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For St Patrick’s Day

Coming all the way from Manchuria in 1935 is Marion Young’s Irish spirit of adventure and fun, and of course a good story!


Letters from Manchuria

The story of Marion Young, Missionary in Japanese-occupied China

edited by Neil T. Sinclair


Marion’s writing is lyrical without ever being pretentious and her sense of humour shines through, as does her delight when she was able to use a little Irish blarney, sometimes to get out of extremely risky situations.


Her story is full of suspense as well. The period of Japanese occupation was precarious for everyone and then with the start of the Second World War the dangers for Westerners living in China escalated tenfold.

This hardback book is a fascinating read and worth taking a look at. Want to know more? Click on Letters from Manchuria

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Today, 12th March 2018, is COMMONWEALTH DAY, a day to celebrate the ties of friendship and practical cooperation between the Commonwealth of Nations.

The theme of this year’s Commonwealth Day is ‘Towards a Common Future’ and the day of celebration will be followed by meetings between the heads of the 53 nations in the Commonwealth when they gather ‘to respond to global challenges, and deliver a more prosperous, secure, sustainable and fair future for all of our citizens, particularly our young people’.

The vision and commitment of these nations to work together goes back long before the forming of the Commonwealth, and it got me to thinking about the Holdsworth Mission Hospital in Mysore, South India, a hospital brought about more than a century ago by cooperation between people of the United Kingdom and India.



Through the work of missionaries from the Methodist Missionary Society, notably Mary Holdsworth and the Rev George Sawday, and a gift of land by the Maharaja of Mysore, the Mary Calvert Holdsworth Memorial Hospital came into being in 1906 to serve the needs of women and children in Mysore city.


It was a time when cholera, typhoid and plague were endemic, and there was nowhere for women and children to go for help. Holdsworth Hospital, also named ‘Karuna Shala’ (Home of Compassion), offered medical care to people of all creeds and castes, whatever their means.


The hospital grew in its work and established a nurses’ training school. In the late-1940s when the Church of South India was formed, Holdsworth Hospital, among other Methodist institutions, was handed over to the CSI, with the Methodist Missionary Society continuing to fund a number of doctors, nurses, pathologists and pharmacy staff during a time of transition of management into the hands of the Church of South India.


One of the Methodist missionary doctors was my father, Frank Ivor Tovey OBE FRCS, who arrived as a young surgeon in 1951. His first role was to open a men’s department, this being a requirement for nurse training to continue. He worked at Holdsworth Hospital for 16 years, during which time the hospital developed its work and became an Indian run institution.


My mother, Winifred Tovey, also supported the work of the hospital, working voluntarily, as was the case with many missionaries’ wives. She raised funds for special equipment and projects, obtaining grants and setting up leprosy clinics and the rehabilitation of leprosy patients, which resulted in a very low incidence of leprosy in the surrounding area.


Cor Blimey! Where 'ave you come from?Years later, when she was in her 90s, Winnie wrote her book, Cor Blimey! Where ‘ave you come from? in which she describes the story of Holdsworth Hospital and the interesting times she experienced in Mysore through the 1950s and ‘60s.


Today the Holdsworth Hospital continues as the Home of Compassion, its dedicated staff still delivering the highest standard of care, although facing the same challenges of old buildings and a chronic lack of funds.


Listen to Winnie and Frank Tovey talking to Libby Purves on BBC Radio 4’s  ‘Midweek’ programme, 28th December 2011.

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Palembang and  Beyond


Mike Roussel brings together here a fascinating record of the British Pacific Fleet during the Second World War, in particular the closing years of conflict with Japan and the cruel fate meted out on the ‘Palembang Nine’ after surrender on VJ Day.



is 14th April 2018

Please RSVP – see details at end of post


Rt. Hon Julian Lewis MP writes in the book’s foreword:

‘Mike Roussel recounts many of the operations mounted, in most hazardous circumstances, against Japanese-occupied territory – particularly Operation MERIDIAN, the decisive raids on the Palembang oil refineries, in Sumatra, in early 1945. In doing so, he draws upon the personal testimony of three Fleet Air Arm veterans, all of whom served in 849 Squadron.’

Mike Roussel spent many hours interviewing and recording

the stories of Fleet Air Arm Squadron 849 veterans:

Dr Arthur Page, Avenger pilot,

Norman ‘Dickie’ Richardson, TAG (Telegraphist Air Gunner),

and John ‘Buster’ Brown, also an Avenger pilot.

Dr Arthur Page, Avenger pilot, 849 Squadron.

