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Neil Kinnock
GWENT'S FAMOUS PEOPLE
Dame Gwyneth Jones


Many men and women born in
Monmouthshire have contributed
to events on the Welsh, British,
European and World stages.
Here's a short selection,
in chronological order

GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH I HENRY V I CAPTAIN MORGAN I JOHN FROST/ZEPHANIA WILLIAMS/WILLIAM JONES I BENJAMIN HALL I LADY LLANOVER I ARTHUR MACHEN I EVAN JAMES & JAMES JAMES I ALFRED RUSSELL WALLACE I ISLWYN I W H DAVIES I BERTRAND RUSSELL I JAMES JOHN DAVIS I CHARLES ROLLS I MAI JONES I ANEURIN BEVAN I RAYMOND WILLIAMS I RAY REARDON I DESMOND LLEWELLYN I ROY JENKINS I JOHNNY MORRIS I GWYN JONES I GWYNETH JONES I MARGARET PRICE I ALUN PASK I JOHN DAWES I NEIL KINNOCK I JOE CALZAGHE I MARK WILLIAMS I DARREN MORGAN I MANIC STREET PREACHERS

GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH , (c1100 - c1154) studied at Oxford and was Archdeacon of Llandaff and Bishop of St Asaph. One of the county's leading literary figures, he was the prime influence in launching the Arthurian legend in his classic "Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of England)" This was a totally fictitious history of Britain, in which he traced the descent of the British kings back to the Trojans. Geoffrey claimed that he had based his writings on old Welsh chronicles which only he had seen.

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HENRY, 1ST DUKE & 4TH EARL OF LANCASTER , (b.c.1300 - d. March 24 1361)

Henry, thought to have been born in Grosmont castle, was the most trusted advisor to Edward III, and the most powerful feudal lord in England.
During the Hundred Years War he served in naval battles off the coasts of Holland and Sussex, and from 1345 to 1347 was Edward's lieutenant and captain in south west France.
He won a notable victory over the French in October 1345 and sacked Poitiers in October 1346.
He was largely responsible for negotiating the provisional Treaty of Bretigny in 1360 and was subsequently Edward's ambassador to most of the courts of Europe. He died of the plague in 1361.

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Agincourt Square HENRY V (1387 - 1422) was the only King of England to be born in Monmouthshire.

When his father the Earl of Derby seized the throne from RICHARD II, Henry (who was born in Monmouth Castle) was created Prince of Wales and succeeded to the crown in 1413.
On 25th October, at AGINCOURT, he gained a battle against the French at such great odds as to make his victory one of the most notable in history. Many of the so called 'English' archers at that battle were in fact from Gwent.

(The picture is of HENRY V and Charles ROLLS in Agincourt Square, Monmouth.)


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CAPTAIN MORGAN The infamous pirate CAPTAIN MORGAN (1635 -1688), (who gave his name to a brand of rum) was born in Abergavenny, and reputedly owned and lived in what is now the Penllwyn Hotel, Pontllanfraith.
Kidnapped by buccaneers in Bristol he was shipped to Barbados. There he joined his captors and conducted unbridled, triumphant expeditions against Spanish territory. He later gained respectability in 1674 as Sir Henry Morgan, deputy Governor of Jamaica.


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JOHN FROST (1784 - 1877) Born in Newport, a prosperous tailor and draper, he became Mayor of the town in 1836. He campaigned for manhood suffrage and became prominent in the Chartist movement. On 3rd November 1839 he led a march on Newport to try to obtain the release of some fellow Chartists who had been arrested. Lying in wait for them was a detachment of soldiers. There is conflicting evidence about what happened when the marchers arrived at the Westgate Hotel but fighting began and shots rang out. FROST, along with ZEPHANIAH WILLIAMS from Nantyglo, and WILLIAM JONES of Pontypool was arrested and they were later found guilty of high treason. They were sentenced to death by hanging, drawing and quartering but the sentence was later commuted to one of transportation to Van Deimen's Land for life. In 1854 they received conditional pardons and Frost returned to Newport among great celebration. He died in 1877 and is buried at Horfield, near Bristol.


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Big Ben London's famous landmark "BIG BEN" is named after Lord Llanover, SIR BENJAMIN HALL. (1802 - 67) Created Lord Llanover in 1859 he played a leading part in the Government of the day as member of Parliament for Monmouth. As Chief Commissioner of Works he oversaw the building of the Houses of Parliament and it was as a result of this that the bell of the clock in St Stephen's Tower was named after him.

