Writing Home to Mother

Written: 1997

BBC Radio 4

My mother’s father, Hugo Bill, was a servant of the British empire. He was sent to its far flung corners to gain friendship with the local tribesmen, send back intelligence about them, and judge whether they could be bribed or not into becoming clients of the British.

Every week he sent back a letter to his mother at home, and these letters were the basis of this play.

In 1919 he was shot by the Kurds (after being involved in a campaign to chuck bombs down on them from biplanes), and quite apart from the human interest of his story, that gives it a very contemporary resonance.

I loved writing this play; it remains really important to me. I learnt so much about my upbringing; and helped lay the ghosts of my family to rest.