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From the British ambassador 
in Sana'a
It was a great honour for me to be asked to be co-president of the British-Yemeni Society and in that capacity to contribute some introductory remarks to the Society’s journal.

I am proud of my associations with Yemen which span many years. As a boy, I learned to play the tune "The Barren Rocks of Aden" on the bagpipes. At that time I didn’t really know much about Aden other than that there were a lot of soldiers there and that there were beautiful dhows sailing in its waters, to judge from the Aden Protectorate postage stamps in my collection. I knew too that there was a strong British maritime connection from the tales I heard from ships engineers who called on my father when they returned home to Clydeside. I later saw another side of that maritime link when my family moved to Cardiff and we found the Yemeni community there.

My first visit to the shores of Yemen was a brief one, as a traveller on the old P. & O. liner, Arcadia, returning to England at the end of my first tour in the Gulf in 1963. The rugged beauty of Jebel Shamsan dominating the bay as we sailed into the harbour in the early morning light is a sight which I, and doubtless countless other seafarers, vividly remember. I little thought that 25 years later I would return and climb to its summit. Or that I would become so fond of this country and its people.

Before then, however, I had a brief interlude in Sana’a in early 1972, not long after Britain and the Yemen Arab Republic re-established diplomatic relations. In that short six weeks stay I discovered the splendours of its old city and the astonishing beauty of the nearby countryside. I was sad to leave before I had a chance to explore it more fully, despite the fact that at the time travel out of Sana’a was much more restricted than it is today.

I was pleased indeed when I was appointed to be Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in January 1989. It was a period of great change for the south and I saw it as a fascinating and challenging appointment. I did not at that time know that I would be the last British Ambassador to reside in Aden. My disappointment at having to leave after unification of the two Yemens was considerable. That, I

thought, was the last I would see of a country and a people that I had grown to admire. I was therefore more than ever delighted to be able to return to Sana’a to be accredited as Ambassador to the Republic of Yemen in March this year, a mission which I hope to discharge effectively, building on the strong historic bonds which exist between our two countries.

In this context I am grateful for the opportunity to make this contribution to the new journal of the British-Yemeni Society. I hope that the Society will become the firm base in Britain for the active promotion of cultural, social and historical links between all who are interested in this corner of Arabia. The Society seems to me to have got off to a very good start. But it can only succeed in its objectives with the full and energetic interest and participation of its membership. I am sure this exists and I wish it every success in its endeavours to promote wider understanding between Britain and Yemen at all levels.

November 1993