The legacy of a murdered journalist and the niece who rescued his work and his memory
Margaret Siriol Colley (1925-2011)
November 26, 2011 3:50 P.M.
By Andrew Stuttaford
A remarkable woman died this week: Siriol Colley was clever, tenacious, occasionally bloody-minded, the possessor of a sometimes dark (she was a doctor), splendidly bone-dry sense of humor, and a proud daughter of Wales. As you can see from her website, she led a rich, varied and adventurous life.
But there was more than that. At the age of ten, Siriol had lost her much-loved Uncle Gareth, a gifted journalist of almost Zelig ubiquity (check out this website), who had been murdered under murky circumstances in Japanese-occupied Manchuria in 1935. For decades it was a family tragedy, a private mystery, and then, well I’ll quote myself from an article I wrote for NRODT back in 2004:
The notebooks — worn, creased, and drab, but haunting nonetheless — lay carefully set out on a table in the lobby of a New York hotel. Their pages were filled with notes, comments, and calculations, jotted and scribbled in the cursive, spiky script once a hallmark of pre-war Britain’s educated classes.
Their author had, it seems, wandered through a dying village deep within Stalin’s gargoyle empire. “Woman came out and started crying. ‘They’re killing us. In my village there used to be 300 cows and now we only have 30. The horses have died. How can I feed us all?’” It was the Ukraine, March 1933, a land in the throes of a man-made famine, the latest murderous chapter in Soviet social engineering. Five, six, seven million had died, maybe more. As Khrushchev later explained, “No one was counting. . .”