By Margaret Archibald and Sermen Erdogan…….
After a relentless search by Sermen Erdogan of England and Scotland and after the article of “Childhood Memories in the Governors House 1950-1961 – RIP” was published on www.cyprusscene.com click here, Sermen Erdogan managed to make contact with Margaret of the Archibald family. This is the amazing story of how they met after 54 years when their families lost contact with each other from the 16th of August 1960 when they all left the Governor’s House (now the Presidential Palace).
Following their sad separation in Cyprus and their recent contact, Margaret and Sermen have put together their joint recollection of memories of Cyprus. This is the continuation of their story and you can read the first two messages between Margaret and Sermen which are shown below:
Hi Margaret, I am looking for the Archibald family who were in Cyprus between 1956-1960, we were neighbours with them. The children’s names were Margaret, Joyce, Robert and David. Do you belong to that family?? I live in Australia and am writing a book about childhood experiences and memories of Cyprus. This is the reason that I want to contact the Archibalds. I will appreciate it if you let me know. Kind Regards,
Hi Sermen. Yes I am the Margaret you are looking for and my sister was Joyce and Robert and David are my siblings. We were in Cyprus at the time you have listed. I have often wondered about the children who lived next door to us in Cyprus. I looked at photos recently taken by mum and dad who have both passed away, my sister Joyce passed away also. It has been so many years since we were there. It would be lovely to hear how you have all got on since we were all children. Look forward to hearing from you. I have only been on Facebook since last Thursday what a small world we live in. Best regards Margaret.
Sermen sent the link for Margaret to read the Childhood Memories article in cyprusscene.com After reading the article of Childhood memories of the Erdogan family in Cyprusscene, Margaret wrote to Sermen in the following message;
Hi Sermen. Just read the article and it made me cry to see the photos of my family and your mum and your dad with my mum. It brought back so many memories. My mum was called Nina and my dad was always called Archie, he also had the nickname of Sunnie as he was always smiling, his real name was Robert. I have a niece called Nina and a nephew called Sunnie. I also remember climbing trees and fell off once and had to have stitches in my back. Do you remember my dad buying a white car? it was his pride and joy he brought it back to England when we came back. I have so many things to recall of our time in Cyprus. So lovely to catch up with you at last. PS I do remember you telling me you loved me but I just told my sister at the time it was our secret as you were too young for me. Lovely memories. Regards, Margaret.
Following these initial messages exchanged via Facebook Sermen and Margaret wrote the following accounts of their childhood memories in Cyprus.
By Sermen Erdogan
I have very vivid memories playing with Margaret, Joyce and Robert. In fact I remember when there was a bit of conflict over a matchbox car with Robert when Margaret intervened, as she was older than us, and taught me my very first English word. She said just say “Please” to Robert and he will give you the car. It did work well and I never forgot my first word in English!
The Archibald’s father was a very handsome looking man, working all the time as the Chef in the Governors Palace. Margaret said “he was so handsome, when they were back in the UK at about 16 years of age all her old school friends thought he was my boyfriend until I put them straight. He stayed handsome just till the end when he was very ill. God rest his soul.”
I remember him smiling all the time and bringing goodies for us kids, both Archibald parents were very nice towards us. Archie was very keen on model aeroplane making and I remember scrounging around in the rubbish tip we used to deposit rubbish in at the bottom of the garden and finding bits and pieces of his handywork of the aeroplanes he had discarded and I tried to build my own.
I was very sick at one stage and had to have an appendectomy operation in the Nicosia General Hospital. My father was very sad and Sylvia Foot, noticing my father’s sadness, asked what was the matter with him. My father explained that his older son had an operation and was in hospital.
There was a big fuss in the hospital ward I was in when Sylvia ( Sir Hugh Foots wife) visited me armed with lollies for all the children, colouring books and an abacus for me to play with. I will never forget the Nurses fussed over me after that visitation. The chocolates that Sylvia had brought for me I could not eat, but I am sure my nurses enjoyed them. The Foots used to have a black French poodle that sometimes we would take for walks around the gardens which was rewarded by cakes or goodies by Sylvia.
Eren always remembers Nina Archibald as the lady next door who supplied Smarties and Cakes for the boys and girls. When he did not get any or finished his, he used to sneak David’s Smarties. The occasion that Robert remembers is when Eren fell in the garden pool, as he was always mischievous, when Robert gallantly saved him from drowning. As we could not swim we just looked on with my sister, not knowing what to do. Luckily Robert at that age could swim and saved him. The irrigation pool was in our playground as part of the gardens. It is amazing that our parents did not worry except on occasions to warn us about the pool. Lucky no one got hurt.
