For St Patrick’s Day an Irish story

letters-from-manchuriaLetters from Manchuria:  The story of Marion Young, missionary in Japanese-occupied China.
                                 edited by Neil T. Sinclair

Coming all the way from Manchuria in 1935, Marion Young’s Irish spirit of adventure and fun shines through, bringing this unique story to life.


Marion’s writing is lyrical without ever being pretentious and her sense of humour emerges even when her surroundings are quite grim, as does her delight in using a little Irish blarney, sometimes to get out of extremely risky situations.

Her story is full of suspense as well. The period of Japanese occupation was precarious for everyone and then with the start of the Second World War, the dangers for Westerners living in China escalated tenfold.

This hardback book is a fascinating read and full of photographs – well worth taking a look at.


Commonwealth Day 2018

CommonwealthToday, 12th March 2018, is COMMONWEALTH DAY, a day to celebrate the ties of friendship and practical cooperation between the Commonwealth of Nations.

The theme of this year’s Commonwealth Day is Towards a Common Future and the day of celebration will be followed by meetings between the heads of the 53 nations in the Commonwealth when they gather ‘to respond to global challenges, and deliver a more prosperous, secure, sustainable and fair future for all of our citizens, particularly our young people’.

The vision and commitment of these nations to work together goes back long before the forming of the Commonwealth, and it got me to thinking about the Holdsworth Mission Hospital in Mysore, South India, a hospital brought about more than a century ago by cooperation between people of the United Kingdom and India.



Through the work of missionaries from the Methodist Missionary Society, notably Mary Holdsworth and the Rev George Sawday, and a gift of land by the Maharaja of Mysore, the Mary Calvert Holdsworth Memorial Hospital came into being in 1906 to serve the needs of women and children in Mysore city.





It was a time when cholera, typhoid and plague were endemic, and there was nowhere for women and children to go for help. Holdsworth Hospital, also named ‘Karuna Shala’ (Home of Compassion), offered medical care to people of all creeds and castes, whatever their means.





The hospital grew in its work and established a nurses’ training school. In the late-1940s when the Church of South India was formed, Holdsworth Hospital, among other Methodist institutions, was handed over to the CSI, with the Methodist Missionary Society continuing to fund a number of doctors, nurses, pathologists and pharmacy staff during a time of transition of management into the hands of the Church of South India.


Frank,Winnie,-R&J-1951One of the Methodist missionary doctors was my father, Frank Ivor Tovey OBE FRCS, who arrived as a young surgeon in 1951. His first role was to open a men’s department, this being a requirement for nurse training to continue. He worked at Holdsworth Hospital for 16 years, during which time the hospital developed its work and became an Indian run institution.

My mother, Winifred Tovey, also supported the work of the hospital, working voluntarily, as was the case with many missionaries’ wives. She raised funds for special equipment and projects, obtaining grants and setting up leprosy clinics and the rehabilitation of leprosy patients, which resulted in a very low incidence of leprosy in the surrounding area.



Years later, when she was in her 90s, Winnie wrote her book, Cor Blimey! Where ‘ave you come from? in which she describes the story of Holdsworth Hospital and the interesting times she experienced in Mysore through the 1950s and ‘60s.



Today the Holdsworth Hospital continues as the Home of Compassion, its dedicated staff still delivering the highest standard of care, although facing the same challenges of old buildings and a chronic lack of funds.




Listen to Winnie and Frank Tovey talking to Libby Purves on BBC Radio 4’s  ‘Midweek’ programme, 28th December 2011.

Owl at Midnight – BOOK LAUNCH at Waterstones Llandudno

Owl at Midnight
a story of Gwenllian, the lost Princess of Wales

Thursday, 16th November 2017, on the promenade at Llandudno, North Wales, was the first time that author, Patricia Lennan, held in her hand a copy of her historical novel,
Owl at Midnight – a story of Gwenllian, the lost Princess of Wales.

It was a big day . . . the culmination of six years of writing and research of the 13th century events that shaped the life of the last native Princess of Wales, Gwenllian, the only child of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd and Eleanor de Montfort.

In foreground members of the Copper Writers, Wales.

The BOOK LAUNCH at Waterstones, Llandudno, brought together a large crowd to celebrate with Patricia.




It was a long awaited day for members of The Princess Gwenllian Society.

Members of The Princess Gwenllian Society.

Patricia spent time talking with the guests.










Patricia gave a short speech about how she had come to write Owl at Midnight.

Her inspiration was a visit to the birthplace of Gwenllian, at Abergwyngregyn, near Llandudno.

Pen y Bryn, formerly Garth Celyn, Abergwyngregyn, the birthplace of Princess Gwenllian.

Patricia explained, “I was shown the room where it is thought Eleanor de Montfort gave birth to Gwenllian, the tunnel which led to the sea and other tunnels which once led to the mountains above.

It was here where my story was born.”

Owl at Midnight tells Gwenllian’s known story; the last native Princess of Wales, she was taken as a baby by King Edward’s men and shut away in Sempringham Priory at his command.

There, in the Lincolnshire nunnery, she grew up and took her vows, never knowing her real identity.

Patricia brings to life a young woman pushing at the boundaries and questioning the rules that confine her. But she doesn’t leave her there. Outside the Priory, hopes rise to restore the rightful Princess to the Principality of Wales . . . and here possibilities open up that could have changed the course of history.

Owl at Midnight
a story of Gwenllian, the lost Princess of Wales
ISBN: 978-0-9935078-3-0

Paperback book, 364 pages, with map, Welsh royal family tree, plus pen illustrations heading each chapter.

Purchase from bookshops and Welsh castles and tourist outlets

OR order from this website
Book price – £9.99
P&p by country. 

If your country is not listed in the postal prices, please email Jenny on