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John McCallum: an obituary


Last Friday, I was privileged to be included in the family funeral gathering to celebrate the life of this great British hero - an intensely private, modest man. John McCallum's extraordinary story could not be told for decades because of the Official Secrets Act, but finally was published in his book The Long Way Home (Birlinn, 2005). It's an account of an incredibly daring escape by three Glasgow-born prisoners of war, by chance taking them through Zagan on the day of the famous (and tragically unsuccessful) "Great Escape" of 25 March 1944. It is also the moving story of his intense, doomed romance with a very brave and self-sacrificing German woman.

Today's Herald carries the obituary that I finished writing yesterday. I had started with 500 words, fearing that they would cut it severely, but in the event they telephoned to ask for more. In my professional career as a writer, I've never ever had a newspaper ask for more words before, so I was delighted to extend it. You can read it here.

There are details of his book on Birlinn's website (link updated for the new edition in 2012). He made a posthumous appearance on TV in David Jason's Great Escapes, aired on ITV1 on Armistice Day this year.

It's almost exactly five years since my father died, and although they were from very different backgrounds, he and John McCallum had a number of admirable personal qualities in common: integrity, stoicism, longevity and great resourcefulness. Although both are now dead, their lives and our memories of them will continue to affect those of us who were lucky enough to know them.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 24, 2011 11:39 AM.

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