Wed, 08 Jan 2020
AUTHOR and broadcaster Mary Craig – known for her best-selling memoir Blessings and her books on oppression in Poland and Tibet – has died aged 91.
Mary, who lived in Penwood, died on December 3, after spending much of her career focusing on ‘Solidarity’ in Poland – a freedom-oriented social movement led by Lech Walesa that brought the end to communist rule in Poland in 1990 – working closely with special operations executive volunteer Sue Ryder.
She frequently travelled to the Soviet-controlled country to interview Walesa, writing postcards home in code to ensure her notes were kept secret.
Following the ushering in of Poland’s first democratically-elected government in 1990, Mary switched her attention to Tibetan struggles under Chinese occupation – writing books on occupied Tibet – and travelled to Dharamsala in India for a trilogy of biographies on the exiled Dalai Lama.
Arguably, Mary’s most famous work was Blessings in 1978 – a spiritual memoir concerning Mary’s second son, Paul, who was born in 1956 with genetic disorder Hurler Syndrome, causing him to be hyperactive, deaf and mute, until his death aged just 10.
Discussing Mary’s remarkable life and career, her son Mark said: “I think she was inspirational both for the family and the wider population.
“Her experience with Sue Ryder helped her put into perspective the grief she was experiencing – that it was genuine suffering she was experiencing, but arguably nothing to what concentration camp survivors had been through.
“The books on Tibet followed on from the theme of suffering that she’d been exploring previously.”
Mary’s granddaughter Danielle added: “She originally wrote Tears of Blood which was a work about the Tibetans, so she went out to talk to people about their experiences in Tibet.
“That was a big theme across her work – it was suffering and dealing with suffering.”
Born Mary Clarkson, in St Helens, Lancashire, in 1928, she excelled in school and won a scholarship to St Anne’s College, Oxford, to study modern languages, before working as a translator and teacher in Altrincham.
She met her future husband Frank Craig in 1952, and the couple moved to London in 1968 for Frank’s work – where Mary embarked on a career as a BBC radio reporter on programmes such as Woman’s Hour and Does He Take Sugar?
The couple then moved to Newbury in 1973, at which point Mary turned her hand to writing.
Her first book, published in 1978, was a biographical portrait on prison reformer Lord Longford, before Blessings the following year.
She is survived by her sons Mark, Anthony and Nicky, who was born with Down’s syndrome.