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Turing relatives recall 'Uncle Alan'

Susan Watts | 15:23 UK time, Friday, 4 September 2009

Thursday seemed like a good day to pick up on the story of the growing petition aimed at securing a posthumous apology for computing pioneer and code-breaker Alan Turing.

And it proved to be a real treat.

A potential problem for the petition's organiser, John Graham-Cumming, was working out who the government might apologise to.

Then yesterday, Newsnight interviewed three of Turing's surviving relatives - and found that they all support the computer scientist's attempt to raise Turing's profile.

It turns out that Alan Turing's brother, John, had four children - three daughters, Inagh, Shuna and Janet with his first wife Joan, and a son, Dermot, with his second wife Beryl.

You can hear a little from Inagh, Janet and Dermot in our film from last night, which you can watch here.

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And I am digging out the tapes now so that I can reproduce more of those interviews on this blog later.

In the meantime, I thought you might like to hear from Shuna Hunt, the middle daughter, who also spoke to me yesterday, though too late to appear in last night's programme.

She has vivid memories of "Uncle Alan".

"He was a very kind, gentle person and had a terrible stammer. It's sad to think that if he had lived now, he would have been celebrated as a hero... but he had to hide everything. And it was all terribly shameful. "

"It's also sad that at one time I would talk about him and people were interested... but the younger generation look blank...

"During the war, because of his inside information, he became convinced that we were about to be invaded... so he buried the family silver near Bletchley Park and it's still there, because he forgot where he'd buried it... He was the stereotypical boffin. He used to chain his mug to the radiator at Bletchley Park so that no one ran off with it."

Shuna told me that she still has a Teddy Bear of his:

"It was called Porgy. He bought it for himself when he was an adult, and it used to sit in the chair when he was at Cambridge. He used to practice his lectures in front of Porgy."

"... It's still amazing to think that the family didn't even know what he did in the war until it came out in the 1970s."

More from Inagh, Janet and Dermot to follow...


  • Comment number 1.

    we probably owe our freedom to Alan Turing. He shortened the war by possibly a year and we were blessed to have such a genius at the head of a secretive world at Bletchley Park. So much of his work was valued, yet after the war he was treated like an alien, because of him being gay. What a travesty those times were for anyone out of step, imagine the blackmailers having a field day, yet instead of celebrating his genius censorious, narrow minded Britain pilloried this fine, noble man. In short we did not deserve him.....

  • Comment number 2.

    this was a lovely story but please tell Susan that Bletchley Park is not in north London!


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