The excavations had earlier been directed by
Professor (later Sir) Max Mallowan, whom
I had come to know at the London Institute.”
Charmian shortly after
introducing the Anatolian
Karabash breed into the UK
Write a novel based on the imagination of
your son, leave it in an attic for fifteen years,
and then find it’s a best-seller. It is rare that
someone sits down and writes a successful
novel first time round, but Charmian
Hussey has achieved that in a life that has
seen her turn her hand to a variety of tasks.
Wife of Oxfordshire Mason John Hussey,
her book took 18 months to write, and
reflects her love of the world’s indigenous
tribes and her concern for the rainforests.
But the literary world is a recent
experience. Her career began in the fashion
world where she modelled for top fashion
and couture houses. She followed this with
several years as a student of archaeology,
culminating in a D.Phil at Oxford.
For Charmian, Freemasonry has been an
interesting part of her life, but it did not start
out in a positive vein. She explains: “My
previous husband was a Mason and his
Masonry was very secretive, almost cloak
and dagger. If he went to Lodge meetings
I was not told about it, and he was always
careful to lock away his regalia.
“It was a subject which was not discussed
and in which I was not included. There was
certainly no suggestion that I should know
that any of his friends were Masons.
“I was very surprised when I met my
present husband. He has a more relaxed
attitude to Freemasonry and I have been
included in ladies’ nights, which I have
“When I meet his friends, I’m delighted
if I learn they are brother Masons. The
history of Freemasonry fascinates me, and
I’ve joined in some interesting discussions.
I have been pleased to find there is not the
obsessive secrecy I’d come to expect during
my previous marriage. But that was in the
1960s. Maybe things were different then
and Freemasonry was less open. I welcome
the more open attitude now.”
Although starting out in the fashion
world, within a couple of years she had
decided “to do something much more
serious with my brain, and I was bitten
by the bug of archaeology.”
She enrolled as a student at the University
of London, Institute of Archaeology, studying
the conservation and restoration of antiquities.
She adds: “Whilst on that course, I was
asked by the British School of Archaeology in
Iraq to help with the rescue and conservation
of the carved ivories being excavated at the
Assyrian site of Nimrud, near Mosul.
Nimrud was the place where his wife
Agatha Christie had written some of her
most famous books whilst accompanying
him on the excavations.
There was a tradition that, on returning
to England, some of those who had worked
at Nimrud were invited by Max and Agatha
to stay with them at Greenway House –
their home at Churston Ferrers in Devon.
Charmian received an invitation.
She recalls: “It was a wonderful
experience in a classic house-party situation. I
stayed for about ten days. In many ways it was
quite formal. Everyone dressed for dinner, of
course. But we also had a lot of fun.
“We had picnics on Dartmoor and sailed
up and down the Dart with Max at the helm
of his small boat. There were barbecues on
the beach by the boathouse, and we trekked
around antique shops, because Agatha’s son in-
law was a great collector of porcelain.”
She vividly remembers some wonderful
conversations with the great mystery writer.
“Agatha Christie has often been billed as an
awkward and somewhat shy person, but
I found her good to talk to, and she was
an excellent hostess.
“I had one especially memorable
discussion with her, when I was brave
enough to say I would like to be a writer.
Agatha talked to me about the importance
of the mix or recipe for a story – the proper
balance of light and dark – humour, mystery
and intrigue. Her advice stayed in my mind.”
After four years as a student, Charmian
spent two years in Turkey, working on
archaeological sites and involved in her own
research project, which would later form the
basis for her doctor of philosophy degree in
archaeology and anthropology at Oxford.
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