NONESUCH EXPEDITIONS   FOUNDED IN 1962
 

Allan Reditt

1936 - 2016

Some memories from Tony Morrison
'Ah.. Hello Antoine..... Allan here'......

As if I couldn't recognise the voice....... 'I'm in London for the annual Reuters lunch and just wondered if you would be around? '


Allan had one of the most distinctive voices I can remember. It was slightly hesitant and virtually without accent which was surprising as his mother had kept her Welsh lilt. You could say Allan had a drawl. He was openly laid back, relaxed and always waiting to tell a story. Mary Owen, an old friend who lived near the Reditt family in Taunton, Somerset during the 1950s said on meeting him for the first time in forty years, 'It's Allan ... he hasn't changed... He's always acting'.

Taunton 1954 - On stage


It was through a local drama production of The Admirable Crichton that I first met Allan. We were at the same school in Taunton but our paths seldom crossed. Then early in 1954 the local youth drama group, the Thalians, staged the play with Marguerite Jenkins as the female lead.

Marguerite went on to a stage and film career. I was the budding photographer taking the pictures - here I have to admit that it was my first attempt at stage photography.

But, that was it, and our friendship progressed usually mixing with the sixth formers from two girls' schools, Weirfield and Bishop Fox's. Many years later when Allan saw some of the photos I had printed he jested I had nicked the prettiest girls.

The Admirable Crichton / and a 1950s polka-dot dress.

 

Allan lived close to the centre of Taunton while my home was in Bishop's Hull a small village about a mile away. At School we were in the same group learning zoology from Ernest Neal a naturalist and broadcaster. Neal or 'Ernie' to us irreverent students was an authority on badgers, the animals so controversial these days for their part in carrying Bovine tuberculosis. Allan could mimic 'Ernie's' throaty voice to the point that the line between the real and the impersonation simply blurred and the class would descend into fits of laughter. Allan was appointed a School Prefect a position of some responsibility and while not being hugely successful at sport he was a fine shot with a .22 rifle. He made the 2nd Team for the School's annual entry to the Country Life Cup which perhaps was not surprising, after honing his skills in the town's local snooker hall, a place which was definitely out of bounds - strictly 'off limits' unless you risked the wrath of the Head.

The Science Library Club

Here. Allan -centre left is with a group of friends informally known as the 'Science Library Club' after the place where we met to discuss 'this and that'... mostly 'that'.

On the left - David L Stephens, behind is Malcolm Wicks and right is Geoff Gill

Allan who had the initials 'DA' was known, also informally, as 'duck's arse Reditt' after his hair style. [It's a genuine 'Elvis' style of the 1950s].


Then in 1955 it was time to move on and Allan headed to London to study Zoology at King's College where he had an uncle, Donald Arthur who was a world expert entomologist.

Don Arthur published many papers about 'ticks' - Acaridae, the tiny parasites best known for carrying Lyme Disease. Allan did not follow his uncle's discipline though later when we were travelling together he seemed to know how to deal with even the smallest of these beasties and was expert in dispatching them with a glowing cigarette held close to his skin.

 

University Days


While Allan was learning about 'All Life on Earth' at King's I was doing much the same at Bristol though with much more enthusiasm for photography than knowing about the mating habits of almost anything. Well... almost anything. In the 'Vacs' our holidays, we met back In Taunton and downed many a pint of beer together in the Half Moon a 'pub in the otherwise dismal High Street. On a couple of occasions and with desperate need to earn cash we worked as waiters in a Cornish hotel.

At other times Allan chose 'bar work' or home tutoring for which he had a knack. One evening his mother caught him in the dark with a girlfriend and as a member of the Local Family Planning committee, she commented, while decisively turning on the light, Allan... Young gentlemen etc etc..........It was one of Allan's favourite tales.

A short career as a teacher


Following his degree at King's Allan moved on to a teaching career. I did much the same and for a time we lost touch. In a recent note Allan filled in the blanks as he had a year at the Institute of Education in London and met Chris Harbon a Nottingham graduate who was looking for time to write plays and scripts. Allan wrote to me...... Chris and I moved into a flat in Arbuthnot Road, New Cross when we finished our PGCE's (Post Graduate Certificate of Education) at the Institute . Chris went on to teach English at a comprehensive down the Old Kent Road and me to teach zoology at Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham Boys School, a grant-aided grammar school.

