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15 July, 2013

A Long Way from Tipperary

Launch of A Long Way from Tipperary – Lloyd Mullen
Launch of A Long Way from Tipperary – Lloyd Mullen

One of Imran Khan’s early cricket coaches, Lloyd Mullen, was invited to speak at the launch of his autobiographical book, entitled A Long Way from Tipperary, at the Initiatives of Change UK centre in London on 26 June 2013.

A teacher by profession, Mullen taught in leading schools and also worked as a senior British Council official in South Asia and Africa. His book lifts the veil on the trials and tribulations of the Mullen family (Lloyd, his wife, Promilla, and daughter, Cherry), as they moved from country to country.

Launch of A Long Way from Tipperary – Lloyd Mullen
Launch of A Long Way from Tipperary – Lloyd Mullen
The launch event was attended by Mullen’s friends and family members, associates and former pupils. The ‘old school assembly’ was totally captivated by Mullen’s delightful humour as he talked about his adventures and experiences. He reflected on his life-long association with MRA (Moral Re-Armament), the early years of IofC, living in post-war Britain and how it had transformed his way of life - enabling him to work with people from different backgrounds and races.
A book on education

In his welcome and introduction, Don de Silva, Head of Programme Administration at IofC-UK, paid tribute to Mullen for what he called a book on education ‘that covers a great deal of ground on many subjects; from international affairs and politics to life on the school playing fields’. De Silva commented on the important role of education in the context of IofC: ‘Education is at the heart of inculcating values in our societies. If development experts lived their life according to the way Lloyd and his family had done, the world would be a different place.’

Launch of A Long Way from Tipperary – Lloyd Mullen
Launch of A Long Way from Tipperary – Lloyd Mullen
During the event, friends and associates spoke of Mullen’s significant contribution as a teacher and mentor to ‘those who were later to become world-leaders, who played a major role in the politics of nations‘. Mullen commented on the challenges of understanding world events: ‘There are things in life that are impossible to understand but they exist, things that we ought not to try to understand. For example, in India, so many subtle differences of religion and politics it is impossible for us Europeans to understand… but you can live into them.’

Mullen described his autobiography as a ‘mixture of family and education’ as he took us back in time with anecdotal stories of mischief presented with graceful Irish rhetoric. Amidst light-hearted stories, Mullen also spoke candidly of his early innocence: ‘We have to change. I had to change …. The first black person I met I had to apologise to him, at that time, I just felt superior to black people.’ He spoke of his gratitude to MRA for having a major influence on his life.

Moral and Spiritual Values

Cherry, Mullen’s daughter, pointed out that although the book ‘seems a laugh a page’, she recalled her father’s steadfast belief and fortitude during those ‘dark times’ living in countries with ‘unspeakable persecutions…. You don’t get sent to those countries as a top man in the British Council unless you are 100 per cent tough…. His toughness comes from his belief: “always hope, always joy, because God has a plan for good.” …He stood as a rock. If something was wrong it’s just “no” - no fuss, no bother, no arguments but “no”. He taught us: we do what is good, we do what is right, and do it smilingly and in love.’

Launch of A Long Way from Tipperary – Lloyd Mullen
Launch of A Long Way from Tipperary – Lloyd Mullen
Members of the audience were invited to comment. Ken Noble observed: ‘As you read the book it’s like meeting Lloyd himself.’ Quisar Bakhthiar, a former leading trade unionist from Pakistan, observed: ‘What he has written in his book is a true picture of Pakistan.‘ Mike Smith, remarked: ‘What is striking is Lloyd’s great love for family, for his native Ireland and a great love for all the countries he served in. That was repaid in a huge amount of love and respect from very senior people in all those countries’.

Mullen’s flair as a cricket coach was remembered with great amusement and ‘awe’. He had taught the young Imran Khan how ‘to hold a bat straight’. A former pupil from Nigeria commented with great affection, ‘once a teacher always a teacher’. He paid tribute with humorous snippets of past school and family life.

A long way from Tipperary

Under Mullen’s direction, Timothy Tomkins and Promilla Mullen, Lloyd’s wife of 46 years, sang It’s a long way to Tipperary in dulcet voice. As everyone joined in, the crescendo of song to full chorus marked the respect, warmth and success of a man whose memoirs will charm anyone with a curious mind, appreciation for good story telling and the desire to understand the true values and life-long commitment of IofC.

A Long Way from Tipperary can be ordered by phone at +44 (0) 20 7798 6000

Photos by Amira Karam

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