Peter Fox – lost in time

Sixty-five years ago today, the world lost a remarkable young man who could almost have been my father, but never quite made it.

Peter Donald Fox, 30-year-old journalist from Preston in Northern England, with a bright future ahead of him. When he visited a friend in Cyprus in December 1956, Peter had no idea that he would never be coming back home. He had no idea that he would never realise his dreams to be a foreign correspondent, never write the book he had started drafting. Perhaps most sadly of all, he had no idea he would never again see the girl he loved. Never marry her, never have children with her, never grow old with her. The thing is, Kismet had other surprises in store for him.

In many ways I have always thought of Peter Fox as my father. I have always loved him, admired him, even envied him – his cleverness, his striking looks, his intrepid spirit – all this based on the countless stories my mother brought me up on. Tales of Peter Fox. The name almost became biblical to me. A name to be cherished, remembered, adored. Peter Fox, my mother’s lost fiance; my almost-father.

On December 8th 1956, Peter was standing outside the Katsellis cinema in the fishing village of Kyrenia, trying to decide which film to go to. He was staying with his friend, also a journalist, who happened to live and work in Cyprus. (My future father, as a matter of fact – but that’s another story.) Peter had been on the island three weeks by then, temping for The Times of Cyprus. He’d thought himself lucky – a vacancy had arisen shortly after his arrival due to the untimely death of the previous journalist at the hands of a Greek-Cypriot terrorist. A hater of the English. Oh, the dark irony of it all. Peter had considered staying longer in Cyprus, perhaps reporting on the recent Suez Canal crisis that the entire world was ranting about. How inspired he was, how excited; how proudly he wrote home to his fiance. And there she was, the young and naive Molly Williams, pining away for him back in the Victorian backstreets of Preston.

Oh, the dark irony of it all.

While Peter was pondering which film to go to, a black car cruised along the sun-baked street, slowed down, and stopped. The shaded driver wound down the window. Narrowed his eyes. Aimed his automatic at the tall Englishman. Pulled the trigger.

Direct hit. Peter died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

These are the words my mother read the following day.

 

I don’t think she ever fully recovered from that telegram. I always remember her telling me, right from my childhood, “The day Peter died, something died in me as well.” But at least she had her own small claim to fame, thanks to the interest of the local newspapers in Preston and Nicosia. Small comfort in the grand scale of things, but at least some comfort. Knowing that her unendurable loss was publicly acknowledged.

Knowing that Peter, who had been a passionate journalist, was now the very subject of other journalists’ articles.

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Peter died a solitary man: unmarried, childless, with nothing to leave behind other than a boxful of letters to my mother. I now have those letters. The world should have been his oyster; instead, it was his executioner. But now, via the pages of my novel, Infinite Stranger, he will be resurrected. His life will not have been in vain.

Did you have a good look at the title photo I chose for this post? The one of Peter and my mother standing side by side, both of them like two Hollywood film stars? I always loved that photo: the vintage elegance, the chiseled profiles, the entwined legs, the star-crossed togetherness of those two beautiful young people. In my childhood I once asked my mother what she was looking at through the lens of her binoculars. She said:

“The future, darling. The future Peter and I should have had.”

So here’s to their born-again future.

4 thoughts on “Peter Fox – lost in time

  1. A beautiful, but tragic, story. The picture at the top really does feel like it’s from a movie, and it feels so full of hope and promise. But then, after learning how the story ends, the picture just fills one with a sense of grief and sadness over what might have been…

    …but, if he had been your father, you would have ended up a completely different person, and we wouldn’t be reading this blog right now…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. After bumping into Angela in Penwortham recently and enquiring how you were, Wendy, I decided to look you up on facebook. Was lovely to read your story and see the newspaper
    cuttings of your Mother and her beloved Peter Fox. Molly was indeed a remarkable and kind lady who I still often think about. She holds a special place in my memories and
    .of times when we worked together at Securicor. She often gave me invaluable advice. She helped so many people and particularly other colleagues over the years there in her role as Shop Steward. She always gave words of encouragement whenever I had a problem. She was so proud of you and also of Peter (Pepe as fondly called him). i hope you and family are all well.
    Best wishes to you all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Margaret. Yes, my mother was a very special lady and adored by many people. A devoted mother, but not always the easiest person to deal with from a daughter’s point of view. I’ve written a novel based on our complex relationship, involving memories of Peter Fox, and also a certain Benedictine monk with whom I fell in love – don’t know if my mother ever told you about him? Anyway, the novel is now finished, ready to submit to agents for hopeful publication one day, fingers crossed! (Please do send me a message on FB – I couldn’t find you…)

      Like

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