Recollections of Philippa Treadwell (née Perkins), born in Moda, Istanbul on 2 June 1927 - Philippa Threadwell, 2011
Philippa Threadwell
My father was William Jackson Perkins, solicitor, CBE & MC (First World War). He died in England. My mother was Millicent Edith Whitehouse, grand-daughter of Sir [James] William Whittall.

My father arrived in Turkey with the Army of Occupation around 1919/20 and was offered a job by Harry Pears in his law firm in Istanbul (Harry Pears was married to Gertie [Gertrude Anna] Whittall). I think he had already studied and completed a law degree before the call up during WWI. Very quickly (1924) the capitulations were rescinded by the new Republican government in Turkey and so his professional law career came to an end. He stayed in Turkey and became an advisor to foreign firms that wanted to do business in Turkey. His main activity was as an advisor to find suitable lawyers with whom these firms could do business with. His final law case was to act on behalf of the Swedish registered ship owners of ‘Naboland’ who were involved in the collision and the rapid sinking of the Dumlupınar submarine in the Dardanelles on April 1953, where 81 submariners had died and his findings did not please the Turkish authorities. Shortly after that he left for retirement in England.

My father went to Karaköy [old views] to work by paddle steamer (the earlier generation went by row-boat with a kayıkçı). He also insisted on leaving Moda and going to the islands, mostly Burgaz (Antigoni), in the summer.

Father was frightfully keen on food and drink: tiny fillet stakes which were very delicious and a lot of Greek/Turkish food. Fasullaria (runner beans in olive oil), dolma (stuffed peppers, tomatoes, courgettes), fried courgettes and pilav (rice) including iç-pilav (with chicken livers) and a lot of fish, quail and woodcock dishes. We also had wild boar from shoots which were arranged.

My maternal grandparents were Canon Francis Cowley Whitehouse and Florence Philippa (Florry) Whittall. Grandfather was sent by the diocese to Constantinople and he married one of Sir William Whittall’s many daughters. She was quite a character: she nursed the lice-ridden Balkan war victims - a tough little lady.

I can remember also the Tower house, but that was pulled down when I was around 8, presumably when Granny (Edith Anna Whittall nee Barker) died in 1935. I remember being taken by my mother to say goodbye to ‘Big Granny’ before going to Antigoni for the summer (little granny was Florence) and she said ‘Goodbye little Philippa, I will not be seeing you again’ and I asked my mum why she said that. During the time of the capitulations, Granny was called by the servants of the house stating there were soldiers at the gates wishing to get in. She calmly took her parasol, walked up to the gates and told the soldiers they couldn’t come in as this was ‘British property’. And they left!

On another occasion when a Turkish Pasha Mahmut Muhtar Pasa, who lived next door, was in trouble and went over the wall of Sir William Whittall’s garden, Sir William took the Pasha’s fez off, placed a panama hat on him, and walked arm in arm with him so the Turkish troops could only see two Europeans strolling, saving the man. Over time Sir William Whittall saved a lot of fugitives, mostly Greeks and Armenians. Many of these minorities fearing for their lives were spirited off by boat to the nearby British ships to take them to safer harbours.

During Sir William Whittall’s funeral all the locals, of all denominations, lined the road in their droves as his carriage was pulled. Also, as the funeral cortège passed Haydarpasa railway station on its way to the cemetery, the officials of the railway and workers stopped work to pay their respects to the deceased.

I was born in Mektep Sokak, Moda, Istanbul. During the war years we lived in Fenerbahçe. One neighbour in Moda was Kenny Whittall junior [Kenneth Edwin La Fontaine Whittall]. In front of the house were a line of carriages (phaetons) and people went down to Kadiköy by this method or in a ‘talika’ – a little box on wheels with 2 people facing each other: but this method was rather bumpy. I remember Nico, the Greek carpenter, on the corner of Mektep sokak. My father had a cook, maid and a gardener, the first two being Greek ladies, the latter a Turkish man, whose son still lives in the area and I am in touch with.

My education was at home with an English governess, Miss Lyne. She and her 2 sisters who were also governesses are buried in Haydarpaşa. Their father, Sgt Lyne, was saved by Florence Nightingale, for many years was the cemetery custodian and is also buried in the cemetery [listing]. These ladies also taught a few Turkish children and they impressed the parents with their fine English manners. I was also given French lessons by a French lady from the village whose name escapes me.

