A tribute to Charles Swaisland: 1919 - 2012

Thembisa had only been going for a few years when Charles appeared on the scene and soon became the Trust's administrator. In his first few years, in his quietly spoken, strong manner he distilled order out of some chaos and then kept us on the straight and narrow! His own disciplined life, administrative background, African experience, compassion for the disadvantaged, and wisdom brought breadth and strength to the Trust. His application to REACH (Retired Executives) brought to us, Peter Braithwaite, who, as Charles retired, took on the role of administrator. Charles was always there to consult with a knowing smile. We miss him greatly.

Charles SwaislandBorn 19 August 1919, Southend-on-Sea, Charles joined the Friend’s Ambulance Unit (FAU) as a conscientious objector in WWII. From 1 July 1940 he served with the FAU for over 6 years managing the transport of supplies during the fight against the advance of the Japanese. His posts included Burma, China, India and South Africa where he recovered from liver damage.

In 1946-49 he read Social Administration and Law at Birmingham University then went out to Nigeria with the Colonial Office. His wife Cecillie joined him at the end of 1949. Over the next 14 years they were posted to many places in E Nigeria and with their daughters Alison and Ruth loved that country. They left in 1963 after independence and a hand over period.

Charles was passionate about the work of the Anti-Slavery Society International and served on the committee for some 30 years. From 1968-1983 he lectured at Birmingham University in Development and Administration, spending time on secondments in Mauritius, Southern Sudan, Kenya and and Iran and also doing consultancies in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Oman and Zambia.

In 1980, with Lord Carrington, he set up and oversaw the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia elections. Then in 1993 Charles and Cecillie were peace monitors in the run up to the first democratic election in South Africa in 1994. The African theme ran throughout his life. He and Cecillie were both Fellows of Rhodes University Grahamstown.

On retirement in 1983 they moved to Kennington, Oxford, where they became involved with Kennington Overseas Aid (KOA) which raises funds for Third World Projects (Thembisa’s Bonginkosi Pre School benefitted a few years back). In 2007 Charles was made honorary Life President.

Charles was interested in the whole world and always strove to make it a better place. All his life he dedicated himself to the task he had set himself, however humble or erudite. He was a man who always looked forward, he was modest, kind, loving and caring and the epitome of the classic English gentleman. His was a life well lived.

Tonia Cope Bowley

I wish to thank Alison and Ruth for all they have told us about their Dad and all who spoke at the Celebration of his life on 15 September 2012.


A tribute to Sybil Parry: 1922 – 2010

In 1988 when Stephen and Tonia Bowley prepared to set up a Trust to support grassroots projects in South Africa, Sybil was one of the people they consulted in detail. As one of Thembisa’s first members she was from the outset a great friend.

Sybil was an invaluable source of wisdom, a huge encourager, and had a vibrant interest in each and every project. As a pensioner she lived frugally, saving her pension for those in need. Whatever Sybil could do in support of Thembisa she did. Help with teas were always on her agenda and she enjoyed them too! She was there to help with anything going, including mailings and proofing some of the Trust’s documents.

We miss Sybil greatly but more than that we move forwards on the strength of her inspiration, compassion, humour and loyalty. 

Sybil Sybil