“The many ways I’ve tried…”*

*line from The Long and Winding Road: Lennon-McCartney (1970)

Sir Brian Leon Barder was a British diplomat, author, blogger and civil liberties advocate. Although he died on 19th September, 2017, you can still consult his website (last post on his blog dated 2nd August, 2017). He lived, with his wife Jane, in Earlsfield.

Sir Brian noted on his site:

“A few years ago one such retired diplomat, Malcolm McBain, on his own initiative but with the encouragement of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, launched a British diplomatic oral history programme designed to capture the recollections of a wide range of retired diplomats, from the grey knights who formerly commanded the mighty embassies in Paris, Washington, Bonn or Berlin and Rome, down to the (perhaps less discreet) smaller fry from the more obscure diplomatic missions in faraway countries of whose peoples and their problems we may know nothing but on which they once possessed precious expertise.  Their recorded recollections and opinions not only provide often fascinating insights into the real background to great events as witnessed by people who played an active part in shaping them:  they also frequently paint a unique and authentic picture of what diplomatic life at different levels is really like, something which historians yearn for — and which the BDOHP provides entirely free of charge.”

Malcolm McBain has uploaded the record of an interview conducted with Sir Percy Cradock (26 October 1923 – 22 January 2010). He was a British diplomat, civil servant and sinologist who served as British Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China from 1978 to 1983, playing a significant role in the Sino-British negotiations which led up to the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984.

He was enlisted in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. After the war, he entered St John’s College, Cambridge, being the first Cradock to enter university in his family history, and earning double starred Firsts in Law and English. From Cambridge he also developed his interest in sinology, by appreciating the works of Chinese and Japanese literature translated by Arthur Waley.

(A recent evaluation called Waley “the great transmitter of the high literary cultures of China and Japan to the English-reading general public; the ambassador from East to West in the first half of the 20th century”, and went on to say that he was “self-taught, but reached remarkable levels of fluency, even erudition, in both languages. It was a unique achievement, possible (as he himself later noted) only in that time, and unlikely to be repeated.”)

Cradock married Birthe Marie Dyrlund, a staffer of the Foreign Office, in 1953.

In his later years, he lived with her in East Twickenham, spending much of the time writing books on the Sino-British negotiations and realpolitik diplomacy. He suffered from ill health and died in London on 22 January 2010, aged 86. His funeral took place at St Mary’s Church, Twickenham, on 6 February 2010. Lady Cradock died in September 2016.

The road from East Twickenham to Marble Hill performs an S shape. Ahead, in the photograph above, the way will curve left round a church, then soon sharply to the right round a pub (located at 277-279, Richmond Road). If you follow it, you will pass the former home of Sir Percy and Lady Cradock at no. 303, Richmond Road, before reaching that pub – which, as it happens, is known as The Rising Sun.

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