A lot of my education was through my father who would read to us for hours (Kipling, Dickens, Scott etc.). I got sent to school in England when I was 12. As it was the start of the war, we all had to go, but my father stayed behind (he was helping at the Embassy [the British Consulate – Pera House]), so my parents were separated for 6 years.

I had a lovely childhood. In winter we used to go for walks in the ‘fields’ in Moda (the seafront of Moda that went round a corner towards Kadikoy and the first big building was Uncle Edwin’s house followed by his father’s house, the Tower - these houses blocked the coastal road) [old views] (down almost to the pier and then along the coast past Edwin Whittall’s house, facing Seraglio Point). From time to time we were taken on elderly relatives’ yachts, which was very exciting.

Parties were mostly within the family. I can’t remember being taken anywhere such as fairs, but I do remember being taken to the shooting box (country house) of my grandfather at Alemdağ (both Uncle Edwin [Frederick Edwin Whittall] and Uncle Willie [William James Harter Whittall] Whittall had one).

I remember going to the lying in state to see the body of Atatürk in the morning in Dolmabahçe Palace in 1938. That evening we kids were going to go with Uncle Reggie [Reginald La Fontaine Whittall]: fortunately this plan was altered for some reason, as that evening the soldiers closed the heavy marble gates of the Dolmabahçe Palace, the unsuing rush to get in with people pushing from the back resulted in the crushing of people to death of a lot of people.

The Couteaux family were family friends who lived in town (Şişli). My sister, Glen, and Anne-Marie Couteaux were great friends. Gaby Couteaux (the father of Anne-Marie), originally from Belgium, a walloon, ran a prosperous import and export business. Later they moved to Fenerbahçe up the coast beyond Moda.

I recall Uncle Edwin having a great vegetable and fruit garden. He also had a wonderful collection of roses and tulips.

There was a moored yacht, the Ipar, belonging to the Moda Yacht Club on which we would go out for day excursions with Greeks, Armenians, Jews and Turks. The Moda Deniz Kulübü was very exclusive - it still survives today but not in the same building and it is no longer a yacht club. It is now called the Moda Kulübü. The original club still stands (2011) as a wreck at the beginning of Moda pier. The only other things surviving from the old days are the former Greek restaurant ‘Koço’, still called that despite being Turkish owned for the past 50 years, near the pier and opposite the old Deniz Club and sligtly above it. Underneath this restaurant is the ‘ayazma’, the tiny Greek Orthodox chapel with the image of a saint, a survivor from the past.

I remember the Aunt Gertie Pears, the wife of Harry Pears who was a beautiful woman even later in life. I can remember the daughters but not her husband who presumably was already dead when I was a child.

I returned to Turkey after the War, already engaged and married a year later in at the All Saints Moda, where I was also baptised, a church built by my great-grandfather and the local Anglican community.

After the war I did probably 2 trips a year in Turkey with Sidney Nowill, mostly climbing mountains such as Uludağ, Erciyas, Ararat, and the Taurus which were my favourite. I still retain close links with the country with yearly trips still continuing.

Interviewed on 27 May 2011 - Click for images from Philipa Threadwell’s family archive:

 Note: Unfortunately Mrs Treadwell passed away on the 19th April 2013. May she rest in peace.


Philippa was a creature of habit and the evening whisky and water accompanied by a reflective fag out on the quarter-deck as we came to know the patio overlooking her garden was one of small routines that punctuated her days and gave rhythm to her life. She was a person who savoured her pleasures, particularly those associated with domestic order, good company, favourite foods, family gossip, the politics of the Middle East and travels into the remotest corners of God’s good earth. A pyramid of empty caviar tins still there by the kitchen window attests to her delight in expensive fish roes and she was known to positively purr when offered a nice piece of turbot or half a lobster.

She was as discriminating in her tastes as she was in what she gave back to the world. An exceptional capacity for loyal and steadfast friendship was surely one of her greatest talents. Unfussy, practically minded in everything save the disposal of spiders and insects, stoical when it came to her own difficulties, generous in all matters, she had a great ability to sustain and nurture friendships which lasted over decades, as many here will know. Integrity was her watchword: straight as a die and as honest as the day is long, she was someone you could rely on under any circumstances. Efficient, organised, single-minded (to the point of stubbornness it must be said), she was an effective, if out-of-the-ordinary, diplomat’s spouse and college matron.