LADY LLANOVER, the wife of the above Benjamin Hall, was a patron of Welsh culture who encouraged eisteddfodau and Welsh language education even though it wasn't her own first language. She took the name "Gwenynen Gwent" (the Honey Bee of Gwent) and was largely responsible for the adoption of what is now widely recognized as the Welsh national costume for women.

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EVAN JAMES
JAMES JAMES
EVAN JAMES (1809-1893) & JAMES JAMES (1832-1902)

Evan James lived in the Ancient Druid, Hollybush
His son, James, was born there in 1832.
They later moved to Pontypridd where they wrote the Welsh National Anthem ( Mae Hen Wlad fy Nhadau - Land of my fathers ) Words by Evan, and music by James.

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Wallace

Eminent naturalist Dr ALFRED RUSSELL WALLACE (1823 - 1913) was a native of Usk. His Travels on the Amazon was published in 1853. While on an insect collecting expedition in the Moluccas he fell ill, and it was during the illness that he thought out his theory of evolution. His first ideas on the subject were sent to CHARLES DARWIN in England and they subsequently published a joint paper which was read to the Linnean Society. It was Darwin's ideas, published as Origin of the Species which became known throughout the world.


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"ISLWYN" ISLWYN (1832), (Real name WILLIAM THOMAS) the greatest poet of modern Wales and said by some to be the "Welsh Wordsworth" was born in Ynysddu. He attended schools in Tredegar and Newport and although the language of his home was English he established himself as one of the country's greatest writers in the Welsh language. His poem Y Storm describing his grief over the death of the girl he intended to marry was argued by SAUNDERS LEWIS as being one of the leading achievements of nineteenth century European literature.
He took his bardic name Islwyn from the mountain which towers above his home village.

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Author and bon-viveur ARTHUR MACHEN (1863) was born in Caerleon, a fact that was to influence his later writings.

Throughout the 1880's, whilst working as a publisher's clerk in London, he wrote some minor works such as a translation of the Heptameron of Marguerite of Navarre and the novel The Chronicle of Clemendy. It was after the death of his father, who left him a considerable sum of money in 1887, that he found himself economically independent. Some of his greatest writing followed and during the next decade he wrote the supernatural tales which have brought him everlasting fame. The Great God Pan, The White People, the episodic novel The Three Imposters, and others. Most of these works, including the later The House of Souls, and the heavily autobiographical novels The Hill of Dreams, and The Secret Glory were condemned as the outpourings of a diseased imagination.

After exhausting his inheritance he earned his living in Fleet street writing for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including the London Evening News. His weekly at-homes attracted a wide circle of friends and admirers, especially when the American editions of his work brought in much needed money. In the late 20's though he fell out of fashion in America and he died in poverty in 1947.


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W H DAVIES (1871 - 1940) William Henry Davies was born in Newport, the son of a publican. Emigrating to the USA at the age of 22 he lived partly as a tramp and partly as a casual worker. He lost a leg while 'jumping' a train and returned home where, after eight years of penury, he began to write. BERNARD SHAW arranged for the publication of his first work, 'A Soul's Destroyer', which was quickly followed by 'The Autobiography of a Supertramp', based on his experiences in the USA. It was this book which established him as an author of international repute. Many other novels and books of poetry followed but he will be best remembered by the lines "What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare".(From his poem "Leisure".)

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Bertrand Russell It may surprise some people to learn that the famous philosopher, mathematician, prolific author and controversial figure BERTRAND RUSSELL (1872 - 1970) was a man of Gwent. Born in Trelleck he was the grandson of the Liberal Prime Minister Lord John Russell. His achievements throughout his long and extraordinarily active life are too numerous to mention here in detail. His most original contributions to mathematics were expounded in his book The Principles of Mathematics, (1903), and Principia Mathematica, while his first popular work was The Problems of Philosophy (1912). Many important works on mathematics and philosophy followed. He visited the Soviet Union where he met LENIN, TROTSKY and GORKY, which sobered his early enthusiasm for Communism. After 1949 he became increasingly preoccupied with the cause of nuclear disarmament and became a leading figure in CND. In 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His last years were spent in North Wales.

