Alice Peterson Author of If You Were Here

M’Coben, Place of Ghosts


‘I have just spent the last two days lost in Africa. I didn’t want to come back to reality’

Lady Margaret Pleydell-Bouverie was born in 1903, the seventh child (of ten) for Jacob, 6th Earl of Radnor and his wife, Julian. Aged 19, she married Gerald Barry and, in 1926, they left England with their one-year old daughter, Anne, to begin a new life in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

They started out with virtually nothing: a tent was their house, a tin shanty their kitchen and petrol boxes their furniture. Through sheer determination, commitment to their dreams and belief in one another, they built M’Coben, a magical home for their growing family. They survived fire, storms, illness and heartbreak, before the Second World War separated them for over four years, yet their love and courage stood firm and brought success against all the odds.

Alice, the youngest of Margaret’s twenty grandchildren, draws on the letters Margaret wrote home to her mother in England, and on many conversations – often filled with laughter – that she had with her grandmother. In 2000 she travelled out to Zimbabwe to visit M’Coben and see for herself the country that Margaret loved as her own. Her journey saw a sadly different Zimbabwe on the verge of self-destruction and terrible change. M’Coben, Place of Ghosts is more than a heartfelt tribute to a much admired and beloved grandmother.

Poignant, funny and compelling, it celebrates the strength of love and loyalty, of family and community. It captures the spirit of an extraordinary generation that can only serve to inspire all who read it today.

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  • ‘I was incredibly moved by your grandmother’s life – an extraordinary story and you told it absolutely beautifully. I think this would make the most amazing movie.’
    Alice Phipps – London
  • ‘The story is fascinating.’
    John Docherty – Hampshire Chronicle