We also used to go down to the river a lot especially in winter to watch after heavy rains when it used to come down in a torrent and flood the bottom of the garden, it meandered around the gardens and then down to Nicosia. We used to collect tadpoles from the river with the Archibald children in the Spring and early summer and put them into the garden irrigation pool to grow so that we could watch their progress.
One day Margaret learned that it was my mother’s (Gulten) birthday and she quickly organised little birthday gifts for her. My mother became so happy as then we hardly ever celebrated birthdays. It was the first time someone gave her a gift for her birthday she said. One other incident I remember was when my mother (Gulten) cut her foot with a plate she dropped onto it. I ran to Nina and told her what happened. Nina came with bandages and patched my mum’s wound up. My mum missed Nina when they separated in 1960, never to be able to meet again.
Gulten now lives in Australia in Melbourne and is retired after working for a child care centre. She was very happy and excited that I was able to locate our long lost friends – the Archibalds. It brought back a lot of memories she said.
I remember the Foot’s boys when they came from England for summer holidays. My father constructed a cubby house for all the children in the palace gardens at the bottom of the hill and the younger of the Foot’s children used to join with the Archibald and Erdogan children sometimes to play. Father Erdogan was good at making hexagonal kites out of bamboo sticks and old newspapers and each summer there was kite flying for all the children. We also used to collect kites that broke their strings and landed in the gardens that were flown by the Greek neighbours in Strovolos. They could not claim their kites back unfortunately as they were not allowed into the palace grounds. Lucky for us we always had spare kites.
Our favourite game of all was hide and seek and we always played this game when we were all together with the Archibalds. Sometimes it took a long time to find the smart ones in the gardens. By far though it was the birthday times that we enjoyed most as special treats by Nina or my father were on offer.
Margaret use to be great on monkey bars. I used to be amazed how she could swing around and do all sorts of tricks.
We all used to play from time to time near a big water tank in the garden and I remember later after the Archibalds had left, standing on this tank and watching the row of cars that brought Yuri Gagarin to the Presidential palace to visit President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios. Yuri Gagarin was the first Russian Astronaut to go to space from Russia at the time. I remember him being a very young blonde chap and waving to onlookers lined along the road below from an open topped car.
By Margaret Archibald
Sir Hugh and Lady Foot took up residence in Government house in December 1957.
My Father was posted to Cyprus in 1957 to become the personal chef to the Foot family in residence at Government House, Cyprus.
We did not accompany my father at that time as we were based in a guest house in Blackpool, Lancashire, commandeered by the section of the armed forces that dealt with families waiting to join their fathers overseas.
We joined our father in early 1958, flying from an RAF base in the West of England to the RAF base (I think was in Akrotiri), we were then driven by army lorry to what was to be our new home for approximately the next 2 years.
We were all very excited to be together as a family again, the family consisted of my Father – Archie, Mother – Nina, myself aged 11 years, sister Joyce 10 years, brothers Robert aged 5 years and David aged just over 1 year.
We could not believe how hot it was when we arrived at our new home in Cyprus. After leaving such a cold England.
Our new home was what we now call a bungalow, long and narrow and made of yellow coloured stone; we had three bedrooms a kitchen and bathroom as was usual for army families, all household facilities were provided for a family of six which was the usual thing carried out for army families no matter where your family was posted to in the world.
There was also a yard at the front with a fence around it, needless to say the fence did not stand for
very long as photos we have testify to, as we played out-front and with the Erdogan children next door the fence on all sides became just the frame with no panels as it was an easy way to get from our house to theirs.
The grounds of Government house were free for us to roam, but we were told not to go within the perimeter of the house itself as this was out of bounds to us children unless accompanied by a grown up.
My father would take us into the areas of Government House only the household staff had access to, but I remember on occasions when the Foots were away we did go into the main ground floor of the house but never upstairs, we also used to go into the household’s staff room where there was a large red Coca Cola machine and we were allowed to have a glass bottle of coke which was a rare treat for us. We also were allowed into the kitchens which were my father’s domain and very impressive they were.
The school my sister and I went to was King Richard School at Dhekelia. We were picked up each morning on the road next to the grounds by the old type of buses that are used for taking tourists around the island, but our buses were just for children going to school, the school hours were 7.30am to 1.30pm so our school day was a short one as the heat in the afternoon was too intense to be stuck in a classroom.