Norman ‘Dickie’ Richardson, TAG , 849 Squadron.

John ‘Buster’ Brown, Avenger pilot, 849 Squadron.

Their recollections show the intensity of months and years of training and relentless military action, the close bond built between air crews and supporting naval personnel, and the great losses that they suffered.

.. …….They were young men then, it was an experience they felt lucky to survive, and one which shaped them for the rest of their lives. ‘Dickie’ described his reaction when the war was over, ‘I was on HMS Victorious off the coast of Japan. My friend, Paddy Ruttle, and I cried on each other’s shoulders, ‘What are we going to do now that the war has ended?’ I was only 22 years old.

………They made the transition to ‘civvy’ life, and so did many others who served with the Pacific Fleet, notably Ralph Richardson and Laurence Olivier, who because of their ability to crash aeroplanes were known to their fellow airmen as ‘Pranger Richardson’ and ‘Super Pranger’; and most notably, the First Lieutenant on HMS Whelp, HRH Prince Philip, who years later on meeting Norman Richardson remembered ‘fishing him out of the drink’.

………This book is a tribute to them all, survivors of the war and those who lost their lives in the Pacific region, in particular the Palembang Nine, who were shot down during an air attack on the oil refineries at Palembang and captured by the Japanese, to be illegally executed by their captors after the declaration of victory over Japan.

………ln the heartfelt message of Jack Edwards, a British World War II soldier and POW:  ‘None of us should forget them.’


You are invited to the
by Mike Roussel
on Saturday 14th April 2018
at the Museum of Army Flying
Middle Wallop, Stockbridge, SO20 8DY
The book launch will be held in the Blackburn Beverley room starting at 2pm

You are welcome to arrive at the Museum early. When you arrive please let reception know you are guests for the book launch so that you can go into the museum to look around (free entry for all guests) and eat at the café if you wish.
Tea, coffee and biscuits will be served at the book launch.

RSVP please to Jenny@LittleKnollPress.co.uk
or ring or text to: 07768 630 393.

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Owl at Midnight

a story of Gwenllian, the lost Princess of Wales
by Patricia Lennan


Thursday, 16th November 2017, on the promenade at Llandudno, North Wales, and the first time that author, Patricia Lennan, holds in her hand a copy of her historical novel,

Owl at Midnight a story of Gwenllian, the lost Princess of Wales.


It was a big day … the culmination of six years of writing and research of the 13th century events that shaped the life of the last native Princess of Wales.




It was a long awaited day for members of The Princess Gwenllian Society.



Patricia spent time talking with all the guests and gave a short speech in which she explained how she had come to write Owl at Midnight.


Her inspiration was a visit to the birthplace of Gwenllian, at Abergwyngregyn, near to Llandudno.

Gwenllian’s birthplace, Abergwyngregyn.

“I was shown the room where it is thought Eleanor de Montfort gave birth to Gwenllian, the tunnel which led to the sea and other tunnels which once led to the mountains above.
It was here where my story was born.”


Owl at Midnight tells Gwenllian’s known story; the last native Princess of Wales, she was taken as a baby by King Edward’s men and shut away in an English nunnery at his command.
There she grew up and took her vows, never knowing her real identity.


Patricia brings to life a young woman pushing at the boundaries and questioning the rules that confine her.
But she doesn’t leave her there. Outside the Priory, hopes rise to restore the rightful Princess to the Principality of Wales … and here possibilities open up that could have changed the course of history.

Owl at Midnight

a story of Gwenllian, the lost Princess of Wales
ISBN: 978-0-9935078-3-0

Paperback book, 364 pages, with map, Welsh royal family tree, plus pen illustrations heading each chapter.

To buy Owl at Midnight:

Purchase from Waterstones Llandudno

Or order from www.littleknollbookshop.co.uk
Book price – £9.99
P&p UK mainland – £2.80

The website will calculate p&p for other countries
If your country is not on the website for delivery then please email Jenny@LittleKnollPress.co.uk 

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A kind friend has translated the book launch invitation into Welsh – see below –

Owl at Midnight

– hanes Gwenllian Tywysoges goll Cymru


Patricia Lennan

ISBN: 978-0-9935078-3-0


Ganwyd Gwenllian ferch Llywelyn, merch Tywysog olaf Cymru, ym 1282, adeg gythryblus pan oedd brenin Lloegr, y Brenin Edward, yn benderfynol ei fod yn mynd i gipio Cymru iddo ef ei hun. Ar ôl i Edward ladd tad Gwenllian, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, a’i hewythr, Dafydd, a charcharu eu chefndryd, mae’n rhaid ei fod wedi teimlo peth trueni tuag at y baban Gwenllian oherwydd iddo orchymyn ei bod yn cael ei chuddio mewn lleiandy, ei henw’n cael ei newid, a’i bod yn treulio ei bywyd yn anhysbys.

