Grania Skeldon has led a peripatetic life. Here the 1966 French and German graduate recounts her work and travels with the United Nations and as a freelance editor.
Grania Skeldon, née Vulliamy
|Degree||Master of Arts, French and German|
|Year of Graduation||1966|
At the moment
Living in Nairn, Highland, with my husband, both retired, and enjoying life here in the north of Scotland.
Arriving at the University
I was born in an army quarter in Catterick Camp, in Yorkshire, in 1940, followed by six years in Richmond. Then, in 1946, mother, newborn brother and I went by boat on the S/S Andes to Egypt, where my father had been posted and where I was a pupil at the French Convent in Ismailia for two years because the army school, where we were living, had no teachers! I was taken to and from school by armed guard each day. Our whole family returned to England in 1948.
Thus began the peripatetic life and a life dominated by languages: French at French Convent school in Egypt, French and German at secondary school in Bath, Somerset, bilingual secretarial and commercial course in London in French/English, with German and Russian, diploma. International Teacher Training Centre, London, diploma.
Before going to the University, I worked as a bilingual assistant to the Deputy Director of the French Institute of Scotland in Edinburgh from 1960 to 1963. That was my first job.
By the time I started at the university in 1963, I was already a mature student and had friends in Edinburgh so I did not take much part in student activities. I enjoyed the classes and was pleased to receive a Master of Arts degree in French and German in July 1966.
Your experiences since leaving the University
After getting my degree, I decided to go to New York. I applied to the United Nations (UN) for a job as English Editor in the Official Records Editing Section of the Language Services of the UN. I passed an exam and was offered a contract, which I gladly accepted.
I worked for a total of 14 years for the UN, at Headquarters in New York, and twice in Thailand, at the headquarters of the UN for Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP. I still receive a pension from the UN.
Meanwhile, while working for the UN, I went on holiday with a friend to South America in 1971 and we stayed in Cuzco, in Peru, in a small hotel, where the man who would become my husband, Ronald Skeldon, was living, while he was carrying out research in the mountains. He and I would later drive his car back from Cuzco to Mexico and Toronto, where he was doing his PhD at the University of Toronto.
We married in 1972 and he was offered a job in Lima, Peru, by the Food and Agriculture Organization. We lived in Lima for seven months. But he had also been offered a job in Papua New Guinea, so, some months later, after stopping to visit family in the UK, we set off for Asia.
We stopped in Italy (Rome), Turkey (Istanbul), Iran, India, Nepal (trekking), Thailand, Hong Kong, and Darwin (after a typhoon) before landing in Canberra. We stayed in Canberra for several weeks awaiting our visas for Papua New Guinea. They arrived eventually and we headed off to Port Moresby to spend four and a half years in Papua New Guinea, first with Ron doing research as a New Guinea Research Fellow for two years for the Australian National University and then two years working with UN staff on a census being carried out by the UN. I was even able to work as a joint editor, with R W Hornabrook, for the Institute of Medical Research of Papua New Guinea, of a Bibliography of Medicine and Human Biology of Papua New Guinea. This was published in 1977 by E W Classey Ltd.
We saw much of Papua New Guinea when we were living there: half the time in Port Moresby, and the other half in Goroka, in the highlands. Interesting times: we were there when independence was declared.
We left Papua New Guinea in 1979 to go to Thailand. Our daughter Emma was born in 1982 in Bangkok. We moved to Hong Kong in 1983 and Emma was brought up there.
Working as a freelance editor in Hong Kong (1984-1995), I was able to use my editing skills working for various publishers including Oxford University Press, and was able to compile various handbooks and style manuals.
Working for the United Nations was an exhilarating experience. In these days of declining international cooperation, the role of the United Nations is more important than ever.
As young people at one of the most international universities, you can play a part through your Edinburgh Model United Nations, where you can link with the United Nations Association (UNA) but also draw upon the experience of former international civil servants through the British Association of Former United Nations Civil Servants (BAFUNCS), where I and many other colleagues are members. Many would be available to meet with you and inspire your international aspirations.