Childhood Memories of Cyprus
and Newman’s Farm
By Margaret Sheard
While putting together the article I published about Newman’s Farm which was written by Evelyn Newman back in 1962, I was very keen to use a photograph I had seen on the internet and so made enquiries for permission to use this particular lovely photograph of Newman’s Farm and this led me to have contact with Carrie Langford. During our correspondence I asked Carrie if she would write something about her memories of Cyprus during the time she spent here with her parents back in the early 1960’s, this she has kindly undertaken and what a nice story it is.
Carrie was known as Carolyn Parlby as a child and her father and mother were Bill and Joan Parlby.
It seems Carrie’s father took hundreds of photographs and she has managed to sort a few out for me to include with her story, although she still has a major task to try and sort them all out and put them onto disc.
“A few months ago I was contacted by Margaret Sheard asking permission to use a family photo of Newman’s Farm which she had spotted on a website www.oldphotosofcyprus.com My father worked for the RAF Cinema Corporation who ran the Astra cinemas on RAF bases. I had been born in Egypt but my mother and I were evacuated because of the troubles during the 1952 Egyptian revolution, my father returning to the UK the following year. I have no recollections of this period of my life, although quite a few photos with stories attached!
After a year in Harrogate my parents and I moved to Cornwall, a long term dream of my parents to own a cottage in that county. They bought a very old cottage that had previously been the village Alms House, actually originally 4 houses each consisting of one up and one down cottages. They paid about £800 for it and my mother told me she lay awake at night worrying about how much money it had cost!! My father at the time was based at the Astra cinema at the nearby St Mawgan airbase.
In 1960 Dad was asked if he would work in Nicosia, Cyprus for 6 months, and in the February, off he went. This was good promotion and I guess a better salary although this was not the sort of thing discussed with children at the time. I still have a 1960 Letts Schoolgirl diary in which I have written intermittent and very brief entries. On Good Friday 15 April I have written “Sty broke. [I used to have a lot of these eye problems, not a thing seen nowadays] Go to children’s service in morning, Go to church in afternoon. Mum told me we are going to Cyprus. Rain.” This is very typical of my diary entries with no elaboration or explanations or expressions of feeling! Frustrating in many ways! Anyway, apparently my father had been asked to extend his 6 month tour into a 3 year tour, so mum and I were left to pack up and find tenants for the cottage, find homes for the dog and cat and we joined him in September 1960 in time for the start of my secondary school career at St Michaels School, RAF Nicosia.
While dad was in Nicosia on his own he stayed in the Officers Mess. He had become friendly with a fellow officer, Gwynne and they both enjoyed snorkelling so would in their free time go to a little rocky cove just west of Kyrenia and enjoy the clear water and numerous fish to be seen. Afterwards they would stop off at Newman’s Farm for ice cream or cream teas.
Dad told us a story about how he and Gwynne had been snorkelling and he suddenly realised that Gwynne was struggling in the water. He swam over to rescue him and found that Gwynne had lost his snorkel. Apparently he could not swim and it was the snorkel that was his buoyancy aid! I do not remember the name of this small cove, but it was very near Kyrenia and just reached by a rough track. There was no beach area you just swam off the rocks although the water was quite shallow to begin with. My diary notes that on our first day in Cyprus we went to the Custom House in the morning and in the afternoon to this cove, the first of many, many trips there and of course often followed by cream tea, banana splits or drop scones dripping with butter at Newman’s Farm.
It was in this cove that I learnt to swim properly. The surf and cold water on the North Cornish coast had not been conducive to learning to swim effectively. Another beach we visited was a little further west of our little cove and just off the beach was Snake Island. My father always told me it was so called because there were no snakes there. I am not sure if this was correct or just to reassure me about the lack of snakes (not that I can remember worrying about them). He and I would regularly swim out to the island, a distance he informed me was about 1 mile. Again I am not sure of the truth of this, it may have been to boost my confidence in my swimming abilities! We would wear old plimsolls when swimming so could explore the island before swimming back. My dad and I both loved swimming and always reckoned to start at the beginning of April and keep going until the end of November, by which time it was far too cold for my mother to go in and I know I would consider too cold nowadays!
I also enjoyed snorkelling and seeing the wonderful sea life and in some areas, archaeological remains like amphorae encrusted into the rocks. In cooler months we did much exploring of the numerous ancient sites that cover Cyprus, many relatively little excavated. It was also fun visiting the monasteries in the hills and the mountain villages. In one village stopping for a drink and meze my dad tried to persuade me to eat a snail. He offered me a financial bribe and I said yes but on seeing it pulled from its shell my revulsion got the better of my desire for the money and I refused!
