There's always something new to learn about the intriguing isle of Portland.

Today we focus upon two stories from the isle, one mythical and the other historical and powerfully poignant.

First we look at Portland's 'knob' landmark, which may or may not have been a tribute to an Irish lothario.

Then we bring you the incredible tale of a war hero's bravery in a Second World War air raid on Portland,

A philandering Irish Protestant lent his name to a Portland landmark because of his romantic prowess, or so we are told.

The Nicodemus Knob stands in the area from which rock was quarried to build the Verne prison.

Dorset Echo:


Rumour has it that Nick O'Demus left Ireland in the aftermath of the Battle of the Boyne and came to Portland.

It is said he became amorously attached to three similarly-inclined 'fiancées' from the local area. The stone stack became synonymous with the legend when it began to be formed in the 1860s.

Island historian Stuart Morris, however, believes the real reason for its existence is a little more mundane than being a tribute to a lothario.

Dorset Echo:

He said: "It's more likely to have been left either as a marker to show how deeply the land was quarried, because you can still see the turf on the top of it. Or it acts as a landmark for sailors and mariners.

"It's a nice story to think it was left as a monument to Nick O'Demus, but I don't think that was its purpose. But I can tell you, in all seriousness, the true part of the story is the promiscuousness of Portland girls in those times.

"That was well documented, and they often didn't get married until they were pregnant."

Did you know that a war hero with the Victoria Cross is buried on Portland?

Gunner Jack Mantle, from Affpuddle, rests in the Naval Cemetery on the Verne Common hillside. The epitaph on his gravestone reads: 'Because we did not choose to shame the land from which we sprang'.

He was posthumously awarded the VC for his bravery during a Luftwaffe raid on the HMS Foylebank in Portland Harbour on July 4 in 1940.

Dorset Echo:

The brave sailor's leg was shattered by a direct hit on the warship but he stayed at his post firing at the enemy with one of the ship's guns. He suffered more wounds during the fierce attack.

Gunner Mantle was found after the battle slumped next to his weapon, where he had died from his injuries.

He was taken to Portland Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The ship itself and a tug were sunk. Nine other vessels were damaged.

Dorset Echo:

But Jack Mantle's bravery had left an indelible mark on the memory of his commanding officer, Captain Wilson.

The recommendation that he be posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross was soon made by Admiral Sir William James, commander-in-chief of Portsmouth naval base.

Proud parents John and Jeannie Mantle were presented with the medal by King George VI at Buckingham Palace in June 1941.