MARY AND ERNEST: THE CUBA YEARS

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Mary and Ernest spent most of their married life in Cuba, living at La Finca Vigia, Although unsure, at first, of having given up her journalist’s life back in Europe, she settled quickly into the life of “flowers and martinis” that had so stifled Martha. She enjoyed the days of looking after the Finca, preparing for parties, and travelling around the world to Italy, Spain and Africa.

It was in Africa, however, in 1954, that tragedy befell the couple, when Ernest and Mary were involved in a double plain crash near Murchison Falls in Uganda. Ernest suffered a “full upstairs concussion”, as well as a ruptured spleen, liver, broken ribs and burned hands and face (the newspapers had pronounced both of them dead and already printed their obituaries by the time they walked out of the wreckage).

Despite waking up the next day with a pillow “soaked with cerebral fluid”, Ernest took a bottle of champagne as medicine and went out to plan the next day’s safari. I have always wondered whether Ernest ever recovered from these plane crashes.

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