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John James Davis JAMES JOHN DAVIS a United States Senator from Pennsylvania was born in Tredegar October 27, 1873. He emigrated to the United States in 1881 with his parents, who settled in Pittsburgh, Pa., and later moved to Sharon, Pennsylvania. First apprenticed as a puddler in the steel industry when 11 years of age he worked in steel and tin-plate mills. Davis held various offices in the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers of America; was city clerk of Elwood, Ind., 1898-1902; recorder of Madison County, Ind., 1903-1907. He moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1907 and engaged in organizational work for the Loyal Order of Moose; became chairman of the Loyal Order of Moose War Relief Commission in 1918 and visited the various camps in the United States, Canada, and Europe. (Tredegar Lodge becoming number one lodge in the UK.)

He was appointed Secretary of Labor by President Warren Harding and reappointed by Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover 1921-1930. He died in 1947.

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CHARLES ROLLS (1877 - 1910), who co-founded the Rolls-Royce Company was born in Monmouth, the third son of the 1st Baron Llangattock. He founded the motor car manufacturers C S Rolls & Co. in 1902. In 1906 he joined forces with Henry Royce and in the same year crossed the English channel by balloon. In 1910 he made the first non-stop double crossing by plane, and lost his life in a plane crash soon afterwards. His statue stands in Agincourt Square in Monmouth.


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Although practically unknown outside her native Wales MAI JONES was a talented and influential BBC producer in the 1950s.
Her radio show 'Welsh Rarebit' was more popular with listeners in Wales than the radio comedy flagship It's That Man Again (ITMA), eventually extending over the border into England and subsequently to television.

Born in 1890 the daughter of the Station Master at Pontypool Road she will be chiefly remembered for the song 'We'll Keep a Welcome', for which she wrote the words.

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Nye Bevan
ANEURIN BEVAN (1897 - 1960), Principal architect of the world's first National Health Service "Nye" was born in Tredegar. One of thirteen children, the son of a coal miner, he began working in the pit at the age of 13. Initially self educated, studying at night in the local Miner's institute, he was active in Trade unionism in his twenties and led the Welsh miners in the General strike of 1926. After being elected to represent Ebbw Vale in Parliament in 1929 he was frequently a 'one man' opposition to WINSTON CHURCHILL. Appointed Minister of Health in the 1945 Labour Government he introduced the revolutionary National Health Service in 1948. Frequently a thorn in the side of his own party as he tried to promote more socialism and less reformism he became a champion of the left, even after he became deputy leader of the party. He brought to the Commons iconoclastic restlessness, radical fervour, an acute intellect and the skills of a true orator.


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GWYN JONES. (1907) Born in Blackwood, Gwyn was educated at Tredegar Grammar school and the University of Wales, where he became professor of English language and literature. (Aberystwyth, 1940 -64) His works on Norse history and literature include The Norse Atlantic Saga, A History of the Vikings and various translations of Norse literature. He translated the Mabinogion in 1948 and other Welsh studies include Welsh Legends and Folk Tales, Welsh Short Stories, and the Oxford Book of Welsh Verse in English. He also published several successful novels and collections of short stories, and his ready wit was appreciated by television audiences all over the country.

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Critic and Novelist RAYMOND WILLIAMS was born in Pandy.

A fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge and professor of drama there he was active in New Left intellectual movements. He produced the May Day Manifesto, but his novels Border Country (1960), Second Generation (1964), The Volunteers (1970), The Fight for Manod (1979), and Loyalties (1985) underline the significance of Welsh consciousness for him and he was later identified with Welsh nationalism.
He wrote many works of socio-literary criticism, of which The Country and the City was perhaps the most inspirational.

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Actor DESMOND LLEWELLYN DESMOND LLEWELLYN who played "Q" in the JAMES BOND movies was born in Newport, the son of a coal mining engineer. He originally trained as an accountant but gained a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and entered the acting profession in 1936. He enrolled in the Royal Welch Fusiliers at the outbreak of war and was captured and interned by the enemy. After an abortive attempt to tunnel his way out he spent the rest of the war entertaining his fellow prisoners. On returning to civilian life he played small parts in films, including Cleopatra with RICHARD BURTON and ELIZABETH TAYLOR. CUBBY BROCCOLI spotted him and offered him the part of Q, principally because he wanted the part to be played as a Welshman. Desmond convinced him that the character would be better as a toffee nosed Englishman in tweeds.


