A PRESTON man's historical connections with Napoleon were reawakened when he visited a historic ship berthed at Portland.

Christopher Doveton-Gerty, 69, of Bodkin Lane, paid a visit to RMS St Helena - the last Royal Mail Ship still in service.

The vessel was loading cargo as part of preparations for a historic 100th voyage from Cape Town to St Helena.

And Mr Doveton-Gerty, who grew up in South Africa, has special connections with the RMS St Helena.

For it was an early version of the vessel that took his great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather Sir William Webber Doveton to the island, where he was the sheriff responsible for keeping Napoleon Bonaparte.

Mr Doveton-Gerty said: "I think William was a very likeable man and he was very interested in Napoleon."

And it appears Napoleon found Sir William equally interesting.

In The Dovetons of St Helena biographer Edward Carter writes: "His responsible position in the administration brought him into frequent touch with the Emperor and, despite the awkwardness of his position, they became friends, even the French entourage regarding him favourably.

"General Baron Gourgaud mentioned in his diary, on November 3, 1815, that the Emperor 'asks me to visit Doveton... and again on March 12, 1816, 'I dined at the Governors with Doveton and the Commissioners."

And four years later in 1820 one of Napoleon's last trips out before finally succumbing to illness was to see Sir William at his house at Mount Pleasant.

According to French historian and biographer Octave Aubry Sir William and Napoleon enjoyed a picnic on the lawn.

He writes: '...though the General was looking very pale Doveton was deceived by his obesity into describing him to the Governor in his report, as fat and round as a China pig. Later Napoleon became weary and requested to take his leave.

'He mounted his horse painfully and rode back to Longwood. This was the last time he was seen outside his grounds.' So how did Mr Doveton-Gerty like his visit to RMS St Helena?

He said: "It was very interesting. There was a lot going on there - loading cargo for the voyage. It was great seeing a bit of family history.

"I'm now thinking of taking a cruise on it - maybe as a present for my 70th birthday."