Chris was an ascetic good humoured character who led a minimalist life, drank herbal tea and remained one of Allan's great friends until he died in 2009. Let Allan continue ...I quit Haberdasher's to take up supply teaching and worked as barman for Bernard Miles at the Whitbread Bar at the (old) Mermaid Theatre in Puddle Dock near Blackfriars. After fruitless attempts to get into television - interviews with Westward, Southern and ITN - I applied for advertising and got a job as a media executive with Pritchard, Wood and Partners, Knightsbridge in 1962.

While Allan was in London teaching I had completed a PGCE at Bristol and also taught for a year. Then I found 'lift off' in photography and film making - the story is elsewhere on this site under ABOUT-NONESUCH

By 1962 I had set up Nonesuch Expeditions with Mark Howell so we could make films for Adventure a BBC TV series originated by David Attenborough, then a young producer. The films were low budget 'travelling with a purpose' adventures in far flung places. I chose Peru and Bolivia and Mark supported the idea.

Pimlico and Nonesuch Expeditions


Low budget meant low budget and I turned to Allan for bed-space in the London flat [apartment] he was sharing with Tony Graves a slightly balding, more than slightly zany physicist from Imperial College in Kensington, London. The flat was in Pimlico, which is now a gentrified expensive part of London.

Today the flat[apartment] has a price tag over £900,000 - leashold [2016]

Back in 1962 Pimlico was bomb scarred, the flats were rent-controlled by law and grime covered from years of smog.

Our lLife in the flat was simple as we used it to sleep and eat breakfast. Outside at the kerbside Tony Graves kept a 1930s Citroen Avant a low slung car with front wheel drive. If you have seen early French detective movies you will have seen the Avant.

At least a couple of time each week we would be out and about London in the Avant - on Friday it was to eat curry at the Shah in Drummond Street near King's Cross station, and then to the East End pubs on the Isle of Dogs.

The name Isle of Dogs goes back at least 500 years and it refers to a place where the Thames river meanders in a big loop. In the 1960s the Isle of Dogs became famous for two pubs The City Barge and The Waterrman's Arms both names telling the story of the old river traffic. In the early 1960s the Waterman's now demolished was known as the 'singing pub' and it became an 'in spot' of the era The owner was Daniel Farson son of Negley Farson the great American journalist of the 1930s.

Dan Farson was a celebrated alcoholic and his lively 'singing pub' attracted some of the most talked of names - Shirley Bassey, Francis Bacon the Irish painter who was a good friend of Farson, Brian Epstein and others were remembered by the locals

As a base Pimlico could not have been better for planning the first Nonesuch project and it was only a few weeks before Allan had joined as 'production manager' arranging the travel and other day to day details.


Allan is on the left and I am against the Land Rover -the clipping is from a local paper in Taunton.

We set off from London in one of the coldest Januarys on record and a week later began filming in the warmth of a Peruvian summer. Driving a friend's Alfa Romeo could not have be further from the London grime. If I get time I'll move on to stories about the small yacht, sundowners of Peruvian Ron Cartavio and tropical living...... But we soon began work in the desert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery on the Desert 1963

The first film was a story about the strange markings in the Peruvian coastal desert left by an ancient tribe aeons ago. As an opening sequence, we used a BOAC Comet jet aircraft landing at Lima airport and Allan recorded the Voice Over

'Lima Tower, Speedbird to land. Over' and the response was by an American controller 'Lima Tower to Speedbird.. Clear to land ......Allan's resonant voice had all the confidence of a pilot about to touch down.

The film concluded with the first ever filmed meeting with Maria Reiche, a German maths teacher and recluse who was devoting her life to solving the mystery. We found Maria in the desert and Allan accompanied her to a hilltop and asked the questions. Allan is on the left partly hidden by Maria Reiche.

The 'line' in the picture is almost 5kms long and the stony desert is covered by hundreds more... plus large clearings, depictions of animals and huge spirals.

 

 

That was the beginning of the tale and Allan did VOs and appeared in several of the productions. But his Oscar winning piece came one weekend In La Paz the capital of Bolivia which at the time was tiny and isolated from the world. The story is in Mark's book on page 68.

