Sidmouth goes on the Kennaway trail

Irma Kennaway talks at ancestor’s Sidmouth home about tracing Sir John’s history in India

IT is entirely fitting to include Irma Kennaway in a series of five talks by authors in the popular Readers and Writers series at Sidmouth’s Kennaway House.

Irma travelled from her home at Lake Como, Italy, for last Thursday’s talk On the Kennaway Trail in India.

It was based on her great, great, great grandfather, the first Sir John Kennaway, who watched Kennaway House being built, who inspired her to travel to India to trace his history as the first Britain to live in Hyderabad in the 18th Century.

From her travels and research, she wrote My Indian Adventure Sketchbook on the Kennaway Trail, a colourful account of her ancestor, with photographs and original paintings done en route.

Irma, who spent 10 years designing fabrics for French fashion labels with Mantero, centred her talk on Sir John’s life in India, where he distinguished himself in wars against Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and worked for the Nizam.

“I have three bouncing balls in the air, painting, writing and designing,” said Irma, who combined running workshops at Sidmouth College and St Nicholas Junior School, with her trip to Devon. Work on her sketchbook inspired Irma to write a novel, Shaking the Pagoda Tree, about her ancestor, which is awaiting publication.

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“It is a love story, my romantic version of Sir John finding himself a beautiful Indian girl and bringing her back to England. Then disaster strikes. “Apart from the love story it is all based on fact.” Her paintings are exhibited at the

Nehru Centre, London, from July 6-9.