‘I’m an Overseas Brit and a Sichuan country girl,’ says Audrey Donnithorne, now 97, in her autobiography, ‘In Life’s Foreground’.
I got to know Audrey in Hong Kong but hundreds of other people have met her in England, Australia, China and other parts of the globe. The index of her book references 525 of them and I was not even mentioned!
Audrey was lecturing on Chinese economics in Hong Kong when China re-opened in the 1980s and, having been born there, she was immediately interested in availing of opportunities to reengage. Her parents had been Anglican missionaries in Sichuan province but when she was studying in Oxford Audrey became a Catholic and a proud one at that.
She developed her own contacts on the mainland but also encouraged a group in Hong Kong, including Columban Fr Ned Kelly, to unite in founding an organisation to send Catholic teachers and other experts to China. Thus AITECE, the Association for International Teaching and Educational Exchange, was born.
Audrey’s autobiography details her adventures in numerous countries over 93 years. They begin at the age of four when she and her family were kidnapped by Chinese bandits. The final chapter is a forthright reflection on the state of the modern world from the decline of the British Empire to Brexit, war, divorce, contraception and same-sex marriage.
She was expelled from China in 1997 but continues her efforts for China in Hong Kong.
She promises another volume of her memoirs. What a lady!