Newman’s Farm, Kyrenia
Memories of Evelyn Newman – Part 3
By Margaret Sheard
We are pleased to continue the intriguing story of the Newman family in Cyprus and hope you enjoy Part 3 which is as follows. As in Parts 1 & 2, notations by members of the later Newman family are highlighted in blue. If you missed Part 1 click here and Part 2, click here.
EVELYN’S MEMOIRS – Part 3
Written by Evelyn Newman in 1962
The years that followed were very happy ones. Charlie was given a little brown donkey, which we named Jenny. My elder sister (Stella Leech-Porter) came from Canada to spend one winter with us. She would pack a picnic lunch, and with the two small boys perched alongside they spent long days in one or other of the lovely spots not far from the farm. Jenny stayed with us for several years, and then gave way to small bicycles for the boys as they grew bigger.
On these bicycles they rode to Kyrenia and to ‘Latomia’ Mr Caroe’s home, to play with his granddaughter, Hanna. She was a jolly little girl who used to ride her donkey backwards when she came to us, holding on to its tail and goading it with a cane into a reluctant trot. (By chance I discovered ‘Latomia’ when I visited Kyrenia in March 2002. it is now the Museum of Fine Art. The fine art is not so great, but the house is superb – beautiful stone doorways and fireplaces in every room, wide verandas facing the mountains and the sea – surely the best location on the island.- if you can ignore the military base right beside it! TN)
All too soon school days came and the boys attended the Frobel school opened in Kyrenia by the Misses Millens and Miss Chatterton (Chatty). Charlie started first, and used to go by the mail car which passed our gate early in the morning. This was a rather uncomfortable experience for him as there was a certain fat old man sometimes aboard. We called him the sickle man for he carried a great curved sickle with him, which he used to swirl in big circles around his head and around the heads of those who sat near him. It was really quite unnerving for a small boy.
We were very busy. Corney and Everydika had more calves. ‘Bird in the Hand’ and ‘Bird in the Bush’ gave way to more and better hens. Mrs Bowrig gave us her White Leghorns when they left Cyprus, although we finally settled on Rhode Island Reds.
We built a stillroom. We made jam and canned our own fruit, and pickled our walnuts. (I remember being told that the jam was shipped to London and sold through the Army and Navy Stores catalogue – TN) Once we planned a big canning of the pink flushed Khaisha –a whiteish peach of delicious flavour. A day or two before the fruit was ready, Philip had to go into hospital to have a piece of shrapnel removed from his knee. This was a setback to our plans, but was overcome by the offer of help from two Army officers on leave from Egypt. We had been worried by fairly frequent thefts of fruit, so to make sure we did not lose the Khaisha crop I asked the local policeman to keep an eye on it overnight. Alas, the next day there was not a single fruit to be seen, and the army officers’ help was not required.
The fruit stealing had an unfortunate sequel. We placed a trip gun from the windmill mound right down across the orchard. One day the local plumber came to do a repair to the mill. He brought the usual young apprentice with him to assist. We forgot to release the wire, so poor little Yalebo received a bullet right through his thigh when he investigated the gun run instead of doing his job. Yalebo had a bad time with his leg, but bore us no grudge, and in later years would answer any call, day or night, when we needed his services.
It was during these early years that I saw what, according to the B.E. Encyclopedia Britannica?) is a quite rare experience. I saw a snake dance, or rather, two snakes dancing. It happened this way. On our north coast a small breeze usually springs up about nine in the morning, and we made sure the wind wheel was turned on. One day about noon, I noticed that we had forgotten to turn it on, so I went down the garden to do so. It was very hot. I went slowly. As I passed the water tank and approached the five steps leading up to the windmill I suddenly saw on the top step two big black snakes engaged in the most fantastic dance. They curved upward and outwards, downward and inwards, in the most perfect rhythm. I stood fascinated. I have always feared and dreaded snakes – I even avoid looking at pictures of them – but this performance had me enthralled. Suddenly my white pinafore fluttered in the breeze, just a very little, but enough for the snakes to notice. They disappeared in a flash into the bush by the side of the steps. They must have come down to drink where there was a little leak from the tank, and meeting there, were performing a mating dance.