Gan gymryd yr ychydig ffeithiau hyn y gwyddom amdanynt mae Patricia Lennan wedi dod â’r Gwenllian ifanc yn fyw mewn hanes sy’n ymhelaethu ar fanylion gweddïau, gwasanaeth ac ymprydio mewn lleiandy Gilbertaidd, i’r nifer mawr o ddigwyddiadau allan o’r cyffredin ym Mhrydain y 13eg ganrif.


Yng ngeiriau Patricia ei hun: ‘Mae gan Gymru’r enw o fod yn wlad o fythau a chwedlau. Mae’n llochesu hud a lledrith yn y pantiau a’r bryniau, mewn mannau cyfrinachol; mae adlais hen chwedlau yn yr afonydd a’r dyffrynnoedd. Rwy’n eich gwahodd i gamu i mewn i’r hanes byw a rhannu antur.’


Waterstones, Llandudno

Dydd Iau 16eg Tachwedd 2017 – 5 – 6.30pm

Cofiwch ddod!


Fe’ch croesewir i lansiad y llyfr. Dewch i gwrdd â’r awdur a chael eich copi eich hun o’r llyfr wedi’i lofnodi.
Lluniaeth ysgafn
Gwerthfawrogir RSVP os yn bosibl i roi syniad i ni am niferoedd.

CYSWLLT: Jenny Knowles, Gwasg Little Knoll Press
ffôn: 023 8084 2190

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Owl at Midnight

– a story of Gwenllian 

the lost Princess of Wales



Patricia Lennan

ISBN: 978-0-9935078-3-0



Waterstones, Llandudno

Thursday November 16th 2017

5 – 6.30pm




gwenllianThe story of the story

When some years ago Patricia visited her uncle’s house at Abergwyngregyn and discovered that this was where the last native Princess of Wales was born, she was intrigued!



Shortly after Gwenllian was born, her father, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, and her uncle, Dafydd, were cruelly killed by King Edward’s men, and her boy cousins, Llywelyn and Owain were incarcerated in prison for their remaining days.


But the Norman king was determined be rid of any heir to the Welsh Principality, even a baby girl was a threat, and so he hunted down the infant Gwenllian and hid her away in a convent at Sempringham, Lincolnshire.


It is recorded that Gwenllian’s keep was paid for by the King, but she was renamed when entering the convent and it is likely that she never knew who she really was.


The book

These are the bare bones of Gwenllian’s story from which Patricia has brought to life a young woman schooled in the ways of a 13th century Gilbertine Abbey but pushing at the boundaries and questioning the rules that confine her.


Outside the convent tumultuous events are taking place and hopes rise to restore the Principality of Wales …  Of course, you’ll need to read the story to find out what happens!

If you like historical fiction you will love this book. It is well researched, with wonderful detail that captures the daily life of people during the iron rule of Edward Longshanks, King of England and ruler of a reluctant Wales.


In Patricia’s words

‘Wales has a reputation for being a land of myths and legends. She harbours magic in the hollows and hills, in secret places, the rivers and valleys echo with ancient tales. I invite you to step into the living history and share an adventure.’


Coming to the book launch?
Please let Jenny know if you can so we have an idea of numbers – Mail@LittleKnollPress.co.uk
Would like to pre-order a copy of the book?
A link will be put here in the next couple of days. 

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Neil in eminent company at the Royal Asiatic Society, London

Neil T. Sinclair

author of the book

Letters from Manchuria

gave a fascinating talk to the

Hong Kong group

Royal Asiatic Society

August 5th 2017

Neil points to an example of his mother-in-law, Marion Young’s letters from Manchuria

Neil and his wife, Helen, first selected and transcribed sections of the letters written by Helen’s mother, Marion Young, over the six years from 1935 – 1941 that she spent in the north east Chinese province of Manchuria.


They then chose photos from the albums she had brought back from China to illustrate her story.

Helen and Neil transcribing Marion’s letters

So why would a young Irish woman want to go there, so far away from family and the place she knew?

Neil quoted a passage from the unpublished memoir of Margaret Griffiths, a school friend of Marion’s, explaining how even before she was ten years old she knew what she wanted to do.


