A Knight’s Tale (13: A Second Revolution)

By July 1933, Mabel was to take up a post at Chanak (now Canakkale) in the Dardanelles, then under Turkish rule. This was to prepare a boy and girl for an English school. Although there appears to be no record of this engagement it is highly likely that it was with

the Whittall family, as attested by my great aunt’s water colour of 1936 of the group sharing a duvet. There is much material on the history of this influential family on Google, and the gentleman with the book does bear some resemblance to published portraits.

After 2 1/2 years in Turkey Mabel returned to England two months before her 94 year old mother died from a fall on the stairs.

Her next post was in Ceuto, Spanish Morocco, in time for the Spanish Civil War to break out and subject Miss Knight to a second Revolution. This was bad enough, but not as dangerous as the Russian one, even though the Communist party was dropping bombs on the oil tanks at the location.

The house was close to the refinery and, therefore, in a very dangerous spot. Mr Delgado, father of Mabel’s two girl pupils, had charge of the oil supply for the ships.

On one occasion, seeking safety from the bombing, my father’s aunt fled into the market, where, in the street, she was horrified to meet a man carrying his child’s head in his hands.

The position near these oil tanks became so dangerous that Mabel and the girls were sent to Mr Delgado’s olive plantation near Seville, where they remained until the war was over.

Whilst in Seville, Mabs accepted an invitation to watch a bull fight. She records that “I shall never forget the horror I experienced seeing the torture of the animal. And I would advise no lover of animals to witness this horribly cruel sport”.


      1. In response to these comments I have studied the original painting again, and, despite the materials lying on top, I don’t think they were – but perhaps embroidering the tablecloth?

  1. Bullfights are not good! I love the painting, I thought only we Americans use the word Duvet. ??? Your family is so amazing, Derrick.

  2. You will be publishing these stories in a book, I hope? They are fascinating both from an historical and a human interest point. I could see her life being made into a movie. How many languages did she speak?

  3. That watercolor is very detailed. The father appears quite comfortable. I’m not sure about the children from their expressions.
    The (American) Revolutionary War era house at the park that I walk in belonged to a Whittall family.

    I can’t believe your aunt went through two revolutions in two different places. The image of that father she saw. How do you ever forget that?
    Or a bullfight?

  4. You certainly had a multitalented gene pool to draw from, Derrick. Interesting reaction to corrida demonstrated by your great-aunt, as opposed to such proponents of the sport as Hemingway.

        1. An extract from Encyclopaedia Britannica website: “Heston was involved in politics, both in and out of Hollywood. From 1966 to 1971 he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, and he later was chairman of the American Film Institute (1973–83). A vocal supporter of gun rights, he served as president of the National Rifle Association (1998–2003).”

  5. Bullfighting! ACK! πŸ™ Any animal-“sport” fighting upsets me! πŸ™

    Oh, such horrifying events and sadness in their lives…in those war times. What horror children, parents, everyone had to endure. πŸ™

    Thank you for sharing your family history with us, Derrick. It reminds us of what they lived through and so we can summon our courage and live on, too.
    PS…The water colour painting is wonderful and so detailed! πŸ™‚

  6. I liked Mabs from the start, but her stand against bull fighting makes her a heroine after my own heart. I’d definitely buy the book about her adventures. Let me know if it ever becomes available.

  7. Oh my Lord! How thoroughly horrific! I cannot fathom seeing the father – much less being that father! I am sure the bull fight would be traumatic as well. What strong women you have in your family!

  8. What an adventurous life she led. I wonder what her day-to-day (sans the revolutions of course) working conditions were like in terms of her position within these various households and the time that was set aside for teaching her charges. One presumes she also had free time in which she could go out or keep her own company.

  9. I’m with Donna! My first thought was, “She painted, too?” Holy cats, Derrick! Yes, an amazing woman. And, I am in definite agreement with her reaction to bull fighting. Cruel beyond words to take pleasure in watching the slaughter of any animal.

  10. I am so enamored of Mabs that I’d like to know the pronunciation. Does it rhyme with labs or babes?

    My take on her painting (she paints too?) is that the stuff on top – the knitting needles and the yarn and the unread books are all there but the women are too forlorn to do a thing other than huddle for warmth.

    What a life she lead! And I can feel her pain about the bullfight. I once went to a rodeo and was infuriated at the treatment of the animals.

Leave a Reply