About Mark Paterson Born 24th April 1927 and died 18th November 2022
Contributions from Jan Paterson, Louis Loveless and Mary Swinney
Page created by Peter Hill in tribute to Mark from material supplied by the above people
Jan Paterson, Mark’s eldest son, wrote of his father:
Mark was born on 24th April 1927 in Blackheath, London. A time when George V was King, and Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister, and indeed the year the BBC was established as a public service broadcaster.
It has been said Mark was born in a different era, but actually over his 95 year life he lived through a number of eras, 8 decades, from the ‘roaring’ 1920s to the present 2020s.
Mark’s father was a captain in the Royal Navy, and a former Harbour Master of Harwich Port, his grandfather, was the Scottish painter, James Paterson.
Like all his generation his childhood was dramatically upturned with the outbreak of the second world war. He was evacuated to the United States in 1940 age 12, Mark describes this in his own words, which are quoted here:
It was 1940, and I was just 12. I knew I was going away, first, it was Australia, then, it was Canada, and finally the US. In a state of euphoric excitement I badgered everyone for information about each country one after the other. I drew the flags of each country in turn and pinned them to the inside of my desk flap. It didn’t occur to me at that time that I might never see my parents nor my sisters again – never mind my country.
We were lucky, friends of friends had offered me a home in Connecticut. I entered into the change enthusiastically. I was totally re-equipped with clothes and baggage and was asked to wear my old bright blue blazer, which stood out from the others, at the other end so I could be more easily identified on the dock in Manhattan
I got a place on the Cameronia – a Canadian Pacific liner. It was filled with children, most of them fleeing from the Continent, because I was one of the few that could speak English I was put in charge of our cabin of 12 boys, that was worryingly well below the waterline.
Although it was top secret, we all knew we were bound for New York. We steamed away at top speed zig zagging all the way across the Atlantic, for it was thought that faster ships stood a better chance of not being torpedoed than in convoy, in fact one of the ships ahead of us also carrying children had been hit by a Nazi torpedo and sunk.
I really had no idea what to expect in America. We imagined that it was all fast cars, hamburgers, hot dogs and movie stars.
The reason to quote at length in Mark’s own words about his evacuation, is that it left a life-long interest and passion for the USA. Although he returned to the UK in 1943, attending Fettes College in Edinburgh, and then joining the Royal Marines in 1945, he returned to the US in 1949 and worked first for Oxford University Press and then Cambridge University press in their New York offices.
In the 1950s Mark had returned to the UK, and set up as a literary agent, with his first office in Panton Street, just off Piccadilly Circus, at a time when he could just pull up and park outside!
In 1959 he married Jitka Sigmund, my mother, and they bought a cottage in this area, over in Boxford, which started his long love of the Essex Suffolk countryside.
He continued working in London. His agency grew by utilising his American contacts to represent their books in the UK and the rest of the world.
In 1961 Jan was born followed by his second son, Guy in 1966.
He then added to this in the 1970s by being appointed the agent for BBC Books and so worked on some of the significant books of the 60s and 70s, such as Bronowski’s Ascent of Man; Lord Clark’s Civilisation and Alistair Cook’s America.
It was, however, an introduction to Ernst Freud, the son of Sigmund Freud that led to Mark and the agency becoming specialists in the area of psychoanalytical publishing. Initially Mark was asked to give some advice, and then this led to his taking on the full responsibility for Sigmund Freud Copyrights, which he continued until his retirement. This led to his working across the whole field of psychoanalytical publishing.
It was his love of the Essex countryside led him to leave London at the end of the 70s, and so relocate his office first in West Stockwell Street, Colchester and then later in Brook Street, Wivenhoe, moving here in 1980 when he and Jilka went their separate ways. His walk to his office from his house ‘Little Wick’ at 38 High Street, was across the churchyard outside.
He formed some lasting friendships in the village, including a long relationship with the artist, Pam Dan; he continued not only to work but also to enjoy his other passions in life; classical music; traveling; being by the sea enjoying nature, the tides and of course enjoying the occasional drink and socialising, even right up to his 95th birthday party in April this year with a party of 12 friends in his flat in Smugglers Wharf.
Those of us that knew him in the last years of his life will remember the colourful berets, jackets and kilts, but when a man had lived for 95 years, we must remember that he has lived a full life of eight decades, and the seven ages of man.
Mary Swinney, who first started to work for Mark in 1988 and, except for 5 years when she left Wivenhoe, worked as a PA for Mark for a long time and stayed in touch with him until the end, said:
Mark loved the finer things in life: good food, good wine, good music, travel; he loved to party and he built a business and a comfortable lifestyle that allowed him to indulge his passions and brought him in contact with people and forums where he could enjoy a wide range of social and intellectual discussions and networking.
His evacuation and then early adulthood in the USA left him with a lifelong connection and interest in American politics and his election parties were widely enjoyed. His work took him all over the globe and he formed connections and friendships that survived long after he was active professionally. His tenacity and doggedness were remarkable and certainly boosted the terms he negotiated for clients.
He may not have been the most self-disciplined of individuals but he made up for this with an irrepressible determination not to give in. This didn’t only apply to his negotiating tactics – he continued to use the gym up at the University of Essex long after he had sustained quite significant injuries, being blown over in high winds outside the Sports Centre. And in later years, after his AMD (Advanced Macular Degeneration) forced him to give up his car, he could be seen on death defying trips up to the University on his mobility scooter.
In the last seven years he defied the predictions of the hospital staff on three separate occasions when he not only dodged near fatal incidents and proclamations that he would never be able to return to his flat, but rehabilitated to a point of not just getting out of bed and being mobile but being able to manage the double flight of stairs independently.
His grandson, Louis, spoke of his memories of Mark’s home, Little Wick, on the corner of High Street and Alma Street:
I remember the drive to the “Little Wick” house in Wivenhoe, the front garden, surrounded by big old trees, the manicured lawn, wild flowers around the edges.
The pillars and little steps leading up to the wide front door.
I remember it being warm and sunny and Mark greeting us at the front door, impeccably dressed in a brightly coloured blazer and matching beret.
As a child that house felt like a castle inside. The rooms existed on many levels, even when they were on the same floor. The walls were adorned with swords, traditional oil portraits and other classical antiquities. There seemed to be many hideaways and secret rooms, my favourite being the library, a softly furnished little cubby hole with bookshelves lining the walls. I would run away from the boring adult conversations to this room, haul myself up the incredibly steep staircase by the rope-bannister to the mezzanine with a little couch and read all the books with interesting covers.
I remember there being a mystical gloominess about the rooms in that house at times, it didn’t feel depressing, it felt calming.
A Service of Thanksgiving on 12th December 2022
St Mary’s Church was crowded for a Service of Thanksgiving on 12th December 2022 with members of his family, colleagues from his professional days and friends from his time living in the Wivenhoe community gathering to remember Mark. Afterwards, Mark was laid to rest in Oakfield Wood at Wrabness.