Other beaches that were our favourites were east of Kyrenia and usually known by the distance they were from there, for example 5 mile beach. On some weekends we would join up with a couple of other families and camp for the weekend. We would often be the only families on the beach. Before leaving Nicosia we would stop off at the ice factory and buy an enormous block of ice, I remember it being about a metre long. On arrival at the beach a big hole would be dug and lined old wet towels and the ice placed inside and then the well wrapped food that needed to be kept cold, with more wet towels, put on top. If the lilo was not being used for fun in the sea this would provide extra shade on top. This would keep the food fresh for a couple of days. A water melon, usually purchased at a roadside stall en route would be put in the sea together with the beer cans and cola bottles. The lack of tide meant no danger of them washing away.
On at least one occasion we camped with some other families near Cape Andreas at the tip of the “panhandle”. I can remember very clearly the beautiful, deserted beaches with no one else about. There were always several of us youngsters and we would often just sleep outside rather than in the tents and spent the days in the sea and roaming the beaches and surrounding countryside.
At some point during our tour I got a very small tortoise. I have no recollection where this came from, I think I must have been given it by another family. Its shell was under 2” long and I kept it on the balcony of our Nicosia flat in Demetra Street in a cardboard box, supplied with greenery and some earth. Looking back I realise it was not good living conditions for the poor thing. However on trips to the beach it would be taken along and let loose on the beach to wander around. When we left Cyprus in 1963 it was taken to an animal sanctuary near Kyrenia.
Other visits in Kyrenia were to the Kerameus Pottery and I still have a collection of vases, a lamp base and mugs with our names painted on plus the usual Cyprus scenes. We also used to buy sponges from the sponge divers. The Rock Ruby Hotel was just on the western outskirts of the town and I am pretty sure it was built while we were there. We spent some happy times there as a luxury weekend!
On one weekend, I think in 1961, with a few families, we went to Paphos. I remember it being a very small town with only one main hotel (oh, how times have changed!). We had not realised that it was the weekend commemorating the EOKA struggle and all night there were loud bangs of “symbolic explosions” My mother was distinctly nervous! During the day however there were wonderful displays and processions with children in national Greek costume.
I don’t think my mother was of a particularly nervous disposition, but another situation that worried her was when the school ran a trip to Israel. We children travelled on a group passport and my mother was adamant that she was not going to send me to Israel with documentation that I was Egyptian born! So when she filled in the form she put that I was born in Britain.
Our block of flats in Nicosia was owned by a Greek family who lived in a traditional style house behind. They had twin daughters the same age as me and I was invited to their birthday party. I was a little daunted by this, being an only child and the only non-Greek speaker there. When my mother questioned me about it afterwards I described some food I had not liked, “small biscuits with tiny black things on it” I had not liked the taste at all. Oh that was caviar my mother explained. When it was my birthday we reciprocated by inviting the twins to my party. My mother was a bit dismayed to find about 5 of the family’s children turned up and had to scurry about to find extra goody bags, and prizes for the games! Apparently an accepted thing in the Greek extended family culture.
The flora of the island was particularly memorable. In the spring the tiny cyclamens and other small flowers carpeted the cliff tops, a sight difficult to imagine in the arid summer months. When we get our small potted poinsettias for Christmas from the supermarkets, I often think of the huge ones that grew in the gardens. Our flat was opposite the Department for Agriculture building in Demetra Street, Nicosia, a very attractive old building and their gardens were full of purple jacaranda trees.
It was such a happy time of my life and I look back on it with such good memories. At the time, as a child, I never appreciated what a privileged childhood I was experiencing. My parents did ask the RAF Cinema Corporation if their tour could be extended but it was not to be, and I was devastated by the news that we could not stay. Instead Dad was posted to Aden and so we then went there for 3½ years, very different from Cyprus but equally memorable but that’s another story.
Of course Cyprus did not remain the peaceful nation it had been in our time and also developed a huge tourist industry. Hearing stories of once deserted beaches lined by hotels plus a divided island I vowed never to return. However some friends own a holiday villa near Larnaca and as a 40th wedding anniversary present generously offered us the chance to stay there. So in 2011 we did return and had a wonderful 2 weeks but it was like a different country. The only places that brought back the old memories were when we went to Famagusta which seemed little changed. I must admit I am tempted by the idea of returning to Kyrenia where I spent most of my happy hours and which I understand is relatively unchanged so that might be a plan for the future! “
Thank you for sharing your memories.
The first time I visited North Cyprus was in 2001 and although I have seen a lot of change in the 10½ years since I came to live here permanently in 2003, I really envy the memories of people who were here much earlier and saw the island as a peaceful and tranquil haven. So much has happened since the days when Carrie and her family were here and I understand her desire to keep her memories as they were. The island has been divided since 1974 and there has been a lot of change, not all for the better, but it is still a lovely place to live and visit. So Carrie maybe you should come back and visit Kyrenia and some of the beautiful unspoilt places which still exist in North Cyprus.