much epitomised what we naively hoped for one day if/when we married.  

Olivia Newton-John was born on 26 September 1948 in Cambridge, United Kingdom, to Brinley “Bryn” Newton-John (1914–1992) and Irene Helene (née Born; 1914–2003). She came from a family of famous people;  her maternal grandfather was Nobel Prize–winning physicist Max Born, her maternal grandmother Hedwig was the daughter of German Jewish jurist Victor Ehrenberg,  Her uncle was pharmacologist Gustav Victor Rudolf Born and she was a third cousin of comedian Ben Elton. Her father was an MI5 officer on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park who took Rudolf Hess into custody during World War II. She was the youngest of three children,  In 1954, at the age of 6 her family emigrated to Melbourne, Australia. 

She released her first solo album, If Not for You in 1971, and from then onwards she became increasingly busier as her career took off, although she met some resistance by the Country and Western community. Her career really took off after she starred in the 1978 movie Grease alongside John Travolta.  

She was very popular in South Africa and I had a number of her LP’s;  my personal view is that she was at her best in the 1980 movie Xanadu where she starred alongside Gene Kelly. Although the movie was not as successful as it should have been,  it has become a cult classic and the music in it is fantastic thanks to the collaboration with the Electric Light Orchestra.  

She was an activist for environmental and animal rights causes, and advocated for breast cancer research. Having beaten breast cancer in 1992 and 2019 it finally claimed her on 8 August 2022.  

Rest In Peace Olivia, the world has lost somebody very special. 

DRW 2022. Created 09/10/2022. Information credited to the Oliva Newton-John Wikipedia page

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Rethinking Crossbones

Regular readers may remember that way back in March 2013 I visited Crossbones Graveyard, and I have always said that if I get back to London, and am in the area, I would stop by and pay my respects.  It was a strange place that sat uneasily with me, probably because of the long and tragic history surrounding it. 

Situated embarrassingly close to Southwark Cathedral, I could almost see the upturned noses of those who looked down on the many women that plied their trade in Southwark, and I could hear the rustling of the greasy palms of those who allowed the area to become infamous for all the wrong reasons. Crossbones is one of the many by-products of that policy. 

Southwark Cathedral

Once again I do not profess to know everything there is to know about the small overgrown plot of land that I saw, seemingly in the shadow the large pointy “The Shard” building. 

Google Maps image from 2018

If you do want to read the history I recommend the official website,  although there are a number of other websites that have a lot of information. I have just completed reading “The Outcast Dead: Cross Bones Graveyard” by Paul Slade (available on Kindle but also on his website at, and it filled in a number of gaps in my understanding. I was limited to what was available back in 2013, and of course I never got to walk inside the graveyard itself, but I have my own connections to Southwark, as my maternal grandmother grew up roughly 200 metres from the graveyard. Did she ever peer into the graveyard? she was born at the turn of the century so London was  a foggy, smokey and miserable place at the worst of times. It was even worse in the centuries before that. Many of those who ended up in Crossbones were children who really had a very precarious first 5 years of life. Many were riddled with diseases, malnourished and under-developed for their ages. Many were the products of a liaison between client and mother.    

Like it or not “The Outcast Dead”, pretty much describes those who found their rest in this corner of London. This place is not Highgate or Kensal Green, it pre-dates all of the Magnificent Seven and existed in a time when the dead were buried within the hallowed and consecrated surrounds of their parish church.

Tributes remembering those within, and those who died without

The years of vigils and publicity has kept the army of construction equipment away and made Crossbones somewhat of a tourist trap, and that may help stave off the inevitable development on what is now prime London real estate. Long may it remain safe from developers and long may it defy those who wish to erase its existence from the map.  Many have walked the short path within, and the word has spread. The Outcast Dead have a voice and are no longer on the fringes of society.  May we remember them till we too join the ranks of the dead. 

Southwark has an entry in the Domesday Book, although it is not as detailed as I would have expected. 

Land of Bishop Odo of Bayeux
Other resources: 1 church.
Annual value to lord:  16 pounds in 1086.
Owners: Tenant-in-chief in 1086: Bishop Odo of Bayeux. Lord in 1086: Ralph. Lord in 1066: King Edward.

As an afterthought, I always pondered this photograph, and often considered that it was lens flare or the sun angle… but I like to think otherwise.

One day I hope to return, I have many unanswered questions about this place,  and  I still believe that it was a place that I had to see back in 2013, because I was at a stage where I was starting a whole new life, and I needed some sort of comfort or affirmation. I think I found some of it at Crossbones, but still need to give closure to those who are there.

DRW 2022. Created 04/08/2022. Domesday book information sourced from   Domesday data created by Professor J.J.N. Palmer and team.

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