Introducing Jackie and Marion

We had been working on scripts and enjoying a few bottles of Paceña the local Pilsen when Allan returned from a party and we were introduced to Jackie and Marion, two English girls who had been sent to Bolivia by the National Union of Students to do social work and studies in settlements of the impoverished indigenous Aymara and Quechua people.

 

Jacqueline Chester is here on the right and Marion Davies is second from the left.

The picture was taken close to Pillapi, a village close to Lake Titicaca at about 3800m in the Andes mountains. Jackie and Marion were based in the village for several months.

Their temporary home was an old hacienda or farm used by the United Nations Development Programme - Acción Andina.

In Bolivia the programme was headed by a Bolivian Director and the UN representative Margaret Anstee who later became Under-Secretary-General of the UN, the first woman to hold the position.

In 1994 Margaret Anstee was created a Dame of Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George and she died in 2016

In her book The House By the Lake Dame Margaret wrote that she had been responsible for introducing me to Marion. It was a a nice thought but it was not quite like that as Allan had met the two in the American Club in La Paz when they were taking a weekend break from the cold of the mountains.

Mark noted. 'Jackie wore long hair and, usually, a subdued expression. Marion was of Welsh extraction but [she said] only betrayed this when angry or excited'.

Behind the scenes Allan said to me.... I've chosen the red head. You can ask Marion... We can swap later if it doesn't work out...... Mark was unconcerned by the arranagement as he had met an American girl in Peru who was there for the Peace Corps, the education and overseas support initiative authorised in 1961 President Kennedy


Jackie and Marion joined several of our filming journeys until they became part of the team

One epic journey we made together took us to the wilderness of the Andes of southern Bolivia which now more than fifty years on is an destination for 'adventure tourism'. In 1963 it was empty save for a few Quechua families, some miners and railway workers. We croosed the huge salt flat of Uyuni and found our way to a ruined town from Spanish Colonial days. The film we made - Treasures of Chuquisaca led to more exciting adventures some years later.

Here I am filming Allan on the Uyuni salt flat at about 3650m metres. He is holding a map and a fag [cigarette]. Mark is by the Land Rover waiting for the camera to roll before 'walking into the shot'. Jackie is in the poncho and Marion took the picture.

 

Paraguay

Our last filming stop was Paraguay for a story about the Jesuits who controlled the area in the 17th century.

Remember... we were there before the major cinema film The Mission [1986] with Jeremy Irons and our stories were breaking new ground. By the time we were in the Chaco forest fronting the Paraguay River, Allan had become adept with one of our cameras. He had a natural gift of communication.

 


When the time came to return to England Mark decided to stay longer in Peru and Allan joined me to fly to Rio before heading back to London by BOAC Comet. By chance, though you will not believe it was by chance but it was, Jackie and Marion were heading home on the same day on a Royal Mail liner, the Arlanza, docked in Rio. It was roses and promises all round.


Marriage

Allan married Jackie in St. Mary's Church Addington, Surrey near London in 1965 and I was 'best man'. It was so posh I had to hire a suit. When I married Marion not so poshly at the 'Celebs' Register Office of Caxton Hall, Westminster Allan was one of our two witnesses. He enjoyed the beer and chips.


Allan worked for the City Press and eventually entered Reuters for many postings worldwide including Ghana, Singapore, Malaysia, Nigeria, Portugal, South Korea, Brazil, Bahrain, and Cyprus. When overseas Jackie wrote for the British Press and one morning we were surprised to hear her on BBC Radio 4 reporting from Seoul. All that is part of another story and apart from occasioanal letters from Allan and Jackie we knew very little of their travelling days.

 



And so - Onwards

During the late 1960s and onwards I continued to make films and writing books with Marion in Latin America. We visited Allan and Jackie once in Taunton when they were on holiday and staying with Allan's mother. Allan is on the left with 1970s long hair.

And in October 1975 they came to our home in Suffolk with their children, Kate and Gavin. Allan wrote in our guest book, Business manager Nonesuch Expeditions S. America 1963, redundant 1964 now working for Reuters Fleet Street, London though they deny it.. accompanied by Chester, erstwhile of Pillapi, Bolivia and Kate and Gavin.... 'Chester' was Allan's fond name for Jackie.