… None of us had such clear ambitions. We were going to be film stars, actresses, spies, poets, university professors, dancers, doctors, duchesses, nurses decorated for gallantry in war, everything by starts and nothing long. Marion was going to be a missionary. It was not a day-dream, but an intention; she had no need for day-dreams.’

Margaret Griffiths is on the left and Marion is standing second from right

Marion with schoolgirls in Faku


Marion & Wang Suu Wen with baggage bearer

Helen with schoolgirls in Faku

Margaret also wrote of her good nature –


… It was the good and simple spirit in her which made her so dear a friend to all who knew her. In her company, life seemed to be a straightforward matter, with the orderly gladness of a Bach chorale. She passed securely through chaos with serenity of heart. Fortified as she was by this serenity, it was fitting that she should become an adventurer.


And an adventurer she did become, her good humour and very Irish sense of fun shining through her letters from Faku, although when she had the opportunity to avoid the censors by sending letters with colleagues who were travelling home for furlough she gave a fuller picture of the cruel oppression of the Chinese by the Japanese regime.


In 1941 the regime brought Marion and thousands of others greater grief … but that is for you to read in the book, as is her joy when her worst fears were not realised.


Helen’s brother, Harry, spots himself – much younger, at Berkeley Castle, armed with sword for boys’ adventures!

Helen, Mr Sung, Harry and Joy 1956

Harry and nephew, Tom. Can you see they’re related?

You can buy Letters from Manchuria from www.LittleKnollBookshop.co.uk and from your local bookshop by request.

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An inspiring visit

to the


Art Gallery & Museum


Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth

Alan Langford contemplates ‘The Gypsy Drovers’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch

It is a rare treat to visit the work that has inspired a painter, in the company of that painter.

Alan Langford, equestrian artist and highly skilled graphic artist, invited a group of friends and fellow artists to visit the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery with him to see the large oil, ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch, painted in 1894 when Lucy was a student under Herbert Von Herkomer RA.

In his book WELGORA Alan wrote about the day when Lucy was inspired to do this painting:

‘The idea for this painting occurred to her when she saw the approach of a number of heavy-hoofed cobs, driven by tough-looking Romani riders along a muddy country lane, under a grey wintry sky.

Rushing from her lodgings with palette and brushes in hand, and the lid of her paint box to serve as a paint board, she executed a swift and skilful composition as this irregular, rampant procession proceeded before her.’

Lucy Kemp-Welch sketching The Gypsy Drovers on her paint box lid – Illustration by Alan Langford in the book ‘WELGORA’

One of the group inspecting the small head of a horse by Lucy Kemp-Welch. (On the other side of this picture is mounted Lucy’s paint box lid with the sketch for ‘The Gypsy Drovers’)

The curator of the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery, Duncan Walker, showed us the actual sketch on the paint box lid.
This stunning little oil sketch is a very special art work in itself, showing movement and detail in a few quick strokes of the brush, with the texture of the rough wood adding a further dimension.
The painted paint box lid is on the back of the picture of a horse’s head shown in this photo, also by Lucy Kemp-Welch.
I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of the box lid, but … what better excuse to go to the art gallery and see it for yourself?

Lucy went on to paint ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers‘ on an 8 foot long canvas – an enormous project for a diminutive young woman (she was in her early twenties) and in that Victorian time.

Alan explains in his book WELGORA how with trepidation Lucy presented the unfinished painting to be viewed by Herkomer, a man not averse to putting a huge black cross of paint across a student’s work if it was not to his approval!

But as Alan writes:

‘Herkomer was so impressed by ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’ that he recommended that Lucy submit it for the next Royal Academy Exhibition.

This she did, and it was hung in a good position just above the line and was quickly purchased by Sir Frederic Harris for £60.00.

At that time £60.00 represented a significant sum; Lucy would have been overjoyed.’

Part of the scene depicted in ‘The Gypsy Drovers’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch

Barry Miles and Peter Frost discuss ‘Gypsy Horses’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch

This was just the beginning of Lucy’s career, which included illustrating the children’s book, Black Beauty.


