Jennifer finds biography of a pioneer in old bin bag

Jennifer Bell with her book on Francis Bell, father of her husband Peter, right, and uncle of Martin Bell, left.
Jennifer Bell with her book on Francis Bell, father of her husband Peter, right, and uncle of Martin Bell, left.
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Jennifer Bell has turned an ignored bin bag of papers into a biography of her late father-in-law Francis Bell.

“There were all these sepia photos of desert scenes in South America. He kept journals of day to day life,” Jennifer said at the launch of her book Short Straw: The Journey of a Younger Son (Larks Press, £10). Her husband Peter had no idea of the bag’s contents.

Brother of author Adrian Bell and uncle of the BBC’s Martin Bell, Francis left Stradishall for South America in the 1920s and ran an experimental wheat farm. He returned in 1931 to run a fruit farm at Wickhambrook and Stradishall Home Guard.

Martin said: “This has interest beyond family annals. It’s a fascinating account of the colonisation of South America.

“I was very fond of him. He was the opposite of my father — raffish and the only qualified bar tender in the family. We loved him.”