Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Madame Colin: A Tribute

Alix Colin, née Olivier, (1891-1942)

On Michel's blog I have recently read the moving story of Madame Colin, wife of one of the former curators of the French Properties on St Helena. I feel it is well worth retelling in English.

Born in Haut Provence in May 1891, Alix Olivier married Georges Colin, a retired soldier, in December 1915. In early 1917 the couple and their 4 month old daughter set out for St Helena from the United Kingdom on the Alivinck Castle. A few days later, on March 17th, between the Scilly Isles and Brittany, their ship was torpedoed. Nine days adrift in a life boat until landing on the north west coast of Spain, they suffered the loss of their baby daughter, Madame Colin's contraction of gangrene, and the consequent partial amputation of her legs.

The couple spent the next two years in Ferrol, where Alix had artificial limbs fitted and also gave birth to a son, Charles. The family finally left Spain for St Helena in October 1919, and on the island, in 1921, Alix gave birth to a daughter, France, attended by Dr Arnold. A second son, Pierre, was born whilst they were on leave in Toulon in 1928.

During the second World War the family had to spend time away from the island in the Cape for treatment for Madame Colin's breast cancer, but they returned to St Helena and she died, at Longwood in November 1942, in her 52nd year, in fact at almost the same age as Napoleon.

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