This extraordinarily resourceful woman escaped the horrors of slavery and built an ordinary life for herself in North Shields.
Throughout Black History Month, we've been exploring a few of the stories of black people who've made their mark on the North East over the centuries.
Until last year, the mark made by North Shields woman Mary Ann Macham was not a visible one - but in 2020, North Tyneside locals came together to raise a permanent memorial to her in Preston Cemetery.
Go here for more local history, old pictures and nostalgia from the Chronicle archives
Thought to be the only enslaved woman who managed to escape to Britain by stowing away on a ship, her remarkable story has been rediscovered in the North East in recent years.
Born in Virginia in 1802, Mary Ann was 'sold' at the age of 12, with the price put on her life and freedom set at $450.
According to 'African Lives in Northern England', edited by Beverly Prevatt Goldstein, she "carefully planned" an escape, aided by an enslaved friend who worked for the local harbour master.
After months living in hiding, she stowed away on a boat bound for Europe, spending a gruelling four-month boat trip hidden on board.
The ship docked in Holland, where she boarded another vessel to Hull. She arrived in North Shields in December 1831, reportedly on Christmas Day.
Met by members of the Spence family, who were Quakers and active in the anti-slavery movement, she was baptised in the North Shields Baptist Church and began her life as an ordinary citizen of North Shields.
Records show her living with a number of local families before, in 1841, she married James Blyth, a local rope maker, and census returns from 1851-71 show them living in Howard Street. James Blyth died in 1877 and was buried at the townâ€™s Preston Cemetery.
The 1891 census records her living in Clara Street in Benwell, Newcastle. By the end of her life she was recorded as a "retired servant, living on her own means". She died in 1893 aged 91, and was buried alongside her late husband.
Mary Ann's story was brought to many in the North Tyneside town through Breaking Chains, an exhibition held at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre in 2019 which explored the North East's links to slavery and abolition.
Following the exhibition, around Â£800 was donated by locals to raise a headstone for her at the Preston Cemetery plot where she was buried.
Ahead of the ceremony to install the stone, in February 2020, Old Low Light volunteer, Nina Brown said: â€œDuring our research we realised that while Mary Ann was buried with her husband, James Blyth, there was no wording on his headstone about her.
"We felt that someone who had shown such bravery in escaping a life of servitude and who had become part of the townâ€™s history should have a lasting tribute so we set about fundraising to pay for a memorial stone.
â€œWe thought it was appropriate that pupils from John Spence Community High School, named after a leading Quaker whose family befriended Mary Ann, should unveil the stone.â€
For the latest local news in your area direct to your inbox every day, go here to sign up to our free newsletter