This was not my only encounter with snakes. They were plentiful around the area of the farm. One day I went to feed some chickens in a little wired-in enclosure at the back of the stillroom. There, on the ground inside was a great fat Konfi – the poisonous snake of grey-brown colour and white spots. His head was coming out through one of the circles of the wire netting, but it seemed too large in the body to get through, and yet it must have got in somehow. The snake saw me, opened its mouth and disgorged a little damp dead chick. Then quick as darn it, it bolted through the wire before I had time to seize anything with which to strike it dead. It may be on account of the number of snakes around that the small island lying just behind the farm is called Snake Island.
Our farm grew and flourished. We made a paddock for the cows between the flower garden and the road, and surrounded it with barbed wire held every few yards by posts of Eucalyptus wood. But the posts were not very strong, and after a year or two we replaced them by some made of cement. Neither was the barbed wire suitable. Quite often one or other of the cows would tear themselves quite badly. The Agricultural Department suggested an electric fence for they were using these at the Stock Farm at Athalassi. We accordingly bought one and felt our troubles were solved. But to the contrary, it simply did not keep the cows in the paddock at all. In the spring and summer when the fields around were green with barley and maize, the cows resisted the slight shock they got by squeezing under the wire, and made for the fields. The long spells of dry weather did not help in keeping the electric current strong enough. Fortunately for us the railway line from Famagusta to Nicosia was later discarded and the sleepers were offered for sale. They made ideal fence posts and at last our problem was solved.
In 1937 we sent John to school in England, and the following year Charlie and I went to spend the summer holidays with him, to see his school and to give Charlie his first trip to England. But alas, we had been there barely two weeks when suddenly war seemed very near. Rather than be caught by it so far from home, we hurried back across Europe. Our ship from Trieste was crowded with Jews fleeing to Palestine, and I suppose I was not really surprised to find ourselves ordered below to eat a kosher meal. I managed to persuade the purser and steward that, in spite of our name, we were not Jewish. When we arrived at Limassol, we were met by the news of Chamberlain’s ‘No war in our time…’ It was a pity we had hurried back so quickly.
The next year Philip went to England and brought John back with him for his summer holidays. This time war really did come, and caught him and other small boys at home, far away from their schools. Parents consulted together and finally a party of about 24 boys was made up to travel to Port Said and then by French ship to Marseilles. The late Faez Bey, whose two sons Sevad and Suhas were included, arranged the details. The first part of their journey went according to plan, but there was no train leaving for Paris until long after the children arrived in Marseilles, and they were finally put on one carrying ( ??? ) to the Western Front. Their long journey ended when they arrived at Victoria Station during an air raid.
Wartime brought many troops to Cyprus. The Germans were moving quickly south to Greece and Cyprus was in their line of attack. It was decided to recruit a number of Cypriots, both Turk and Greek, who trained and went to serve in Greece. Unfortunately a very large number were taken prisoner soon after they landed. In Cyprus itself, a Volunteer Force was created which would help defend the homeland. British Officers, Cypriots who possessed useful qualifications, and volunteers from among the English population, trained this Force. I can see them now marching across fields and ravines, old and young, carrying sticks for arms until such time as the real thing would become available. Philip was one of the first to offer his services, and after a short time with the Kyrenia Platoon was transferred to HQ in Nicosia. Cars were commandeered or laid up because of the petrol shortage, so most weekends Philip rode over the mountains on his bicycle to spend a few hours at home.
Charlie and I carried on at the farm. The Germans had by now overrun Greece and were attacking the Greek Islands. Kos was in danger of falling to them. The war was moving very near to Cyprus. In Kyrenia, at the Dome Hotel, there were a number of Polish families. The men had held high positions in their own country and had escaped to be collected by the Allies, organised into groups and sent to safe locations – ministers, politicians and others who would be in grave danger if captured by the Germans. They no longer felt safe in Cyprus, and petitioned successfully to be removed to a more secure place. As I recall, they went to Tangynika.
In July 1941 the British living in Cyprus were told that they, too, should leave. One day orders were issued that all should report at Famagusta within 48 hours with not more than two suitcases apiece, to be transported to South Africa. I was horrified. How could we leave? Philip was away for the duration. Charlie and I had the cows, the pigs, and the poultry on our hands. How could we leave them all to their fate? Charlie was then 17. He and I must stay. We went to the Commissioner, kindly Mr Dawe. We told him our position. Could he, would he, explain our problem to those who had issued the orders? Surely they would understand? We waited feverishly, and the very next day a document was brought to us to sign. It stated that we were to be allowed to remain at our own risk, and should the island become invaded we were on no account to run into Nicosia to reach safety. We were to stay put on the farm, which, of course, was exactly what we wanted! The document had a great red seal. I kept it for many years, and cannot think what became of it.