 

 


It was surprising that we never met up with Allan and Jackie again until they were posted to Brasilia in 1985. We had a grand reunion with Press Passes in Rio's Sambodromo for Carnaval. Allan - now with a moustache is on the left and Jackie is on the right. Jackie as Jacqueline Reditt was still writing news as a freelance.

 

 

 

 

 

Jackie's half page story The Reality behind the Brasilia dream for The Times covered Brasilia. the capital founded in the centre of Brazil in the late 1950s and assesses the success of the new city.

Retirement

After a final posting to Hong Kong, Allan retired in 1995, and with Jackie returned to London where they settled in a flat [apartment] in Covent Garden. Later and needing more space they moved to the Dordogne in southwestern France to join the large ex-pat community.

We kept in touch by 'phone, Christmas cards and occasional reunions in London. Jackie and Allan renovated, sold and built in the way of a 'Dordogneshire' family and were joined by their son son Gavin and his wife from Hong Kong. Their daughter Kate settled in England.

When we met in London DAR was still the 'Actor' and commanded the stage with his repartee. So much so that in his favourite curry shop the staff knew him and exchanged jokes as he acted the part of an officer in the British Raj. The picture was on their Christmas card sent when they were in Malaysia

 


But age and arthritis began to tell so when Allan and his younger brother Nigel visited us in Suffolk he had difficulty climbing the stairs.

Allan is on the left

 

 

 

 

 

We were together again briefly for a Memorial luncheon I held for my mother in Somerset in 2008. The idea was to bring together in a 'pub - of course, a handful of friends from my schooldays who my mother knew well. As an event it received a high rating - Allan and Jackie came from France, three came from London, one from Devon and one from Cumbria. Two were ex-sixth-formers from Weirfield and one from Bishop Fox's.

The Last Meeting and some ancient Peruvian phallic ceramics

Our last meeting of the four of us was in November the following year over a dusty table set in a pile of builder's clutter in our daughter's tiny house in Camberwell, south London.

Somehow the conversation turned to the film Mystery on the Desert and Allan, again commanding the stage began a soliloquy expounding the virtues of the grand size of the genitalia of ancient Peruvians - somewhat overblown he thought - styled in Mochica pottery. Jackie disowned him. But the video is the last recording I made of his marvellous voice.

Then a couple of years later Marion and our daughter Rebecca met Allan and Jackie in The Charles Lamb an Islington, North London 'pub in June 2010, a memorable date as Rebecca went into labour the same day with her first child. Marion was there doing her grandmotherly duty while back in Suffolk I had a few beers lined up.

Allan and Jackie celebrated their Golden Wedding in 2014. Allan returned to Taunton a couple of times staying with Nigel still living in the old family home and he called me to say he had met with two old schoolfriends, Eric Brayley and Richard 'Dick' Hutchings to drink coffee in one of the town's 'olde established purveyors' .... he said he could no longer drink anything alcoholic.

 

On numerous occasions Allan and Jackie invited us to visit the Dordogne and it was largely my fault that we never made it as we were still travelling to far flung places right through to 2016. So, sadly we had to forego the delights of ex-pat 'Dordogneshire' with its menu of duck - roast - boiled - smoked or as a confit whatever..... A distant cry from the smoke filled Albion a 'pub - now demolished in Pimlico where the story began.


Allan's last call came in June this year and included so many thanks for the 1963 trip when he met Jackie. He said they had enjoyed such a wonderful life. But I still didn't take the hint and continued to be in touch throughout the June 23rd Brexit referendum which was clearly upsetting most of the ex-pats. Allan didn't reply - even to one of my memories of Ernie Neal. Either Allan was preoccupied with the politics or unwell. Then in November out of the blue a message arrived from Gavin with the news that his father had died from 'advanced liver cancer'.

Allan Reditt, born in London July 1936 died Ste. Alvère, France, November 2016
'His School chapel readings gave his voice a great challenge...'Memorable' ...'Always uplifting'

Journey through a Forgotten Empire by Mark Howell and published by Geoffrey Bles, 1964
The Baron - Reuters Staff magazine - Obituary Tuesday 8th November 2016

For the short Nonesuch News entry READ HERE

 

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