ABOUT ME: Biography

Basle, Switzerland,
July 2006

I was born at Longwood on the island of St. Helena, probably the most isolated place on earth, the first child of Arthur Cardwell Thomas and his wife Emily, née Benjamin. There I spent a happy, carefree childhood, totally unaware of the ravages of a war raging in the rest of the big, wide world. Our only actual encounter with it was the ‘blowing-up’ of HMS Darkdale in the harbour one night. We had no toys, a home-made doll perhaps, played shops with the colourful earth and the flowers of the hibiscus and the lantana,  and I learned to be creative and to love books.

Of course, it was not by chance that the British banished Napoleon to the isolated island. Situated in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, in the path of the south-easterly trade-winds, with thunderous seas and sheer basalt cliffs of up to 600 meters high, and  occasional valleys or ravines,  along the coast,  it is literally an inaccessible giant rock with only one safe harbour, that of Jamestown, the capital, with about one thousand inhabitants.  The remainder of the ca. 4'000 residents live in the higher, more equable, country areas.

One stormy winter night,  in July 1946,  my mother and I boarded a ship in that harbour and set sail for Capetown in South Africa. The seven day voyage with gale-force winds and mountainous waves, 'on the Richmond Castle' in a small fruit-carrier of early post-war days, with only one cabin for 12 female passengers, who were all incessantly seasick - except my mother who was taking care of me -   was horrific, and I wished to die. My father and brothers followed two months later, in good weather and in relative luxury. There was even a swimming pool on the ship they travelled on.

But,  I survived and saw many wondrous things, such as trains and planes and witnessed the naissance of the ‘Apartheit’. In 1950 my parents decided it was time to ‘move on’ to England, this time on a mild three-week sea voyage     -  with only two-days of sea-sickness  -  and a two-day stopover at St. Helena, which refreshed old memories.

In 1962 I came to live in Switzerland and, in addition to extremely interesting and fulfilling work, found Art; taking courses in painting, silver-smithing,  stone- lithography, screen-printing, textile design  and even did some acting  in the English language Theatre Group  'Semicircle'

Because of the very limited travelling possibilities - there is no Airport due to the terrain, and only one ship which sails from England every two months  - and the length of  the voyage,  it was impossible for me to visit my island again until 1994 when I had stopped working and become a full-time artist.  I then set out with my Lap-top and my paints:


I found ‘my memory’ but the book I had wanted to write is only now materializing:'A PICTURE IN WORDS'  of  people who have touched on the island.

I hope you will  read it and find it as interesting, and as much fun, as I did researching it.

Most people know nothing about St. Helena except as the place where Napoleon was incarcerated

                          and help put us back on the map