Above all, Philippa liked to be on the move: travelling in the Middle East and South Asia was her first love, one which she shared unselfishly with many friends. She was at her happiest when mixing with people from these regions: Turkey, where she grew up and where she discovered her love of mountaineering: the Arab world, where she spent much of her married life with Jim, fleeing embassy formality for the sands and the hills whenever she could: northern India which she grew to know through Kipling’s tales and then to love through her many friendships in Delhi and the Tibetan community of Mundgod. Turkey above all is what we three brothers remember most clearly: days spent on Uncle Kenny’s motor launch, the Bati, when Philippa would shin up the foremast and sit on the yardarm with a glass of raki in her hand, scanning the horizon as the grand old tub grunted through the swell en route for some sun-blessed island. When at anchor, we would fish for kirlungich (grouper), mess around in the Dart, a leaky old canvas kayak, and on occasion, if it was really boiling hot, even Mum would lower herself gingerly into the blue water for a quick paddle. Evenings in the Tab overlooking the sea at the bottom of Kenny’s garden, with the clink of glasses and the clipped Levantine accents of elderly relatives drifting through the rose bushes as mezze were consumed and tales were told. This was Philippa’s spiritual home where she always returned in her mind.

She was by nature a perpetual traveller, thrilled by mountain and upland scenery and by desert sand and scrub. Simplicity was her motto on the move: a decent tent, watertight and well ventilated, adequate food, a good book and a horse that did not bolt too readily. And when she returned home, her family was at the forefront of her mind – growing up among the Whittalls of Moda, on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus, she knew from an early age what it meant to be surrounded by loving relatives.

Although not a particularly demonstrative person, Mum had an irrepressible fondness for small children, something I was reminded of recently when I visited her with a friend and her 2-year old toddler. She was captivated by the child and followed her round the house as the baby wobbled and bobbed past the Gandhara Buddha and bumped into the table on which the votive statue of Venus stood. She often got carried away by people she liked, particularly recent acquaintances from parts of the world she knew well, sometimes becoming absorbed in conversation with them, to the point of forgetting everyone else in the room. It was an endearing characteristic, which illustrates the quality of child-like openness that she never lost, a quality which allowed her to be in the moment fully and to take delight in life as she found it.

But she is gone now, off on a final journey to the wildest shores of all, the undiscovered shores that lie beyond the edge of the map. I cannot think of a better preparation for this last adventure than her terrestrial travels: a brave and true spirit, a friend to all from Maharaja to Mahowt, may God speed her to a resting place where she finds peace and contentment, with a wee dram by her side to salute the setting sun.

Delivered by Luke Treadwell, her youngest son, at Philippa’s cremation at Basingstoke Crematorium on Tuesday, 7th May 2013.

Additional tribute from William Hal Treadwell, Luke Threadwell’s youngest son.

As a young child there were many places that in my mind existed solely in relation to Philippa. Oman, Abu Dhabi, The Wadi Rum, the Wakhaan corridor, these names existed only as the exotic locations of her travels and adventures. When I was a little older, I remember joking with her, asking why I never heard her tell stories about places that I knew, where were her stories about the countries closer to home? Her reply was simple, she told me that she was saving Europe for when she was no longer able to travel further abroad.

Until then she would go where she wanted, it didn’t matter how far away it was, if it took ten days on the back of a horse or if a modicum of safety was only guaranteed by a full military escort from army jeeps with mounted gun turrets as was the case with her trip to the Yemen in 2006.

This relentless energy, fearless curiosity and almost single-minded urge to roam are some of the many reasons that Philippa made such a great impact upon so many that she met. In passing, Philippa leaves behind friends and family in more countries than many could hope to visit, and with it she leaves memories not only of her enthusiasm for life but also of her wit, knowledge and kindness. Her relationship with her adopted son, Tenpa might seem a strange one at first glance. A Tibetan refugee, struggling with life in exile might seem an unusual friend for a woman who was once a matron in Winchester college, but to hear him talk of his ‘mother Philippa’ the connection becomes obvious. Courage, humour and a keen desire to get all they could out of life united them beyond any social boundaries that may have kept them apart, and it is these same qualities that endeared her to so many others.

Sitting down in a fish and chip shop in Swanage one Summer with Philippa, Dad and Tom, the night rolled round to the time for Philippa's most important ritual, her daily whisky and cigarette, her time for contemplation. Philippa announced that she would be stepping out of the restaurant, when Dad tried to reason with her, could she not change her ritual just this once? Could she not compromise and have her whisky inside, and her cigarette after we left the restaurant? The reply? “Of course not”, she said, for “a whisky without a cigarette is like kissing a man without a moustache”. This is how I will remember her, as a woman with wit, determination and a great passion for the things in life that she held dear.

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