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JOHNNY MORRIS, (1916-99)

JOHNNY MORRIS Among the most loved of television presenters, Johnny Morris (born Ernest John Morris in Newport, on 20 June 1916) entertained and educated generations of children and their parents through the BBC children's series Animal Magic (BBC, 1962-83). In his inimitable, relaxed, avuncular style, Morris presented the series for over twenty years, communicating his fascination for animals and investing them, through the humorous filmed inserts featuring his voice-over mimicry, with human emotions and characteristics.


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ROY JENKINS ROY JENKINS b. Nov. 11, 1920 in Abersychan. d. Jan 2003

Educated at Balliol College, Oxford, from which he graduated in 1941, he served in the Royal Artillery in World War II and first entered Parliament in 1948, carrying on a family tradition. His father had been a miners' union official, an MP, and parliamentary private secretary to the Labour prime minister Clement Attlee. On the formation of the 1964 government Harold Wilson invited him to join the Cabinet as air minister (1964-65). He then became Home Secretary (1965-67) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1967-70)

As a strong supporter of both NATO and the European Community he felt compelled to resign from the Labour Party in protest at its decision to support a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the Common Market. He re-entered the shadow Cabinet in 1973 as shadow Home Secretary and became Home Secretary after Labour's victory in 1974.

In 1976 he resigned from the Cabinet and Parliament to become president of the executive branch of the European Community and remained in that post until 1981.
In 1981, along with Shirley Williams, David Owen and Bill Rogers, he left the Labour Party to form the Social Democratic Party, of which he was briefly leader.
In 1987 he accepted a life peerage and moved from the Commons to the House of Lords, where he was a leader of the newly formed SDLP. Jenkins wrote several books, including Pursuit of Progress (1953), Mr. Balfour's Poodle (1954), Sir Charles Dilke - A Victorian Tragedy (1958), The Labour Case (1959), Asquith (1964), Afternoon on the Potomac? (1972), Nine Men of Power (1975), Baldwin (1987), Gallery of Twentieth Century Portraits (1988), and a biography of Winston Churchill (2002)

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RAY REARDON(1932-) Born in Tredegar Ray Reardon was nearly killed when he was trapped for three hours after a mining accident. That was in 1957. After his lucky escape, he decided to quit the Welsh pits and find employment as a policeman in Stoke.

The English Amateur champion in 1964, Ray captured his first World Professional title in 1970 and went on to dominate the decade by winning the World title on another five occasions including a remarkable quartet of successes from 1973-1976. A former president of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, Ray remains a snooker legend and managed to reach the semi-finals of the World Championship in 1985 - at the age of 53! Awarded an MBE for his services to snooker, Ray was a role model for many young players coming into the game in the 1970's and 1980's. CAREER HIGHLIGHTS - winner World Championship (1970, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978), Pot Black (1969), B&H Masters (1976) Professional Players' Tournament (1982) Yamaha International Masters (1983); World Team Cup winner (1979, 1980); former World No.1


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Dame Gwyneth Jones Dame GWYNETH JONES. (1936-) Born in Pontnewynydd, soprano Gwyneth Jones studied at the Royal College of Music. She made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1963 and subsequently sang at the Vienna State Opera, Bayreuth, Munich, La Scala Milan and nearly all of the other great opera houses of the world. She is renowned as an interpreter of Wagner and Strauss. Perhaps her greatest role was as Brunnhilde in the Bayreuth centennial Ring Cycle under Pierre Boulez which has been preserved on video and audio disc. Gwyneth was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1986, is a Kammersangerin of both the Vienna and Bavarian Operas and a recipient of the German Cross of Merit. She now lives in Zurich.

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Dame Margaret Price
Another world famous opera singer DAME MARGARET PRICE (1940-) was born in Woodfieldside, between Oakdale and Blackwood. She made her debut with the Welsh National Opera as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, a role she repeated at Covent Garden the following year when she replaced the indisposed TERESA BERGANZA at short notice. She is established at the major opera houses throughout the world and is a renowned concert soloist. Her many recordings include Cosi fan tutte conducted by Otto Klemperer, Tristan and Isolde with Carlos Kleiber, Die Zauberflote with Sir Colin Davis, Le nozze de Figaro with Riccardo Muti and Un ballo in Maschera by Sir George Solti. She is a Bayerische Kammersangerin and was awarded a CBE in 1982. In 1993 she received the order of Dame of the British Empire.

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ALUN EDWARD ISLWYN PASK was born in Blackwood

He gained 26 consecutive Welsh International Rugby Union caps from 1961 to 1967 and was Wales' captain six times.
Hailed as one of the finest No. 8 forwards of his time he was capped eight times for the British Lions.

