In Town Tonight – Lara Newman
By Margaret Sheard
For some years I have been doing some research about Newman’s Farm which was built in 1922 on 9 donums of land bought by Philip and Evelyn Newman when they decided to make a new life in Cyprus. The farm was situated on the Karaoğlanoğlu road and part of this is now The Chinese House Restaurant. In the past I have written articles about the farm and the restaurant and luckily last year I made contact with a member of the Newman family who lives in the UK and is the grand-daughter of the original owners of the farm.
Towards the end of last year we were aware that Lara Newman, the great grand-daughter of Philip and Evelyn, would be coming to Cyprus to trace her roots. Lara’s father was the grandson of Philip and Evelyn and he and his wife emigrated to Australia. Lara recently married Richard Sholl and they embarked on a 6 week honeymoon incorporating the UK, Italy, Turkey, Hong Kong and a very short visit to Cyprus. They actually only had one full day in North Cyprus before they set off on the next stage of their adventure.
We made arrangements to show them as much as we could in the time available and on the 16th January we collected the couple from the Bellapais Gardens Hotel for their nostalgic tour, based on the information we have been able to gather together over the past few years.
Firstly, we went to the Old British Cemetery where there are the graves of Lara’s grandmother (Joan) and her first child, who died at only one day old, and would have been Lara’s uncle. We think that Lara’s great grandfather is also buried in this cemetery, there is no record of this but the strange thing is that the baby who died is buried in a full size plot which has 2 headstones, one with his inscription and another much older plinth and a cross which bear no writing at all. Could the baby have been buried with his grandfather (Philip), maybe we will never know but it would be a very touching thing to have occurred. We have spoken to the Cemetery Committee and also Dorothy Betts who has written about the Old British Cemetery in her book “Shadows of Empire” and they have told us that some of the records have been lost or destroyed over the years so they cannot verify this point. It will probably always remain a mystery.
From the cemetery we headed for St Andrew’s Church in Girne where we had been told there was a commemorative plaque to Philip Newman who worshipped at the church from August 1922 until December 1947, Philip John Newman died on 27th December 1947. When we entered the church we unfortunately interrupted a meeting of some of the committee members but they were very kind in helping us to locate the plaque. I think Lara was becoming rather overwhelmed by what she had seen so far.
Then off to the Round Tower to show Lara and Richard the Ex-serviceman/Visitors book which is where we found our main Newman contact (Patricia) who had made an entry in the book many years ago. As the contact information was out of date it took quite a while to locate Patricia but eventually I did and so started correspondence which corrected a lot of the information I had previously gathered and so a different picture was suddenly emerging.
We decided to have some lunch and on the way Chris showed Lara and Richard some of the landmarks we had discovered of buildings which were owned by friends of Philip and Evelyn Newman. There was the building which was a Fine Arts Museum, this was a house called Latomia overlooking the sea and in its day must have been a beautiful building. Lara’s grandfather (Charlie) and his brother used to cycle there to play with the daughter of the family. There is also a very old building surrounded by modern apartment blocks which overlooks the recently refurbished Houston cemetery and we wonder if this might be what could have been the original Houston residence, it certainly doesn’t look the part but there are hints of some very old stonework and we are aware that the Houston family lived about a mile from Newman’s farm which would just about put it in the right place, or is it. This is something else to go on the research list.
While we were having a bite to eat at one of our favourite places, Cafe Boss, I telephoned Hűseyin Kanbur, the owner of the Chinese House Restaurant, to see if he could meet us in order for Lara and Richard to see the building and surroundings in daylight, and we arranged to meet at 3pm. At this point I would like to say how helpful Hűseyin has been from the very first time we talked to him about Newman’s Farm, loaning some very old pictures for us to scan and trying to help us to unravel the information we had.
So we arrived at the site of the original Newman’s Farm and Hűseyin followed shortly after to open up the building so Lara could see inside. We asked her how she felt entering her father’s former home and she said it felt very strange. I think she had very mixed emotions as of course the building is now very different to when it was originally built although it is still the original ground floor of the farmhouse although it has also been extended during the years. We looked at the garden at the front where there are one or two huge trees and they could well have been there when Philip and Evelyn first bought the land. At the rear of the restaurant there is now only a narrow piece of land and the original farmland which went down to the sea is now part of the nearby military base.
When Philip and Evelyn first bought the land they constructed a water garden at the rear, the main feature of which was a lily pond and we have been told that the pond is still there although unfortunately not accessible as it is now on the other side of the fence on the military land.
From there we went to Dizayn 74 Pottery where we met the owners, Hasan and Tomul. Hasan remembered Lara’s aunt – Patricia – visiting many years ago when he had told her what he could remember. Hasan was about 10 years old at the time he remembered Newman’s Farm and he could recall Charlie (Lara’s grandfather) who used to help with the cows and the milk bar and also remembered him delivering fresh milk around the neighbourhood. Hasan said that prior to the family leaving Cyprus in 1959, Charlie became very upset at the way they were suddenly being treated and of course there were dark days looming and so they returned to England, leaving their much loved life at Newman’s Farm.
In the evening we returned to the Chinese House. Hűseyin greeted us as his guests and we sat down in the very authentic atmosphere to enjoy a wonderful meal. Again I think Lara was feeling the strangeness of the situation that here she was having a meal in the house where her father had lived.
It is such a shame that we did not have more time with Lara and Richard as there was so much more we would have like to have showed them but I think they were very impressed with what they did see and will be able to carry these memories back to their home in Australia.
I would like to thank Hűseyin for his kindness and generosity in helping us to make this very short visit a memorable one.
I am in the process of re-writing the history of Newman’s Farm to correct the original versions which can be seen by clicking here and clicking here and the updated article will be published soon. Hopefully we will also be able to publish Evelyn Newman’s memoirs which she wrote in 1962 of her life in Cyprus with her husband Philip from the early to mid 20th century at a later date. This is a wonderful story and recaptures the way of life at that time.