A COCK­NEY IN CHINA

Geist - - Endnotes - —Patty Os­borne

I stuffed a copy of The Small Woman, The Heroic Story of Gla­dys Ayl­ward by Alan Burgess (Ser­vant Books) into my over­loaded bag at the an­nual book

sale at the Den­man Is­land Black­berry Fair (all the books you want in ex­change for a do­na­tion to the Land Con­ser­vancy) be­cause I, my­self, am a small woman, though not nearly as brave as Gla­dys Ayl­ward. At the age of 30, Gla­dys, a house­maid, bought a ticket from Lon­don, Eng­land, to Yangcheng, Shanxi Prov­ince, China, in order to work as a mis­sion­ary. She spoke only English and had lit­tle money but she must have been a good walker be­cause that’s how she made it to China af­ter the rail line was block by a brief China-rus­sia war, and that is how she of­ten made her way around the moun­tain­ous prov­ince of Shanxi. She spent the next 12 years there, run­ning an inn for trav­el­ling mule­teers, nurs­ing, look­ing af­ter or­phans, be­ing an of­fi­cial “foot in­spec­tor” and try­ing to make con­verts, and only fled when Ja­panese in­vaders an­nounced a $100 re­ward on a poster with her name on it. By now the Ja­panese were bomb­ing vil­lages and tak­ing no pris­on­ers so she and fifty or­phans made a per­ilous jour­ney over the moun­tains to safety. This book was the ba­sis of the movie “The Inn of Sixth Hap­pi­ness” in which, much to Gla­dys’s dis­plea­sure, she saw her­self played by In­grid Bergman, who didn’t even take on a Cock­ney ac­cent. Burgess’s book, which was first pub­lished in 1957, is well-writ­ten and kept my in­ter­est as it ran along smoothly. My copy has the name “Shi­ral Tobin” fol­lowed by “9t” writ­ten on the in­side front cover and since this is an un­usual name I as­sume that this book was read by the CBC jour­nal­ist as part of her school cur­ricu­lum. This as­sump­tion is re­in­forced by the hand-drawn heart with an ar­row through it on a blank page at the back of the book and, fac­ing it on the in­side back cover, the phrase “Shi­ral Tobin + Dave Lawrence.”

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