Coincidences by Antony Paton
We thrive on stories about coincidences and delight each other with amazing happenings.
Because I have travelled extensively, my life, like so many others, has been full of coincidences and
here are just two which are related to my Step Great Grand Mother, Margaret Tempest
I have been collecting 1 st editions of Margaret Tempest’s books for over ten years. One such book,
“Katinka travels to the Himalaya” which Margaret illustrated, has eluded me since I first knew of its
existence some five years ago. I missed bidding for a copy from an auction house in the UK back in
2014 and realized that there were very few copies in existence.
In 2016, I finally found one on “e bay” and had it delivered to my home in Berkshire. At this time, I
was in the throes of re-opening the iconic Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka, as General
Manager. The hotel dated back to 1864 and was re-opening after a three year and $30 million
My wife came out to be with me for her regular visits and brought the “Katinka travels to the
Himalaya” book with her. On her first evening back, we were having dinner in our apartment and I
was looking through the book. The book was a story of Katinka as a young girl travelling with a
friend from Great Britain all the way to the Himalayas via many exotic countries. This was a story of
her adventures in these many countries. The book was published in 1926.
I could not believe my eyes when I came to a chapter named Ceylon and there was Katinka taking a
person drawn rickshaw to the Galle Face Hotel.
A copy of the front cover and the page on Ceylon and the Galle Face Hotel from “Katinka travels to
the Himalaya” is now framed and hanging in the Hotel’s museum.
I wonder if my Step Great Grandmother actually visited the Galle Face Hotel 88 years before I
became General Manager there !
Hoteliers tend to move around frequently, so here I am in 2017 working back in the Maldives
managing a group of luxury resorts. I am temporarily based at one, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu in the
Baa Atoll and on Thursday 23 rd March 2017, I welcomed a couple to the resort, Nick and Debbie
They had actually booked their holiday at our other resort near to Male but as the King of Saudi
Arabia had bought the entire property for a 15 day stay, we had to book Nick and Debbie out to
Coco Palm at the last minute.
The first thing I said to them when they arrived was that I was sorry that they had been moved but
that I would ensure they were well looked after with us. I asked them where they were from and
when they said Ipswich, I said that I knew Ipswich quite well as my Step Great Grand Mother had
lived there. I told them that she was a known illustrator of Children’s books and when Debbie said
“oh, was that Margaret Tempest”, I was taken aback.
It turned out that Debbie is part of the Ipswich Women’s Festival Group and was recently
responsible for placing the blue plaque on Margaret Tempest’s home.
5,288 miles from Ipswich to the Maldives and yet such a small world !