I always remember having a plastic bottle with a strap that was carried around my neck which my mother filled with orange juice diluted with water, I have never ever forgotten that smell when drinking from that bottle, I have only ever smelt that smell a few more times in my life when drinking from a plastic bottle and it always takes me straight back to my school days in Cyprus.
My school days in Cyprus were on the whole uneventful just the usual school things that you have to get through each day. I do remember doing gardening at the school and trying to grow plants, as you can imagine a bit of a fruitless effort as the ground was so dry, but we had a good attempt at trying to grow plants.
However, after school was a different matter we had a whale of a time, me and my sister Joyce would race home from school to take a dip in the garden’s irrigation pool we called a “septic tank”, that was our swimming pool it was not very big but was quite deep, but to us it was heaven just to be able to cool down in the water.
We would then get into our shorts and tee-shirts to spend the rest of the day playing with Sermen and his brother and sister if they were allowed out to play with us. There was a swing near to the Erdogan house which we used to swing on but as there was only one swing and I being the eldest I always wanted to be on the swing, thinking back now I was a bit selfish. I did fall off the swing once and landed on the barbed wire fencing that was everywhere in and around the grounds, and had to be taken to the army hospital in Nicosia to have stitches in my back, I remember having a bandage round me that I thought was like a bra and felt very grown up.
I also remember going to see a specialist in the hospital quite far away from our home, to have my eyes tested. I had worn glasses since the age of about three, when I saw the specialist he told my mother the throw the glasses away they were now a waste of time as there was nothing wrong with my eyesight. I never wore glasses again until I was over 40.
I remember playing in the lower grounds with my sister and the Erdogan children, the grounds were like an overgrown fruit and vegetable garden, we would climb the trees and pick oranges straight from the branches we would also pick ripe figs, they always tasted delicious. We also would try to open the great big water melons growing on the ground, but didn’t have much luck as we weren’t allowed a knife which was needed to open the melons.
As the Erdogan’s father was the person who was responsible for the upkeep of the grounds, I remember the grounds being the most magical place for all of us children to play in and we would spend hours in the grounds.
I remember the guards in the sentry box leading to the gardens and the prisoners who were under guard by armed soldiers who used to help Sermen’s dad with the gardens that was the only place they could be trusted to work in. I remember the guards calling out when they wanted us to stop, they would call out Halt, Stamarter, and Dur – not sure if that is the correct spelling.
We were not allowed to play around the palace of the Governor or swim in the swimming pool of the Palace, but we had the gardens with the orchards full of fruit trees and the forest next to the river. We were free to roam the gardens and we could pick oranges, mandarins and have any vegetables we liked.
I also remember my dad sleeping with a .38 pistol under his pillow he used to show it to us and tell us we were safe as long as he had his gun. Not a nice thing really but we were young so didn’t know the real danger. My dad also had a book of photos with the most wanted men in Cyprus. I don’t know what happened to that book, best not to know I suppose.
I remember the Foots going to the Troodos Mountains. I know we went up once or twice it was so lovely and cool after the heat of Nicosia.
We also found stray wild cats in the grounds which we took home begging my mother to keep them. In the end we had three cats and in their turn they had fourteen kittens between them. I remember waking up one morning with my baby brother David in his cot holding a newborn kitten by its tail.
We also used to go out of the grounds unbeknown to our parents. We would walk to the riverbed but only Sermen would come with us as he was older than his brother and sister, on reflection it must have been quite dangerous for us to go as far as we did as we were under armed guard day and night at home. We used to just dig in the dried riverbed not sure what we were looking for but we had great fun nonetheless.
We also played hide and seek which to be honest was our most favourite game, as the places to hide were the best places in the world, we would be able to hide for ages without being caught, we would be hidden up trees behind plants, and in bushes, we would cover ourselves in blankets borrowed from home, we had so much fun, we played hide and seek every day.
I remember once we were playing chase all around each other’s houses and I remember running away to try and hide from the other children and I jumped down from a wall and jumped right onto a piece of wood that had a large rusty nail in it, the rusty nail went right into my foot and came out of the top of my foot, I was screaming for my mother to help me, as you can imagine I couldn’t move but someone went to fetch my mother who then had to ask for my father to be free to take me to the hospital, I think it was near Nicosia. I could not walk on my foot for many weeks; I also had to have tetanus injection which I was not very happy about.
I loved to swing on monkey bars by my legs. I never stopped day after day. I also remember a large round concrete tank I think sunk into the ground that had a pipe hanging out at the top. I would lie down on the top and sing into the pipe and it made a lovely echo sound.