Alun died tragically during a fire at his home in 1995.

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Former Wales international rugby centre JOHN DAWES was born in Abercarn and educated at Lewis School, Pengam.

He made his international debut aged 23 on Saturday, 7th March 1964 v Ireland in Dublin, when Wales won 15-6.
While gaining a total number of 22 caps he captained Wales to a Grand Slam in 1971. Also in that year he won 4 British Lions Caps when he was the first Welsh captain and the first captain to lead a British side to series victory over New Zealand.

He took part in "THAT" try for the Barbarians against the All Blacks in 1973, as described by Cliff Morgan: "Kirkpatrick to Williams. This is great stuff. Phil Bennett covering, chased by Alistair Scown. Brilliant, Oh, that's brilliant. John Williams? Pullin, John Dawes. Great dummy. David, Tom David, the half-way line. Brilliant by Quinnell. This is Gareth Edwards. A dramatic start. What a score."

His final appearance for Wales was on 14th August 1971 in Paris when Wales scored a narrow victory over a talented French side, 9-5.
He was Welsh national coach from 1974-79, winning 2 Grand Slams, 4 Championships and 4 Triple Crowns.

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Neil Kinnock Rt. Hon NEIL KINNOCK (1942- ), Vice-president of the European Union Commission and former leader of the Labour Party was born in Tredegar and educated at Lewis School, Pengam, and the University of Wales, Cardiff

Elected Member of Parliament for Bedwellty in 1970 and to the National Executive of the Labour party in 1978 he was said to be MICHAEL FOOT's personal choice to replace him when he resigned as leader in 1983. Although Mr Kinnock was normally considered to be on the left wing of the party while serving his two terms as it's leader he succeeded in isolating the more extreme elements, paving the way for the relaunch of the party by TONY BLAIR as the more electable (but, many would say, less socialist,) "New Labour" party.
After his unexpected defeat by JOHN MAJOR in the 1992 election he was appointed as one of Britain's two representatives on the Commission of the European Union. One of the few survivors after a mass resignation of Commissioners he was given the task of reorganising the Commission. He is currently Vice President of both the European Commission and Socialist International .


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World Super Middleweight Championship boxer JOE CALZAGHE comes from Newbridge.

Joe turned professional in 1993, after a glittering amateur career which featured 3 consecutive A.B.A. titles, then set about knocking out a whole series of opponents. His first 9 contests lasted no longer than the second round and a grand total of just 11 rounds ! After cruising to the British title, Joe faced experienced, world renowned Chris Eubank for the vacant W.B.O. title in 1997, in a bout promoted as 'The Full Monty'. For Eubank this was his 22nd world title contest and while acknowledging the Welshman's power of punch expected to emerge victorious.
After a tremendous 12 round battle Wales had a new World Champion, Joe Calzaghe W.B.O. Super Middleweight Champion. He remains unbeaten after 36 fights.


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MARK WILLIAMS (1975) Current UK, Masters and World Champion and No 1 in the World Snooker rankings, was born in Cwm


After a successful amateur career he turned professional in 1992. A promising amateur boxer before opting for a career on the green baize, he showed his ability to perform under pressure when winning the Benson and Hedges Masters at Wembley in 1998. Trailing Ian Hendry 9-6 in the final, he drew level at 9-9 and, at 56-56 in the deciding frame, potted a re-spotted black to land the 145,000 first prize.

Hendry took his revenge in the 1999 world championship final, winning 18-11. But Williams, part of the victorious Welsh team in the 1999 Nations Cup, put that experience to good use a year later. In the closest Crucible final since Hendry defeated Jimmy White 18-17 in 1994 Mark Williams showed nerves of steel to become the first left-hander to lift the World Championship trophy in the 73-year history of the event. In doing so he became only the third player to win the UK and world titles in the same season.

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DARREN MORGAN, Snooker Player and Commentator hails from Cwmfelinfach.

Achievements:
World Amateur Champion 1987.
Welsh Amateur Champion 1987.
Turned professional 1988.
Embassy World Championship semi-finalist 1994.
Benson and Hedges Irish Masters Champion 1996,
Captained Wales to victory in 1999 Nations Cup.

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Man

Pop superstars the MANIC STREET PREACHERS are from the Blackwood area.

All text ©Copyright 2002-5 Glyn Hale


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