© 1987
Sue Loram Remembers
Her life embraced art, politics, the threatened environment and a quest for a very elusive Amazon flower. Most of all all Margaret was an brilliant story-teller .
 Margaret's final moments in the Amazon Forest


Sue lived in Brasil for eighteen years from 1974 to 1992. She moved from Rio de Janeiro to Manaus a city in the heart of the Amazon forest in late 1979 where she lived with her boyfriend the ecologist Dr. John DuVall Hay. Very quickly she found herself working for an INPA* / WWF project. In 1982 she joined Margaret Mee on a journey to the igapós or flooded forest of the Rio Negro where they discovered some dying flowers of the Moonflower cactus. Sue moved back to Rio de Janeiro in late 1982 where she became one of Margaret's closest friends. Then in 1988 Sue was part of the team responsible for the success of Margaret Mee's final Amazon journey when she painted the opening of the Moonflower. Margaret died in an accident later in the same year and in 1989 Sue joined the same team to visit the cactus again and fix a memorial plaque to a tree. Sue who is now married, lives in Portugal with her long time friend and business partner David Butler-Cole This is one of a series of short, intimate reminiscences of her times with Margaret Mee

'At nearly 79 Margaret's senses were incredibly sharp for a person of her age. Sitting in a canoe her eyes could spot a rare plant species at the top of a tree, she could hear birds and forest creatures before anyone else and she could feel a change in the air long before a storm hit, which was a godsend when we were paddling in a tiny canoe with just an empty coconut shell cut in two as a bailer. But perhaps her sharpest sense was when danger was approaching, and nothing illustrates this better than an incident which happened on our way back up the Rio Negro after having taken Sally Westminster to Manaus on 10th May.'

Sally Duchess of Westminster, widow of the Fourth Duke of Westminster who had been Englands' richest person was approaching 79 and outside her family was one of Margaret Mee's closest friends in London. Sally Westminster had travelled with Margaret on an Amazon journey in the 1970's and had helped with hospitals and recuperation for two hip operations- Editor

Dusk on the River 'It was dusk in the Arquipelago das Anavilhanas. Gilberto's ancient riverboat had a very noisy inboard motor and our pilot Paulo, who is blind in one eye, decided that he could navigate by the stars much better if we put out the oil lamps. Neither Margaret or I objected to this as it was a very clear night. We were travelling in mid channel and could make out the flooded islands of the arquipelago on our left and the distant river bank on our right. I asked Margaret if we had passed the entrance to the Rio Cuieiras, she wasn't sure but said this was one of the widest stretches of the arquipelago. I decided not to ask Paulo as he was concentrating so hard on the stars and navigation.

Some time passed and I must have nodded off to sleep because Margaret suddenly jerked my arm. It was pitch black and the weather had changed. She threw a torch into my hand and screamed " Sue shine this straight ahead of the boat NOW" I hardly had time to do so when the beam landed on a large shape hurtling downstream straight for us on a collision course. - I screeamed at the top of my lungs in pure fright and Paulo immediately on seeing the boat steered sharp right and missed the hurtling boat by a matter of inches. The look of horror on the faces of the many occupants caught in the beam of the torch for a fraction of a second as the other, considerably larger, river boat sped by is something that I will never forget.

There were no lamps on this boat either, a common practise when the night sky was clear. Margaret was the only one on board who heard something, or rather sensed something, above the terrible racket of the inboard motor. Her quick reaction had saved not only our lives but probably the lives of the folk in the other boat. It is very doubtful that, had the boats collided and sunk, there would have been any survivors in such a strong river current plus the fact that terra firma was so distant and it was pitch black. After we had calmed down and put all the oil lamps back on Margaret quietly said " I know my time is not up yet. I still have far too much left to do"

The Last photograph of Margaret Mee in the Amazon forest

The air was still and utterly alone they were surrounded by the myriad sounds of the wilderness.... Sue Loram took this photograph and it is the very last picture of Margaret Mee in the Amazon forest. When she sent this photo to Tony Morrison soon after Margaret's death she wrote on the back 'Don't you think she has "When will I be able to return" written on her face...!'

If you would like to go to Sue's second story

*INPA is the world renowned Brasilian National Amazon Research Institute
Every care has been taken to check the information on this page. If you feel there are inaccuracies or that you have details to add please send an e-mail to the editor. This © Sue Loram material may be used free of charge by scholars and for other non-commercial purposes. Please credit Sue Butler-Cole. Nonesuch Expeditions.For any other use please please turn to our.. CONTACT INFO

The text and most of the images are © Copyright
For any commercial use please contact