A Ribble Valley woman is appealing for help in discovering the fate of a family member who was one of Burnley’s best scholars in the 20th century.
Lesley Bradford, of Knowle Green, near Longridge, is working on a family tree and is hoping to establish what happened to her mother’s cousin, Adrian Henry Penrose, who died on March 3rd, 2007.
Mr Penrose, known as “Harry”, enjoyed an interesting life. He was honoured by the Queen, befriended British and Italian royalty and visited celebrities of the day, including Gracie Fields at her home in Capri.
His mother is buried at the Inghamite Church at Wheatley Lane, and Mr Penrose’s name is on the grave, but he is not buried there.
Mrs Bradford said: “I’m trying to discover the place and circumstances of his death in Africa. The Burnley Express wrote many articles about him as he was one of the best scholars out of Burnley in his day.
“He was honoured by the Queen in 1977 for his services to teaching in West Africa but he was also a diplomat, author and actor. He was also a friend to King Umberto II of Italy and once told me he was a freeman of Burma.
“I used to write to him when he lived in Benin and Togo and would speak to him on the phone. He was a very intelligent man and spoke 16 different languages.
“The last time I spoke to him was in 2006 when he was just finishing off a book on his life story. I was looking for a property in the area for him because he was concerned of the unrest out there.
“I would dearly love to know what happened to him and to see a copy of the book.
“I’ve heard an unconfirmed account that he died in Chad but I just don’t know.
“Replies to letters suddenly stopped. I sent another letter in 2009 before I knew he had died and even had someone help me translate it into French in case he wasn’t at home. But that was returned unopened in 2011.
“I know he used to return to Burnley regularly to do plays and I know there are relatives in the Burnley area but I do not know them personally.
“I’ve contacted the British Embassy but I have not had a reply as yet, but it may be I’m not reaching the right people.”
Born in Burnley on December 28th, 1926, Mr Penrose attended Abel Street Council School and Burnley Grammar School and became a Bevin Boy upon leaving, working at Bank Hall Colliery. His parents, Mr and Mrs Henry Penrose, lived in Bush Street.
With interests in music and drama, he was an active member of the Burnley Art School Players and Burnley and Nelson Music Club.
He was later handed a scholarship to go to Hertford College in Oxford and left with a honours degree in modern history in 1951. While at university, he was President of the Oxford Dramatic Society.
A keen linguist who spoke French and German, he first added Italian to his list while teaching English to the Italian Naval Academy in Livorno.
The job enabled him to travel the Mediterranean aboard the “Amerigo Vespucci” ship and build contacts.
He dined with Admiral Lord Mountbatten and Lady Mountbatten on the former Royal Yacht “Surprise” and with members of the Greek government in Athens.
Mr Penrose moved on to teach at the Berlitz Language Institute in Milan before adding Portuguese to his languages when he was appointed to the British Institute in Lisbon, later moving to Africa.
Anybody with information can contact Lesley at firstname.lastname@example.org