A Fenny Compton author’s memoir has been published posthumously by his widow.
Gay Mathie decided to complete her husband Ian’s notes in the aftermath of his sad and sudden death of a brain haemorrhage in May 2017.
The book – Wild Child – is a delightful collection of memories of an unusual and fascinating childhood in Africa.
Ian Mathie’s books about his later life working on that continent have been published at regular intervals over the past decade.
They describe many incredible episodes in his life in African tribal societies,told in hugely entertaining style.
Mathie also turned his hand to fiction with a paperback called Chinese Take-Out, drawing on events in China in 1989.
All – with Wild Child – are available on Amazon.
Wild Child is the result of Mathie’s amazing memory from his earliest days in Scotland and then in Africa, when his father’s career as an army officer brought about frequent upheaval.
As a very small child, on a ship taking him and his mother to Cape Town, young Ian – who was at home with any number of small creatures in his pockets – caught the eye of the comedy actor Terry Thomas who gave him a carved wooden tortoise that he kept as a memento.
On one occasion he journeyed in a train in which he scratched his name with his pocket knife on the underside of a basin. He wrote: “Almost 50 years later I was to discover the same carriage in David Shepherd’s railway museum in Somerset. I was delighted to find my mark still there.”
Among other dubious skills, young Mathie learned how to handle poisonous snakes, studying their habitats and recognising the presence of concealed snakes. He became an ace shot with a sling and could kill a rat at 20 yards.
With African dialects as his first languages he found it difficult readapting to life in England where as a secondary pupil, he was sent to boarding school while his parents were still stationed abroad.
With his adventurous nature and strong character, he narrowly avoided being expelled but redeemed himself, becoming an expert at both making and paddling canoes.
In one demonstration of rebellion he went missing for several days, paddling along the coast and sleeping out.
Holidays were spent back in his own element in Africa, the hot air welcoming him on the tarmac of distant airports.
Mathie’s African language skills saw him work as an interpreter for important visitors connected with his father’s Army work.
Mathie’s dream of flying in the RAF came to an end with budget cuts but it provided him with the chance to return to Africa for a full working life.