Her large oil ‘Gypsy Horses’, also in the Russell-Cotes Gallery, is shown in this photo being admired by Barry Miles, author and watercolour artist, and Peter Frost, painter, professional printer and retired New Forest Verderer.
There is something different to see at every turn in the Russell-Cotes Gallery – paintings, marble busts, Japanese incense burners, memorabilia, painted ceilings, stained glass, mosaic work and bronzes, all collected by the Russell-Cotes over the years from 1880 to 1901.
They travelled back from Japan with over 100 packing cases full of art and collectables!
The museum and gallery building, East Cliff Hall, was gloriously designed to the directions of Merton Russell-Cotes, as a gift to his wife. Its late Victorian style mixes Moorish, Japanese and French influences, making for exotic and indulgent surroundings.
It’s easy to find a piece to sit in front of and savour, and it’s also easy to miss a dozen others, but this makes it worth visiting again and again.
Apart from the paintings, which have been added to since 1902, the artwork that particularly took my eye on this visit was a glazed Parian ware figure of a boy, dressed in lederhosen and Tyrolean hat.
I used to make ceramic models of people and the largest I made was quite a challenge at about 12 inches tall.
This nearly life size figure was used for advertising in a dairy shop in Austria.
How did the artist make such a perfectly detailed piece of such size and how was it transported from pottery to shop, and then from country to country to arrive at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery?

Near life size boy in Parian ware

A part of the painting ‘The Little Beggar’ by Laura Knight

I was also intrigued by the story of Laura Knight, who in the early 1930s used to drive out to gypsy encampments and set up her ‘studio’ in the back of her Rolls-Royce.
Here you can see only a part of her large canvas ‘The Little Beggar’.
Laura Knight’s most notable paintings is ‘The Nuremberg Trial‘. This thought-provoking painting is at The Imperial War Museum, London.
This only touches on the artwork at the gallery and museum.
I aim to go again.
Next time you’re in Bournemouth why not drag yourself away from the beach and walk up East Cliff to the art gallery and museum. It will be well worth it!

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Get Creative

Workshops in Hythe Library

a Waterside Arts Festival event

On Saturday 15th July

you can get creative at Hythe Library with local artists and authors

Alan Langford    Gervase Gregory

Anthony Ridgway and Suzan Houching

There will be two workshops for all ages

they will be fun and they are FREE!




Alan painting at Eyeworth Pond

The first workshop

will run from 10 – 11 am

with Alan Langford

author and illustrator of




Gervase at Waterstones, Lymington






Gervase Gregory

author and illustrator of

A Lifetime in Postcards



Postcard of Prospect Place, Hythe, from original watercolour by Gervase Gregory

Alan and Gervase will share their skills in drawing and painting, as well as their wonderful stories of local places and people.







Sketch of the artist painting in the New Forest, pencil and wash by Alan Langford

Come along with your questions and your stories, pick up tips and to try out your own drawing, painting and writing. 








Anthony and Suzan discussing the illustrations for ‘Wizzy the Animal Whisperer’

The second workshop

will be from 11.15 – 12.30pm

with Anthony Ridgway

author of

Wizzy the Animal Whisperer


Suzan Houching

the author and illustrator of

My Story in Colour

and the illustrator of Anthony’s Wizzy book.


Anthony, who has cerebral palsy, writes using a special computer programme, a bit like Prof. Stephen Hawking.

At the workshop he will explain this in a short video



Dan and Wizzy meet Nellie the horse, an illustration from ‘Wizzy the Animal Whisperer’

Anthony’s funny and colourful story is brought to life perfectly with Suzan’s illustrations – a collaboration predicted to run and run!



‘Red and White’, a watercolour illustration from Suzan’s book ‘My Story in Colour’





Suzan has a gift for finding the humour in everyday life and this can be seen in her delightful book My Story in Colour


Come along and be inspired.
You can just walk in on the day
or let the library staff or the organiser Jenny@LittleKnollPress.co.uk know beforehand and be sure of a workshop place.

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‘How I Write’

by Anthony Ridgway

Anthony Ridgway has made this short video to show how he wrote his children’s book Wizzy the Animal Whisperer.


Anthony, who has cerebral palsy and is partially sighted, writes using Dolphin Guide, a computer programme that enables him to find the keys on a large keyboard with the computer speaking out each letter, number and space as he presses the relevant key.
     It is a similar way of writing to that used by Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge, but Stephen uses a combination of head, eye, and cheek movements to operate the computer, as well as predicted text which speeds up his writing.
     Using Dolphin Guide on his PC, Anthony writes for an hour or two each day. It is a laborious process … as Anthony says, Because I only write with one finger, it takes me about a year to write a book.


“Wizzy, the Animal Whisperer made me laugh out loud.” David Suchet


“. . . funny, imaginative and extremely visual, and the wonderful illustrations by the talented Suzan Houching bring this great story to life even more.” Ros Holness


To buy the book Wizzy the Animal Whisperer

written by Anthony Ridgway

and illustrated by

Suzan Houching

go to LittleKnollBookshop  


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