Did you know

27 Jan 2022

Did You Know? Sylvia Foot

Sylvia Foot (d. 1985), was the wife of the last Governor of Cyprus Sir Hugh Foot. Foot had served as Colonial Secretary in Cyprus from 1943-1945 and then as governor and commander in chief of Cyprus (1957–60). He encouraged agreement between warring Greek and Turkish factions and planned for peaceable independent rule. Foot married Florence Sylvia Tod in 1936. Sylvia showed much interest in the people of Cyprus and made many friends on the island. But those troublesome times of 1955-1960 were hard on everyone. In her efforts to appeal for peace on the island and after the murder of Ms Cutliffe in Famagusta by EOKA, Sylvia Foot wrote the following letter in the newspapers.

“Yesterday many women mourners stood by the grave of Mrs. Cutliffe. The sun beat down upon their bowed heads and grief-stricken faces and from every woman’s heart I heard a passionate cry go up in protest against all acts of violence. As we watched the frail and tragic figure of young Margaret I know we were all aware of the simple and terrible truth which all women, regardless of class, race, religion or nationality know in their hearts to be true. The truth is that violence always ends in the destruction of homes, the suffering of children and the burdening of young shoulders with unbearable responsibilities. If it was the tragic destiny of Mrs. Cutliffe to die in order to make this truth shine like a torch in the hearts of all women everywhere, then I feel it is the duty of us women not to allow this torch to gout. But daily and hourly, in every way that we can, by word and deed, to stop violence in the hearts of men. To stop it for the sake of united families, for the happiness of little children, for the serenity of the young and the peace of mind of the frightened old people.”

In answer to the above, the following open letter to Lady Foot was sent by the Joint Committee of Women;s Charitable Organisations, a Greek Cypriot body:

“We have noted and share fully and sincerely your grief over the universally condemned murder of Mrs. Cutliffe. We appreciate that the tragic death of one of your own women compatriots has been a terrible shock to you. Let us remind you however, that we, in our turn, have in recent years had more than one occasion to weep over the bodies of our own dead, including several women who died as a result of the action of the Security Forces. You must surely have heard of the mother of six children who died in Avgorou when the military forces fired into the crowd, and of the girl of thirteen who, along with two other innocent people, died in Famagusta during the hours of horror which followed the death of Mrs. Cutliffe. Though we note with regret that you did not deem it proper to make any public statement regarding these deaths we would like to hope that you, as a woman, did share our own mourning too. You call on us to use our influence with our menfolk to stop this wave of violence. Here is our reply: If any woman’s influence can do any good at the stage at which things have reached in Cyprus then surely you are the one, because you happen to be the wife of the man who has it in his power to put an end to the ordeal of Cyprus by recommending to his Home Government the recognition of the undeniable right to freedom of the Cyprus people. You should know in your heart that this is the Just and Right solution of the present situation. So it is now your task to keep the torch of this undeniable truth blazing in the heart of your own husband. Do therefore your own duty before appealing to others. We, for our own part, do most earnestly pray that the day will soon dawn when conditions in Cyprus will take such a turn as to end the violence forever.”

On 16 August 1960, Sir Hugh Foot raised the Cyprus flag at Government House. Violence ceased, but only for three years.

(Extract from Sylvia Foot, Emergency Exit, 1960)

The ‘Did You Know’ series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus).

Discover More