Coming back to the UK I went on to swing on any pipe or bar that I found for years after leaving Cyprus. David also become the South Kent Gymnastic champion when he was still at school. Must run in the family, as my dad was a gymnastic champion for the army as well. We must have been the first family to wear track suits and trainers which we did when we were in Cyprus. My father used to let me sit on his lap and steer the Beetle car that he used to drive to the shops. I only used to do that driving up from the bottom of the grounds to the kitchen area of the great house.
When my father had free time from his duties, my parents would always go with us to Kyrenia beach to swim; my sister and I never forgot it. It was the most wonderful beach for us children as we could walk out so far as the sea bed was like a staircase we could walk out for miles; we must have frightened my parents on many occasions when we walked out so far into the sea.
I remember playing with Paul and Oliver Foot when they came to Cyprus in their summer holidays, I remember going to the dried up river bed with them to see what we could find, They did not spend too much time with my sister and myself as we were girls and they wanted to play boys games which we weren’t interested in playing. They did spend time playing tennis and swimming in their own pool within their area of the grounds, they also spent a lot of time within Government house as it was a lot cooler inside, as they were not used to the hot weather we used to have in Cyprus.
Paul Foot died of a heart attack on the 20th July 2004, and his brother Oliver died from heart failure on the 6th February 2008. Very sad to think of people you knew as friends you played with when young have since passed.
We did not see much of Sir Hugh Foot or Lady Foot I think they were very busy, my father saw Lady Foot almost daily to discuss menus for themselves and guests they had staying. I know they had writers and other dignitaries staying from time to time, I know as I would sometimes meet them as I was strolling around; I was given a mother of pearl brooch by a writer. I do not remember his name but my mother knew who he was, but needless to say I should have put his name down and I didn’t. By the way I still have that brooch in my jewellery box.
I know Sir Hugh Foots brother, Michael Foot, came to stay as I saw him walking around the grounds a few times, I also remember someone else who visited the Foots, I don’t know who he was but I remember it looking odd as he was using his tie as a belt round his waist and I thought it so funny at the time.
I don’t ever remember my father or mother talking about the political situation in Cyprus, their only concern was keeping the family safe and out of danger.
My sister and I were bridesmaids to two members of the household staff, the bridegroom was British who used to be called in those days a batman, the bride was an Armenian lady who I think was a seamstress for the household but not certain about her occupation.
The reception was held in Government House to the left hand side inside the walled area, not in the main grounds at the back. My father did the catering for the wedding and also made the cake, which was an exact replica of Government House. There was a photo of the cake but no one can find it at the moment. I will endeavour to try and find the said photo.
If I can remember there was no music at the reception as it was a very formal occasion, as Sir Hugh Foot and Lady Foot attended for a short time, so everyone was on their best behaviour.
We did go to see the said couple once when we returned to the UK as they had a new baby son and we were invited to go and see him. Not sure where they lived in the UK but we only saw them the one time, the family lost touch with them after that.
We left Cyprus in August 1960 to return to the UK to live in army flats in Victoria London. I remember before we left Cyprus we were invited to the lounge in Government House to say goodbye to Lady Foot. She gave my sister and I three silver bracelets each, she also gave my mother three very large silver bracelets. My brothers each received a small gold St Christopher necklace.
My sister gave all of her three bracelets away to her school friends when we were at school in the UK. I still have all three of my bracelets, two still on my wrist unfortunately one has since broken so it is in my jewellery box, and I have had those bracelets on my arm for 54 years.
When my mother knew she was terminally ill she gave me her three bracelets to keep as she knew I would look after them and not give them away, however when I was living in Aldgate in the East End my flat was broken into and you guessed it, they took my beloved mother’s bracelets, I was devastated as you can imagine I wished the person who took them no luck wearing them or whoever they sold them to – no luck either.
My brothers being so young at that time have little memory of Cyprus David especially being only a just over a year old.
Robert remembers an incident at the irrigation tank and trying to rescue someone but he cannot remember too much either as he was only about 5 years old.
I just wish my sister Joyce, and my mother and father were here now so that we could all share our memories together I am sure there are so many more things we could put down on paper if they were with us.
I have come to the end of my memories from my time in Cyprus. I hope you enjoy them.
We would like to thank Margaret Archibald, Sermen and Eren Erdogan and the members of the Facebook page “Frozen Cypriots” click here who’s supply of the photographs included, have helped create this spendid article.