W.A.R. Wood, C.M.G., C.I.E. 0980285643697 March 15th
Seventy-Four Years in Siam
In 1896 Queen Victoria appointed the eighteen-year-old William Alfred Rae Wood to the post of Consular Officer in Siam. HE was the youngest person ever appointed to such a post and he went on to live in Siam for the next 74 years.
Consul in Paradise was born from Wood’s love of Siam and his fascination with it’s culture, as well as his travels around the country. As a young man Wood’s diplomatic duties were remarkably wide-ranging, he was responsible for “rugged sailors from the sailing ships, drunken guests at the Ambassador’s garden party, and starting a racing stable with one pony.”
Wood’s career took him from Bangkok to Chiengmai, Lampang and Songkhla, where his duties as a Travelling District Judge involved devising commonsense solution to problems such as exorcising evil spirits from a rice bin and fashioning straw hats to protect elephants from sunstroke.
W.A.R. Wood’s Siam is very different today’s Thailand , while the Pooterish tone of the Victorian diplomat perfectly evokes the naivety and wonder of the young man who was so eager to embrace this new, and exotic, country in the Service of his Queen: “Undertaking was all in the day’s work.” The humour of Consul in Paradise is on every page, and Wood is a natural comic:
“I know a lot about golf, having played it since 1885, and when i am too decrepit to walk I shall take it up seriously.”
Punch magazine described Wood’s writing as ” his own unconscious portrayal of himself.’ and Wood writes of his own intentions for Consul in Paradise as “this is only a book of reminiscences and anecdotes.” It is the charm that the reader will remember.
W.A.R. Wood was born in Liverpool in 1878 and was appointed as a student Interpreter at the British Legation in Bangkok in 1896. He was made a Consul-General in 1921 and retired in 1931.
W.A.R. Wood remained in Siam after his retirement and wrote one of the first histories of the country, A History of Siam, in 1926.
He was interned as an enemy alien during World War Two and died in 1970.
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