A family visit to Buffavento and the Talia Airways Memorial
Introduction by Chris Elliott….
I have been very happy to be able to support the work of Oz Orman by helping to share and promote the videos he has produced for MPFC Productions, many of which are about Cyprus heritage, and the most recent one was the concluding episode about the Talia Airways Air Crash near Buffavento castle and following this, our group of supporters became aware that relatives of the late Andrea Pegg were visiting Cyprus and wanted to pay their respects at the new Talia Airways Memorial.
We then received a copy of a message of thanks from Tanya Mullins the sister of Andrea Pegg to Oz Orman telling him she had been able to visit the memorial.
“Good Evening Oz
We had a lovely week in Cyprus and I visited the memorial at Buffavento.
Fate had us sit next to an English gentleman on the plane whom we befriended. He lives in Paphos and drove me all the way to Buffavento Castle.
It was an emotional day, unfortunately, my mum was not up to making the journey.
Adrian was a great companion and I was so grateful for his company and not to travel alone.
Thank you for all you have done, your kindness is so appreciated.
Hope you are well.
From Oz Orman….
Monday 27th February 2023 marked the 35th Anniversary of the Talia Airways (Talia Havayollari) plane crash near Buffavento Castle. CyprusScene under the stewardship of Chris Elliott, recently re-highlighted the tragedy, which took place in 1988. However, there is now a timely and fitting conclusion to the missing British stewardesses’ names on the revamped memorial in the castle’s car park. At long last, the names of Andrea Pegg (Bournemouth) and Sharon Simcock (Lytham St Annes) joined their fellow flight crew members engraved on the structure. However, it wasn’t the kindly intervention of politicians from the T.R.N.C. or the U.K. that wanted to right the wrong and bring closure to the British families. It took a Good Samaritan, to go on a clandestine operation with a skilled engraver to get the job done and they even paid for it out of their own pocket.
Chris and I are aware of the Good Samaritans’ identity and they do not want any recognition or plaudits for their efforts. Like Chris and I, they were bewildered why a monument, which is located in an area visited by tourists and locals was left incomplete. Was this the result of Covid restrictions on the island at the time? I fear not!
Back in 2019 (pre-Covid), I visited the site with my first cousin and father. I initially made a video about the plane crash and was aware of the new monument, but noticed the disappointing omission of both Sharon and Andrea’s names. Did you know the original memorial was funded by Sharon Simcock’s family? I then went about the process of researching the monument and identified a local man on social media, who had brought attention about the dire state of the original memorial. It had been vandalised, but then due to local Media exposure. A new three-sided structure was erected and for some reason only featured the names of the Yugoslav and Turkish crew.
It was never made clear in ensuing media reports, about who was actually responsible for the new memorial. Someone somewhere must know. Were the names originally engraved in a workshop and then transported to Buffavento? Were the engravings done onsite? Was inadequate research completed and that authorities didn’t know that there were 15 fatalities that day and not 13? Was cost a factor? It still remains a mystery.
Now I noticed this back in 2019 and the onslaught of Covid did not materialise until the New Year in 2020. There was also the issue about who safeguards Buffavento Castle and its surrounding area. Does it actually fall into the Nicosia or Kyrenia district?
I pressed on with e-mails and letters, with people I thought might have an interest in completing the memorial to include Sharon and Andrea’s names. How naïve I was. Not one bit of interest was shown both here or in Northern Cyprus about this issue. When I contacted CyprusScene about my frustrations regarding the lack of progress, Chris Elliott best summed it up for me…
‘It numbs your brain the number of times they and others have been ignored (groups). So it seems there are so many that could help but are not interested in being involved with issues that they did not create.’
Bravo, that man! It is no better in the U.K. Where are the leaders?
Through my own perseverance, I made contact with someone in Cyprus in February 2023, who shared my disillusionment about the ongoing situation. Instead of trying to get local political support, they went about solving the saga with a great deal of initiative and visited the site with the help of a local engraver. If you want a job doing, do it yourself as they say! Credit to them, but what a shame it had to come to this. It was a classic case of not what you know, but who you know. The Good Samaritan needs to be saluted for their actions, but I’m told this is how Northern Cyprus is these days Post Covid. It only took 4 years and fortunately the memorial was completed prior to the 35th Anniversary. I even made a non-monetised video about the story. Please click on the video link below for further information.
I have since communicated with Andrea’s sister in the UK about the adding of her sister’s name and that of her friend Sharon to the memorial. She was pleased that it is now complete and she hopes to visit the island soon with her elderly mother to pay their respects. This was a team effort from Chris to the Good Samaritan and a selected band here in the UK that worked together to get the monument completed. I think we learnt a lot on the journey, but alas there is also one final tragedy.
The Good Samaritan’s dog accompanied their owner to the mountainside during the engraving process. However, they became ill after rummaging around in the undergrowth near the memorial site. Our Good Samaritan raced to the vets with their sickly canine, who informed them that the dog had been poisoned. Sadly, the dog named ‘Santa’ passed away. It was tragic for all concerned, and I know that Chris has already highlighted in an earlier edition of CyprusScene, about the issues of animal poisoning in the North. Who can you turn to, to address this issue? It appears that the memorial now has a 16th victim. R.I.P Santa.
This now brings me on to the state of Buffavento Castle. I have climbed to the summit and the vistas are stunning. However, the interior and exterior of the former crusader castle is in bad shape. I remember the graffiti scrawled on its ancient walls and the rifle pot-shots that appears on signage around the site. For a country that wants to pride itself on its tourism experience. This is not a good look. The state of the castle and its surrounding area is one of increasing concern. No wonder the original Talia monument was damaged, considering no security exists on the site. The tourism department is missing a trick by not having someone permanently based there to oversee the castle. Is it a case of cost? I believe that visitors need to be charged an entry fee such as at St Hilarion. This would help with the upkeep of the area and deter anti-social behaviour. I also think a barrier should be installed across the car park entrance to stop idiots congregating and littering the site or much worse. Did you know that there is YouTube evidence of an outdoor music event taking place in the grounds of the castle? Was this ever authorised and considering the poor state of the hand railings that accompany Buffavento, it wouldn’t have been surprising if there had been an accident or much worse. Is it a case of that due to Buffavento’s location, it isn’t cost-effective to have staff at the site? Would anyone from the North’s administration care to answer?
I have also noticed that more and more people are showing an interest about the Talia Airways crash site, which is still littered with aircraft debris. The trek to the site from the castle can be a tricky one, but if a path can be adapted to the crash site, it might be an additional source of interest for people visiting Buffavento.
In a recent discussion with the Good Samaritan mentioned earlier, they muted that the empty side of the memorial could have information engraved regarding the structure’s relevance and why it is there. This would be a good idea in my opinion, considering the sad state of the other information boards at Buffavento.
This might be considered a rant, but I just feel passionate about the place where my parents grew up. I can’t accept that this is how things are. As the Good Samaritan showed, there are still people out there that care about the island and its future. A big thank you to Chris for laying flowers at the memorial in line with the 35th Anniversary.