Fergus Anckorn – Inspiration
Every now and again, I get the opportunity to photograph someone who reaches in to my soul and inspires me to look at my life and realise just how lucky I am. One such person who I met this week was Fergus Anckorn. Fergus is 95 years young and as a young man he was held as a Prisoner of War by the Japanese and for nearly four years, he was forced to work on building the Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway due to the estimated 90,000 people who died during its build. The story was the basis for the film Bridge Over the River Kwai.
Prior to being held as a Prisoner of War, Fergus survived a bomb attack on the lorry he was driving but he suffered severe arm injuries, nearly losing his hand. During his time in the hospital, he survived a massacre in which every other patient in the ward was killed – Fergus survived because due to the blood loss from his injuries, the Japanese soldiers assumed he must already be dead. Surviving this ordeal, he didn’t give up on magic but instead began practicing his tricks using his remaining good hand.
During the three hours I was with Fergus, he told how he survived by performing magic for the Japanese guards in the Prison camp in return for extra food to supplement the three meals of 60 grams of rice that the prisoners received as their food rations. As a young man, Fergus was the youngest member of the Magic Circle and now at 95 he is the oldest member of both the Inner Circle and holder of a Gold Star. Prior to the war, Fergus trained in shorthand and was able to use his skills to send messages home to his parents on official postcards without being discovered by the Japanese.
Fergus has so many incredible stories to share, which demonstrate his strength and will to survive as well as his unending thirst for knowledge and his desire to enjoy the world around him and share his experiences so freely. If you would like to find out more about Fergus’s story, you can buy the book all about his life, The Conjuror on the Kwai.
I hope to meet Fergus again and hear more of his fascinating life but in the meantime, in the words of Fergus Anckorn, I’m ‘still smiling!’