The line of defence was to be the Kyrenia Mountain Range: the north coast was not to be defended. Many troops began to arrive in the island. Those stationed in our mountains were from India – Sikhs and Gurkhas. Lefteri’s field on the right of our land was commandeered and Wilde’s Rifles took it over for their camp. We used to watch them cooking their chapattis on the little field kitchens; we put our tank of water at their disposal and many garments decorated the trees around, drying out under the hot summer sky. The thing that struck me most was their utter noiselessness. Had we not known they were there, we would never have found them. The Sikhs were in the mountains, but somehow got to know they could get little pots of cream at our farm. I loved seeing the tall bearded men in their turbans, eagerly drinking the cream in the shade of the olive trees.
With the departure of the majority of the British for South Africa, we had lost a good number of our milk round customers, and had an excess of milk left on our hands. We had to do something with it, so we collected many bottles of all kinds, and, filling them with milk, took them to the gate and stopped the lorries of soldiers passing on their way to bathe. They liked it, and it helped us get through the milk. There were other people, too, who were pleased to be given a drink of cool fresh milk. Part of the Dome Hotel was taken over by the American Red Cross as a rest station for personnel from the Western Desert. Among them were many nursing sisters in their attractive brown uniforms. We made many friends among them, and called our calves after them!
One day, a rather elderly American soldier strolled in. ‘Say Mam, I see you have cows; may I have a drink of milk?’ ‘Of course you may,’ I replied, and gave him a large glassful. He seemed to enjoy it tremendously, then turned to me and asked, ‘How much, Mam?’ ‘Nothing,’ I said, ‘I don’t want you to pay for anything.’
He looked at me and said ‘Ain’t this a business, then?’ I answered sadly, ‘It used to be, but a lot of our customers have gone, so the milk just stays here.’ He thought for a moment and then – ‘Well, I guess that is real silly Mam. All you gotta do is put a table outside under the trees with a few chairs, and charge something. You know, just to cover expenses, anyhow.’ It certainly seemed a good idea so I went to find Charlie and told him what the American had said. We became quite excited with the idea, and fixed up a table and four chairs right away, there under the pergola, with the beautiful bougainvillea for a roof, and blue plumbago and scarlet canna lilies for the walls. Then we quickly painted a small notice on a square of wood and nailed it up by the gate. Later a much larger one replaced it: ‘Newmans Farm and Milk Bar’.
We were nearly back at the house when I turned to see how our little notice looked from a distance, and saw, striding through the olive trees across the land, a tall Brass Hat. He stopped, looked at the notice, and walked briskly up the path. Our very first customer! I remember staying out there chatting, whilst he drank his milk. When he had gone, Charlie said rather coolly, ‘I thought this was supposed to be a milk bar, not a place for entertainment.’ I have talked to many hundreds, no, thousands, of our customers since that day nearly 20 years ago – I hope they have not minded.
Every day more and more people began to come. At first we just served glasses of milk, until one day there came a number of men from No 32 Squadron. One said to me ‘It would be nice if we could have a bun with our milk. Could we?’ So next day I made a batch of rock cakes, and I think I have made some nearly every day since.
As time went on we added many other items to our menu. Milkshakes became very popular; perhaps iced coffee with a pile of whipped cream on top even more so. There were banana splits and sundaes with much ice cream, sandwiches, pots of tea or coffee, plates of hot buttered toast, boiled eggs, and bread and butter. I think though, on the whole, it was a pint of ice cold milk that was the favourite with most people.
To be continued….. follow cyprusscene.com to see Part 4 of this beautiful story. Part 5 will also be following.
To see the previous articles written about Newman’s Farm and the Chinese House, these are listed below:-
Newman’s Farm, Kyrenia, North Cyprus (August 2012) click here
Newman’s Farm, Kyrenia (September 2012) click here
North Cyprus – In Town Tonight – Lara Newman (January 2014) click here
North Cyprus – Newman’s Farm, Kyrenia (Revised Edition) (February 2014) click here