THE discovery of an old copy of The Cornishman from the 1960s has resulted in a Penzance family meeting a showbiz megastar and dame of the British Empire.
Last year Martin and Emily Nixon came across a vintage copy of The Cornishman from March 15, 1962 in a second-hand shop and bought it.
The paper featured an article on the young Barry Humphries – later to find fame as housewife and superstar Dame Edna Everage – falling down a cliff at Zennor and having to be rescued by helicopter.
"I'm a big fan of Dame Edna and thought it would be a nice gesture to send him the paper as a souvenir of his lucky escape," said Martin.
"When I was in London recently I saw he was performing at The Palladium and booked tickets for a family new year treat.
"I then e-mailed his agent asking if I could send him the copy of The Cornishman and was delighted to get an e-mail from Barry personally inviting Emily and I, and our children to meet him backstage after the show.
"We spent about half an hour with him and he was absolutely thrilled with what he called a remarkable discovery and told us that the accident at Zennor was one of the most dramatic moments of his life and nearly ended it.
"We suggested he should visit Penzance again soon and he told us how much he enjoyed visiting the town and the Penwith area, but no longer goes anywhere near cliffs."
The article on the rescue details how Barry Humphries fell 150ft down the cliffs at Treveal valley after overbalancing in trying to help his then wife, Rosalind, who had slipped a few feet off the path.
His fall to the stony beach below was broken by projecting ledges of rock and he finally came to rest by a ledge just above the beach.
After the alarm was raised by his wife, police, firemen and coastguards made their way down the cliff and were able to lash the future star to a stretcher and hauled him up the cliff face from where a RNAS Culdrose helicopter airlifted him to West Cornwall Hospital.
The couple were on holiday in the area, and at the time Barry was playing the part of the undertaker Mr Sowerberry in the BBC TV serialised version of Oliver Twist.
Martin added that he found the prized copy of The Cornishman in We Have What You Need, at the bottom of Market Jew Street.
"I love old stuff and when I saw this copy of The Cornishman in the window, I had to have it.
"You so rarely see intact old copies like that," he said.
" I read the paper from cover to cover and came across this fascinating story of, at the time, a little-known actor."